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AWADmail Issue 578A 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)
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Typically I announce a week's theme at the beginning of the week. Last week was a bit different -- you got to figure out how the week's words were selected. And the answer is: Those five words (olid, sook, zymic, meed, pica) had letters in reverse alphabetical order.
Congratulations to the winners and thanks to all for participating. Winners will receive their choice of a copy of any of my books, a copy of the word game One Up!, or the T-shirt "AWAD to the wise is sufficient".
Words with letters in reverse alphabetical order are not very common in the English language. Only about three out of a thousand words fulfill this property, but thanks to your emails I have now learned about 495829343 different ways of saying "reverse alphabetical order". Read on for a day-by-day report.
Day One: olid
Most common guess: Words that relate to the senses.
Most obvious: Four-letter words.
Most oblivious: Four-letter words.
Most oblivious: Each word lends its first letter to form the beginning of the next word in the series.
By Anne Wood
Most creative: They are connected crossword words.
Most stretching it: Unsavoury Food.
Most stretching it too: All of this week's words are also font names.
Most stretching it three: Almost all of the words have four letters
Most still-not-sure: All the words so far this week have their letters in reverse alphabetical order. Same is true for "Old Ma tried, the yuppie son too." Is that it, is there more -- reverse alphabetical plus something else -- or is it just a heckuva coincidence?
Most lawyerly way of putting it: The letters in all five words may be found in order by traversing the alphabet backwards, allowing double letters ("oo" and "ee") to not be a violation of the rule.
Most unusual way of putting it: If you take the letters of any of this week's words and sort them in reverse alphabetical order, you get the same word.
Most unusual way of putting it too: Each word is composed of letters that are in ascending order in the alphabet, beginning with "z".
Ha! I see. Tried to use... uh-uh. So: Each word's letters must maintain a reversed alphabetical order.
Can you coin a word for this? Is there one already? My guess: ztoaic (Z-to-A-ic).
Love the feature -- and love the fact that you have a random winner in a pattern-recognition contest!
From: John Felix (jfelixb aol.com)
A happy synchronicity: today's word arrives in my inbox along with a link from a friend to the live cam showing the blooming of the Titan arum or corpse plant at the US Botanical Garden. Olid indeed!
John Felix, Jupiter, Florida
From: Yitzhak Dar (yitzhakdar gmail.com)
Olid, from the Latin olere, reminds us of the famous Roman saying Pecunia non olet. It relates to the "Urine Tax' imposed on the Romans, and means "Money does not stink".
Yitzhak Dar, Haifa, Israel
From: Kate Kelly (kate.kelly cbo.gov)
In the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland, sook is a female crab. Some people say it's a diminutive form of Susan. Male crabs are called jimmies.
Kate Kelly, Riverdale, Maryland
From: Esther Friend (estherfriend copper.net)
The word "sook" is a word which I never heard until I went out on a crab-fisherman's boat on the Chesapeake Bay. "Sook" was usually accompanied with the adjective "damned" because it was a female crab which by law had to be returned to the Bay.
Esther Friend, Lewes, Delaware
From: Rosemary Heher (rpheher aol.com)
In the region of the country known as the Chesapeake Bay (the Delmarva Peninsula), a sook is also a female blue crab, the opposite gender of a male crab known as a jimmy. Many crab house restaurants in the area identify rest rooms with the names: Sooks (for the Ladies' Room) and Jimmies (for the Men's Room).
Rosemary Heher, Salisbury, Maryland
From: Helen Hileman (hhileman woh.rr.com)
I have been in the process of writing my memoirs and was telling about my early childhood days when we would have to call the cows from the field for milking time. The calling went like this: "Sook cows, sook cows, sook, sook, sook". Then if they didn't hear us because to which way the wind was blowing, we would have to walk to the field to bring the cows to the milk stable. We soon learned to wear shoes as it wasn't a pleasant feeling to have the fresh manure squeeze through your toes, even though it was a warm feeling on those frosty mornings. UGH!
Helen Hileman, Eaton, Ohio
From: Gary Hattery (ghattery emc-sq.com)
I am wondering if Truman Capote, in his short stories, A Christmas Memory and The Thanksgiving Visitor, purposely used Miss Sook as the name of Buddy, the narrator's best friend. They are two of my favorite fables and wonderfully phrased stories; Miss Sook was a kind, gentle, timid soul. Capote's vocabulary and ability to capture essence using only words leads me to believe that his choice of "Sook" was not serendipitous. I now have an even keener appreciation of his skill as a writer.
Gary Hattery, Columbus, Ohio
From: Don Stucky (don-stucky2 cherokee.org)
Pica is often a symptom of iron deficiency, of which pregnant women are prone. In the past, laundry starch was commonly ingested (when it came in bar form), but now this is rare. Ice is probably the most common nowadays, as it is freely available. Tiny bits of tissue (Kleenex) is another common habit. Patients are often embarrassed to mention the practice until asked, and then are honestly forthcoming, often beginning with,"Well, as a matter of fact..." and are reassured to note that they are not so crazy after all.
Don Stucky, Tahlequah, Oklahoma
From: Lucas Veloso (agentehb yahoo.com.br)
Besides all you said, pica is also a name for the male organ in Portuguese, in vulgar language, that is. Just thought you should know.
Lucas Veloso, Brazil, Belo Horizonte
From: Toby Loobenfeld (tobyloobenfeld gmail.com)
You can't do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)
This was your quotation for the word sconce last week. I shared this with a colleague last week and felt foolish when he told me it was wrongly attributed. Do you have any source for this quotation?
Toby Loobenfeld, Bethesda, Maryland
The quotation doesn't sound like Mencken -- he was never into inspirational and motivational writing -- and it's not from him. Thanks for bringing this to my attention. We've removed it from our online archives. Instead, here's something more like the cynical, anti-moralizing, good-hearted Mencken:
"If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl." -H.L. Mencken; The Smart Set magazine; Dec 1921.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment. -Hart Crane, poet (1899-1932)