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AWADmail Issue 506

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: Interesting stories from the net

An Ark Full of Books
The New York Times

Words Spelled On Right Side of Keyboards Lead to More Positive Emotions

Email of the Week -- (Brought to you by One Up! -- Yo, self-assertive smart alecks!)

From: Dawn Balistreri (dawnbali sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Phat
Def: Great; excellent.

Years ago my then 14-year-old son called me phat. I was highly insulted. Immediately he said, "It's not anything bad! I'm 'phat' too." According to Christopher, PHAT stood for Pretty Hot and Tempting. I didn't know if he was back pedaling (he probably was; he's quite good at that), and I was amused that he saw himself in that light.

Dawn Balistreri, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

From: Verla Schmidt (verlaschmidt comcast.net)
subject: phat

You can imagine my consternation when a teenage grandson, exclaimed "Boy, grandma, you're fat! Pleasingly plump was how his grandfather referred to me, but fat! I suppose the look on my nearly 90-year-old face, had him explaining, no, no, grandma, I mean you're great! Ah, how wonderful slang can be, at least when you know what it means.

Verla Schmidt, Baltimore, Maryland

From: Carl Michels (carlosvb128 aol.com)
Subject: phat

In 1946 and 1947, as Navy pilots in Corpus Christi, Texas, we used the term fat as a term of excellence (for instance, after a good landing in a crosswind). I don't remember whether it was spelled phat or fat, but the meaning was exactly the same.

Carl Michels, Hudson, New Hampshire

from: Iain Wright (iain.wright bt.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--phat

Where I live (East Anglia, UK) phat is a particular game of cards. I haven't played it for more than 30 years, but there used to be phat drives in the local pub or village hall, where people would congregate to play this game.

Iain Wright, East Anglia, UK

From: Chuck Hersch (c.hersch csuohio.edu)
Subject: phat

The word phat, which you say has its first documented use in 1963, was actually used in a song title on a jazz album in 1957 by Clark Terry and Paul Gonsalves. The track is entitled Phat Bach, which is a great pun if you mispronounce "Bach" as "Back".

Chuck Hersch, Cleveland, Ohio

From: Ken Kirste (kkkirste sbcglobal.net)
Subject: goo-goo
Def: adjective: Amorous. noun: A naive advocate of a political reform.

The song "Barney Google" popped into my mind as soon as I saw today's word, since the lyrics go: Barney Google, with the goo-goo-googly eyes. One of the few comic strips to be immortalized in song, the strip was created in 1919 and was so popular that C. Con Conrad and Billy Rose wrote the song that Sophie Tucker turned into a hit record in 1923. In spite of his fame, however, Barney himself was phased out of the comic over the years in favor of Snuffy Smith, a character introduced in 1934. The evolution from one main character to another was reflected in the strip eventually changing its name from Barney Google to Barney Google and Snuffy Smith which is similar to the way words evolve in our language. By the way, the strip continues to be published seven days a week in several US newspapers.

Ken Kirste, Sunnyvale, California

From: Johnnie Godwin (johnniegodwin comcast.net)
Subject: Goo-Goo Clusters

Anyone in Tennessee would likely think immediately of Goo-Goo Clusters. They're not amorous even though they're sweet and sugary. This Tennessee famous candy is a round, marshmallow-based candy with either peanuts or pecans in it. Once when I ate with a Scottish publisher and Ronnie Barclay (son of the famous William Barclay), I asked what I could do for them. The publisher said, "Could you send us some of your 'Goo-Goo clusters'?" I immediately got a case sent to each of them.

Johnnie Godwin, Gallatin, Tennessee

From: Charlie O'Reilly (charliez verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--props
Def: Due respect; an expression of approval or regard.

"Props" meaning proper respect may have only originated in the 1980s, but it's a direct descendant of "propers", which goes back to at least the mid-1960s. In the Otis Redding song Respect (which became Aretha Franklin's signature song), the lyric reads:

I'm about to give you all of my money
And all I ask for in return, honey
Is to give me my propers when you get home.

It's often mistranscribed as "profits", but it's definitely "propers", with this meaning.

Charlie O'Reilly, Rutherford, New Jersey

From: John LaBella (awad chez-vous.net)
Subject: Props

When I went to school in England, 60s - early 70s, the sport of the school was Rugby. The two players who held up the "hooker" (the player in the first row whose job it was to kick the ball out of the scrum) were (maybe are still) called Props. I heard and used the word used and its intent at that time was to show support (perhaps not actually physical).

It would be used exactly the same as the sentence in the example and although not showing "proper respect" would indicate that the person supported and implied encouraged the individual.

John LaBella, Davenport, Iowa

From: Jerry Alfred (jerry73 frontier.com)
Subject: props

I worked in TV for 22 years and didn't know props had any other meaning than the "properties" or things used for the set in a TV show or commercial. I believe the word is used the same in stage and theatre.

Jerry Alfred, Bothell, Washington

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Props

So THAT'S the etymology of this word! I'd always assumed it to mean underpinnings. It must have joined our language about the same time as dis -- to disrespect.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: Kenneth Miller (kemillroch aol.com)
Subject: Language Change

I'm now retired but over 50 years ago I read a piece that claimed much language change "comes from below", meaning, I suppose, from street level rather than from ivory towers.

My son Ben had a friend who was, to put it kindly, not academic. Young Ben, on the other hand, was a born grammarian. I once overheard Ben correct his friend's usage and the other kid shot back, "Speech bitch!" I was lost in admiration. I couldn't have bettered that pithy term. So often I have heard semi-literate people use terms that are spot on, though non-standard.

Kenneth Miller, Rochester, Minnesota

Cut these words and they would bleed; they are vascular and alive; they walk and run. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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