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May 12, 2024
This week’s theme
Words related to mail

This week’s words
snail mail
mailed fist

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Relative usage over time

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AWADmail Issue 1141

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

Sponsor’s Message: Are you smarter than an 8th grader? Wise Up! is the wickedest party card game in the universe. “Untrivial pursuit.” Free shipping. Shop now >

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

An English Town Drops Apostrophes From Street Signs. Some Aren’t Happy.
The New York Times

Sperm Whale Clicks Could Be the Closest Thing to a Human Language Yet
New Scientist

Libraries (video, 28 min.)
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Linguistic Evolution
SMBC Comics

From: Susan Saunders (susansaunders2008 btinternet.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--snail mail

Certainly the postal service is slow compared with email. But our post was once pretty fast. I was a university student in 1960s Hampstead, London, and my boyfriend, later my husband, was a medical student at the Middlesex Hospital near Oxford Street. Neither of us had access to a phone (landline only of course), and we would write to each other. He could post a letter in the morning, and it would reach me by mid-afternoon - pretty quick compared with our British postal service today where you’re really lucky to get your letter a day or two later.

Susan Saunders, Teddington, UK

Australia Post Logo.png
From: Paul Williams (mepeewee bigpond.net.au)
Subject: snail mail

The term snail mail is specially apt here in Australia, where our post office logo of a stylised P bears an unmistakable resemblance to the gastropod itself, especially if rotated by minus 90 degrees.

Paul Williams, Sydney, Australia

From: John Wallace (verbloodt gmail.com)
Subject: snail mail

My favorite snail mail was in 1966-67 when instead of applying a stamp I could write “combat zone”, when posting from Vietnam.

John Wallace, San Diego, California

From: Barbara Anuzis (barbara.anuzis gmail.com)
Subject: email vs snail mail

Email may be faster, but snail mail comes with the delicious gift of a friend’s unique handwriting.

My mother worked in an international firm in the 60s and brought home postage stamps from myriad countries. I get a bit of the same excitement from seeing all the locations of contributors to AWAD.

Barbara Anuzis, Fairview, North Carolina

From: Patricia Skidmore Pierce (p2pierce bellsouth.net)
Subject: snail mail, email, and text

My grandchildren (mostly young millennials) can’t be trusted to read emails much less postal deliveries anymore. So when I send a birthday or holiday card with a handwritten note and check! (via snail mail), I also text a short greeting and say, “Check your actual mailbox!”

Patricia Skidmore Pierce, Cleveland, Tennessee

From: Craig Good (clgood me.com)
Subject: email

I got on email in 1982. Those were the days of uucp routing, so my address was ucbvax!dagobah!good, and it was up to you to know how to reach ucbvax.

By 1983 it frustrated me that the whole world wasn’t on email.

Be careful what you wish for.

Craig Good, Vallejo, California

From: Taher Kagalwala (drtaher gmail.com)
Subject: Gmail

Most people will have had Netscape, Yahoo, Rediffmail, and many other kinds of email in the past. The first game changer was Hotmail, and the next, huge one, was Gmail. In between, there were thousands of others -- and many of them still continue to offer their customers free emails.

I remember that the earliest people to join the Gmail bandwagon had to be INVITED by others to “try” Gmail. Now, it is possible to sign up automatically, but in those days, you had to beg others to invite you.

Taher Kagalwala, Mumbai, India

From: Steve Benko (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
Subject: Email story

Email was introduced to the employees of my company, GE, in the early 1990s strictly as a method of interoffice communication. It first became possible to exchange messages outside the company in 1995, just when I had been assigned to set up an Asian real estate investment joint venture involving six months of commuting between New York, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Negotiating the voluminous legal documents would seem to be awkward across continents, but email made this the opposite of the case. Our legal representative in Singapore was a brilliant and charming young female attorney native to that country who invariably captured the meaning and spirit of the evolving agreements in the clearest, most concise prose it had been my pleasure to review in over a decade of doing such work.

And the neat thing was, unlike with a domestic assignment, I would send her a set of instructions based on the latest discussions before going home from work in New York when there, and with my night being her day and vice versa, find her perfectly crafted draft document in my inbox when I arrived the next morning. We would also joke around and gab a bit about some of the eccentric personalities involved in the transaction.

