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Feb 18, 2024
This week’s theme
Words coined after animals

This week’s words
eager beaver
big fish

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

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Next week’s theme
Words for prisons

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AWADmail Issue 1129

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

Sponsor’s Message: Are you ready to bite the ass off a bear? The Official Old’s Cool Education, three travel-sized handbooks are “a gentlemen’s romp, a rollicking excuse for mad facts” and wicked truths and trivia. Not for numbskulls. FREE SHIPPING. Shop now.

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

Eslei! How a New Generation Is Reinventing Spanglish

The School Saving One of Louisiana’s Oldest Dialects
The Guardian

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Animals coining terms based on human behavior (Re: reptilian)

This week we looked at terms coined after animals. I asked our readers:
If animals could coin terms based on human behavior, what might they create? Here’s a selection from the responses:

Human-handed, adj.: A term used by octopuses to describe a tendency to attempt to force complex situations into binaries such as right/wrong, left/right, female/male, etc. Arises from the belief that humans resort to such binaries to deal with the world around them because they only have two hands. Example: Asdfghjkl’s human-handed approach rendered them unfit to deal with delicate political negotiations.
-SarahRose Werner, Saint John, Canada (swerner nbnet.nb.ca)

humanitarian, adj.: Selfishly only caring about other humans within the same group.
Unfortunately, we humans show little evidence that we care either about humans who are different from us or about animals.
-B.J. Woodstein, Norwich, UK (bjepstein gmail.com)

Would elephants create trumpian as their version of the word reptilian?
-John Chamberlin, Falls Church, Virginia (jbcblues gmail.com)

Humanic, adj.: Destructive.
Example: That woodchuck is so profligate in his digging, he is almost humanic.
-Stephen Wilder, Willow, New York (bushwhackinfool gmail.com)

Humaniac, noun: A two-legged creature unable to limit their obsessive need to violently control other living beings.
-James S. Webster, Berkeley, California (jsibleywebster mindspring.com)

Prosopicentric, adj.: Considering those with faces as the most significant.
Abattoirian, adj.: Favoring ultimate submission and abnegation of life towards the end of feeding a dominant species.
-Nicole Crane, Guilford, Connecticut (nicole.crane gmail.com)

Googoon, noun: A human being who speaks to dogs, cats or other animals in exaggerated nonsense syllables or “baby talk”.
Usage: “The human with whom I cohabitate seems resourceful in providing food and shelter, despite a severely limited vocabulary. I wonder if other humans also consider him a bit of a googoon.”
-Jonathan Harms, St. Louis, Missouri (jonathan.harms slu.edu)

Mardigrasian, noun: A person who abandons him or herself to reckless frivolity, often costumed and drunken, redeemed paradoxically for many humans by the fact that their celebration is derived from a religious holiday.
Usage: A bad lizard can do evil, but it takes religion to make a good human mardigrasian.
-Leslie Lowe, New Orleans, Louisiana (leslie leslie.ms)

Although we humans can read and write -- that is, we are literate -- we also have a knack for rambling lunacy. The animal kingdom might consider us blitherates.
-Jerry Bradley, Springfield, Virginia (fxb3 verizon.net)

Amongst many mammals, humans are commonly known as smoke monkeys -- not only for their smoldering cigarettes but also for their house chimneys, vehicle exhausts, and noxious factory emissions. Other simians, however, simply refer to people as stinkers. “Uh-oh! Look out! Stinkers coming near!”
-Tom Pater, Courtenay, Canada (tompater shaw.ca)

Taillessi: Monkeys would call our species a particularly clumsy and inept cousin.
-Michael Tuvim, PhD, Professor, Pulmonary Medicine, Director, Pulmonary Research Laboratory, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas (mtuvim mdanderson.org)

My choice for a word coined by animals to describe humans: inhumanoids.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Animals would characterize humans with out-of-control emotions who go about destroying each other and the environment as manick (man-ick).
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

When our daughter was younger, she told us in no uncertain terms that her cat, Isis, did not have a personality, because she wasn’t a person. She was a CAT so she had a CATonality (or possibly CATanality. And Isis, being quite the unique individual, had a very distinct catonality. We suggested perhaps felinality or catality would work better but were overruled by our daughter and Isis.
-Kate Cook, Yorkville, California (kborst mcn.org)

Anthrotrocious, adj.: Tending to subject one’s fellow non-human animals to undue suffering through exploitation that includes factory farming, animal experimentation, zoos, circuses, use in clothing and food, etc. Example: Joey the Antelope’s father told him to leave the small human child in peace and to instead eat the grass around them. He said,
“Joey, don’t be anthrotrocious! You know better.”
-Rizwati Lazarus, Los Angeles, California (rizwati1111 proton.me)

If I were an animal, and had to create only one word for a human, it would be humass. Regardless of whether the animal is domesticated or wild, there are so many sad tales of woe involving the cruelty, abuse, and negligence of pets and wildlife. We as humans have hunted wild and exotic animals for sport. We’ve placed them in zoos or made them into circus animals. We force horses and dogs to run around race tracks, sometimes giving them drugs to enhance performance or still running them with injuries only to shoot them when they lose or become too expensive.
-Ronda Rose, Reno, Nevada (rcallahanrose19 gmail.com)

From: Eric Kisch (kischmir musicalpassions.com)
Subject: Thought of the Day

“... Once hatched, the ichneumonid larva slowly eats its host alive from inside out.” -Charles Darwin.

