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AWADmail Issue 676

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

Sponsor’s Message:
Do you think the way things were is better than the way things are? Bet you do. Which is why we’re offering this week’s Email of the Week winner, Sam Long (see below), as well as all old schoolers everywhere the chance to own one of our unapologetically exclusive and expensive OLD’S COOL rugby shirts -- so wicked well-made and authentic you’ll be handing it down to your children’s children. Best answer to our EGONYM CONTEST wins it: Pick (or make up) a word that best describes you, and say why. With three teenagers, ours is ‘Danyell’. Show us how smart you are right NOW.

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

How the English Language Became Such a Mess

Sisters Fight to Save Ancient African Language from Extinction
The Guardian

Email of the Week (Brought to you by The Old’s Cool Company -- See how old school with a shot of wry fits you to a Tee here.)

From: Sam Long (gunputty comcast.net)
Subject: antimacassar

I suppose in a world made of antimatter, they have macassars on the backs of their chairs.

Sam Long, Springfield, Illinois

From: Joseph M. McClain (jmmccl wm.edu)
Subject: Antimacassar

A.Word.A.Day featured my favorite word today. Antimacassar conveys such a powerful image. It sounds as if antimacassar should be the antidote to a particularly noxious poison. Or maybe Antimacassar is a super-villain. The foil of Macassar, of course. What a wonderful word. I try to use it as often as I can. “Well, put a towel here on the couch until your hair dries; it will serve as an antimacassar.”

Joseph M. McClain, Williamsburg, Virginia

From: Verla Schmidt (verlaschmidt comcast.net)
Subject: antimacassar

How this takes me back, since I am 90, that is a long way. In my childhood no self-respecting sofa or divan would be without its hand-crocheted antimacassars! Thanks for the memories.

Verla Schmidt, Baltimore, Maryland

From: Lloyd Thomas (via online comments)
Subject: antimacassar

Byron’s couplet about Donna Inez (in Don Juan) is the best:

“In virtues nothing earthly could surpass her / Save thine ‘incomparable oil’, Macassar!"

Lloyd Thomas

From: Creede Lambard (creede gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--antimacassar

Ah, memories. Today’s word caught my eye because of a slim volume that hung around our house when I was young called, And So’s Your Antimacassar, which was full of Victorian-era pictures of the lace furniture protectors. The five-syllable word in the title caught my preschool self’s attention much more than the pictures did.

Creede Lambard, Shoreline, Washington

From: Tracy Johnston (trackyj att.net)
Subject: antimacassar

I have an e-book copy of the 1887 White House Cookbook. Under the chapter of toilet items there is a recipe for “Macassar Oil for the Hair”.

Tracy Johnston, San Marcos, California

From: John A. Laswick (johnalene comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--antimacassar

This delightful poem includes the antithesis of antimacassar: The Perils of Modern Living -- Harold P. Furth.

John A. Laswick, Springfield, Illinois

From: Stanley W. Brown (stanley.w.brown dartmouth.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--antimacassar

When I was a teenager back in the late ’50s I filled out a newspaper word quiz to determine how old I was. I supplied the word antimacassar. It turned out no other word (e.g., doily) would do. The results concluded I was about 40.

Stan Brown, West Lebanon, New Hampshire

From: Romaine Scott (RomaineS haltonhills.ca)
Subject: antimacassar

As I listened to the pronunciation of antimacassar I realized that this was a common word from my childhood in Jamaica but this is the first time I have actually seen the written word. As a child, I helped my mother create the designs on an antimacassar board that was made by joining pieces of wood into a rectangle or square. I remember that it had nails strategically placed on the board. We used soft-coloured wool which was wrapped around the nails to form patterns and then we would remove the wool and cut in specific places to create beautiful designs. Antimacassars on chairs and sofas were an affordable way to add colour and creativity to the room. Creating the antimacassars was a lot of fun and really brought back fond memories of my childhood.

Romaine Scott, Halton Hills, Canada

From: Paul Schierenbeck (paulschierenbeck gmail.com)
Subject: podunk

When I moved from Oshkosh, WI, to New England many years ago, I was amused to hear people use the term “East Oshkosh” to indicate a “small, unimportant town”. I would object because Oshkosh is actually a notable city, but more than once the response was, “I never knew it was a real place!”

