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Jul 2, 2023
This week’s theme

This week’s words
Pearl Harbor
Roman peace

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Relative usage over time

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AWADmail Issue 1096

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language

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From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the Net

Kiki or Bouba?
The New York Times

How to Sign “Gay” or “Queer”? American Sign Language Users Don’t Agree.
The Washington Post

The Rising Ocean Will Extinguish More Than Land. It Will Kill Entire Languages
The Guardian

From: Paul Varotsis (paul varotsis.plus.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--byzantine

As a Greek, or maybe I should say a Hellene, I have a conflicted relationship with the word Byzantine, first of all because it is rather negative but also because it is an exonym and finally because despite all of that we Greeks still use it.

The bit about the exonym is particularly interesting because anyone living in what we now call the Byzantine empire wouldn’t have known it. They were Romans, living in the Roman Empire. The Byzantine label was coined in the west after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans in 1453. Interestingly, still today the more familiar way to ask someone if they are Greek is by saying “Are you Roman?”

Paul Varotsis, London, UK

From: Dave Horsfall (dave horsfall.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--byzantine

Every time I see this word I think of the Byzantine generals problem, wherein a group of generals has to agree upon a common strategy via insecure or unreliable communication channels; this has application in detecting a fault in a multiprocessor system.

Dave Horsfall, North Gosford, Australia

From: Ian MacLeod (icmacleod telus.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--byzantine

One summer a friend invited us to a picnic at their cottage in Point Roberts, WA, just across the USA border from Vancouver, BC. They told us not to bring anything, because of border rules on importing food.

When we got to the border, we got the usual question from the border guard as to the purpose of our visit. I told him that it was to attend a picnic.

He then asked if we were bringing anything. I said no. He asked “How can you be going to a picnic and not take anything?”

I said that we were told not to bring anything, because the import rules were too byzantine.
He said, “Huh?”
I said, “Yes, byzantine, convoluted ...”
He said, “I think I need a dictionary. Go ahead.”

Ian MacLeod, Richmond, Canada

From: Joe Blevins (joseph6360 gmail.com)
Subject: Byzantine

Years ago a cartoon in The New Yorker had the caption, “Look, if you can’t stand the Byzantine intrigue, perhaps you should get out of the cabal.”

Joe Blevins, Paterson, New Jersey

From: Henry M. Willis (hmw ssdslaw.com)
Subject: Byzantine/Byzantium

When I was much younger I was hugely impressed by W.B. Yeats, and particularly by poems such as “Sailing to Byzantium” and “Byzantium”, which meditated on grand abstractions such as the impermanence of life and the inhuman beauty of great art. For Yeats, “Byzantium” was the opposite of what we usually use “byzantine” to mean: “Byzantium” was a place that “Disdains/All that man is,/All mere complexities,/The fury and the mire of human veins,” as opposed to the “byzantine” world that embodies all the sordid intrigues of palace politics and details of day-to-day life.

Now, when I reread those poems years later, I think I must have been moved more by Yeats’ verbal skills -- those striking images and marvelous sonorities -- than by what he was actually saying. I doubt that I thought much about the meaning of life, much less the end of life, as a teenager, or that I thought of art as some sort of antidote against dying or being forgotten. (Just as well, since it rarely works.)

I certainly don’t feel that way today, now that I am older than Yeats was when he wrote those poems; I would rather live in the here and now than be translated to some deathless realm of art. Which is, ironically, where Yeats ended up, as his search for something that would rekindle his creative fire led him back to “the foul rag and bone shop of the heart” out of which all that high-sounding poetry had arisen. The Byzantine world, in other words.

Henry Willis, Los Angeles, California

From: Aidan Tolhurst (atolhurst honywoodschool.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Delphic

A famous Delphic prophecy was given to Croesus, king of Lydia. He asked the Delphic Oracle if he should go to war with Cyrus of Persia, and was told that if he did so “a great empire will fall”. Satisfied with that, he went to war, and was defeated. Lydia became part of the Persian Empire.

