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AWADmail Issue 695

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

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Travel report: The Netherlands (Part 1 of a series)

This summer I visited the Netherlands. For the next few weeks I’ll share my observations here in AWADmail.

The Land of Skyscrapers

After I landed at Schiphol airport, I took a train to the city. As I came out of the Amsterdam train station, my neck was tilted back.

This wasn’t New York. There are no skyscrapers. The Netherlands is a land of tall people. Average height is more than six feet. That means about half the people are over six feet.

As I walked toward my hotel, crossing several bridges on the network of canals on the way, I thought about why the Dutch are so tall. My theory is that it may have something to do with the fact much of the Netherlands is below sea level. It’s nature’s way to make sure that ultimately everyone is at the same eye level. For the same reason people in mountainous regions are usually short.

We can look up to these tall Hollanders, literally and figuratively. With a live-and-let-live attitude, they have led the world in many things. They were the first to legalize same-sex marriage, back in 2001. They have decriminalized weed, but their per capita consumption is less than that of the US. And they have legalized much more that people in other parts of the world might regard as sinful.

Yet, this was no Sodom and Gommorah. I met people who happily go about their lives ... bicycle to work, make art, care for the sick, laugh, live, and let live.

Amsterdam has more than 1200 bridges -- perhaps all of us should be making more bridges and fewer walls.

(See more travel reports)

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

What the Heck is Cuneiform, Anyway?

Unfinished Story ... How the Ellipsis Arrived in English Literature
The Guardian

Action, Not Words, Needed to Save Irish, Say Native Speakers
The Irish Times

Pashing. Spooning. Bonk... the Language of Love is Joyless
The Daily Telegraph

From: Sam Long (gunputty comcast.net)
Subject: hogen-mogen

There’s a kids’ song that goes:

Her name was Catalina Magdalena
Hokensteiner Walendiner
Hogen Mogen Logan was her name.
She had a funny name,
But she wasn’t to blame.
She got it from her daddy,
Just the same, same, same.

There are of course many different versions of this song: the one above is the one I heard.

Sam Long, Springfield, Illinois

From: BranShea (via Wordsmith Talk online forum)
Subject: Hogen-mogen

Hogen-mogen. Speaking of the devil, as a Dutchman it’s fun to see a week of Dutch words on the menu.

The hogen part of yesterday’s word lives on in today’s Dutch language as hoog, adjective, meaning high. The mogen part survives in its original form, but the usage has changed. Mogen is now a verb meaning to have permission, to be allowed to.

It is also captured in the word vermogen,
meaning as a verb: to be capable of,
meaning as a noun: capital/equity

BranShea, The Hague, The Netherlands

From: Miguel Hulsman (M.J.C.P.Hulsman rn.rabobank.nl)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--hogen-mogen

I feel especially honoured with having a week of words of Dutch origin (guess where I am from). I have to correct you though, on the clog note. In rural places they are still used. I use them whenever gardening, because they beat the (cow)shit out of rubber boots. Clogs keep your feet “nonsweaty” on a hot summer day, and comfortably warm on a cold winter day. No boot beats that.

Miguel Hulsman, Heeze, The Netherlands

From: Mike Rosen (mrosen oberlin.edu)
Subject: Dutch

My wife, Marlene, and I spent a sabbatical living in Gravenhage (The Hague) quite a while ago and discovered a vast number of Dutch words that have found their way into American English. Here is a short list: dope, sloop, hoist, caboose, poppycock, scow, sleigh, blunderbuss, cookie, duffelbag, stoop, cruller, and coleslaw.