Isn’t this what T is doing to this body politic, to the nation’s sanity and possibly to the current world order? Despite the evangelicals who are willing to accept him as the new Jesus, I have trouble believing in a God who invented this mieskeit.

Eric Kisch, Shaker Heights, Ohio

From: Millie Paul (mbpaul444 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--eager beaver

Up in the Laramie Peak Range of Wyoming sit 160 acres homesteaded by my grandfather. A stream there has a dam built by literal eager beavers, creating a small lake or swimming hole. Still there after umpteen years!

Millie Paul, Carlsbad, California

Email of the Week brought to you buy The Official Old’s Cool Education -- Just Do Wit.

From: Jim Ertner (jde31459 gmail.com)
Subject: eager beaver

The mascot of my graduate school alma mater, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), is the beaver. I have always contended that it was so chosen because it was the world’s first civil engineer. (After all, a perpetual beaver colony is an eternal dam nation.) The beaver also adorns the face of the MIT class ring (known as the brass rat) which, unlike most class rings, doesn’t have a gemstone. The mascot’s name is Tim, which is MIT spelled backwards (and is also what you see in a mirror if you’re wearing an MIT T-shirt).

Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina

From: John Sutton (carolea2 tiscali.co.uk)
Subject: testudinal

A testudo was the name given to the tactic of, I think, Roman soldiers who raised oblong shields over their heads and joined together so many wide and so many deep so they were protected like a tortoise shell when storming a castle wall.

John Sutton, Newcastle, UK

From: Rosemary Heher (rpheher aol.com)
Subject: Testudinal

Testudo is the mascot of the University of Maryland College Park athletic teams. It is a diamondback terrapin, ergo the teams’ nickname, “The Terps”. The student newspaper is called, “The Diamondback” because historically, Maryland was world-renowned for terrapin soup... terrapins were plentiful back in the day!

A bronze statue of the mascot, Testudo, is located on the grounds outside the main entrance of McKeldin Library on campus. Students wishing to do well on their way to important exams have been known to touch Testudo’s nose for good luck (at least we did that back in 1968 when I graduated). At times the nose would glisten in the sun. It was so shiny.

Rosemary Heher, Salisbury, Maryland

From: Nikki Pinder (nikki.pinder phri.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--testudinal

I am testudinal and testy and I want a tostada.

Nikki Pinder, Hamilton, Canada

From: Jason Fox (jason.fox rcmp-grc.gc.ca)
Subject: Weasel

My favorite quotation about the weasel:

“Marge, don’t discourage the boy. Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It’s what separates us from the animals, except the weasel.”
-Homer Simpson

Jason Fox, Canada

From: Kirk Westover (kirk.westover gmail.com)
Subject: Pop goes the weasel

Pop Goes the Weasel is, of course, the tune associated with Jack-in-the-box toys. A weasel is also a device on a spinning wheel which alerts the operator when the spindle is wound full.

Kirk Westover, Saint Anthony, Idaho

From: Glenn Glazer (glenn.glazer gmail.com)
Subject: weasel

A weasel walks into a bar. The bartender says, “Wow, I’ve never served a weasel before. What can I get for you?”
“Pop,” goes the weasel.

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California

From: Steve Benko (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
Subject: Big fish usage example

“In December alone, Britain signed terms with 11 countries ranging from big fish such as Canada and Turkey to minnows such as Cameroon and North Macedonia.”
Nice Work; The Economist (London, UK); Jan 30, 2021.

Shame on The Economist for juxtaposing Canada (pop. 38 million) as a “big fish” with Cameroon (pop. 27 million) as a “minnow”. The difference is not nearly that stark. The characterization betrays a certain racial or geographic bias.

Steve Benko, New York, New York

From: Michael New (mike noozoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--big fish

NOTES: Fish, as a species, exhibit a wide range of sizes, far more so than humans.

“Fish” is not a species but a class, like mammals, reptiles, birds or amphibians. Mammals also have a wide range of sizes, from the blue whale to the Etruscan shrew.

Michael New, Ottawa, Canada

Mega Mouth
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: big fish and reptilian

The whale shark, as the name may imply, is the biggest fish on the planet, the largest on-record being a 61-foot behemoth. They are filter feeders, rare in the shark world. They slowly glide through tropical waters, mouths agape, taking in thousands of gallons of water per day, along with plankton and small fish. This shark species has five sets of large gills, smooth thick skin, plus twenty “filter pads” and up to 300 rows of smallish teeth. Who knew?

