Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



May 19, 2024
This week’s theme

This week’s words

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives

Next week’s theme

Spread the Magic
The magic of words
Send a gift subscription. It’s free.
Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share

AWADmail Issue 1142

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

Sponsor’s message: “Scrabble on steroids, with a thieving twist.” One Up! -- where stealing is the name of the game. “Darwinian fun.” Free shipping. Shop now.

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

Alice Munro Was the English Language’s Chekhov
The Economist

Why Do Humans Sing? Traditional Music in 55 Languages Reveals Patterns and Telling Similarities

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

This week we invited our readers to share eponyms from their personal lives or based on public figures. Here’s a selection from the responses.

My long-time friend Keith was one of those fearless-to-the-point-of-foolhardiness teenagers who seemed to have zero self-preservation instinct. He had a knack for taking any game or activity with even a small amount of risk and kicking it up several gears. Over time this came to be known in our group as Keithing: arbitrarily making an activity more dangerous. To this day I will tell the kids not to Keith their games in the garden by adding big obstacles, or a friend not to Keith their drive home by driving tired.
Keith is also a parent so has tamed his reckless side for his family’s benefit.
-Tim Lake, Bedford, UK (3shirts gmail.com)

Putinic: Dictatorial; brutal; violent.
-Elsa Jock, Buenos Aires, Argentina (elsa.jock gmail.com)

Widgery: An official inquiry or report which whitewashes state action.
After Lord Widgery, a judge, whose Bloody Sunday inquiry was thought to fall into that category. -Niall Humphreys, Dublin, Ireland (niallandeileen gmail.com)

Abbottian: finding the most unenlightened, most primitive of positions on any issue and then staking out one that strives to surpass even that low point, all in the name of pandering. After Texas governor Greg Abbott.
Paxtonian: meaning, “Doing as I say, not as I do,” after Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas.
-James Eng, Cypress, Texas (jameseng hotmail.com)

Aunt Frances was a master of the guilt trip. Now, when my sister or I are tempted to do one, the other one warns: “Don’t pull a Frances.”
-Judith Fritsch, Yonkers, New York (hnjfritsch gmail.com)

Email of the Week -- Brought to you buy One Up! -- A wicked smart war of words.

My mother Ann has long had a penchant for catalogue and Internet shopping. This has resulted in my closet and home being filled with items she has purchased and passed off on me. I affectionately call them Ann-me-downs.
-Nancy Solberg, Poughkeepsie, New York (nsolberg1228 gmail.com)

My middle name is Waldo. As an eager and always in trouble kid I had a penchant for doing stupid things (e.g. reaching too quickly for milk at the dinner table, thereby dumping the pitcher all over). The action of doing something stupid that ended in a mess in my home was always called pulling a Waldo.
-Neil Richards, Pittsford, New York (neilr richardsresearch.com)

tRUMP: Someone making an absolute ASS of himself.
-Neil O’Keeffe, Steamboat Springs, Colorado (nokboat1290 gmail.com)

Trumpocracy: A vengeful dictatorial form of government that glorifies its leader beyond all merit.
-Jack Colldeweih, Spring Lake, Michigan (jcoll6 yahoo.com)

In UK English, to trump is to expel foul air from one’s posterior (possibly not a true eponym).
-Bob Carter, Fareham, UK (rfgcarter ntlworld.com)

Gavin: To fasten things together with glue regardless of whether glue is the most appropriate adhesive. For a boss of mine who insists that pieces of cast iron, steel, or aluminium (or any combination thereof) can be adequately stuck together using glue. No need for welding, screws, or rivets -- glue is sufficient. Despite repeated failures of the glue bonds, his faith has never diminished. One can only imagine what will happen if he discovers duct tape.
-Roberta G, Wellington, New Zealand (easul80 gmail.com)

Zapp: To suddenly realize when experiencing a startling, and startlingly good and well-played piece of music, that you have been listening to musical dreck for far too long. After Frank Zappa, the late composer and guitarist extraordinaire. Bonus quotation from Frank Z: “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.”
-Luke Sherwood, Arvada, Colorado (lukesherwood1978 icloud.com)

My daughter has had the same cleaning woman, Tanya, for many years and she does a stellar job. When I do my own house cleaning I strive to do a Tanya.
-Ann Serdula, Deep River, Canada (annserdula97 yahoo.ca)

Ingersollian: Profound.
After Robert G. Ingersoll. Among my favorites of his quotations:
“The highest possible philosophy is to enjoy, not regretting yesterday, not fearing tomorrow.”
“The time to be happy is now, the place to be happy is here and the way to be happy is to make others so.”
-Donald B. Ardell, Madison, Wisconsin (awr.realwellness gmail.com)