New York City was once New Amsterdam controlled by the Dutch until the English took it over in 1667 without a fight. In the New York area many words are derived from the Dutch such as: Amsterdam Avenue, Red Hook (Roode Hoeck), Catskills (Koaterskill), dollars (daalders), Yonkers (Jonkheer’s Landt), Peekskill, Broadway (Brede weg), the bowery (a farm in Dutch), yankee (janke), Teaneck (Teneyck-family name), Turtle Bay (Duetel Bogt), Fishkill (kill-stream), Flatbush (Vlachte Bosch), Flushing (Vlissingen), Tenafly (Thynevly), Coney Island (conjin- rabbit) and we can’t forget Brooklyn (Breuklyn).

Mike Rosen, Oberlin, Ohio

From: Leslé Hal (earthshine lantic.net)
Subject: toenadering

What a surprise to see today’s word. As a South African I am very familiar with it. To me the French equivalent sounds like ‘reproach’ which sends the wrong message altogether. Another great South African/Afrikaans word is ‘binnekring’ which means ‘inner circle’ but sounds so much friendlier.

Leslé Hall, Howick, South Africa

From: David Anderson (mr.d.r.anderson gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--poppycock

This word brought me back to my childhood and the Disney version of Peter Pan and, most especially, the children’s father, George Darling (who definitely does not believe in faeries): (video, 3 sec.)

The full argument in the nursery can be viewed here -- poppycock appears at about 4:40 mark.

While I totally disagree with his application of the word towards imaginative endeavors, I have always found his emotional outburst rather entertaining. (The deeply troubling colonial imaginations at work in the film are another matter.)

David Anderson, Vancouver, Canada

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

From: Richard S. Russell (RichardSRussell tds.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sooterkin

I first encountered this word while playing “An Evening with Mrs. Byrne” at a science-fiction convention. It’s like a standard game of Dictionary, except played using Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words: Gathered from Numerous and Diverse Authoritative Sources by Josefa Heifetz Byrne. Mrs. Byrne figured most people had ready access to regular dictionaries that listed common, boring terms and would appreciate one that just concentrated on the fun words and definitions, so that’s what she put together, skipping sooterkin’s Meanings 1 and 3 and providing only a wry, colorful variant of #2.

I provided this word to the players, and everybody hooted when the correct definition was read aloud. Nobody voted for it, so I got to collect all the points for stumping the players. I still recall the occasion fondly these many years later.

PS: When this word was borrowed by English, the “oo” morphed into the standard English pronunciation, as in “soon”. But in Dutch, that digraph is pronounced like the long “o” in “rose” (or “Roosevelt”).

Richard S. Russell, Madison, Wisconsin

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

Said Mikado’s chief courtier, Pooh Bah
You must kowtow and give a huzzah.
Factotum’s my slogan:
I’m grand hogen-mogen,
Lord High Everything Else, so “Tah Dah!”

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

When your marriage appears to be tottering
With quarrels each day then toenadering
In atmosphere heated
Young man, remain seated
Or babies you’ll quickly be fathering.

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

I met in the forest near Cotterstock
The ghost of the once-fearsome Jabberwock.
“Oi wuz noice, don’cha see,
Reg’ler choirboy, me,
‘Til that Carroll writ down all ‘is poppycock.”

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

When King Henry took Anne for a sooterkin
He smiled that big flashy Tudor grin
He told her “Of course
I will get a divorce”
But the Pope said “Now that is an über sin.”

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

We questioned two ladies of Babylon:
“Why do you continue to brabble on?”
They answered, “You see,
we just cannot agree
which language we’re basing our Scrabble on!”

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

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

After Ben played eighteen he drank Hogan-Mogen.

Sermons often lead toenadering off.

A rooster’s comb resembles a red flower, but trying to get opium from one is pure poppycock.

When there’s a suspicious birth, a sooterkin can often be held responsible.

Not wanting a consensus, the crowd implored Pilate, “Give us Brabble!” (John 18:40)

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Words are a mirror of their times. By looking at the areas in which the vocabulary of a language is expanding fastest in a given period, we can form a fairly accurate impression of the chief preoccupations of society at that time and the points at which the boundaries of human endeavour are being advanced. -John Ayto, lexicographer (b. 1949)

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