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AWADmail Issue 696

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

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From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Travel report: The Netherlands (Part 2)

Second in a series of travel reports. See part 1 here.

Floating in Art

Amsterdam. The place is littered with art. Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Vermeer, and others. Van Gogh has a museum all to his own. Rijksmuseum (literally, National Museum; the first syllable rhymes with dikes) is where other artists call home. It has some 8000 pieces of art, spread in 80 wings.

All this ocean of art is too much to soak in during one visit. After a while you are overwhelmed. You begin to view the art pieces as if they are mere crayon drawings taped on someone’s refrigerator door. “It’s nice.”

But don’t let that give you a wrong impression. Each painting deserves time. And if you give it a little attention, it’s as if the figures in the painting, with their ruffled collars and fancy robes, would step out of the frames and talk to you. What would they say? I don’t know. Maybe: “Waarom bent u zo klein?” (“Why are you so short?”)

As I said, the place is flooded with art. Consider the Amsterdam Museum. Formerly known as Amsterdam Historical Museum, it dropped the word “historical” from its name to sound less stuffy, the tour guide told me. This humble museum takes you through the history of the city from the Middle Ages to the modern times. Even this museum is stuffed with paintings from the masters.

I nearly thought of going out on a Saturday morning and checking out the yard sales in Amsterdam. Who knows what one might find. Walking along a canal I might see a couple selling knickknacks in front of their house, including some old canvases.

“These wheatfields ... it looks like a Van Gogh,” I say.
“Yes it is. Five euros.”

A quick mental math and I realize that it’s still less than 6 dollars. Not bad. But going with the tradition of yard sales, I might still haggle.

“How about three euros?”
The woman sounds a little hesitant, but her husband says, “Honey, sell it! We have too much clutter in the house.”

Well, you never know.

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

Why Do Norwegians Use ‘Texas’ to Mean ‘Crazy’?

Some Rules of Language are Wired in the Brain
Scientific American

Further and Farther: A Theory
The New Yorker

A Turkish Origin for Indo-European Languages

Translations of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”
The Wall Street Journal

From: Paul Glover (pglover bulkley.net)
Subject: Tall Dutch (Re: AWADmail 695)

Thanks for your humorous and insightful view of Holland and the tall Dutch people.

There was a radio comedy group here in Canada 20 years ago (or so) called The Frantics. One of their musical skits was called Dutch Cowboys, and one of the lines I remember is:

“They’re brave and strong and tall and ...
Dutch cowboys come from Holland.”

Here in Northwest BC, our small town (and others in the the area) were partly settled by Dutch immigrants in the early-mid 1900s. A number of people have observed that these Dutch settlers have since become “more Dutch than the Dutch” because they have kept true to Dutch ideology of the last century, while the residents of the Netherlands, as you have pointed out, have moved on to accept many different things. For instance, same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana are absolutely unacceptable concepts for the Dutch immigrant families in our community.

Paul Glover, Smithers, Canada

From: Bob Wilson (wilson math.wisc.edu)
Subject: average height

You wrote: “Average height is more than six feet. That means about half the people are over six feet.” Sorry, that is a fairly common mistake but a mistake nonetheless. It could be that only one was over six feet, if that one was a LOT more than six feet and the rest not much less than six feet. (Or one just a little more than six, if the rest were almost six feet.)

Bob Wilson, Oregon, Wisconsin

You have a valid point. If we calculated average net worth of people here in the Seattle area, we’d get a very wrong number because Bill Gates (net worth $80 billion) would be a part of the population. But in the instance I wrote about, how common is it for one person to be 2000 feet in height but the rest 5’8”?
-Anu Garg

From: Bill Johnson (jwjobx earthlink.net)
Subject: anodyne

Emily Dickinson uses “anodyne” perfectly in “The Heart Asks Pleasure First” but as life goes on it pleads for a little anodyne to ease the suffering:

The heart asks pleasure first
And then excuse from pain
And then those little anodynes
That deaden suffering.

Then it asks for peace
And then if it should be
The will of its Inquisitor
The liberty to die.

Bill Johnson, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

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From: David Santangelo (dcsantangelo2005 comcast.net)
Subject: Salacious

Every time I hear this word I always think of the character Salacious Crumb, the small, big-eared creature that sat with Jabba the Hutt, from Return of the Jedi. The adjective is definitely appropriate for him, especially how he leers at Princess Leia after she has become Jabba’s prisoner.

David Santangelo, Indianapolis, Indiana

From: Hope Bucher (hopebucher gmail.com)
Subject: Emollient

Long ago, as a homesick postulant in a religious order, I would sometimes walk to an isolated corner of the convent’s large apple orchard. On entrance day we were expected to relinquish all personal items, but I could not part with my harmonica so I surreptitiously kept it hidden in the bottom of my sewing box. On days when I was hopelessly homesick, I would sneak away to the orchard, sit under a huge weeping willow tree in the far corner, play my harmonica and cry uncontrollably. It was, I now realize, an emollient easing which helped me cope with my nostalgia.

Hope Bucher, Naperville, Illinois

From: Dharam Khalsa (dharamkk2 windstream.net)
Subject: Anagrams of this Week’s Words

Anagrams of this week’s words:
1. anodyne
2. salacious
3. probity
4. rectitude
5. emollient
= 1. tames pain
2. obscene, crude
3. morality
4. a righteous way
5. allows dried skin to soften
Dharam Khalsa, Espanola, New Mexico

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

The pol, with expression benign,
delivered his stale anodyne:
Just give me your vote --
I won’t rock the boat
and everything will turn out fine.

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

When we meet for an hour salacious
Could you try not to be so loquacious?
I know I appear
To be interested, dear
But a part of me shows that’s fallacious.

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

Pinocchio, prone to tell lies,
Geppetto would always chastise.
He knew that his kiddie,
Sadly lacked probity,
When his nose grew three times its size.

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

Some guess it is due to decrepitude,
while others blame builders’ ineptitude.
Since tourists are keen
on this tower that leans,
Pisa’s happy it’s lacking in rectitude.

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

A blow to the jaw and poor Ollie went
To the druggist to buy an emollient
“Another fine mess,”
He said, “Stanley, I guess
I’ll be putting my teeth into Polident.”

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

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

For back pain, I stretch anodyne on aspirin.

Masochists say, “We enjoy whips salacious, please.”

He was paid like a probity didn’t act like one.

In “Boys Town”, Spencer Tracy could seemingly (co)rectitude in any delinquent.

If a bank robber employs an armed woman, is emollient?

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people. -William Butler Yeats, poet, dramatist, essayist, Nobel laureate (1865-1939)

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