She was the first person outside the company I had ever emailed. At the end of the assignment, she said it had been nice working together and exchanging emails, etc., and I replied, “I am never stopping writing to you until you stop writing back.”

And we never stopped. I know where you think this may be going, but I was older and already married with young children. A couple of years later in 1998, I flew out to Singapore for her wedding and that is the last time we saw each other physically, but continue to be great friends, her with three young adult children of her own now and me with two in their 30s.

Steve Benko, New York, New York

From: Olivia Beane (beane.olivia gmail.com)
Subject: Email story

In 1992, my oldest brother was a freshman in college and I was 8 years old. My family and I were packed into our wood-paneled station wagon to pick him up after his first semester (or year; that part of the memory is fuzzy). The part of the memory that isn’t fuzzy is my brother telling us all about “electronic mail” and how he could send a letter by using a computer. I remember vividly how confused I was by that; not understanding how that could possibly work.

Olivia Beane, Ayer, Massachusetts

From: Stuart Klipper (sklipper bitstream.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--snail mail

I got to send my first email in 1989 from the research station at the South Pole. For me, it required an engineer at my side to take the text through a few layers of coding protocols. At the other end, that text which had been sent to a special recipient was then converted to a snail mail letter and given to the USPS for continued delivery.

Stuart Klipper, Minneapolis, Minnesota

From: John Craw (thecrawh gmail.com)
Subject: Early email

First email address in 1983. CompuServe, where I worked, used and sold their Infoplex email product. Before that I’d comm’d some through DECwriters.

John Craw, Glenford, Ohio

From: Michael Heyman (MBHeyman yahoo.com)
Subject: Lear’s snail mail

I wanted to bring to the table the original snail mail, from Edward Lear!

Michael Heyman, Somerville, Massachusetts

From: Laurie Kaniarz (lauriszka att.net)
Subject: Mail

Where I worked in the mid-eighties we still used physical mail to correspond with our customers overseas, but things changed quickly! We had a telex operator who would type one’s handwritten urgent messages (and print out responses) on a huge machine. Not all our customers had a telex, so airmail was still the main way we communicated. Then we got a fax machine, and as our customers gradually did, too, the messages poured in! Our boss lamented, “Now they expect an immediate response instead of allowing us some wiggle room.” Good thing we had some time to get used to the new demands, before everyone got email and ushered in the era of instantaneity.

Laurie Kaniarz, Kalamazoo, Michigan

From: Pascal Pagnoux (pascal.pagnoux gmail.com)
Subject: Snail mail

I think I once picked up mail that had really traveled by snail.

While in college in 1969, I took a summer job in the central post office in Bordeaux, France. One day when we had finished early, the supervisor, who was allergic to idleness, told us to sweep the floor of the whole premises, including behind a platform which had previously seemed destined to eternal immobility.

So we moved that platform, thereby bringing to light a postcard stamped 1938 that said laconically “I’ll arrive at 11:25 on Saturday. Will you wait for me at the station? Love. Marcel.”

Even now, it’s always a wonder to me, considering that international mail travels by planes at about 700 miles an hour, that it routinely takes TEN DAYS for a letter to go from Tarragona, Spain (where I live) to Paris, France 700 miles away, i.e. ONE HOUR by plane.. Maybe there are flying snails too and we’ve never been told on account of national security! 😂

Pascal Pagnoux, Tarragona, Spain

From: Steve Shipe (StaryLos msn.com)
Subject: Snail Mail

Two friends were playing chess through the (snail) mail. One was so pleased with his most recent move that he felt compelled to call his friend to brag, “The check is in the mail.”

In medieval times, in what is now the German/Bohemian border area of Central Europe, a visitor was watching armored and non-armored knights in the field. He asked his companion which was which. The reply: “The Czech is in the mail.”

Steve Shipe, Seattle, Washington

From: Richard S. Russell (RichardSRussell tds.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--snail mail

The seven greatest bargains in America:
1) sunshine
2) fresh air
3) clean water
4) public libraries
5) public schools
6) US Postal Service
7) newspapers

Richard S. Russell, Madison, Wisconsin

From: Vasanth Pai (vasanth.paiomatic gmail.com)
Subject: Children sent by post in US

A Brief History of Children Sent Through the Mail

Vasanth Pai, Bangalore, India

Email of the Week -- Brought to you buy Wise Up! -- A horribly fun party card game.

