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AWADmail Issue 501

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

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Results of the wellerism contest

Hundreds of readers, from all continents (except Antarctica), sent one or more entries in the wellerism contest. They were clever, funny, and inventive. A variety of topics were reflected in those entries: the Wall Street scandal, presidential elections, literature, history, and more.

It was hard to select the winners from such a rich field. The top three winners, in no particular order, are:

"Would you put it on one side for me?" he said when the man at the Airfix shop told him they had a model Italian cruise ship in stock.
-Bullus Hutton, Vancouver, Canada (bullus shaw.ca)

"Health is wealth," said the doctor as he totaled his earnings.
-Rama Bishnoi, Mumbai, India (ramabishnoi yahoo.com)

"Darling, I've missed you!" she said as she fired the gun a second time.
-Ken Kirste, Sunnyvale, California (kkkirste sbcglobal.net)

They win their choice of:
  o Word game: One Up!
  o T-shirt: AWAD to the wise is sufficient
  o Any of my books

Many sent these classic wellerisms but the contest had invited original entries:
"'I See,' said the blind carpenter, as he picked up his hammer and saw.
"It won't be long now," said the monkey as he backed into the fan.

Read on for honorable mentions among the wellerisms received (and there are more on our website).


"What's Plan B?" said the Susan G Komen exec as she watched their donations plummet.
-Lynne Feingold, Durham, UK (lynne.feingold gmail.com)


"Practice makes perfect," said Ron Paul as he lost another primary.
-Joe Kolf, St. Louis, Missouri (jmkolf shamrockgrp.com)

"There are no people in America who cannot make ends meet if they want to work," said Gingrich to Callista as he struggled to button his coat.
-Gabriela Radulescu, Tucson, Arizona (gabrielarad06 yahoo.com)

A wellerism in the form of a limerick:
There once was a CEO of Bain
Who used to say "No pain, no gain"
But the pain was required
Of the people he fired
Whilst the capital he would obtain.
-Giovanni Villari, New York, New York (giovanni.villari gmail.com)


This morning my mother and I went to a bris (Jewish circumcision ceremony for a newborn boy, performed by a mohel). We and a small army of friends arrived many hours before to help the hostess (the grandmother) frantically get ready for the 100 or so guests and the festive meal that followed. As we were leaving, my 90-year-old mother said to me: "Boy, they really pulled that one off." So...
"Boy, we really pulled that one off," said the mohel at the bris.
-Ellen Greenberg, Los Angeles, California (ellenjsg gmail.com)

"Freeze! Police!" the police officer said to the glacier stealer.
(a man is caught stealing a glacier)
-Ahlam Nabulsiscaun, Catawissa, Pennsylvania (siscaun yahoo.com)

"Darling I've missed you!" she said as she put the Mercedes into reverse. (news)
-George Pajari, West Vancouver, Canada (george pajari.ca)


"The race is not to the Swift," said Anu as he announced the Wellerism contest.
(Wellerisms seem like a slightly refined form of Tom Swifties, but Swifties are a subset of Wellerisms)
-Walt French, Oakland, California (WaltFrench earthlink.net)

"Excuse me, may I have a word?" asked the man in the street when he caught sight of Anu Garg.
-Tom Priestly, Edmonton, Canada (tpriestl shaw.ca)

"Well," he said, when he finished digging the deep hole. (It's a wellerism)
-Derek Adam, Woodinville, Washington (dereka exchange.microsoft.com)

"It scared the Dickens out of me," gasped Scrooge after saw the ghost of Jacob Marley.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Read more of readers' wellerisms on our website.

From: Frank Griffin (ftg roadrunner.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--wellerism
Def: An expression involving a familiar proverb or quotation and its facetious sequel. It usually comprises three parts: statement, speaker, situation.

Several of my favorite wellerisms came from the Leslie Charteris Saint novels of the 1930s, all involving the phrase "as the actress said to the bishop".

They all involved double entrendres, and the third component (situation) was usually implied, e.g. "Well, it won't be long now, as the actress said to the bishop."

Apparently, this usage goes back to Edwardian times, but my first exposure was to Simon Templar's inventive use of the phrase.

Frank Griffin, Windham, Maine

From: Robert Edwin Martin (doctorbobby bellsouth.net)
Subject: A relative of the wellerism

I suppose one relative of the wellerism would be the Tom Swifty, named for the famous Tom Swift books about an 18-year-old inventor by a group collectively known as Victor Appleton. The Appleton writers had a characteristic way of reporting exactly how Tom and other characters said things. The Tom Swifty uses this form in a humorous way.

The "pure" Tom Swifty follows the pattern: a statement, a synonym for "said", and an adverb ending in "-ly" that echoes the content of the statement.

"That's a hole in the ground," he said gravely.
"Go to the rear of the boat," Tom said sternly.
"I dropped my toothpaste," he said crestfallenly.

Sometimes the verb says it all:
"That's not mine!" he exclaimed.
"It exploded!" he burst out.

Sometimes the result is like a wellerism:
"Somebody hit me while I was brushing my teeth," he said with a gleam in his eye.

