Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 742

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

Sponsor’s Message: Hey, Traditionistas - does “Old’s Cool” sum up your philosophy of life: old school with a little wry, served neat? Where courage, integrity, authenticity, and excellence matter? Same here. So, we’re offering this week’s Email of the Week winner, George Kovac (see below), as well as all everyone who thinks that the way things were is sometimes better than the way things are 10% off our retro-wicked ludic loot. Jezz use coupon code “SHOPYESTERDAY”.

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

Humans May Speak a Universal Language, Say Scientists
The Daily Telegraph

Russian Interior Ministry Urged To Create Language Police To Defend Russian Against Foreign Words
Eurasia Review

From: Coralyn Kelly Sheridan (coralsh northwestern.edu)
Subject: boulevardier

I can’t even think of the word boulevardier without hearing Maurice Chevalier self-assuredly singing, “You can see zem wink ze ozair eye at ze man who broke ze bank at Monte Carlo!’ (Being old has some advantages).

Coralyn Kelly Sheridan, Orange, California

From: Scott Eichel (seichel407 gmail.com)
Subject: Boulevardier

Boulevardier and its cousin flâneur are two expressive words which, with or without a knowledge of the French language, one cannot help but get the message and the concept. And for the English version, think of that wonderful piece of doggerel,

I’m Burlington Bertie,
I rise at 1030
And saunter about like a toff.

I walk down the Strand
with my gloves on my hand,
And I walk back again with them off ....

(Most colourfully performed by Julie Andrews in Star as well as by Betty Grable; not to speak of Bertie Muppet in the Muppet Show.)

Scott Eichel, Victoria, Canada

From: Steeve McCauley (steeve.mccauley+wordsmith gmail.com)
Subject: boulevardier

The nominal boulevardier, in English at least, is the cocktail cousin to the greatest cocktail, the negroni.

Steeve McCauley, Montreal, Canada

Illustration: Alex McCrae

From: Alex McCrae (mccrae7474 roadrunner.com)
Subject: pachyderm

Hmm... pretty tiny feet, no? Not only does The Donald exhibit the quintessential pachyderm personality, but one could argue that he could well be dubbed the 2016 Teflon presidential candidate. Nothing appears to stick to this bloviating ego-tripper.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Paul Varotsis (paul.varotsis.12 ucl.ac.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pachyderm

As its Greek origin may suggest, the word was created by 19th-century anatomist Georges Cuvier to describe the group made up of elephants, rhinos, and hippos.

In modern biology, however, the word is obsolete. Elephants are more closely related to manatees, rhinos to zebras, and hippos to dolphins than either are to each other! This fossil of a word has survived in common language as an insult. It sounds unlikely, however, that 22nd-century people would call each other proboscideans, perissodactyls, or artiodactyls. Maybe Captain Haddock of the Tintin series may help?

Paul Varotsis, London, UK

Email of the Week - Back to OLD’S COOL already? Get your authentic on HERE.

From: George Kovac (gkovac stearnsweaver.com)
Subject: revenant

I first encountered this word ‘revenant’ in Seamus Heaney’s poem “Two Lorries”, about a truck bomb during the Irish troubles that took the life of the fictional narrator’s mother on an otherwise perfectly ordinary day. I have never encountered a more telling use of the word. The poem is worth reading in its entirety -- and to fully appreciate Heaney’s powerful use of the word. But here is the relevant excerpt:

As time fastforwards and a different lorry
Groans into shot, up Broad Street, with a payload
That will blow the bus station to dust and ashes...
After that happened, I’d a vision of my mother,

A revenant on the bench where I would meet her
In that cold-floored waiting room in Magherafelt,
Her shopping bags full up with shovelled ashes.
Death walked out past her like a dust-faced coalman
Refolding body-bags, plying his load
Empty upon empty, in a flurry

Of motes and engine-revs, but which lorry
Was it now?

George Kovac, Coconut Grove, Florida

From: Martha O’Kennon (mokennon albion.edu)
Subject: rhapsode

The underground etymology of the word “rap”.