From: P Larry Nelson (lnelson illinois.edu)
Subject: Snail Mail

By 1990, when Anu got his first email address, email addresses (and their routing) were pretty much standardized with fast delivery (seconds). But in the wild west days of email (70s and early 80s), it wasn’t always so. Lots of competing protocols that didn’t always play well together.

In the beginning, to send an electronic message, both sender and recipient had to have a logon account on some mainframe computer, such as IBM, DEC, CDC, etc. One would log in to his/her account and type the appropriate email command on that mainframe (e.g. ‘mail’ on a Unix system, or “TELL” on a CDC system, etc.) and type one’s message concluding with the appropriate keyboard command to send it on its way. Because of differing proprietary email handling protocols, figuring out someone’s email address was sometimes an exercise in teeth gnashing. Here’s one actual email address example:
Very ugly stuff!

If the recipient had a logon on a different system at another institution or organization, email would be sent to a designated intermediary computer system and put into a last-in/last-out queue. That email (when queued up) would then be sent on to another designated intermediary system (if necessary) into yet another queue before being delivered to the recipient.

The method was based on the postal system model of store and forward. Fortunately that is no longer the model!

Your email might sit in one of those queues for minutes, hours, or days before it got sent on to its next destination. If one of the intermediary systems was down, your email was stuck until it came back up.

Which is why we frequently bemoaned the fact that snail mail was often faster.

Larry Nelson, Retired IT Administrator, Champaign, Illinois

From: Mim Golub Scalin (mim4art gmail.com)
Subject: Snail mail

As a member of the mail art community, we use that word often, though with the cost of postage worldwide, some have talked about email art being something they might have to engage in. Oh, hopefully not.

Hardly the same as snail mail. The pleasure of receiving mail art via snail mail is what we enjoy. It’s a gift from another person.

Mim Scalin, Richmond, Virginia

From: Lorraine Newman Mackler (lnmackler gmail.com)
Subject: Thought for Today

Your thought for the day was apt in a way that you didn’t even have on your radar!

What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books. -Sigmund Freud, neurologist, founder of psychoanalysis (6 May 1856-1939)

Today is Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Memorial Day. Had Freud not died in 1939 after fleeing Vienna in 1938, the Nazis surely would have killed and burned him. His four sisters were murdered in concentration camps.

Lorraine Newman Mackler, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

From: Joy Montgomery (joymontgomery1225 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--greenmail

Tens of thousands of people lost their jobs in a single greenmail event in 1986 that kept reverberating for more than a year afterwards. I was among them.

Asher Edelman [who taught a course titled “Corporate Raiding: The Art of War” at Columbia] did this to Lucky Stores Corporate. Paying him off cost so much that the Board decided to sacrifice GEMCO, which had been the corporation’s version of what is now Costco.

Joy Montgomery, Livermore, California

From: Garry Stahl (tesral wowway.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--postal

That first shooting happened at my local post office 48126. Sometimes the news is a little close to home.

Garry Stahl, Dearborn, Michigan

From: Mark Modrall (mmodrall verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--postal

Back in the 1990s, I had a volatile co-worker. One day he said to me “I bet you think I’m going to go postal.”

I replied, “No, with you I expect Federal Express.”

Mark Modrall, Waltham, Massachusetts

From: Neal Sanders (n_h_sanders yahoo.com)
Subject: History of mail

From 1982 to 1990, I had the pleasure of working for Bolt Beranek and Newman, the Cambridge company that, back in 1968, tied those initial four computers together into the Arpanet. One of my officemates was Ray Tomlinson, the genius who plucked the ‘@’ out of obscurity to separate the user from the organization to make it possible to send emails. Emails already flowed within the organization via a service called ‘Infomail’ developed by John McQuillan. (DNS or domain name systems like “.com” came in 1985). One of the most used services, though, was “bboard”, an internal bulletin board that allowed employees to post on any topic. It was the forerunner to every time-sink app on what would become the Internet.