Ruthistic: Violently crazy, to the point of physical assault, usually in the form of kicking. Named after Ruth Muller (b. 2012), younger sister.
-Kara Muller, George, South Africa (kym24karatgold gmail.com)

I can spell any word in reverse, speak any word phonetically backwards, and sing any song phonetically backwards instantly. I would like these abilities to be named after myself: Pottasism.
-Job Pottas, Muvattupuzha, India (jobpottas gmail.com)

A friend I used to play tennis with, Marie-Louise, had a wicked shot that went diagonally across the front of the court at speed, hit where the singles’ sideline and the service line meet, and bounced right out of the court. I told my tennis teacher about how impossible it was to return this shot, and even now, years after she and I stopped playing, my teacher and I still refer to a Marie-Louise ball when a shot from one of us comes even close to her perfection.
-Kim Hays, Bern, Switzerland (kim.n.hays gmail.com)

My brother, Enrico, had an annoying habit of putting his face in mine while I was praying. So now, when our swiveling faucet swings into my face, I call that an Enrico.
-Calogero Cumbo, Ottawa, Canada (calogero.cumbo gmail.com)

My husband Michael likes to take over certain household tasks. If I try to do it my way, he will challenge it saying that his way is better. Sometimes in frustration I cry, “Don’t Mike-romanage me!”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

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

Modern English is the Wal-Mart of languages: convenient, huge, hard to avoid, superficially friendly, and devouring all rivals in its eagerness to expand. -Mark Abley, writer and editor (b. 13 May 1955)

I believe an update would be that English is the Amazon of languages.

Brenda J. Gannam, Brooklyn, New York

From: Mark King (mark kings5.co.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--stan

In the UK, some of us may recall this TV commercial (video, 30 sec.) for United, a popular chocolate countline, that ran in the 1980s. Rhyming Stan with fan predates Eminem!

Mark King, London, UK

From: William Politt (william.03281 gmail.com)
Subject: Stan

Stan has another meaning: a generic Central Asian nation: Paki_, Afghani_, Kyrgyz_, Tajiki_, Uzbeki_, Kazakh_.

William Politt, Weare, New Hampshire

From: Elizabeth Block (elizabethblock netzero.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--alastor

I knew the name Alastor from the poem by Shelley when I encountered Alastor Moody in the Harry Potter books. This meaning makes more sense. Alastor “Mad-Eye” Moody is very vengeful indeed, a champion battler against the Dark Arts.

Elizabeth Block, Toronto, Canada

From: Alexander Nix (revajnix yahoo.co.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Pygmalion

In British vernacular, Pygmalion, in the sense of bloody, is often abbreviated to “piggin” as in “That’s not piggin likely.”

Alexander Nix, Cambridge, UK

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

Learning that Pygmalion was also a euphemism for bloody reminded me of Götz von Berlichingen, a 16th century German knight most famous for saying “No” as emphatically as possible: “Er sollte mich hinten lecken,” meaning, “He should lick my behind.”

The phrase comes to us from Götz’s autobiography, which was published in the 18th Century. Mozart made a canon (video, 2 min.) out of a cruder variation on it and Goethe made it even better known by writing a play about Götz that featured Goethe’s version of the quote.

And along the way the phrase acquired several layers of insulation: some people referred to the phrase as the Swabian salute and others as “the Götz quote”. Which brings us back to Shaw and Pygmalion and those words that we are afraid or not allowed to say but apparently can’t entirely do without, especially once a great writer has broken the taboo. We use the name of the work both as a substitute and as a type of license.

Henry Willis, Los Angeles, California

From: Jo Sanders (via online comments)
Subject: Pygmalion in the Classroom

There was a famous experiment in education called Pygmalion in the Classroom where teachers were told which kids would make large academic advances in the next year based on a (mythical) test they took. In reality they were chosen at random.

Jo Sanders

Tough Love
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: stan and maecenatism

In the early days of cosplay, diehard fans taking on the personae of the main characters from Star Wars and Star Trek were a familiar sight. In the realm of SNL sketches, the 1986-season skit featuring actor William Shatner (Star Trek’s Captain Kirk) addressing an audience of zealous Trekkies became a classic. Can you imagine Trump developing such self-awareness and rebuking his MAGA stans?

