Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



Dec 2, 2023
This week’s theme

This week’s words

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives

Next week’s theme
Illustrated words

Like what you see here?
Send a gift subscription

Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share

AWADmail Issue 1118

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

Sponsor’s Message: “Merry Christmas, I don’t want to fight tonight.” One Up! -- the perfect gift for punk rockers. Free shipping. Shop now.

The Gift of Words

This holiday season, why not make a gift of words? Here are a few suggestions:

“A delightful, quirky collection.”
-The New York Times

A Word A Day: A Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English Another Word A Day: An All-new Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English
Find them in a bookstore in your country

“The most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass email in cyberspace.”
-The New York Times

A.Word.A.Day | A.Word.A.Day Premium

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

I Won the National Spelling Bee. This Is What it Takes to Master Spelling.
The Washington Post

From: Garry Stahl (tesral wowway.com)
Subject: Which came first

You wrote: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

I ordered one of each on Amazon. We’ll find out.

Garry Stahl, Dearborn, Michigan

From: Barry Franklin (barryfranklin comcast.net)
Subject: which came first

chicken then egg
plant then seed
gods then humans
man then woman

alphabetical order

Barry then Franklin

Barry Franklin, Mercer Island, Washington

From: Michael J Rath (anchmike gmail.com)
Subject: Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

An old answer to an old joke: It depends on who got laid first!

Michael J Rath, Hastings, Minnesota

From: Victor Krag (primitech earthlink.net)
Subject: The egg came first

All mutations happen in the egg or embryo during other development stages before the modern chicken becomes a chicken, right?

Victor Krag, Mariposa, California

Email of the Week -- Brought to you buy One Up! -- Ruin Christmas. “A Grinchy gift.”

From: Mike Chinni (mchinni optonline.net)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--liaise

The egg came first. The first hard-shelled egg that could be laid on land appeared about 312 million years ago, while the modern chicken was domesticated probably about 7,000-10,000 years ago in Southeast Asia and Oceania.

Mike Chinni, Pompton Lakes, New Jersey

From: John Paulling (jpaulling hotmail.com)
Subject: Which came first

Some things make more sense if viewed backwards from the traditional understanding. An “egg before chicken” point of view of Life as a vehicle to perpetuate DNA has a certain harmony with Occam’s razor.

As to “man created God (or gods) in his own image”, we can safely posit this, as we can that it was racists that created racism.

John Paulling, Sarasota, Florida

From: Pip Meadway (pipmeadway me.com)
Subject: chicken and egg

A chicken is just an egg’s way of making another egg.

Pip Meadway, Haywards Heath, UK

From: G.B. Ketcherside (jeketchaz gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--liaise

Humans or gods? Last year you published this quotation from Robert Heinlein: “Man rarely (if ever) managed to dream up a god superior to themselves. Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.”

Jerry Ketcherside, Phoenix, Arizona

From: James J. Roper (jjroper gmail.com)
Subject: Which came first?

Eggs came first because ancestors of birds (other dinosaurs) laid eggs, and, unlike reptiles and mammals (some lay eggs, some are viviparous), ALL birds lay eggs, so their common ancestor laid eggs.

Men and women? Ditto -- all mammals have male and female, so by the time humans evolved, we, just like our cousins (chimps and bonobos), have two biological sexes -- BUT, we also have all the biological and psychological possibilities to include whatever people are today -- we’re a flexible species.

Now, humans and gods? Humans came first because as far as we know, no other animals have gods -- so humans made up gods.

Seeds and plants? Plants, most likely, because the earliest plants were probably single-celled, and so there was no sexual reproduction yet - and, that was about a billion years ago, so clearly, because today, most plants reproduce sexually (and produce seeds), there is something to be said for sex.

James J. Roper, Curitiba, Brazil

From: Dennis Pasek (dpasek gmail.com)
Subject: First

The egg came first and the seed came first, because this is where the adventitious mutations were first expressed into a phenotype.

Hermaphrodites came first, then specialized and differentiated into separate sexes. Humans came *much* later.

Dennis Pasek, Ogden, Utah

From: Jon Nigrine (jnigrine gmail.com)
Subject: Chicken and egg

The egg came first. Something that was almost a chicken laid a mutated egg and something was born that would meet our definition of a chicken.

Jon Nigrine, Flushing, Michigan

From: Christine Dashiell (christine.dashiell gmail.com)
Subject: Which came first?

On the subject of which came first, man or woman, my biology teacher in high school said the proof was in the nipplεs: The male body descended from the female body, its extraneous nipplεs being lingering leftovers from the body that actually needed them.

Christine Dashiell, Corvallis, Oregon

From: Daniel Miller (milldaniel gmail.com)
Subject: Which came first?

