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AWADmail Issue 681

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

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

Bilinguals of Have More Gray Matter Than Monolinguals
[And remember, it’s never too late to learn anything, including a new language]

Two Whoppers Junior, Please: Pluralization
The Guardian

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: longhair

Hmm... since the visual image of a so-called “egghead” usually conjures up a dome-skulled, bald-pated brainiac, would it be fitting to label that cerebral individual a “longhair”, as well?

Seems counterintuitive, as one image outwardly appears to represent the visual antithesis of the other. Yet both “egghead” and “longhair” seem to be in the same definitional wheelhouse, no?

Architectural genius ‘Bucky’ Fuller, in his latter years, was essentially bald, i.e., an egghead for certain; whilst brilliant physicist Albert Einstein with his unruly signature mane of wild hair was clearly a longhair... and inarguably, an egghead, to boot.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Email of the Week (Old’s Cool is old school with cheek -- Buy it now before it’s too late!)

From: Milan Schonberger (milan.schonberger sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Longhair

During communist-era Czechoslovakia, the police would periodically round up longhairs and cut their hair. Longhairs were accused of hooliganism.

Milan Schonberger, Los Angeles, California

From: Dave Holland (dholland bigpond.net.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--blackleg

The black legs of the coal miners during a strike were a giveaway to who was a strikebreaker. See the song Blackleg Miner. (video, 6.5 min.)

Dave Holland, Melbourne, Australia

From: Tom Morgan (morgantom sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Double-dome

Double-dome or double-domer also describes an individual with two degrees from Notre Dame University, referring to the famous Golden Dome atop the university’s Main Administration Building.

Tom Morgan, Shelton, Connecticut

From: Ossie Bullock (osmundbullock aol.com)
Subject: white-livered

Yes, I think ‘white-livered’ is a rather dull, even, um, lily-livered choice, even if the former has a longer pedigree.

What did the master choose? Shakespeare actually used both, not to mention ‘milk-livered’ and ‘pigeon-livered’. But it is notable that the basic ‘white’ version only occurs in plays before 1600 (Richard III & Henry V). As he (one can imagine) gained confidence in his figurative writing, he progressed to (and perhaps introduced) the more imaginative epithets: they are found in Hamlet, Macbeth, and Lear -- the latter famously including ‘Lily-livered’ among one of the longest strings of insults in the English language, as Kent (in disguise) berates the hapless Oswald for denying he knows him.

For later greats we have Trollope, Thackeray and DH Lawrence voting for “lily”, while Dickens sticks with “white”.

Ossie Bullock, London, UK

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

This must be an obvious imitation of the slang metonymies that came into vogue during the late 20th c., such as airhead (i.e. stupid or vacuous), the rock band Radiohead, the popular toy bobblehead, or the cult flick Eraserhead. They may find a distinguished ancestor in the 17th c. appellation dunderhead. Dittohead will inevitably rush into limbo (no pun intended), together with its aforementioned predecessors (though, admittedly, other colloquialisms such as hothead and squarehead have become standard words in the dictionary).

The Italian parallel malatesta, whose literal meaning is bad head, is a popular surname, occurring, for example, in the operatic character Doctor Malatesta in Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, as well as in the family name of famous Renaissance rulers, condottieri, and even in the nominative determinism of the 19th c. anarchist Errico Malatesta, Mikhail Bakunin’s friend and collaborator.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Don Keith (keithdg bp.com)
Subject: Your bias is showing....

Your description of “dittohead” is incomplete, and unwarrentedly biased. The word was originated as a terrm of dirission by those who disagree with Conservative views. It is baseless in that almost all “dittohead” callers have actually thought through their beliefs and the basis for those beliefs, unlike many of their detractors.

Don Keith, St. John, Indiana

Is it after actually thinking through their beliefs that callers come to agree with Rush Limbaugh’s lying, racism and misogyny?
-Anu Garg

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

She said, “I don’t really care,
If my mate is a longhair,
He could be really dumb,
Were there good sex to come,
I don’t need a questionnaire.”

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

Harry the Blackleg’s so slick,
So nimble and savvy, so quick,
He can steal five bases
Or deal thirteen aces
And then gull the mark with some shtick.

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

Old prof whom the kids call Sir Double-dome,
observing from erudite bubble, groans,
“My students don’t learn,
and of late I discern
an ominous teacher-in-trouble zone.”

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

A fellow in customer service
On his calls always felt very nervous
He shivered and quivered
And acted white-livered
Till finally he smoked something herbous.

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

Chances are if you’re Rush Limbaugh’s dittohead
You sleep in a trailer park Murphy bed
You dislike the stench
Of all things that are French
Such as wine, gorgeous women, and garlic bread.

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

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Puns on Words of the Week

“You’ll hear the recapitulation longhair somewhere...”

“Let’s get that scab! I’ll grab his front leg and you grab his blackleg.”

“A smart blackjack player knows to always double-dome on 11.

Terrified, OB/GYN Lily ‘livered her first C-Section.

Teacher: “If you use quotation marks to indicate ditto, head for the door.”

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Language is as real, as tangible, in our lives as streets, pipelines, telephone switchboards, microwaves, radioactivity, cloning laboratories, nuclear power stations. -Adrienne Rich, writer (1929-2012)

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