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AWADmail Issue 663

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

From: Mark Bersch (markbersch gmail.com)
Subject: Congratulations!

Happy Birthday and Congratulations on your unvicennial! Now that Wordsmith is 21, it can drink legally. “But, Your Honor, you just said I was legally drunk. So, what’s the problem?” (Idea by George Carlin)

Mark Bersch, Carlinville, Illinois

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Results of the poetry writing party

What a terrific response to the invitation to write poetry! More than a thousand readers responded to the call and sent one or more of their poems. Some anticipated my dread at having to slog through thousands of poems:

Logophile Garg, Anu,
Requested a clerihew.
Will he still wish he had,
When he gets a myriad?

-Steve Kirkpatrick, DDS, Olympia, Washington (stevekirkp comcast.net)

Politicians were a favorite subject for clerihews. Presidents, prime ministers, entertainers, poets, scientists, authors ... none escaped the poets’ onslaught. Sometimes when everything else fails, poetry can be a potent weapon to respond to those in power:

President Zuma
Makes a bloomer ’n tries to cover it up with humour
For every sin
He produces a grin.

-Hans de Blocq, Cape Town, South Africa (hdeblocq iafrica.com)

Wisconsin’s Scott Walker
Is quite the bold talker,
But do teachers equate
With an ISIS-led state?

-Kathy El-Assal, Middleton, Wisconsin (katassal yahoo.com)

Readers were inspired to write about people real and fictional, current and historical. Some even personified inanimate objects. Some wrote about themselves or their friends. Some shared clerihews about their husbands, wives, and even:

Ex-husband (name withheld here)
Despite his “I love you dear,”
Was an angry mean man
Whose wife took the baby and ran.

-RT, Cambridge, Massachusetts [name/email omitted on request]

Many readers tried rhyming my name, not sure if it’s a soft or hard G (both Gs are hard).

Is certain to chase the blues away.
I hope that first line is good enough
Because rhyming “Anu Garg” is tough.

-Creede Lambard, Shoreline, Washington (creede gmail.com)

Anu Garg,
It can be said with no arg,
Is the undisputed king
Of the A.Word.A.Day thing.

-John Watson, Grove City, Pennsylvania (jwatson pineinst.com)

And there were epigrams, centos, limericks, and doggerel. Some readers hoped for ‘haiku’ to appear this week. Well, we had a haiku contest four years ago (results here).

Reading clerihews, epigrams, and limericks was fun, not so much with centos and doggerel. There were more than 3000 poems. It was difficult to pick a few winners from so many outstanding poems.

Here are the winners. They receive their choice of a copy of my books, word game One Up!, or T-shirts.



Olympian Clara Hughes
Is a natural for clerihews;
On both ski boots and pedals
She’s been showered with medals.

-Iain Calder Ottawa, Canada (iain.calder sympatico.ca)

Iain adds, “Clara Hughes is one of only five people ever to medal in both winter and summer Olympics, and the only person to be awarded multiple medals in each of the games. She is also universally recognized in Canada as a great humanitarian and as the owner of a smile as wide as her country.”


If you see a strange couple,
Remember it’s true
That each is the best
That the other could do.

-James Curry, Albuquerque, New Mexico (CurryinNM aol.com)


(I wrote this for my brother’s 50th birthday)
A Roman who lacked some civility
Philosophized with great humility
He said, “What the hell,
I’m just turning L
It’s 50 more years to C-nility.”

(And, for his 75th birthday in January of this year I followed it up)
Now 25 more years are done
And our Roman’s still having his fun
They’re but letters, you see,
i.e. L-X-X-V
In Scrabble that’s just 21!

-Mary Treder, Grand Junction, Colorado (mct919 hotmail.com)


Prolix Pastiche ... In Hindsight

Words, words, words 1
The best lack all conviction, while the worst 2
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, 3
Sound and fury, Signifying nothing. 4

And sure in language strange 5
The sound must seem an echo to the sense: 6
Of things unknown but longed for still 7
Would it were anything but merely voice. 8

We whisper together 9
And mouth with myriad subtleties. 10
a message dumb, portentous 11
Where errors were not lessened 12

But tell me, tell me! speak again, 13
the causes and the crimes relate; 14
The hourly kindness, the day’s common speech 15
For pastime and amusement to while away the hours 16

Yet do much less, so much less, Someone says, 17
Merely this and nothing more. 18
Brevity is the soul of wit 19
And will suffice. 20

And if I had but heeded. 21

-Carolyn Blanco, Findlay, Ohio (carolynblanc marathonpetroleum.com)