Man or woman -- Both occurred at the same time because the evolutionary process of forming one required the existence of the other.

seed or plant -- The plant because the first plants were spore formers and only later developed the ability to form seeds.

humans or gods -- Humans because they created gods in their own image. It isn’t an accident that gods hate the same things their adherents do.

Daniel Miller, Laredo, Texas

From: Richard S. Russell (RichardSRussell tds.net)
Subject: Seed or plants

All of human history can be viewed in the context of our being unwitting pawns in the planet’s longest-running war -- the one between the trees and the grasses -- the former bribing us with fruits and nuts and the latter with grains and roots into supporting their own long-range quest for world domination.

Richard S. Russell, Madison, Wisconsin

From: Bill Berthrong (bbthrong gmail.com)
Subject: Chickens and Eggs

For female chickens (hens), ovulation (the release of the yolk from the ovary) occurs periodically regardless of whether or not it is fertilized. So, a rooster or any kind of fowl play between the sexes is not needed. A hen then ovulates a new yolk after the previous egg is laid. Eggs are fully formed in about 24-30 hours after ovulation. So, which came first? I’d say the hen chicken when she has reached sexual maturity then, voilĂ , an egg is produced one after another.

Bill Berthrong, Amelia, Virginia

From: Doug Ward (towards41 icloud.com)
Subject: Who came first

Male of Man

Doug Ward, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota

From: John Ingle (j.ingle verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--liaise

Ugly, foolishly pretentious word. No good friend would let you use it without at least rolling his or her eyes in caution.

John Ingle, Lovettsville, Virginia

From: Elizabeth Block (elizabethblock netzero.net)
Subject: Unnecessary back formations

Like “administrate” and, even worse, “signaturize” which a bank teller once used. Yikes.

Elizabeth Block, Toronto, Canada

From: Laura Burns (laurab12 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Jerry-build

I once saw the film The Knack ...and How to Get It in Mexico City with Spanish subtitles. Someone was complaining about “jerry-built” houses, but the translation was “Houses made by Germans.”

Laura Burns, Galveston, Texas

From: Shane Bernard (shane.bernard tabasco.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--jerry-build

One occasionally hears the etymology that “jerry” comes from the slang term for Germans during WWII, as in “jerrycan”. And while that origin is apparently true for “jerrycan”, it has nothing to do with “jerry-build” or “jerry-rig”.

Shane K. Bernard, New Iberia, Louisiana

From: David Ornick (david.ornick ymail.com)
Subject: enthuse

When I was a college student in the 1960s we had outdoor pep rallies the night before major football games. These rallies consisted of bands, beer, bonfires, and cheers. They were called thuses. Still in my college town, I haven’t heard thuse in decades.

Dave Ornick, Morgantown, West Virginia

From: Bruce Floyd (brucefloyd bellsouth.net)
Subject: enthuse


“A word of US origin which in neither country has emerged from the stage of slang, or is at best colloquial.”
-from A Dictionary of Modern English Usage by H.W. Fowler

“Colloq. and undesirable.”
-from A Dictionary of American-English Usage by Margaret Nicholson

“’[E]nthuse’ is a widely criticized back-formation avoided by writers and speakers who care about their language.”
-from Garner’s Modern American Usage by Bryan A. Garner

The above prescriptions are from the three usage books I have in my own library. I emailed Joseph Epstein, perhaps the greatest American essayist extant, and asked him if he would ever use the word enthuse, His reply was short: “Enthuse -- never.”

To some readers the word “enthuse” has a slightly pejorative connotation. It suggests an exaggerated response, one not commensurate with whatever one is “enthused” about. Of course, the word has been around for a while, long enough, some say, to be standard, but I think it’s fair to say that careful writers would not use the word, especially since synonyms for it abound. If one uses the word in a document that others will read, one will no doubt find at least one reader who recoils at its use. Why risk it?

Bruce Floyd, Florence, South Carolina

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: jerry-build and osmose

Playing off our word jerry-build, I arrived at this admittedly bordering-on-the-absurd scenario, where I’ve invented a bogus construction company that specializes in the manufacture of favela-like, cobbled-together patchwork dwellings. Just by happenstance, Froggy’s pal, Jerry, is running the entire enterprise.

An Inside Job
Our word osmose sparked fond memories of my time at Warner Bros. Animation where I drew key background designs for the combined animated/live-action 2001 dramedy, Osmosis Jones. Jones was an anthropomorphized white blood cell turned cop, with a cold-pill sidekick named Drix. Their primary mission was to track down and stop the deadly virus Thrax from destroying his live-action human host, a zookeeper played by Bill Murray. The film floundered at the box-office, yet curiously, the critics gave a strong thumbs-up to the animated segments, while mostly disappointed with the live-action footage. That’s Hollywood folks!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: Back-formations
1. Liaise
2. Jerry-build
3. Osmose
4. Manumise
5. Enthuse
= 1. We interface
2. Minimise homes, hmm junky kitset houses
3. To absorb
4. Releases
5. I laud
= 1. Join entities
2. Make shabby items. Rum!
3. Leach
4. Release serf
5. Um...I dote on “Musik” shows
-Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) -Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)
= 1. Link with as the medium
2. Assemble in haste
3. Cross in moisture
4. Make free
5. Be joyous
= 1. Network
2. Assemble (it is ruled a “mishmash”)
3. Take in, consume
4. I set him free
5. Be joyous
-Josiah Winslow, Franklin, Wisconsin (winslowjosiah gmail.com) -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.



