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AWADmail Issue 746

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: Interesting stories from the Net

What the Folk? The Charming Yet Totally Malappropriate Story of Folk Etymology


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From: Wojciech Setlak (wojciech.setlak gmail.com)
Subject: verbs

You wrote: “Well, it may be possible to crank out a sentence or two without verbs, but this train isn’t going very far.”

No ghosts in this forest.
Only squirrels, drops of sun
bird songs and wind.

Deep down, quiet tree roots,
in search for water, entangled
around old white bones.

(IANAP, but the challenge was irresistible).

Wojciech Setlak, Warsaw, Poland

From: Sylvie Romanowski (s-romanowski northwestern.edu)
Subject: verb “to be”

Some languages do not use the verb to be unless really necessary, for example, in Polish, “to dobze,” literally: that good, “is” being omitted.

Sylvie Romanowski, Professor Emerita of French, Evanston, Illinois

From: Joel Mabus (joel.mabus pobox.com)
Subject: Sentences without verbs

Your verb-free sentences today reminded me of a joke that the sardonic satirist Mort Sahl often told after he was lambasted in a New York Times review in the 1960s.

“The Times writes sentences without verbs: ‘No comedian he.’”

Joel Mabus, Kalamazoo, Michigan

From: Ossie Bullock (osmundbullock aol.com)
Subject: confute

This sends me, immediately and inescapably, to those terrifying words at the start of the final movement of Mozart’s Requiem, one of the most unsettling passages of music ever composed: “Confutatis maledictis, flammis acribus addictis” -- the agony of the wicked (as he saw himself), silenced and cursed and consigned to the fierce flames of hell. Followed, of course, by the beauty and peace of the “Voca me” -- abject contrition, and a desperate plea to be forgiven and called to heaven among the blessed.

It’s undeniably powerful stuff, even as an aging atheist, though I tend to feel that your deathbed is a bit late to start promising to mend your ways. But I’m veering badly off-topic now... unless some outraged Catholic would care to try and, um, confute the argument?

Ossie Bullock, London, UK

From: Janet Rizvi (janetrizvi gmail.com)
Subject: confute

From Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, transl. Edward Fitzgerald, verse 43

“The Grape that can with Logic absolute
The Two-and-Seventy jarring Sects confute :
The subtle Alchemist that in a Trice
Life’s leaden Metal into Gold transmute.”

Dr Janet Rizvi, Gurgaon, India

From: Rod Tritton (rod thetreedoctor.co.za)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--confute

Thought for the day, about your thought for the day:
“When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set.” -Lin Yutang

We need to find another metaphor to describe the “small man” syndrome. Although we probably are all racist and sizist and sexist, just below the skin, it is not fair on all short people to be labelled with a syndrome. Our language should grow to reflect our mores, and it is not very tolerant to be -ist of any sort these days, and most of all not generalist. Similarly though, it is not fair to be blacklisted for using tarred phrases while we learn not to offend people :)

Rod Tritton, Cape Town, South Africa

From: Julio Gómez (laujugo gmail.com)
Subject: propine

The word in Spanish is “propina”, a small present of money given to someone for performing a service.

Julio Gómez, Caracas, Venezuela

From: Claude Généreux (genereux.claude gmail.com)
Subject: propine

As a noun (propina) it evokes in Spanish the daily and rampant corruption happening in the country immediately south of your border.

Claude Généreux, Montreal, Canada

From: Ferenc Korompai (korompai msn.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--propine

Tip (gratuity) in Hungarian is “borravaló”, literally “for wine” i.e. “have a drink on me”.

Ferenc Korompai, Temple, Texas

From: Patrick Lashbrook (pLashbrook msn.com)
Subject: Flocculate

All home brewers are intimately familiar with this word. After pitching our chosen yeast culture into the prepared wort, we sit back and hope for clear signs of flocculation within the next 24 hours.

Patrick Lashbrook, Johnson City, Tennessee

From: Lester Jacobson (lesterjake comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--flocculate

Coincidentally, the word flocculate got star billing at a tour last Saturday of our hometown water treatment facility, where we took our grandson. The engineers used it to describe one technique (flocculation) to filter out particles from our lake water, and even used it as a verb (to floc).

Les Jacobson, Evanston, Illinois

From: Alan Etherington (alan-e ntlworld.com)
Subject: Flocculate

A new meaning for the word flocculate could be that the large group of sheep that were expected didn’t arrive on time.