Aidan Tolhurst, Colchester, UK

From: Henry M. Willis (hmw ssdslaw.com)
Subject: Roman peace

No reference to Roman peace or Pax Romana is complete without quoting the words that Tacitus attributed to Calgacus (a Celtic chieftain, according to him, of the first century CE):

“Auferre trucidare rapere falsis nominibus imperium, atque ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.”
(To robbery, slaughter, plunder, they give the lying name of empire; they make a desert and call it peace.)
The Life of Gnaeus Julius Agricola by Publius Cornelius Tacitus

Henry Willis, Los Angeles, California

From: Dan Barker (dbarker ffrf.org)
Subject: Pax Romana

The idea of Pax Romana has parallels in the Bible:

When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.

However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them -- the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites -- as the Lord your God has commanded you.

(Deuteronomy 20:10-17, NIV)

Dan Barker, Madison, Wisconsin

Email of the Week brought to you buy The Official Old’s Cool Education IV -- “Thanks for the memories!” -Keith Richards

From: Kent Rhodes (krho1 aol.com)
Subject: Roman peace or Roman pace

Reading the notes in today’s entry on Roman peace, I first read “Roman pace” as Roman PAH-chay which means Roman peace in Italian. Several years ago while leading a student trip in Italy, rainbow flags with PACE emblazoned on them flew all over the country. It was in protest of the ongoing wars at the time in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are still on sale, it seems, as a quick search showed up this site.

Kent Rhodes, Charlotte, North Carolina

From: Laura Burns (laurab12 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Toponyms

When I moved to Alberta some years ago, it was a surprise to see signs for “Texas gates” or get directions that included them. Canadians in turn were surprised to find out that Texans didn’t know what Texas gates are. (They are what I would call a cattle guard.)

Laura Burns, Galveston, Texas

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Byzantine and Delphic

A couple of weeks ago, 21-year-old Californian Max Park solved the Rubik’s cube in a mere 3.13 seconds, establishing a new world record. A byzantine challenge for most, a piece of cake for him. Park is on the higher-functioning end of the autism spectrum. His parents introduced him to the cube, hoping to develop his deficient hand-eye coordination skills. Clearly, that worked out well for Max... to the max.

Warhol: Persona Obscura
Andy Warhol fits the definition of delphic. He had a reputation for being difficult and obtuse in media interviews, a man of few words. And when he did respond to queries, his answer was often a puzzler couched in ambiguity, leaving the interviewers perplexed.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: Toponyms
1. Byzantine
2. Erewhonian
3. Pearl Harbor
4. Delphic
5. Roman peace
= 1. Ornamental
2. Oh, they oppose machines
3. Prime blind attack
4. Hazier
5. Serene, when by power
= 1. Be sneaky winner
2. How they hate machines’ help
3. Blitz
4. Arcane omen
5. Propraetor imposed
= 1. Works in rhythm
2. People that ban machines
3. Banzai
4. On deep topic
5. Merely see no war here
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) -Josiah Winslow, Franklin, Wisconsin (winslowjosiah gmail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.



Bureaucrats with their byzantine ways,
Can keep applicants waiting for days.
There’s no doubt that their role
Is the crushing of soul,
And inventing new schemes for delays.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

Dismayed at the public rejection,
Trump claimed that he won the election.
His most misbegotten
And byzantine plottin’
Then led to the vile insurrection.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

In a new place, I’m sometimes perplexed;
I hunt little-known spots to go next.
Maps can be byzantine
And not show me the scene,
So I ask for some help via text!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

His byzantine plots are obscene,
And now he is in a ravine.
“All the boxes are mine!”
He will pout, and he’ll whine,
For Donald will never come clean.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“The laws in this country are byzantine,
For I once rode around in a limousine,”
Said Donald. “The soup
In this place tastes like poop.
What’s it made of?” The jailer said, “Kidney bean.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“You are charged with contracting the flu.
Erewhonian law says that you
Are infectious, and we,
Lawyers, jury -- and me! --
Are all guilty with you. Aa-choo!”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

