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AWADmail Issue 588

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

From: Anne Wood (asw.anartist gmail.com)
Subject: petard

As long as we are dealing with French words for bombs that derive from "fart" let us remember one of the most famous petardiers (bombardiers), the French flatulist, Joseph Pujol. Originally a baker who amused patrons by imitating various musical instruments with his nether regions, Pujol went on to become a successful stage performer in the early 20th century, using the stage name Le Pétomane.

Anne Wood, Washington, DC

From: L. M. Rahn (pourpree yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--petard

Funny, this word makes me think of many things. I work at the French government trade office here in the States, and most of my colleagues are French. Our daily working language is thus French. We use "pétard" often in the sense of "bomb", like "that really bombed / failed". In Québec, a pétard is a very handsome lad. As to the word "péter", well let's just say that you'd never name a child Peter in France!

Magdalena Rahn, Astoria, New York

From: Michael Tremberth (michaelt4two googlemail.com)

French newspapers do not use accented letters in words set in capitals. Therefore the phrase "X RENONCE A PETER" can mean X either "has parted company with Peter" or "has given up farting" (and indeed has been used already, possibly unawarely).

Michael Tremberth, St Erth, UK

From: Jean-Claude Sommier (jean-claude.sommier cepeo.on.ca)
Subject: Petard - other meanings

In France, the word pétard is also used colloquially to describe a nice pair of buttocks (female or male). It is easy to see the link to the etymology. In Québec French, it describes a nice looking woman. A modern use is as a synonym for a joint or a spliff.

Jean-Claude Sommier, Kingston, Canada

Email of the Week -- (Brought to you by One Up! -- the best lagniappe ever!)

From: Stan Sapire (ssapire mweb.co.za)
Subject: petard

From Johannesburg South Africa, where petards are, now, seldom encountered, comes this true account.

Years ago the Johannesburg advocates comprising the local bar moved to new premises in a then recently constructed multi-storied building. Shortly after moving a number of persons entered the lift (elevator) which served tenants who had their offices on the floors above ground level. Among their number was an advocate known for his subtle wit. Another was a well-known solicitor who was a part-owner of the building whose firm occupied premises in the building apart from those of the bar. Soon after the lift commenced on its upward journey it came to an abrupt halt trapping those inside between floors where they had to remain, delayed from their business, pending rescue. The atmosphere was lightened by the wit, observing to the solicitor, "Phillip, I see you are petard by your own hoist."

Stan Sapire, Johannesburg, South Africa

From: Ross Burkhardt (ross1962 me.com)
Subject: petard

Back in the fifties, H. Carty Lynch, my French teacher extraordinaire at Lawrenceville, a private secondary school in New Jersey, taught us this naughty rhyme to distinguish burping from farting:

"C'est Charlotte qui rotte?
No, c'est Yvette qui pette!"

(It's Charlotte who burps?
No, it's Yvette who farts!)

And I never forgot it. Merci, Monsieur Lynch.

Ross Burkhardt, Las Cruces, New Mexico

From: Diana Diehl (diana dianadiehlpresents.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--petard

Considering the etymology of the word, might this be an inside out pun of some kind:

As Ralph tried to sneak past his boss's office door unnoticed, the noisy aftermath of last night's rice and beans brought him eye-to-eye with her. "Damn! Hoist by my own petard!" he exclaimed.

Diana Diehl, San Diego, California

From: Molly Kalifut (molly.kalifut gmail.com)
Subject: Petard

I love that the word that meant "fart" became part of a phrase that means "to backfire". Back fire, indeed.

Molly Kalifut, Annapolis, Maryland

From: Charlie Cockey (czechpointcharlie gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--druthers

How can you include "druthers" on your magnificent feed, and NOT cite Li'l Abner, which is undoubtedly where at least a couple of generations of Americans had their only exposure to the word, first in the comic strip of course, but then included in the Musical Comedy both onstage and later onscreen in the form of one of the more popular songs in the production: If I Had My Druthers.

Charlie Cockey, Brno, Czech Republic

From: Pam Robertson (pollish xtra.co.nz)
Subject: dudgeon

When we were in Venice my husband, Douglas, snapped a photo of me having a "hissy fit". What I realise now is that I was actually walking off in high dudgeon.

Pam Robertson, Wellington, New Zealand

From: Monroe Thomas Clewis (mtc265 yahoo.com)
Subject: High and low dudgeon

It seems dudgeon is nearly always high, almost never low. But, why? The more we think about this unfair anomaly the less it makes sense. Experience teaches us there are more occasions for "low" dudgeon than high. The reason may be as simple as snobbery. Many would prefer -- without admitting it -- to stalk out of a room in high dudgeon than skulk out in low dudgeon. But as Henry Higgins once observed, "This Verbal Class Distinction, By Now Should Be Antique." Therefore, my fellow egalitarians strike a blow for verbal equality by employing "low" dudgeon at the first opportunity.

Yours as ever in the spirit of fair play,

Monroe Thomas Clewis, Kunming, China

From: Fred Kepler (fkepler me.com)
Subject: caboodle

There's a wonderful, locally-owned cooking and housewares store in Portland, Oregon, called Kitchen Kaboodle.

Fred Kepler, Vancouver, Washington

From: Kathy Holleman (kholleman bjc.org)
Subject: caboodle

"Caboodle" has another meaning for American women, alluded to in your second example. Your caboodle is your make-up organizer/carrier, named after a brand of cosmetic carriers that first became popular in the late 1980s. Every teenage girl had a pink and green plastic Caboodle to hold her Bonne Bell eye shadows, Maybelline Great Lash Mascara, and Wet'n'Wild "The Beast" lip pencil. Much like Kleenex has become synonymous with tissue, caboodle is now used as a generic term for a make-up kit, though Caboodle is still a very popular brand.

Kathy Holleman, St. Louis, Missouri

From: Perry Kurtz (pkurtz twcny.rr.com)
Subject: Shrift

In Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" the good Friar Laurence responds to Romeo's confusing account of his previous evening's activities at the Capulets' party with:

"Be plain, good son, and homely in thy drift.
Riddling confession finds but riddling shrift."

In other words, the clarity of forgiveness is dependent upon the clarity of admission!

Perry Kurtz, Chazy, New York

From: Katharine Barnett (katharine.barnett hotmail.com)
Subject: Shrift

Pancake Day, the day before Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, was established to use up all the luxury goods in the house, namely butter, eggs and sugar, before the fasting of Lent begins. Traditionally known as Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day meant that you could be shriven or absolved of your sins to start Lent afresh. I think most would happily take indulging in pancakes as penance, but perhaps the French term for the day Mardi Gras, meaning Fat Tuesday, is a little more appropriate.

Katharine Barnett, London, UK

From: Michael Tremberth (michaelt4two googlemail.com)
Subject: shrift

A rather macabre joke occurs to me: The greater the crime, the shorter the shrift.

Michael Tremberth, St Erth, UK

From: Mary H Bowrin (maryhbowrin hotmail.com)
Subject: This week's words

This 88-year-old fossil thanks you for this week's "fossil" words -- for once I knew the meaning of them all! I can still hear them rolling off my mother's tongue, except shrift usually came out as shift. I thank you daily for your good start to the day but especially this week. Love you to bits!

Mary H Bowrin, Kemptville, Canada

I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything. -Steven Wright, comedian (b. 1955)

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