“I’ll liaise with your teacher,” Mum said;
Words to fill a young fellow with dread.
They’ll confer, scheme, and plot,
And, as likely as not,
I’ll end up having lessons force-fed.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

At an old Irish pub called O’Shea’s,
Have a few until you’re in a daze.
Then have a few more
‘Til you’re drunk to the core.
With some leprechauns you’ll then liaise.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Henry Kissinger used to liaise.
His language he’d carefully phrase.
In his meetings with Mao,
He made progress, and how!
And Nixon said, “Those were the days!”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Said the dog, “With your herd I’ll liaise.”
Answered Bossie, “And what? Watch me graze?
You’ll have nothing to do;
We just eat, poop, and moo.
You’ll be sick of this job in three days.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


When you jerry-build, sure, you save cash.
The decision, however, is rash.
If it ain’t built to code,
Your new humble abode
Will most likely fall down with a crash.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

If you jerry-build structures, you’ll find
There are dangers in what you’ve designed.
Now who’d rent a flat
In someplace like that?
Why, you’d have to be out of your mind!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Direct voting? By that we’re not thrilled;
Democracy let’s jerry-build,”
Said the founders. Time flowed,
But the piper was owed,
And by Donald we now have been billed.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


With my cousins in Spain I grew close,
And their language I seemed to osmose.
I had a great stay,
And on my last day
I was sorry to say, “Adios!”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Read briefing books? Much too verbose;
To learn what I need I osmose,”
Said Donald. “True knowledge
You can’t get in college,
For words on a page are just gross.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The home loan will last a decade;
When that very last payment is paid,
It will manumise me --
All those years, I’ll be free --
Ah, but wait! ... Then it’s time to upgrade.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

Oh, how many the lives Lincoln saved
When he manumised people enslaved!
“You are free!” he proclaimed.
It’s for this he is famed,
And his face on the penny’s engraved.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

All around us came audible sighs
As the wardens we’d come to despise
Went around with their keys.
We were manumised! Geez!
“You’re outta here, all of you guys!”
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“Gather ‘round, folks, and come be surprised!
In my will, you are all manumised!”
said George Washington. “Thus
I’m aboard freedom’s bus!”
“But for now we’re still slaves,” they surmised.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


An inveterate gusher? Don’t care!
I’m that burden you’ll just have to bear.
Something’s good, I enthuse,
And I flatly refuse
To apologise, matey, so there!
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

“My heart he has turned into mush!”
About her new beau does she gush.
She’s very enthused,
But Dad’s not amused.
“That fellow’s a loser, a lush.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

That prof was just great! We enthused!
Not only had none of us snoozed,
But way more surprising
We found ourselves rising!
Applauding! And then we all schmoozed!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Some folks like to dwell on bad news,
And spend their days singing the blues.
But that’s not my style;
I laugh and I smile.
For me, I just choose to enthuse.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Come to spin class! Once there, you’ll enthuse!”
“No thanks, I would much rather snooze.”
“Then help your brain think
With a nice protein drink.”
“OK dear, but I’ll first add some booze.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“Oh Sal-liaise-ure eyes like yours I could fall into and drown happy,” said Harry.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

He fondly remembered the Tom and Jerry-build-ing blocks he got one Christmas when he was a child.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“I don’t know, George, can Jerry-build ratings for a show about nothing?” wondered Kramer.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“So this Pharaoh bloke, ‘e gits all wound up about the plagues ‘n’ ‘e goes, ‘Bloody ‘ell! Take yer people ‘n’ go, then. Move yer bloomin’ osmose-s!’” said the East London Sunday school teacher.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“You know Dorothy, in osmose-t of us have never seen the Great Wizard.” said the Cowardly Lion.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“No give Christmas bonus? You bad manumise-r,” said Scroog’s bookkeeper.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Manumise-r!” Bob Marley called out his record producer, who didn’t authorize much money for his tour.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“That’s the t-enthuse of your hanky without washing it,” said the cold sufferer’s disgusted wife.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Thufferin’ Thuckatash! Chasin’ that little Tweety bird, hilarity enthuse,” exclaimed the lisping pussycat Sylvester.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Science does correct itself and that’s the reason why science is such a glorious thing for our species. -Nigel Calder, science writer (2 Dec 1931-2014)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith