Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



Jan 28, 2024
This week’s theme

This week’s words
Don Quixote

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives

Next week’s theme
There’s a word for it

Send a gift that
keeps on giving,
all year long:
A gift subscription of A.Word.A.Day or the gift of books
Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share

AWADmail Issue 1126

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

Sponsor’s Message: Anti-Valentine’s Day Gift. One Up! -- The Wickedest Word Game in The World. “Eww!” Shop Now.

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

”We All Want to Know Whether Animals Talk and What They’re Saying”
The Guardian

Bilingualism Is Reworking This Language’s Rainbow
Scientific American

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: eponyms

What eponyms would you coin after leaders, past or present, in your country? I asked this week and eponyms coined after Trump poured in. Some others were coined about more pleasing characters too. Read on.

500 years from now, people are going to be talking about Trumpism. Hopefully not in reference to the downfall of America. I am guessing you receive no less than 5,000 emails today with the same eponym.
-Arlene James, Bella Vista, Arkansas (aj arlenejayme.com)

You’re going to have to devote an entire issue to Trumpism.
-Lee Entrekin, Old Fort, North Carolina (harpo mindspring.com)

The definition of Machiavellianism certainly fits our former president. And Trumpism is much easier to spell.
-Judith Fritsch, Yonkers, New York (hnjfritsch gmail.com)

Trumpilization, noun: The lack of ability to make logical decisions.
-Greg Mellon, Escondido, California (gsmellon gmail.com)

Trumpian, adjective: Loud, bombastic, combative.
-Susan Christoffersen, Rhinebeck, New York (dakotacl yahoo.com)

Trumpish, adjective: Obnoxious, coarse, rude, self-centered, given to name-calling and belittling others.
“The Trumpish loser, who fashioned himself a peacock, was unaware of the disdain in which he was held by others.”
-Cindy Cassady, Prescott, Arizona (cassady.cindy gmail.com)

Trumpist, noun: Someone or something repulsive.
-Antony Cecil-Wright, Southampton, UK (antony.cw gmail.com)

Trumpiavellianism, noun: All of the evil of Machiavelli plus an inordinate amount of narcissism, lying, incompetence, and exaggeration.
-Jerome Megna, Yardley, Pennsylvania (jerome648 comcast.net)

Trumpery, noun: Spreading deceit, after Donald Trump.
Example: “Trumpery could destroy democracy in the US.”
Oops! The word trumpery already exists with that very meaning.
-Richard Stallman, East Boston, Massachusetts (rms gnu.org)

Trumpronovirus, noun: A sociological infectious agent that causes the body politic to attack itself.
-Lori Bradley, New Bedford, Massachusetts (loribradley comcast.net)

Stassenian, adjective: Feeling the urge to run for high political office. Coined after Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen who ran for US president nine times.
“His stassenian impulse was on par with his need to breathe.”
-Mike DiRaimo, Columbia, Connecticut (md6966 gmail.com)

Carteresque, adjective: Selfless, compassionate.
-Les Brown (via website comments)

Reagan, verb tr.: To take a situation that needs a few tweaks and upend it for the benefit of a few friends. The upending would be something to the effect that, upon noticing that there are more people waiting for dessert than there are apples, deciding to give 80% of the apples to those at his table and the rest of the diners a teaspoon of applesauce each.
-Mo Doyle, Boston, Massachusetts (momcdo gmail.com)

Cantinfliar, verb intr.: To speak nonsense. It comes after Mario Moreno Cantinflas, a comic from Mexico.
-Alfonso Ramón Bagur, Mexico City, Mexico (abagur prodigy.net.mx)

Claudinegay, verb tr., intr.: To equivocate publicly in answer to a simple question about basic human rights of survival and freedom.
“Nikki Haley recently claudinegayed about the causes of the Civil War, saying it was about how the country would be run with no mention of slavery.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

This one is in French, but I’ve always thought poor old Eugène Poubelle must’ve rued the day in 1884 when the Seine prefect decreed all Paris buildings must have a bin for trash. His name Poubelle still means trash can.
-Scott Sandlin, Albuquerque, New Mexico (sandlin.scott gmail.com)

Garg, verb tr., intr.: To pursue information about a word. Example: I’m going to pick up the OED and spend the day Garging.
Gargism, noun: A love of words.
Gargist, noun: One who seeks information about words, their origins, and uses. Example: If more people followed A.Word.A.Day they would know the joy of being a Gargist.
-Kent Rhodes, Charlotte, North Carolina (krho1 aol.com)

