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AWADmail Issue 691

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

Sponsor’s Message:
Who said you can’t buy the American Dream? And for a song? We’re offering our motorcycle-loving subscribers, and this week’s Email of the Week winner, Carolyn E. Blanco (see below), a two-wheel deal on Indian Summer, a terrific seat-of-the-pants documentary we filmed 20 years ago that’s been a surprise hit as a digitally-remastered DVD. A steal at $15; get 2 for $20 today only. Vroom, vroom!

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

Yogi Berra Turned Linguistic Vice Into Virtue With His Cockeyed Tautologies

The Internet May Have Reached Peak Language

Gay or Straight, Let’s Embrace the Language of Marriage Equality
The Guardian

Some Notes on Singular ‘They’
The Web of Language

From: Susan Gawarecki (llamaladysg yahoo.com)
Subject: Kenning

A word for which I have had an unfilled need! T.E. Lawrence, in his epic Seven Pillars of Wisdom, invented a great many kennings in the form of hyphenated words that are his shorthand for descriptive phrases. I’ve listed a few and given examples of others, because the context is so wonderfully written. I am enamored of his prose, and his book certainly stretches my vocabulary.

  • torrent-beds for the channels in the floor of a dry wash
  • joy-shots for gunfire fired in celebration, and the self explanatory joy-bullet
  • colour-feeling, race-dislike and race-hesitation for racism
  • coffee-hospitality for entertaining guests
  • brain-leisure for relaxation
  • sand-fold for the low area between sand dunes
  • water-parting for watershed divide
  • star-blink for that time of evening when the stars are just beginning to come out (my personal favorite TEL kenning)
“The Arabs loved the new toys. Bicycles they called devil-horses, the children of cars, which themselves were sons and daughters of trains. It gave us three generations of mechanical transport.”

“The monkey-pleasure of pulling large and impressive legs was upon us.”

“To townsmen this garden was a memory of the world before we went mad with war and drove ourselves into the desert: to Auda there was an indecency of exhibition in the plant-richness, and he longed for an empty view.”

“This second cup would be tastier than the first, partly because the pot was yielding deeper from the brew, partly because of the heel-taps of so many previous drinkers present in the cups ...”

“Night came down, and the valley became a mind-landscape. The invisible cliffs boded as presences; imagination tried to piece out the plan of their battlements by tracing the dark pattern they cut in the canopy of stars.”

“Past and future flowed over us like an uneddying river. We dreamed ourselves into the spirit of the place; sieges and feasting, raids, murders, love-singing in the night.”

“Nawaf led out his mare, and guided us, loaded rifle across his thigh, to the railway and beyond it into the desert. There he gave us the star-direction of our supposed goal in Bair.”

Susan Gawarecki, Oak Ridge, Tennessee

From: Andrew Lloyd (knockroe gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--kenning

Some kennings are so common in the (nautical and military) language that has come down to us from the likes of Beowulf or The Battle of Maldon that they are clichés. hron rad (whale-road) is the sea; svana fjöll (swan’s mountains) are waves; grand viðar (wood’s bane or wood-crusher) is fire. But what about hjálms fyllr (helmet-filler) for sword - that’s so disturbingly visual that it should be the title of a particularly violent graphic novel.

Andrew Lloyd, Knockroe, Ireland

From: Louis Berney (lbags aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--kenning

One of my favorite kennings is perhaps a southern term. I picked it up from the great little film, This Property is Condemned -- “bone orchard”, which is a cemetery.

Louis Berney, Baltimore, Maryland

From: Joanna L. Damani (joanna.l.damani hsbc.bm)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--kenning

My son, who was recently diagnosed as dyslexic, has used kenning since he started talking at 3. Most notably “bubblejuice” for fizzy drinks and “waterlemons” for sour fruits. He is now 9 and some of his lingual creations are now part of the family repertoire.

Joanna L. Damani, Bermuda

From: Diana Diehl (diana dianadiehlpresents.com)
Subject: kenning

Rugrat for children of crawling age, cow pie for bovine feces, night owl for person who stays up all night.

Diana Diehl, San Diego, California

From: Laura Moorhouse Kenna (Lkenna verizon.net)
Subject: kenning

When my son was three he saw a groundhog and exclaimed, “Look! A grass beaver!” We still call them that. Although “groundhog” itself is a kenning, I suppose, as well as another name for groundhogs: whistlepig.

Laura Moorhouse Kenna, South Nyack, New York

From: Marlice Van Zandt (marlice touchtheearthranch.com)
Subject: kenning

Llamas were referred to as “ships of the Andes” and “camels of the clouds” for their use as beasts of burden.

Marlice Van Zandt, Colorado Springs, Colorado

From: Inderjit Kalsi (kalsibahai gmail.com)
Subject: Kennings

Sand dunes gently undulating ‘camel canal’.

Inderjit Kalsi, Chandigarh, India

From: Lynn Allen (lynnallen2 gmail.com)
Subject: Kenning

My grandmother, born in the 1880s, was always coining words. Now I know the name for them, thank you! One of my favorites is ‘squinting tackle’ used for eyeglasses. She enjoyed earning pocket money by submitting slogans and ditties in contests that were popular at that time. I may well have learned my love of languages from her.

Lynn Allen, San Francisco, California

Email of the Week (Courtesy Indian Summer - Buy the American Dream movie now.)