Robert Edwin Martin, Valdosta, Georgia

From: Perry Saunders (xsoundx hotmail.com)
Subject: fagin
Def: One who trains others, especially children, in crime.

This word instantly reminded me of the fagin in Robocop 2. A little league team, led by their fagin coach, robs an electronics store.

Perry Saunders, Austin, Texas

From: Hardy J Pottinger (hardyp3 yahoo.com)
Subject: Fagin

We had a fagin in our neighborhood last year. There had been a rash of break-ins into storage sheds with the theft of a number of tool boxes, lawn mowers, golf carts, bicycles, and the like. Turns out one of the older residents was hiring local kids to steal stuff and storing it in a trailer which he would periodically haul to San Antonio to fence. Thanks for the reminder about a good name for him!

Hardy Pottinger, Rolla, Missouri

From: Ken Fischer (ken46 ntelos.net)
Subject: Gamp
Def: A large umbrella.

A small canoe-like boat was built in the latter part of the 19th century and named Sairy Gamp because "she took no water." It's now at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY.

Ken Fischer, Afton, Virginia

From: Linda Kerby (kerby blitz-it.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gamp

When I was in nursing school (very long ago, but not in Dickens's time) the worst criticism that could be leveled at you was, "You look like Sairy Gamp." This meant that you somehow failed the dress code, with one or more infractions in white dress, white cap, white stockings, white shoes, and of course white lingerie. Or, if you were really wanting to be expelled, wearing makeup, nail polish, or jewelry.

Linda Kerby, Leawood, Kansas

From: Susan Gawarecki (llamaladysg yahoo.com)
Subject: Gamp

In weaving, a gamp is a collection of weaving patterns used as a test of color and/or texture mixes between warp and weft. See examples here.

Susan Gawarecki, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

From: Marcia Egger (megger legal-aid.org)
Subject: gamp

In my childhood (1950s-60s NYC), the word gamp referred to a jumper or pinafore under which you wore a blouse or sweater.

Marcia Egger, New York, New York

A number of readers wrote about this. It's a different word: guimpe (pronounced as gimp or gamp), from French guimpe (wimple), similar to other words with this sound correspondence: Guillaume/William, guard/ward, guerre/war, guarantee/warranty, and so on.
-Anu Garg

From: Gregory B. Gregory (gregorgb sbcglobal.net)
Subject: scrooge
Def: A miser.

Of Ebenezer Scrooge, Dickens wrapped up the description of Scrooge's conversion with "... it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge."

I venture to assert that that is NEVER said of him.

Dickens was no more prescient than Abraham Lincoln, with his "The world will little note, nor long remember..."

Gregory B. Gregory, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

From: Ken Kirste (kkkirste sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Scrooge

My favorite incarnation of Ebenezer Scrooge is Walt Disney's Scrooge McDuck. As kids, it was a thrill for each to buy a comic and then share them on the front lawn or on our living room floor. I made sure I bought the latest Uncle Scrooge issue as my contribution.

Like his Dickens character namesake, Scrooge McDuck was introduced in a Christmas story -- in a Donald Duck comic in 1947 -- and he was full of "Bah, Humbug" toward the holiday. His own self-titled comic book was introduced in 1953 and is still being published today! Evidently, the Disney artists can continue to tease laughs out of their character's immense wealth, even with the current spotlight on the privileged 1%.

Ken Kirste, Sunnyvale, California

From: Sidney S Letter (sidneysletter comcast.net)
Subject: Gradgrind
Def: Someone who is solely interested in cold, hard facts.

In my student days, a grind was someone unduly attentive to his (Columbia College at Columbia University was all-male then) studies. I know because I, an ex-GI who was really interested in getting all that I could from my classes, was often identified as such.

Sidney S Letter, Lebanon, New Hampshire

From: Monroe Clewis (mtc265 yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gradgrind

Odd, isn't it, that Gradgrind's fact-obsessed student Bitzer has not made it into the roll call of eponymous words, especially considering his famous definition of a horse:

"'Bitzer,' said Thomas Gradgrind. 'Your definition of a horse.'
'Quadruped. Graminivorous. Forty teeth, namely twenty-four grinders, four eye-teeth, and twelve incisive. Sheds coat in the spring; in marshy countries, sheds hoofs, too. Hoofs hard, but requiring to be shod with iron. Age known by marks in mouth.' Thus (and much more) Bitzer." Hard Times, Ch. 2, "Murdering the Innocents"

Why not "Bitzerian" (adj) for a prosaic, fact-oriented person bereft of imagination who cannot see the forest (gestalt) for the trees (facts)?

Monroe Thomas Clewis, Kunming, China

From: Kelly Gombert (kelly.d.gombert philips.com)
Subject: Etymology man

Today's xkcd features a super hero Etymology Man to explain tidal waves. The definition is not so important (IMO) as just the premise of a superhero named "Etymology Man". I thought of Anu immediately :)

Kelly Gombert, Highland Heights, Ohio

"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra." -Lewis Carroll, mathematician and writer (1832-1898)

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