1 Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
2 The Second Coming (W.B. Yeats)
3 If (Rudyard Kipling)
4 Macbeth (William Shakespeare)
5 La Belle Dame Sans Merci (John Keats)
6 Sound and Sense (Alexander Pope)
7 I know why the caged bird sings (Maya Angelou)
8 King and No King (W.B. Yeats)
9 The Hollow Men (T.S. Eliot)
10 We Wear the Mask (Paul Laurence Dunbar)
11 Amor Mundi (Christina Rossetti)
12 The Author to Her Book (Anne Bradstreet)
13 King and No King (W.B. Yeats)
14 Minnie Montgomery (C.C. Goodwin)
15 The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
16 The Aeneid (Vergil, Translation John Dryden)
17 Andrea del Sarto (Robert Browning)
18 The Raven (Edgar Allan Poe)
19 Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
20 Fire and Ice (Robert Frost)
21 The Soldier From the Kansas Line (Martin Rice)


Who Killed Dr. Jim?
It wasn’t a tiger that killed Dr. Jim
It wasn’t a bear or a snake,
No highway thief accosted him
And he hadn’t been drowned in the lake.

No, Dr. Jim wasn’t stabbed in the back
Nor was he shot in the front,
He hadn’t been killed by a wolf attack
When out for his daily hunt.

Not poison nor violence did Dr. Jim in
And it wasn’t a natural death.
The truth -- hold your breath -- is that good Dr. Jim
Isn’t quite dead yet.

-Madhusudan Mukerjee, Ahmedabad, India (madhusudan.mukerjee gmail.com)

Read on for honorable mentions below (and more on our website).

Thanks to all for participating and sharing their poems. You are poets. Please know that the absence of your poem here is no reflection on its merits. We have to limit the selection to a manageable size.



Rene Descartes
Was definitely smart.
Nobody dumb
Could think up “Cogito, ergo sum.”

-Laura Burns, Galveston, Texas (laurab12 sbcglobal.net)

Robert Frost,
When hiking the Apennines, became lost.
“If,” he pondered, “all roads lead to Rome,
It makes no difference which one I take -- hey, I’ve got an idea for a poem!”

-Ross Burkhardt, Las Cruces, New Mexico (ross1962 me.com)

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Would occasionally enjoy a bite of khandi. [this or this?]
There were some who wished him to decease,
But he would still offer them a peace.

-Wilson Fowlie, Coquitlam, Canada (curiousphilomath gmail.com)

Napoleon, thinking of Waterloo,
Said: “I’d like to return, but what can I do?
My own chances are nil,
But perhaps my bicorne will.”

-Cristian Mocanu, Deva, Romania (cristixav gmail.com)

Albert Einstein
Was a connoisseur of fine wine
“As stimulant or sedative?”
“It’s all relative.”

-Sameer Abraham Thomas, New Delhi, India (sameer.thomas gmail.com)

Emily Dickinson
Had a morbid obsession
With death. Did she know
It was just another door?

-Pavithra Joseph, Sydney, Australia (pavithranoel gmail.com)

Was partial
To girl or boy.
What joy!

-John Whitworth, Canterbury, UK (jwhitworthpoet talktalk.net)

Yoko Ono
Was famous? Oh, no.
Until she took up sinnin’
With John Lennon.

-Charles Alverson, Zemun, Serbia (charles.alverson1 hotmail.com)

Kim Kardashian
Promotes callipygian fashion.
Or perhaps it’s just the way she stands
That seems to accentuate her Netherlands.

-Edith Lowe, Bath, UK (info tourwest.co.uk)

Dame Agatha Christie
Wrote her murders so twisty.
That who dun ‘em we’d never know
If not for Hercule Poirot.

-Alistair Scott, Gland, Switzerland (alistair alistairscott.com)

The late Miss Monroe
Had nearly everything on show
She said, “I guess I suppose
That’s the way you like me to pose.”

-Martin J Shead, Boa Vista, Brazil (ed1ed2ed3 yahoo.com)


At Poetry’s posh gala, so many hope to win,
When she appears, her sweet voice calls: “Will Shakespeare, come on in.”

-Cristian Mocanu, Deva, Romania (cristixav gmail.com)

A smile is nice
to break the ice.

-Ginny (Carmen) Rogers, Prangins, Switzerland (cgrogers bluewin.ch)

Is brevity the soul of wit, or
Have we learned otherwise from Twitter?

-Chris O’Carroll, Pelham, Massachusetts (chrisocarroll yahoo.com)

Disdaining the artists while loving their art
Is an ECG reading ignoring the heart.

-Tom Reel, Norfolk, Virginia (tom.reel cox.net)

Sitting patiently with confusion
Oft yields a brilliant conclusion.

-Elizabeth Painter Morana, East Aurora, New York (lizaduff yahoo.com)

To remain in matrimony
Saves a lot of alimony.

-Jasleen Kaur, New Delhi, India (jasleen56 yahoo.co.in)

Nothing quite enriches
Like scratching where it itches.