From: Carolyn E. Blanco (carolynblanc marathonpetroleum.com)
Subject: mot juste

In The Truth, from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, “Le mot juste” is the family motto of the de Worde family, lived up to in particular by the scribe-turned-editor heir and hero William de Worde, who gets in on the ground floor of the Discworld’s first newspaper. As William’s father translates the motto, this book is all about “The right Worde in the right place”.

Carolyn E. Blanco, Findlay, Ohio

From: Brian P. O’Sullivan (brian.p.o’sullivan hitchcock.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mot juste

“I’ve been working hard on [Ulysses] all day,” said Joyce.
“Does that mean that you have written a great deal?” I said.
“Two sentences,” said Joyce.
I looked sideways but Joyce was not smiling. I thought of Flaubert.
“You’ve been seeking the mot juste?” I said.
“No,” said Joyce. “I have the words already. What I am seeking is the perfect order of words in the sentence.”
-James Joyce

Brian P. O’Sullivan, Worcester, Massachusetts

From: Mike Wagner (mike wildcardvideo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--holophrasm

My Chinese friend always comments on our American holophrasm, “Jeet?” for, “Did you eat?” He says learning “American” was certainly interesting!

Mike Wagner, Miami, Florida

From: John D Sahr (jdsahr speakeasy.net)
Subject: holophrasm

DailyKos recently reported an amusing (joint) editorial from two Michigan papers consisting entirely of the following:


John D Sahr, Seattle, Washington

From: Wayne Alford (wayne.alford humanservices.gov.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--holophrasm

Hmmmm, maybe a whole conversation could be holophrastic:

P1: Go.
P2: Where?
P1: Anywhere.
P2: Why?
P1: Because.
P2: Now?
P1: Yes.
P2: Bye.

Wayne Alford, Greenway, Australia

From: Bruce Graham (brucegrah gmail.com)
Subject: holophrasm

An historical holophrasm (and pun) is peccavi , a Latin word meaning “I have sinned.” It was used in relation to Napier’s successful 1842 campaign in India: “I have Sind.”

Bruce Graham, Hanoi, Vietnam

From: Bob Patetta (summitauc aol.com)
Subject: holophrasm

I’m reminded of the book by Anne Lamott in which she states that all prayers can be boiled down to one of three (as I now know them) holophrasms: “Help”, “Thanks”, and “Wow”.

Bob Patetta, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

From: Shelagh Becerra (shelbooks sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Pochismo

I sent a link of today’s entry to pochodotcom and they replied with this piece from 1928: What is Pochismo -- from 1928 LaOpinionLA

Shelagh Becerra, Oakland, California

From: Laura García (via website)
Subject: Pochismo

Pochismos are ubiquitous in northern Mexico. Trucka, parkear, pusha, catchear, washa (washer as in nuts and bolts), marketa, and numerous others.

Da me una pusha porque mi trucka esta parkeada y no puedo arrancarla.

But what do you call literal translations like “Da mi una quebra.”? (Give me a break)

[See loan translations. -Anu]

Laura García, Mexico

From: Pat Perry (lprperry verizon.net)
Subject: pochismo

It happens in French too, believe it or not! What would it be called then? Example: In a Guide Michelin, a refurbished hotel was described as “relooke” (with accent grave over last e).

Pat Perry, Massachusetts

From: Lowell Harris (harris goldstandardit.com)
Subject: meta

Would not the word “meta” be a word about words about words?

Lowell Harris, Charlotte, North Carolina

From: Michael Shpizner (mshpizner us.fujitsu.com)
Subject: Meta

You wrote: “This week we are going meta. We’ll feature words about words. The English language has plenty of words for things. And it has many words about words as well. As for words about words about words, we’re not sure. Maybe we’ll have to go to another dimension for that.”

Well, it seems to me that your comment was “words about words about words” -- and this message is “words about words about words about words”!

Michael J. Shpizner, Sunnyvale, California

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

There once was a clever gum shoe,
Columbo, whom everyone knew,
This famous kenning,
Would say, “One more thing,”
When solving a murder on cue.

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

A lady friend might be seduced
If a gentleman says the mot juste
A passage sublime
From “In Search of Lost Time”
Will impress her if she’s into Proust.

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

With his briefcase and fine three-piece suits,
He’d look odd in sombrero and boots.
A success he may be
but it pains me to see
this pochismo. He’s losing his roots.

-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

New word for her class: holophrasm.
She asks for examples. “Who has ‘em?”
One kid replies, “Huh?”
and another says, “Ugh!”
She’ll skip the next topic: sarcasm!

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

A word such as “antonomasia”
From Anu one day’s gonna faze ya
You can’t make it rhyme
In a hole you could climb
Disappear and become Anastasia.

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

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

“You Yanks call a football pitch a ‘gridiron’? You must be kenning me.”

After falling off the wagon, the drunk got even mot juste.

There was never such cacophony in the holophrasmatazz.

“Do you like Tiber, Arno, or Pochismo?”

Speaking of Chekhov, does antonomasia as he does me?

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: Erin McKean (erin wordnik.com)
Subject: Can you help us find a missing million words?

Wordnik launched a Kickstarter last week with an ambitious goal: to find a million English words that are missing from traditional dictionaries. We want to find these words being used in great example sentences that will make their meanings clear, and add them to Wordnik so that anyone, anywhere, can know what any word means.

A 2010 study in the journal Science estimated that as much as 52% of the unique words of English are missing from dictionaries -- we want to fix this!

We’re already at >60% backed, but there’s a long way to go! I’d love your help in reaching our goal: kickstarter.

Erin McKean, Chicago, Illinois

To know another language is to have a second soul. -Charlemagne, King of the Franks (742-814)

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