In Cold Blood
The still controversial triune brain hypothesis postulates that our human brains are controlled by three complexes, i.e., the reptilian complex (basal ganglia), the paleo(old)mammalian complex (the limbic system), and the neomammalian complex (neo-cortex). The basal ganglia are a smallish, bulbous cluster of neurons situated smack-dab at the core of the brain. They are the seat of man’s primordial, baser instinctual behaviors: aggression, dominance, contemptibility, territoriality. Trump’s basal ganglia must take up most of the space between his ears. Any remaining grey matter controls his gross appetites, of which there are many.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: Words coined after animals
1. Reptilian
2. Eager beaver
3. Testudinal
4. Weasel
5. Big fish
= Other namesakes:
1. Wolf (eat; big man)
2. Fish (snare)
3. Elephant (wider issues)
4. Tiger (vital)
5. Bird (delicate, wee)
= 1. Behind world’s affairs, some believe
2. He’s willing
3. Takes its time
4. Acute and wise
5. Greater than a peer
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Josiah Winslow, Franklin, Wisconsin (winslowjosiah gmail.com)
= 1. A biting saurian swims
2. Few work hard
3. Arched
4. A detestable sleeveen
5. Personage, his lifetime title
= 1. Snake
2. Award a live-wire
3. Be lethargic; effete, wimp
4. He’s dishonest
5. Notable mega industrialist, seer
-Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) -Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.



He won’t move in the heat of the day;
Barely breathes, doesn’t blink. One might say
Of this saurian gent,
His peculiar bent,
Is a classic reptilian display.
Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54outlook.com)

Politicians instill folks with fears.
They’re reptilian in nature, one hears.
With their smiles and charm
They spread havoc and harm;
Whereupon they shed crocodile tears.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

There once was a well-known vaudevillian,
Who female acts thought was reptilian.
They’d hide, and they’d quake,
From that nasty snake,
Whose faults were as high as a million.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said Donald, “A brain that’s reptilian
In my business can make you a billion.
But alas, I’ve been caught;
With my whereabouts sought,
I may flee and become a Brazilian.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

eager beaver

He’s a real eager beaver and so
All the teachers adore him, you know.
The kids in his class
Just think he’s an ass --
“Why the hell is he all that gung-ho?!”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

A very hard worker is Sam.
He said, “That’s the way that I am.
I’m such a believer,
A real eager beaver,
Because I do so give a damn!”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Off to Gaul! I’m a real eager beaver;
Just love conquest,” said Julius Caesar
“Me too,” thought Don Juan.
“While he’s hither and yon,
His dear wife I shall love, and then leave her.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Here in Cornwall we’re pretty hardcore
About living until we’re five-score.
The testudinal life,
Far from bustle and strife,
Has us creeping towards St. Peter’s door.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

Now Joe Biden is looking quite frail;
He’s no longer so hardy and hale.
His testudinal pace
Might just lose him this race
To that other old man on the trail.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

This President’s race is unusual,
The candidates both are testudinal.
One’s memory slips,
Or makes a few trips.
The other is downright delusional.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said the tortoise, “I may be testudinal,
But I’m destined for greatness immutable.
As I race with that hare
And he woos some au pair,
I’ll continue my course longitudinal.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Trust a weasel to cheat on a deal
If it loses its profit appeal.
No good bleating -- you’re burned,
But, if tables are turned,
It’s for sure you will hear that rat squeal.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

He’s a weasel. We know that quite well.
If he could, his own mother he’d sell;
But she’s safely at rest.
Still, we think ‘twould be best,
If Donald were placed in a cell.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

The teenager dreamed of romance,
A boyfriend with whom she would dance.
Alas for poor Liesl
That beau was a weasel
Whose politics she viewed askance.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Your way you had better not weasel
Into burning more coal, gas, and diesel,”
Said Gaia. “My skies
You must clean up, you guys,
Or I’ll plague you with forces primeval.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

big fish

I’m a minnow -- I say it with pride.
I won’t be a big fish. I have tried,
But I lack what it takes
To survive the big lakes.
I’d get snared in a net, and then fried.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes54 outlook.com)

He has billions, he claims, give or take;
But in fact, this big fish is a fake.
He wants to impress us
And also suppress us,
But we’re saying: “Go jump in a lake.”
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

It’s DA Fani Willis’s wish
That she will convict her big fish.
That’s the fate Trump’s deserved,
And if justice is served,
It surely will be a sweet dish.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

In silent films Lillian Gish
Was Hollywood’s grandest big fish.
With such style and grace,
And a classic sweet face;
To be her was young girls’ fondest wish.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“As an actress,” said Lillian Gish,
“I’m First Lady of Film -- a big fish!
So I have to stay thin;
Gaining weight would be sin,
Though I love a potato knish.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“I guess I’ll have st-reptilian-asty little microbes succumb to antibiotics,” said the sick scientist to the bacteria under his microscope.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Don’t be so eager Beaver,” Wally told his kid brother.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Someday a man named Pete S-eager beaver-y good folk singer,” prophesied Shaman Oog.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“You have passed the testudinal-i have climbed!” Yoda congratulated the Jedi cadets upon completion of their Alaskan mountaineering challenge.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“If you continue to weasel prescribe some asthma medication,” said the pulmonologist.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Our goal is a really big fish-un reaction,” Oppenheimer explained to the assembled physicists.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

A man needs a little madness, or else he never dares cut the rope and be free. -Nikos Kazantzakis, writer (18 Feb 1883-1957)

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