-Elinor Clark Horne, Hanover, New Hampshire (elinor.horne valley.net)

Small steps
Make up big quests.

-Sean Schollaert, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (seanschollaert verizon.net)


This is just to say (William Carlos Williams)
If I die before you, (Galway Kinnell)
Never weep, let them play-- (Robinson Jeffers)
The old perfection and the new. (Edwin Muir)
I’d like to get away from earth awhile. (Robert Frost)
This life -- the one with its complications-- (Raymond Carver)
We come to hear the endings. (Linda Pastan)
Above us stars, beneath us constellations. (Ted Kooser)

I sha’n’t be gone long. -- You come too. (Robert Frost)
But there is no home to go home to. (Tony Hoagland, w/change in verb tense)

-Anne Pici, Dayton, Ohio (anne.pici gmail.com)

’Twas for a voyage that the young man was meant, (Lord Byron, Canto the Second VIII)
Clashing his cymbals, forth he went, (Victor Hugo, The Cymbaleer’s Bride)
Mixt with obdurate pride and steadfast hate (John Milton, Paradise Lost)
To seize and clutch and penetrate. (T.S. Eliot, Whispers of Immortality)

-Larry Ray Gulfport, Mississippi (callball bellsouth.net)

Softly in the dusk, a woman is singing to me; (D.H. Lawrence, Piano)
Pretty friendship ’tis to rhyme. (A.E. Housman, Terence, This Is Stupid Stuff; William Blake, The Tyger)
Did he who made the Lamb make thee? (William Blake’s The Tyger)
Then be not coy, but use your time (Emily Dickinson, I heard a Fly Buzz Between the light and me.)

-Robin Carpenter, Hanover, New Hampshire (analytix valley.net)


An epigram’s witty and terse.
To a clerihew I’m not averse.
Still, I’m gonna stick
With a good limerick,
Although you may think me perverse.

-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

There was an old southern colonel
Who every day wrote in his jolonel,
He thought with regret
How long it would get
If only his life were etolonel.

-George Cowgill, Tempe, Arizona (cowgill asu.edu)

A fellow I know name of Niall,
Loved limericks crude, rude and vile,
He goofed up one day,
Made a clean one, they say,
And shocked everyone for a mile.

-Kay Shapero, Los Angeles, California (kayshapero earthlink.net)

The girl on the flying trapeze
Always reached satisfaction with ease
“Let’s not dilly-dally
With my grand finale,”
She said to the clown on his knees.

-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


They may not please the public’s taste;
They may be dull and trite,
But things that others think a waste
Of time are all I write.
Still, they won’t gather dust and rot
Upon a cobwebbed shelf,
’Cuz even if they’re not so hot,
I’ll read them all myself.

-Lois Sorkin, Lincolnwood, Illinois (lrs50 juno.com)

Your daily commute on a train
Is bound to be fraught with some pain
You could find yourself shoulder to shoulder
With someone as big as a boulder
If you talk on the phone you might irk
A passenger doing some work
By the loo you could be on a bench
Afflicted with chemical stench
But it’s worse when you get to the office
Cause that’s usually (sigh) where your boss is.

-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

For the AWAD inaugural
I send this doggerel
For his preternatural ability to send a daily word,
Both long and short, some terms seldom occurred,
We thousands remain, Anu’s Word Herd.

-Dick Ellis, Santee, California (2dellis cox.net)

See more of readers’ clerihews, epigrams, centos, limericks, and doggerel on our website.

From: Ed Rush (ed edrene.us)
Subject: Epigram

In the wonderful 1968 film Great Catherine, a running gag has Zero Mostel (as Potemkin) saying something witty or pithy and then “It is an epigram! It must be recorded for posterity!” and “Another epigram!” and so on.

Ed Rush, Atascadero, California

From: Geoffrey Wildanger (edward_wildanger brown.edu)
Subject: Paris

This week’s words, particularly cento, have spurred me to think of many great poems. Thank you! Based on my current location, I cannot help but think of one of my favorite centos. I don’t know if it is truly that, but, if Bob Perelman can include Zukofsky’s Bottom, then this counts too. In Paris in the 30s, the German literary critic Walter Benjamin “wrote” his Arcade’s Project (Passagenwerk).

This book, numbering some 900 pages, consists of thousands of quotations from numerous languages all to the thesis: Paris, capital of the 19th century. While the book is available, through a heroic act of translation, from Harvard UP, the interested reader might be best advised to first look up his book on Baudelaire (same publisher), in which Benjamin outlines the thesis of his grand project. Sadly, Benjamin was unable to finish his project. As a Jew who had already been interned in France, Benjamin committed suicide when unable to cross the border into Spain in advance of the Nazi invasion.