In my own Erewhonian way
I tossed out my smartphone today.
I cannot deny
It was smarter than I,
But stupidity’s bliss, as they say.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Erewhonian notions he had
That computers and cellphones were bad.
He was happy that way,
But his daughter would say,
“It is hard to get hold of you, Dad.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I have gross anti-progress attacks!
If it’s techno, I wane and not wax!
Erewhonian, I
Can’t help asking just why
No inventor’s stopped time in its tracks!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

A doctor who was a Bostonian,
Was known as a cruel Erewhonian.
His sick would endure
A horrible cure,
With methods and treatments draconian.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said Oog of the era Devonian,
“All creatures back then Erewhonian.
But we humans made wheel!
And for gadgets our zeal
Will explode once have physics Newtonian!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Pearl Harbor

My Pearl Harbor came out of the blue.
I was stunned and bewildered. “What? Who?”
I was served by some bloke;
Our divorce left me broke;
But I still have your note: “Toodle-oo!”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

Step by step, bit by bit, inch by inch,
Trump’ll find himself locked in a clinch
So what’s it to be?
His Pearl Harbor? We’ll see --
That he’ll have one’s an absolute cinch!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“You must show Cleopatra your ardor,”
Said Cupid. “To love be a martyr!
Marc, even a pharaoh
Succumbs to my arrow;
Let fly a romantic Pearl Harbor!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Cruciverbalists -- this isn’t news --
Can be Delphic with some of their clues.
You say cryptic. You’re kind.
I am not so inclined --
And not known for my temperate views.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

A “legitimate person” is he!
This pronouncement is delphic to me.
I wonder, in short,
When Trump goes to court,
Will this statement be part of his plea?
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

In college, geology class
Was a delphic and murky morass.
I just never could
Understand what I should,
Though at least I did manage to pass!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“Your future is no longer delphic;
Those tapes make your case look like hell, Dick,”
Said Nixon’s advisers.
“Like czars, kings, and kaisers,
Your time is now up - you’re a relic.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Roman peace

My step-siblings and I are at war.
It began when they walked through the door.
Mom and Dad now police --
They’ve imposed Roman Peace --
But hostility simmers -- we’re sore!
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

Centurions living in Greece,
With the help of their secret police,
Had found the solution
To end revolution
By enforcing their strict Roman peace.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Vlad’s plans for the war had been plain:
He’d thought he could conquer Ukraine.
With great shows of brute force --
No resistance, of course! --
A long Roman peace he’d maintain.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

While a girl may go tοpless in Nice,
Here at home there’s a sad Roman peace.
If they made no arrest
At the sight of a brεast,
On this life I would get a new lease.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“Whom I choose to date is purely my byzantine-ot yours,” said the old lady’s niece.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The new finance magazine for high school students was called Byzantine-s.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

The publishing intern’s boss said she wasn’t interested in spy novels, but he mistakenly let one slip through. His erewhonian Fleming global fame and fortune.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The pearl harbor-ed lingering resentments against the diver who separated it from its beloved oyster.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Apple accessories and replacement parts are a rip-off,” said the PC salesman. “Get a Samsung, HP, or Delphic-ryin’ out loud!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Why, you roman peace of s___,” said Hillary to Bill.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Sriracha Woes
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Sriracha Woes

Huy Fong Foods Inc., located in Irwindale, California, produces the world-renowned Sriracha HOT Chili Sauce, which is a scarce commodity these days. The effects of an extended drought in the prime jalapeño chili pepper-supplying regions of Mexico has cut recent harvest yields down to less than half. Sriracha lovers and restaurateurs are desperate to corral any of the current meager supply. They just gotta have that special condiment with the jaunty white rooster on the label.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

We must dissent from the fear, the hatred, and the mistrust. We must dissent from a nation that buried its head in the sand waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education, or hope. We must dissent from the poverty of vision and timeless absence of moral leadership. We must dissent, because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better. -Thurgood Marshall, US Supreme Court Justice (2 Jul 1908-1993)

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