I would suggest Anugarganism, for something surprising, varied, and to say the very least, interesting. Second meaning: addiction to your newsletter (no cure existent nor wanted!)
-Nelly Hivet, Bourges, France (hivet.nelly neuf.fr)

Feynmanian, adjective: Creative, curious, humorous, and intellectual. Coined after the Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman.
-Irith (“Ee-reet”) Bloom, Los Angeles, California (irith irith.com)

Chisholm, noun. A billion3 = 1027 = the number of “Prochlorococcus”, the world’s most abundant organism, in the ocean. Named for Penny Chisholm, their discoverer. Sometimes called a Chisillion to match billion, trillion ...”There are about seven chisillion cells in an adult human body.”
Hopkins Ratio, noun. The amount by which office space was/is diminished for female faculty members. Named for Nancy Hopkins who documented the discrepancy at MIT in the 1990s. “The Hopkins Ratio is just one example of pervasive, insidious, unconscious sexism”.
Finally, Gabriela, a heartwarming and inspiring story of a teenager who, despite coming from a “vocational school” and an immigrant background, discovered that she was as good as anyone else in the room ... indeed, on the planet.
-Andrew Lloyd, Borris, Ireland (knockroe gmail.com)

From: Anthony Flavell (toneyvr gmail.com)
Subject: Machiavellianism

I’ve been researching psychopathy and leadership.

There is a term in psychology called the dark triad, where a person has the combined traits of psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism; all interwoven disorders. To be Machiavellian you’re likely to have some of the other two tendencies. And unfortunately many world leaders, especially dictators and would-be dictators, have a high score on the dark triad. Democracy needs checks and balances to thwart these unscrupulous people from gaining total control. Power is so seductive to them.

The US seems to have an insufficiently moderated democracy close to the edge of faltering. Electoral funding is all but uncontrolled; the media can spout whatever spin/lies/alternative facts/hate speech they want; the state judiciary and many law-related leadership positions are elected instead of appointed by their peers and superiors for their good service; and SCOTUS is not self-monitored, it can be stacked by the sitting president without any control from the existing body - who are the ultimate experts on SCOTUS affairs and eligibility.

Anthony Flavell, Vancouver, Canada

From: Pilar Fdez-C.Greenwood (pilarfcg gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Don Quixote

I am a longtime reader and contributor to Wordsmith. Today I am disappointed.

The connotations you have chosen for the eponym Quixote are shallow and demeaning as they perpetuate a negative stereotype of a world literary figure, one that represents a much more potent and challenging figure for millions.

I expected a more thoughtful and balanced understanding of Don Quixote from you. It would have pointed to the alternative and deeper connotations of Don Quixote as a hero who charts his quest for existential meaning by trying to live the values of honesty, generosity, and selfless actions. If believing in justice and values is absurd, as you put it, your gloss supports those who think it is foolish to live by ethical ideals, particularly when those ideals are trumped by corruption, greed, and injustice. That is probably what you mean by “idealistic to an absurd degree.”

If your audience ever attempts to read the novel after the discouragement your snippet has given them to do so, they will discover that the character, Don Quixote, helps readers reflect on the power of ideals to give meaning to life on this planet, even if in doing so you are misunderstood and defeated.

Pilar Fernández-Cañadas Greenwood, Ithaca, New York

Thank you for your insightful comments on the portrayal of Don Quixote in language. You rightly point out that there is much more to his character than the quixotic stereotype of pursuing unrealistic ideals. Don Quixote’s deeper qualities, such as his commitment to values like honesty and justice, deserve recognition.

That said, a language goes where its speakers take it. Each time we use a word, we cast a vote in its directions. Over time, millions or hundreds of millions of votes add up and a word takes shape. Also, important to note, the meaning of the term has a kernel of truth.

As lexicographers we report on language as it is used. We do not dictate it.

Change happens. Words evolve. Sometimes words make a 180 deg. turn. May your protest have an effect, but honestly, it’s tilting at windmills. The idealist in me would celebrate with you when the term Don Quixote would mean someone who selflessly goes around and tries to effect positive change, no matter how impossible.
-Anu Garg

Email of the Week -- Brought to you buy ONEUPMANSHIP -- A board game for horrible people.

From: Timothy Ebert (tebert ufl.edu)
Subject: Don Quixote

The difference between a Don Quixote and a visionary is success. If you dream the impossible dream and happen to be correct then you get to stand with Galileo and many others who started off with their ideas being dismissed by at least parts of society at large. “Unrealistic” is greatly shaped by your definition of reality and even the reality of someone like Darwin is still not universally accepted.