Lynda Barry - Genius Grantee
In pondering the word maecenatism, the MacArthur Foundation Fellowships (aka Genius Grants) came to mind. The financial award for a grantee is a $800,000 prize. The Foundation looks for candidates who have exhibited “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuit, and a marked capacity for self-direction.” I was tickled to discover that in 2019 cartoonist Lynda Barry was an awardee, a rarity for cartoonists or illustrators. Bravo Lynda! Trust you spent (or invested) that 800 grand wisely?

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: Eponyms
1. Galvanic
2. Stan
3. Maecenatism
4. Alastor
5. Pygmalion
= 1. Shock, static volts
2. Eminem mental image
3. Patronage
4. Any nemesis
5. Shaw play
= 1. Electric, ampy, antonym tame
2. Who stalks
3. Aegis
4. A phantom nemesis
5. Svengali
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz)

This week’s theme: Eponyms
1. Galvanic
2. Stan
3. Maecenatism
4. Alastor
5. Pygmalion
= 1. Most impellent
2. A copycat
3. A vast endowment, alms
4. A nemesis
5. AKA a Henry Higgins
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.



The election of Trump was galvanic;
It was shocking and led me to panic.
And now -- deja vu --
Please say it’s not true!
Some believe him to be messianic.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Her reaction appeared to be manic --
So exciting , ‘twas truly galvanic!
There he knelt with a ring!
Her heart starting to sing;
But what was his name again?? Panic!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“I say! What a jolt! Quite galvanic!”
Said Jack Astor, aboard the Titanic.
His butler replied,
“From the sea we can’t hide;
I believe, sir, it’s high time to panic.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


It was something that Trump didn’t plan.
And who knows how it ever began.
But his eager heart beats,
When he’s wearing white sheets.
It is said he’s the Klan’s topmost stan.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

He said that he truly loved Taylor.
Wherever she went he would trail her.
And this rabid stan
Was such a great fan,
That mash notes he daily would mail her.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Hey subscribers, could you be the stan
Of a famed AWAD limerick man?
Send a buck and a half
When my stuff makes you laugh!
I can still become rich, yes I can!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Maecenatism keeps art alive;
Donations help PBS thrive.
I am telling you this,
So don’t give it a miss
When next there’s a fundraising drive.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Maecenatism in the arts
Helps fundraising that it jump-starts.
And donors like you,
Contribute, it’s true,
By open, and caring great hearts.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“From your money, we pray you don’t wean us!”
Begged the theater group; “You’re our Maecenas!
You’re even an ‘-ism’!
We must heal our schism,
Or flee from our bills and play Venus!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Among many was John Jacob Astor,
Who drowned in Titanic’s disaster.
His life was too splendid;
The gods were offended,
And Neptune served as their alastor.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

In plotting revenge, Poe’s a master.
His hero might be an alastor,
Or the poor tortured soul
On whom rage takes a toll.
Poe’s tales make my heart beat much faster.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“We’re sinking!” said John Jacob Astor;
“I’ll pay someone to be my alastor.
They’ll drop bombs on that ice;
Drowning me wasn’t nice!
But my wife’ll live -- wealth I’ve amassed her.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Pygmalion’s best work of art
Was special to him from the start.
Galatea was swell
In a myth the Greeks tell --
A statue, but one with a heart!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“A Pygmalion I need,” cried out Sue,
“Just a guy who’ll tell me what to do.”
“You don’t need a man,”
Replied sister Fran,
“Why not just let me mentor you.”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said Higgins, “I’m quite a Pygmalion!
To Eliza, good speech was once alien!”
Answered Pickering, “Dude,
‘Mentor’ works, and it’s rude
To spout words that are sesquipedalian.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“My galvanic-an really turn letters!” enthused Pat Sajak.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I love watching old reruns of the zany comedy team Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

“Stan-d by me!” crooned chanteuse Julie Benko.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Doc, I can’t seem to stop upstaging the other actors.” “Ah! Zees ees clear case of maecenatism.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Will you pick Alastor Lawrence for your kickball team?” the gym teacher asked the team captain.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Alastor-eador, my ex has stabbed me!” sang the dying Carmen.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Our song’s gone platinum. There’s a whole sack of pygmalion-der by the sty for you,” said Old MacDonald to his porcine co-star.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

In One Ear and Out the Other
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: In One Ear and Out the Other

On the heels of Robert F. Kennedy Jr’s recent bizarro revelation that some years ago he was diagnosed with a deceased worm lodged in his brain, allegedly accounting for a marked decline in his mental acuity, I’ve come up with this Trump/worm connection. The nonplussed worm confirms its suspicion that there’s no there there. So much for Trump’s self-ascribed “stable genius” status.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Red roses for young lovers. French beans for longstanding relationships. -Ruskin Bond, author (b. 19 May 1934)

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