Neal Sanders, Boston, Massachusetts

From: Alan W Ritch (aritch berkeley.edu)
Subject: Sacha is definitely not a snail

When I first saw a strikingly tall and graceful letter carrier delivering mail in my neighborhood, she was striding along her Delaware Avenue domain with a rhythm that would have seemed leisurely, were her long legs not moving herself and her bag at such an efficient pace.

Growing up in England, I’d admired and sometimes worked for the Royal Mail. The USPS, with its famous resolve to deliver whatever the weather, has also earned my appreciation. This long tradition of government service has heroically survived conservative subversion and the crass capitalism of FedEx, UPS, and Amazon, whose obnoxious vans double park a few lazy feet from their destinations.

My building has two addresses and two mailboxes, the second added since I moved here. I’ve failed to notify every nonprofit I’ve patronized, and so most postal people plunk my junk, dozens of daily begging letters, into the original box, once shared with the family downstairs.

One lucky day, I saw the tall mail carrier stuffing that very box. I greeted her, introduced myself, and apologized for these additions to her burden. “I’m Sacha,” she replied with a dazzling smile, “Glad to know you, Alan, and to know which box is yours.”

Ever since, Sacha has honored my name over an obsolete number and has carefully separated my mail from my housemates’. In modest reciprocation, I often leave an orange or a bar of chocolate in the box for her to find when she arrives.

Alan Ritch, Santa Cruz, California

From: Robbin D. Knapp (robb robbsbooks.com)
Subject: mailed fist

When I was young (many moons ago), I worked at a fried-chicken joint. Mailed fists (actually mailed hands) that looked exactly like the one in your photo were part of my equipment at work. Every day before opening hours I would don the mail on both hands, take whole chickens that were marinating in a brine solution overnight, and cut them into parts on a circular saw. The mail was there to protect me from cutting myself on the saw, of course, but the metal sure was cold in the refrigerated brine solution!

Robbin D. Knapp, formerly US, now Ebensee am Traunsee, Austria

From: Brenda J. Gannam (gannamconsulting earthlink.net)
Subject: graymail

Not only am I inundated with graymail, it seems that there are fifty shades of graymail!

Brenda J. Gannam, Brooklyn, New York

From: Brent Blumenstein (bab triarcconsulting.com)
Subject: Postal Museum

One of the most interesting museums in Washington, DC, is the Smithsonian National Postal Museum. There is no cost to entry (as is the case for all the Smithsonian museums).

Brent Blumenstein, Chevy Chase, Maryland

You've Got Mail... Finally!
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: snail mail and mailed fist

In this age of emails, Snapchat, Skype and texting, snail mail has been left in the dust. I’m sure the good folks at American Greetings and Hallmark, the two stalwarts of the greeting card trade, have had to adjust their business model. However, many of us “boomers” still prefer Xmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s and Father’s Day cards sent through the post... snail mail. But alas, we are literally a dying breed.

Sir Gripes-A-Lot
Sir Gripes-a-Lot (aka Donald Trump), loins girded, body armored, with flailing, tiny mailed fists of fury, stoked by his lust for power, a monster ego and a turgid id, seeks revenge and retribution against his enemies, real and imagined.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: Words related to mail
1. Snail mail
2. Greenmail
3. Postal
4. Mailed fist
5. Graymail
= 1. Land mail - God we waited!
2. Sell shares at profit
3. Airmail
4. Metal mitt
5. Seemingly kosher emails
= 1. Slow media
2. Hostile legal dilemma
3. Angry
4. Warlike aims, threats
5. Filtered email (it’s not spam)
-Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)
Make your own anagrams and animations.


snail mail

If by snail mail you send your emissions,
To your texts you should make some additions:
Add “A.D.” to your dates
Or you’ll open the gates
To a series of friend-list excisions.
-Rob Arndt, Houston, Texas (theveryword aol.com)

Of email I do not approve.
I’ll stay in my staid snail-mail groove.
When I’m paying a bill
That’s not run-of-the-mill,
A delay, I believe, does behoove.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