Geoffrey Wildanger, Paris, France

From: Jim Scarborough (jimes hiwaay.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cento

There are many varieties of the Linux operating system. Two are Red Hat Enterprise Linux and CentOS. The latter uses the source code from the former. It is an especially apropos name, considering source code is in many respects like poetry.

Jim Scarborough, Cary, North Carolina

From: Robert Montgomery (rmont sympatico.ca)
Subject: cento

Borrowing was part of musical composition in the 1500s. A parody mass -- nothing to do with humour -- would have voices or sections from another piece of music, sacred or secular. It may have been considered a compliment to have your work heard in another’s compositions. The Wikipedia parody mass entry is well-sourced and mentions the greatest 16th century Flemish composer, Josquin des Prez, who wrote Missa Malheur me bat, Missa Mater Patris, and Missa Fortuna desperate, all early parody masses. “Malheur me bat”, for example was a chanson.

Robert Montgomery, Gatineau, Canada

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cento

Hmm... today’s word “cento”, at least in its reliance on a mash-up, of sorts, of former authors’ lines of published prose, or poesy, seems rather prescient at the moment, in light of the court verdict handed down just yesterday (NY Times) in favor of the surviving adult children of the late singer Marvin Gaye, over the celebrated defendants, songwriting/singing/producing duo of Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. The plaintiffs persuasively argued that Thicke and Williams co-opted key elements directly from Gaye’s 1977 hit tune “Got to Give It Up”, in fashioning Thicke’s recent mega-hit tune, “Blurred Lines”.

In the stunning positive verdict for Gaye’s next-of-kin, Thicke and Williams must pay the piper to the tune of a whopping $7.2 million in immediate financial compensation, plus a stiff, as yet undetermined, share of the “Blurred Lines” accumulated millions in sales revenue, up till now... and into perpetuity.

Clearly the ‘lines’ weren’t ‘blurred’ quite enough by the collaborative duo of Thicke and Williams to avoid major copyright infringement, and the embarrassing, and costly consequences that followed.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Glenn Glazer (gglazer ucla.edu)
Subject: limericks

The think I find the most amazing about limericks is that the pattern and cant of them are so strong that they work even when we deliberately break them. For example, W.S. Gilbert wrote:

There was an old man of St. Bees,
Who was stung in the arm by a wasp,
When asked, “Does it hurt?”
He replied, “No, it doesn’t,
I’m so glad that it wasn’t a hornet.

Or goes completely into meta-humor:

There once was a man from Dundee
Whose limericks end at line three
I don’t know why

There once was a doctor named Who
Whose limericks all end at line two

There once was a man from Verdun

And then there is this limerick about Nero...

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California

From: Van Brenner (brenner57 gmail.com)
Subject: Limericks

Oedilf.com attempts to write definitions for every word in the Oxford English Dictionary in limerick form. The “curtained limericks” contain some of the most filthy and hilarious poems written.

Besides making sure the definitions are authentic, OEDILF submissions must be in proper limerick form which is more than just AABBA.

Here is one of their definitions...for the word “definition”

Every word in our latest edition
Gets precisely defined -- that’s our mission.
We’d be happy to flex
All our biceps and pecs
To be clear what defines definition.

Van Brenner, Sparks, Nevada

From: Alastair McKean (mckeana mso.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--doggerel

Perhaps it’s because it’s an Australian classic, but I can’t help feel that the Economist citation is a bit hard on Eric Bogle’s And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda (lyrics, video). Nor was it “of the time”, being written in 1971!

Alastair McKean, Orchestra Librarian, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Southbank, Australia

From: Brian Fahey (brianfahey juno.com)
Subject: Doggerel

Years ago I ran a small storefront business. Over the office door I posted a sign “Beware of Doggerel”.

Many thought that was my dog’s name.

Brian Fahey, Hunt, New York

From: Erin Altman (via website comments)
Subject: Doggerel

Doggerel is also used by canine behavior researchers to describe the special type of language humans use with dogs: asking repetitive questions (“Who’s a good boy? Are you a good boy? Where’s my good boy?”), carrying on one-side conversations, etc.

Erin Altman, Louisville, Kentucky

From: Robin Sutherland (sfsland gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--doggerel

Would insignificant doggerel be known as pupperel? And if not, why not?

Robin Sutherland, San Francisco, California

From: Richard Simonds (richard.simonds alston.com)
Subject: A poem about pi/pie


Pie I love, I
Adore blueberry -
It filled, sated,
How tasty:
Soulfood, delicious
Perfect, wonderful
And it was
(Four slices)

*a poem where the number of letters in each word follow the numbers of pi -- in this case 314159265358979323846.

Richard Simonds, Scarsdale, New York

Language is fossil poetry. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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