Alan Etherington, Billingham, UK

From: Nancy Boerman (grandmere14 att.net)
Subject: flocculate

I first learned the word flocculate in 2006 from a Frazz comic by Jef Mallett. His precocious 3rd grader, Caulfield, says he is flocculating his Nestle’s Quik. His friend Frazz observes, “Discovering a new word is like finding money on the sidewalk,” and he replies, “The sooner you can blow it, the better!” Sort of like A.Word.A.Day.

Nancy Boerman, South Holland, Illinois

From: Buddy Gill (e-rgill2 juno.com)
Subject: Re: Objurgate

Long ago, I discovered The Centipede, by Ogden Nash:

“I objurgate the centipede,
A bug we do not really need.
At sleepy-time he beats a path
Straight to the bedroom or the bath.
You always wallop where he’s not,
Or, if he is, he makes a spot.”

The poem sent me to the dictionary for objurgate, a word I’ve never had the occasion to use -- until now.

Buddy Gill, Black Mountain, North Carolina

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: absolve and objurgate

Illustration: Alex McCrae
Illustration: Alex McCrae
Riffing on our USAGE example for “absolve”, I’ve magically transported 13th-century Florentine author of The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri, to the modern-day “Big Apple”, where he’s banishing the forlorn New York Mets’ “Number One Fan” to Major League Baseball purgatory.

An objurgatory Lady Macbeth scolds her wee Scottie dog, “Spot”, who’s just made a “wee-wee” on the throne room floor. Clearly, here I’m going for a shameless echoing of Will Shakespeare’s doomed Scottish queen’s classic line... “Out, out damn spot.”, where her Highness literally had self-incriminating blood on her hands... a stubborn crimson stain that ultimately sealed her fate.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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 the five words below, and this heading:
1. confute
2. propine
3. flocculate
4. absolve
5. objurgate
1. prove wrong, negate
2. gift, tip
3. join matter in lump or blob; status after a wound (oh, blecch!)
4. release, let off
5. chastise, chide, give one hell (ooh, that’s dad!)
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. confute
2. propine
3. flocculate
4. absolve
5. objurgate
1. countervail
2. boon, a use
3. glob up
4. let off, eject
5. carp

Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand

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

A fact-checker should be astute
since her work is to all lies confute,
but with Donald, the Grinch
her job is a cinch;
his acquaintance with truth is minute.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Says the Donald, “You just can’t confute
That in business I’m very astute.
And with stardom I’m armed
So that women are charmed
When I grab them in places hirsute.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

In restaurants it is quite mean
Not to leave a proper propine.
If next time, here’s the scoop,
Waiter might spit in soup,
Or give cutlery that’s unclean.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

When the Donald is venting his spleen,
His poor chauffeur he has to propine,
For who else will listen
When women he’s dissin’
With language that’s from the latrine?
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

She’d really need to cogitate
before she’d ever osculate
when lips reveal
a recent meal
and teeth where remnants flocculate.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Mrs. Clinton he’d like to incarcerate,
The rest of us Donald would flocculate
By race and religion
And those that he’s itchin’
To grope and demand that they copulate.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Mrs. Clinton caused her head to revolve,
but Trump’s actions she couldn’t absolve.
The GOP party line
is too scary this time.
This election’s a cocktail molotov.
-Demi Brown, Sarasota, Florida (editorial pineapplepress.com)

When autumn begins to evolve,
The scenes of summer dissolve,
Making way for the new
As November peeks through,
October’s bright flame will absolve.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodth snet.net)

Hillary won’t take the bait
When The Donald becomes irate.
She has a penchant
For being more trenchant,
It’s her way to objurgate.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodth snet.net)

When you talk to your plants they won’t germinate
If you shout and you scold and you objurgate.
An Englishman knows
That a garden best grows
Hearing verbs that you properly conjugate.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Very vexing verbs

“Anything you confute, I confute better,” said James Galway to Jean-Pierre Rampal.

In an Olympic locker room you might see a propine in a cup.

Shepherd to scattered sheep: “I have an errand in town -- I’ll have to flocculate.”

To get a 6-pack, go to the gym and work on your absolve the time you’re there.

The Cockney kids said, “If you lock it on ‘allowe’en we’ll raise ‘objurgate.” (hint)

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

By words the mind is winged. -Aristophanes, dramatist (c. 448-385 BCE)

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