When people I love choose to write,
Their snail mail I find a delight!
The letters they send
That they themselves penned
Are better than texts in my sight.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I’m a relic, I know, so I wail,
While computers and texts do prevail.
For me, nothing’s better,
Than getting a letter.
Say hail to the never stale snail mail!
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“I shan’t at pursuing this whale fail,”
Wrote Ahab while sipping a pale ale.
Ere his letter reached home,
Though, he’d sunk ‘neath the foam,
For he had no iPhone, only snail mail.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


How clever the plan we’d conceived!
With greenmail our goal was achieved.
They were caught unawares
When we bought out their shares,
And now they are somewhat aggrieved.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

There are people whose business, I guess,
Is to make others’ business a mess,
So they can come in
And greenmail them! No sin,
But hardly a sign of largesse!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“With the verdict I won I’ll do greenmail,
For Donald is such an obscene male,”
E. Jean Carroll declared.
“He had better be scared
Of Trump Media’s stock price on resale.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“I’ve moved things around, as you see.
It’s neater now, don’t you agree?”
My husband was gruff:
“You threw out my stuff?!?”
And then he went postal on me.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Going postal”, I hear, means you’re nuts!
Off your rocker; no ifs, ands, or buts!
But my post office works
With the nicest of clerks,
And efficiency! Zip, zip -- shortcuts!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

When Donald is not being boastful,
He has one other mood: going postal.
C’mon, Midwest and South!
This time help shut his mouth!
Join the saner states (mostly bi-coastal)!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

mailed fist

With a radiant smile on her face,
She arrived wearing gloves made of lace.
Those belied her mailed fist,
With which she could twist
Any arm, any time, any place.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

How often would Donald insist,
“You have to display a mailed fist!”
I’ve had more than my share
Of his signature glare --
His strong man routine I’ve not missed.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Said Putin, “Ukraine can’t resist,
The might of my army’s mailed fist.”
But Zelensky cried, “No!
From our land, you must go!
A free Ukraine must now exist!”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

One day as he sat in jail pissed,
“I’ll still win and they’ll see my mailed fist,”
Said Donald. “For Stormy
Is not here to warm me;
I hate being by a male kissed.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


All that junk in my inbox, I say,
Is making my hair turn to gray.
It makes me see red,
And I really dread
That graymail I get every day.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

It’s easy to shop through the net,
Except afterwards, whaddaya get?
Graymail by the sack!
You can never go back;
It’s something you may well regret.
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

My graymail, it doubles each day.
It takes time to scroll through it. Oy vey!
I should mark it all spam,
But that’s not who I am.
It’s turning my hair quickly gray.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“If convicted, I’ll send Putin graymail,”
Said Donald, and Jack Smith turned whey-pale.
He replied, “If your mind
Has a conscience to find,
It’s a needle down deep in a hay bale.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“There were thousands of them crawling around eating everything in sight and leaving their slimy trails behind them. It was a snail mail-strom,” said the gardener.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Marjorie Taylor Greenmail-iciously attempted to oust Speaker Johnson but was thwarted by some Democratic votes.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“I’m sorry, Kermit, but I could never fall for a greenmail,” said Miss Piggy.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Don’t move! You have to stay in the postal I finish the portrait,” the artist told his model.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

My cousin Fran would postal her children’s accomplishments in her yearly family newsletter.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Biden mailed fist-fuls of fake absentee ballots to rig the election!” shouted Donald.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Arnold mailed Fist-icuffs for Dummies back for a refund after he lost his first fight.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“What is Silly Putty?” answered the Jeopardy contestant to the clue, “A graymail-leable substance sold as a children’s toy.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Cicada Buzz
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Cicada Buzz

As we speak, one of Mother Nature’s truly freakish happenings is taking place in the US Midwest and Southeast. Every 13 or 17 years depending on the strain, cicadas, by the tens of millions, emerge from their lengthy underground gestation, to mate and then die in just a matter of weeks. This spring, the two waves of emergence have overlapped. A very rare convergence event. The loud, distinctive cicada “buzz” marking their arrival is the males’ mating call. It drives most humans batty, but the female cicadas just can’t resist it.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

I do not torture animals, and I do not support the torture of animals, such as that which goes on at rodeos: cowardly men in big hats abusing simple beasts in a fruitless search for manhood. -George Carlin, comedian, actor, and author (12 May 1937-2008)

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