Timothy Ebert, Auburndale, Florida

From: Bill Richardson (kymrbill aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--thespian

When I was a kid growing up in Louisville, KY, there was a story (apocryphal) of a politician trying to besmirch his rival by claiming that his sister was a known thespian.

Bill Richardson, Orange, California

From: Judah Rosner (jlr4206 gmail.com)
Subject: epicure

Orthodox Jews use the word epikores for a heretic.

Judah Rosner, Washington, DC

From: John Norton (norton.john gmail.com)
Subject: Momus

Momus: A carping critic

Dadus: A railing, whaling critic

Brothrus: A hounding, aping critic

Sisus: A bιtchy, yakking critic

Auntus: A crabby, bugging critic

Unclus: A fawning, weaseling critic

Grampus: A grousing, badgering critic.

Grammus: Grammuses never criticize anything except Grampuses. They are besotted with their Grandkidduses and spend all their time online buying clothes and toys for them. Grampuses are okay with that.

John Norton, Durham, North Carolina

From: Desmond Oneill (oneill silcom.com)
Subject: Momus

The Cafe Momus in Paris, the scene of the big party in the opera La Boheme, was named after Momus.

Des O’Neill, Santa Barbara, California

From: Robert Burns (robertburns oblaw.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Momus

This word is mastυrbation in obscurity. No one on the receiving end would know what it means. Why not say it in Chinese?

Robert Burns, Ocean Beach, California

From: Mary Finelli (MaryFinelli comcast.net)
Subject: Catch-and-release

Catch-and-release, that’s like running down pedestrians in your car and then, when they get up and limp away, saying -- Off you go! That’s fine. I just wanted to see if I could hit you. -Ellen DeGeneres, comedian, television host, and actress (b. 26 Jan 1958)

Yes! Just because a fish is released doesn’t mean they survive having been impaled, fought, suffocated, and manhandled. Many do not, and they all suffer immensely from the injury and trauma.

Fishing isn’t a sport, the fish are victims not willing participants. Science has shown that fishes can suffer fear and pain. They are sentient beings who deserve respect, compassion and moral consideration, not gratuitous cruelty.

Needlessly harming animals for food or “fun” or for anything else is animal abuse.

Mary Finelli, Silver Spring, Maryland

Emeticus Trumpus
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Machiavellianism and thespian

Admittedly, depicting Trump as a would-be-emperor is a tad anachronistic. But his vow, if reelected, to rule as a dictator, isn’t that far removed from being as ruthless, vengeful or corrupt as a Roman emperor, ruling with impunity and often cruelty. As President Biden has forewarned, Trump is a clear and present threat to American democracy, the Constitution, and the Rule of Law. Emeticus Trumpus... beware!

Thespian Streep's True Colors
Inspired by the usage example for our word “thespian”, I interpreted it literally, and voila!... I present to you the much-heralded actor Meryl Streep, in the guise of an actual chameleon. Streep, by far, has more Best Actress in a Drama Oscar nominations (20+) than any of her contemporaries, and has won three Oscars. She’s also won nine Golden Globes, three Emmys and two Director’s Guild trophies. Truly, a thespian for all seasons.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: Eponyms
1. Machiavellianism
2. Don Quixote
3. Thespian
4. Epicure
4. Momus
= 1. Inhumane method
2. Who pushes optimism
3. In cinema
4. Exquisite palate
5. Mocks severely
= 1. Enemies who push me seem immoral
2. Utopian
3. Acts in play
4. Exquisite hedonism
5. Kvetch
-Josiah Winslow, Franklin, Wisconsin (winslowjosiah gmail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz)
= 1. How me manipulate polity
2. Naive
3. Ham, mime muse
4. Hedonist excess
5. Sh! Spoken critique
= 1. Week’s politics (uh, exempt? he-he!)
2. Optimism
3. Ham, mime, queen
4. Connoisseur
5. Avid analyst
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com) -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.