Paul Schierenbeck, Cambridge, Massachusetts

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Charlatan

Italian opera wouldn’t be what it is without its array of chattering quacks. From Dulcamara in Donizetti’s melodramma giocoso to Figaro in Donizetti’s opera buffa, they sell cheap wine posing as a love potion or facilitate assignations while shaving beards; not to mention the real buffoon, Pagliaccio himself, who must laugh, though his heart is about to break.

As for space travel, former Harvard faculty member Professor Lehrer puts it in perspective with his not entirely congenial suggestion that rocket science is apolitical, so long as you can count down in a variety of languages -- “says Wernher von Braun”. (video, 2 min.)

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Tali Avishay (tal_miqa zahav.net.il)
Subject: Jerusalem syndrome

I live in Jerusalem. In addition to the Jerusalem Syndrome (which typically has a few cases a year, and is usually cured by leaving Jerusalem, or at most a short stay in a psychiatric facility), we also used to have “The Crazy people of Jerusalem” -- four or five people, weird-acting but harmless, that you typically met on their “hunting grounds” -- for some it was buses, for others certain areas in town. They would buttonhole you and bend your ear with their particular interest. I don’t know whether it is the social and religious complexity of the city or something in the air, or energy waves.

Tali Avishay, Jerusalem, Israel

From: David Gawarecki (dgawarecki aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Jerusalem syndrome

Technically, Jerusalem is an international city under military occupation by Israel. Saying ‘Jerusalem, Israel’ is sort of the equivalent of saying “Warsaw, Germany” during 1939.

David Gawarecki, New Haven, Connecticut

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Limericks

Mum was so deeply enthralled
But Dad was completely appalled
What gift could be crasser
Than an antimacassar?
Especially when father was bald.

-Bob Thompson, New Plymouth, New Zealand (bobtee xtra.co.nz)

A donut shop owner in Podunk
Has posted a sign saying NO DUNK.
Not to obey
Will elicit a “Hey!
You ain’t gonna eat here no mo’, punk!”

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

The charlatan hailed from Cerretto
And sailed in a swift vaporetto,
Where he toasted his health
Amid boasts of his wealth
In a loud allegretto falsetto.

-Laurence McGilvery, La Jolla, California (laurence mcgilvery.com)

In the Bible a gesture of Daniel’s
Turned lions one night into spaniels
It seemed rather odd
A strong message from God
But he’d fed them with Valium granules.

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

At the Dome of the Rock, far from home,
The sad tourist who came from Stockholm,
Had the burning desire,
To be called the Messiah,
A case of Jerusalem syndrome.

-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

From: Steve Benko (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
Subject: Toponyms variation

This week’s theme calls to mind a word game invented and played by some AWAD’er friends and me until we had circled the world to exhaustion. We would think of “Geo Swifties,” a variation of Tom Swifties where a real place name is substituted for the adverb. We came up with close to a thousand. Examples:

“I may be a goose, dear, but I’m your goose,” said the woman from Uganda.

“Ms. Palin fancies herself leading a sort of new Roman Empire,” commented the man from Saratoga.

“It’s a cousin of the troll,” said the man from Nome.

“Every time I put in a dollar, I get back two!” said the man from Dublin.

“What about my sister’s daughter?” asked the woman from Nice.

“You have such beautiful handwriting,” said the man from Phnom Penh.

“I can’t make ends meet as a vocalist,” said the woman from Singapore.

“I thrive on pressure,” said the man from Taipei.

Steve Benko, New York, New York

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Puns on words of the week

If I don’t find her soon, my antimacassar fate to the wind.

The basketball coach said, “That was a podunk if ever I saw one.”

“I’ll pretend to be Charlatan no one will notice,” said the male cross-dresser.

“If you continue to ‘spaniel need gastric bypass surgery.”

The best place for Muslim prayer in Jerusalem Syndrome of the Rock.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Syllables govern the world. -John Selden, historian and politician (1584-1654)

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