Martha O’Kennon, Albion, Michigan

From: Raphaele Malandain (raphaelesc aol.com)
Subject: Bon viveur

While I highly trust and respect your work and Wordsmith.org, I question your choosing “bon viveur” rather than the more commonly used “bon vivant”, which you mention is a synonym. But in my view, “viveur” is rather unusual and makes me wonder whether it might be a Lebanese expression. I was born and raised in France, if that gives me any credit. Would love to hear your take on this.

Raphaele Malandain, Houston, Texas

A number of readers sent similar comments. As mentioned in the etymology, the term is pseudo-French, meaning it’s not used in French (there is, though, the genuine French word viveur meaning a hedonist). The synonym bon vivant is, as you noted, the more common of the two -- we featured it a couple of years ago.
These pseudo formations are not unique to English. French has its own, for example, shampooing (for shampoo) or self (for a self-service restaurant). Also, see some German examples in the coming Monday’s introduction to words borrowed from German.
-Anu Garg

From: Dharam Khalsa (dharamkk2 gmail.com)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words

The anagram to the right is composed of all the letters in these five words below, plus this heading:
1. boulevardier
2. pachyderm
3. revenant
4. rhapsode
5. bon viveur
1. dapper “man about town”
2. insensitive, shellac-hard; grew tough elephant hide
3. revives, returns from the dead; ghost
4. poem reciter
5. food lover, by his lavish table
The text in the right box is an anagram of the text in the left.

Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina

From: Robert Jordan (alfiesdad ymail.com)
Subject: This week’s words anagrammed

1. boulevardier
2. pachyderm
3. revenant
4. rhapsode
5. bon viveur
1. mondain
2. proven very brutal
3. shade
4. bard (oh, verve!)
5. epicure

Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand

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

“At the wedding,” said Madame Thenardier,
“You’ll pose as a suave boulevardier.
At scams we’re a whiz
In this show called ‘Les Miz’
Stealing silver and drinking the Beaujolais.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Sir Ralph, a suave boulevardier,
Wore spats and a red boutonniere.
He preferred to dine
On oysters and wine,
Though he snuck the occasional beer.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodth snet.net)

There once was a young pachyderm,
Who thought she had picked up a germ.
With belly so thick
She assumed she was sick,
But the vet said, “You’re carrying full-term.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodth snet.net)

Of Donald Trump I can affirm,
A Republican, pachyderm,
Can insult everyone,
In the campaign he’s run.
Elected, he’ll do it long term.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Homer writes of the Trojan War revenant,
homeward bound, slowed by many an incident.
Odysseus misses
Penelope’s kisses
til again he’s an Ithaca resident.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

The ramifications were evident
When Jesus appeared as a revenant.
Most every apostle
Said “Dude, you’re colossal!”
But Thomas at first was more reticent.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

At the rest home, their guest, a young rhapsode,
too quickly slipped into the rap mode.
But ‘twas not as he feared,
for his audience cheered
as they tucked themselves up in their lap robes.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

When asked, “What he did?” He then told,
“I’m employed to be a rhapsode.”
Asked, “Does he make money?”
Replied, “Don’t be funny.
I can’t now for I have a cold.”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“What gifts do you think he’d prefer?”
The three kings asked a young bon viveur.
Came the answer, “Don’t skimp,
He’s a special young imp.
I’d bring frankincense, maybe, and myrrh.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I think if ever there were,
A candidate, bon viveur,
If Trump truly did want,
To be called bon vivant,
And most likely, emperor.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Putrid puns to paint people

Ferdinand was the boulevardier children’s author, Munro Leaf.

If you’re so unhappy, why don’tcha pachyderm trunk and leave?

When you revenant, it makes that nant go faster.

Over the years, rhapsode much to legitimate poetry.

“In bonn viveur socialites,” said the expat German couple.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Words are the soul’s ambassadors, who go / Abroad upon her errands to and fro. -James Howell, writer (c. 1594-1666)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2023 Wordsmith