Politicians who think they should lead,
Must use cunning and guile to succeed.
And when asked, they’ll attest
That they learned from the best;
Machiavellianism’s their creed.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

With his Machiavellian style
And his somehow reptilian smile,
The dictator schemes,
And sadly it seems,
That he’s likely to rule for a while.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Machiavellianism, you know
Is so close! Yes, to us, touch and go!
Is it cruelty? No --
More like power for show;
One day we’ll wake up, and -- uh oh!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Machiavellianism, Anu?
It’s a sure meter beater it’s true.
Why not fix that big clump,
And just call it a Trump.
All your limerick crew will thank you.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

While eating his lunch at a deli,
“I’m an -ism?” said Machiavelli.
“OK, I’ll seize power,
but give me an hour,
For first I must fill up my belly.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Don Quixote

I’m a fantasist -- nothing outré!
Just reactions against modern day.
Don Quixote -- great guy! --
Is my hero, and I
Emulate in my own little way.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

A real Don Quixote is he,
A dreamer, naive as can be.
A chivalrous guy,
And all this is why
He’s just the right fellow for me!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Though it’s June, I still hope for a snow day,”
Said the schoolboy, a young Don Quixote.
“While Mom says that’s silly,
‘It’s winter in Chile!’
I tell her. She says, ‘Drink your OJ.’”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


I was born to play drama with swords,
To stage Shakespeare and garner awards.
Give me greasepaint, bright lights --
And please! Let me wear tights!
I’m a thespian! Where are those boards?
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

I recall a young thespian of note,
Who learned all of his speeches by rote.
When he once dropped a line,
His ad-libbing was fine;
But with words that I here dare not quote.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

The thespian entered on cue
And thought that he knew what to do.
But when put on the spot
“Ho Ho Ho!” he forgot --
His Santa Claus gig now is through.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Now Thespis the poet was smart.
Recited his poems on a cart.
If the crowd was too rude,
If they heckled, or booed,
The thespian, he would depart.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said Oog, “Me won part as a thespian,
Playing monster in Scotland; Loch Ness me in.
Submerged for whole play,
Though, no lines do me say,
And for this, studied theatre at Wesleyan?”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


I’ve tried being refined -- it’s not me.
I am more of a gourmand, you see.
Let the epicure pose,
With his palate and nose,
I’ll have two beefsteak dinners -- no! Three.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

The epicure, (this is no joke),
Did some giggles and snickers provoke.
He was so la-di-da,
As he favored foie gras
With a flute of well-chilled Diet Coke.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

The thespian, pretty but poor
Was despite this, a born epicure.
So the Hollywood producer
With intent to seduce her
Used a lobster meal for his next lure.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

The epicure knows where to eat,
And takes me to someplace elite.
Since he is so choosy,
The check is a doozy --
I’m glad that this meal is his treat.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I know your taste’s quite unrefined;
Even so, it should be realigned.
No, we’re not epicures
But that plateful of yours --
Are ya outta your confounded mind?
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Said the sign, “For the true epicure,
Come in for a nice pedicure!
Relax! Have a facial!
The pace here is glacial!
We’ll soon be your chief creditor!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


With a Momus, your options are few.
Know they’ll never be happy with you.
They will constantly carp,
Re your failings, and harp
On -- who cares! Just abandon the shrew.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

I keep telling you, so you should know;
That King Lear is a long, talky show.
I’m a Momus, you say?
I go out of my way
To warn you and save you some dough.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Whenever that woman would speak,
She’d offer a constant critique.
His “Momus-in-law”
Would point out each flaw --
Escape from her judgment he’d seek!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The Momus’s mouth never shut,
Full of satire, mockery, smut!
If he went after me
I’d survive, sure, but gee,
I’d have felt I’d been socked in my gut!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“I won the election for POTUS,”
Said the corpulent orange-haired Momus.
“You’re such a big jεrk,
Judge, both you and your clerk!
And this trial’s a fundraising bonus!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“I’ll take a Venti Caffé Machiavelliato,” said the power-hungry madman in Starbucks.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Joseph and Mary can stay in the manger if they want, but I insist you direct me to a good don quixote-l,” said the stubborn pack animal.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Thespian-o is out of tune and my prelude sounds awful,” Chopin complained.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Dying of anaphylactic shock? Try EpiCure, our classic adrenaline shot now in refreshing soft drink form! Lemon-lime and strawberry flavors,” said the TV commercial.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“I think Momus be my favorite Stooge,” Fred told his frat buddies.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“I want momus-tard on my hot dog,” the little kid told his mom.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

“Excuse me, where can I find Van Gogh’s The Starry Night?” asked the visitor to New York. “It’s on Momus fifth floor,” answered the tour guide.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Sit down and put down everything that comes into your head and then you’re a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff’s worth, without pity, and destroy most of it. -Colette, author (28 Jan 1873-1954)

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