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AWADmail Issue 751

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

Sponsor’s Message: What memories does “old school” evoke in you? “Thank you” instead of “No problem”? Saddle shoes. White handkerchiefs and white gloves. A hand-written note. Hitchhiking. Let us know - we’re offering this week’s Email of the Week winner, Andrew Pressburger (see below), as well as all you traditionistas out there a yuge chance to tell us what you miss most about the world we are losing or have already lost. You may even win some of our authentic ludic loot, to boot. ENTER The Old’s Cool Contest NOW.

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

The Spanish Lesson I Never Got at School
The New York Times

Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year is Post-Truth
Oxford Dictionaries

Dictionary of 50,000 Surnames and Their Origins Published
The Guardian

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Kakistocracy

In his monumental novel The Man Without Qualities, the Austrian writer Robert Musil, satirizing the now defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire, refers to it as Kakania. The name is derived from the abbreviation of the Dual Monarchy, K. und K., i.e. Kaiserlich und Koniglich, or simply kaka. Both the etymology and the connotation are the same as in kakistocracy: a pile of excrement.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Frank Schoeman (fschoem44 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--kakistocracy

“The Indo-European root kakka-/kaka- (to defecate)” lives on as noun and verb in Afrikaans as “kak”. When I was growing up in South Africa it was a definite no-no in polite society.

Frank Schoeman, Somers, New York

From: Magdalena Rahn (pourpree yahoo.com)
Subject: kakistocracy

Before opening the email, I was amusedly thinking that could be about persimmons... “Kaki” in Japanese, and also in French. Rather preferable to the actual meaning, perhaps.

Magdalena Rahn, Astoria, New York

From: Ted Hochstadt (tedbh yahoo.com)
Subject: kakistocracy

The Indo-European root kakka-/kaka- is also the root (through German) for the Yiddish expression “alter kocker,” which Leo Rosten in the “Joys of Yiddish” defines as a vulgarism meaning a “crotchety, fussy, ineffectual old man.”

Ted Hochstadt, Falls Church, Virginia

From: Kenneth Gorelick (pulmon comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--coulrophobia

I thought it meant fear of Ann Coulter. Then I realized it was the same thing.

Kenneth Gorelick, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania

From: Peirce Hammond (peirceah.03.01 gmail.com)
Subject: Boodler

Those of us who attended a certain small college may have sung: “Then here’s to the health of Eph Williams. Eph Williams, who left us his boodle by will...”

Peirce Hammond, Bethesda, Maryland

From: Ullrich Fischer (ullrich.fischer gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ambisinistrous

I prefer “ambiclumsy” for that state of affairs. It is more direct and is how I describe myself.

Ullrich Fischer, Surrey, Canada

From: Jo Sandrock (josandrock gmail.com)
Subject: Ambisinistrous

I deeply resent this presumption that anything on the left (including socialism) is no good. It starts with the word sinister and goes on from there. I’m left-handed and any left-handed person will tell you that we’re forced to be reasonably ambidextrous because everything is made for right-handed people, and if it isn’t it costs more. Love to you all.

Mrs J.L. Sandrock, Johannesburg, South Africa

From: Pauline Ridel (ridel.pauline gmail.com)
Subject: Two Left Feet

Richard Thompson’s song Two Left Feet, from his album Hand of Kindness, can be heard on YouTube. Paradoxically perhaps, it’s great fun to jig around to.

Pauline Ridel, Saint-Privé, France

From: Carol Culwell (106cac gmail.com)
Subject: defenestration

Sadly, the San Francisco defenestration building is no more.

Carol Culwell, Oakland, California

From: Gary Lee-Nova (gary_lee-nova shaw.ca)
Subject: defenestration

I get a strong laughter reaction very time I read a scene in Kurt Vonnegut’s Jailbird. It takes place where the only crime is “ingratitude” and the punishment is defenestration.

A character named Fender was convicted of the crime and thrown out a window. His last words, as he went sailing out a window thirty stories up, were these: “Thanks a miiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiillnnnnnnnnnn!”

Gary Lee-Nova, Vancouver, Canada

Email of the Week: Brought to you by OLD’S COOL - It’s a bargain because it lasts almost forever.

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Defenestration

There were actually two instances of defenestration in Prague. The one mentioned in your note was in imitation of an attack that occurred two centuries earlier, during the Hussite wars. In this seven members of the city council were thrown out of a window of the Prague city hall by the enraged mob, led by the Hussite priest Zhelivsky (who, incidentally, was rewarded by having a major subway station named after him by the Communist regime three-and-a-half centuries later). Who says history is not cyclical?

The word finestra also plays a major role in Mozart’s Don Giovanni in a scene where the Don’s servant Leporello, wearing his master’s cloak, serenades the latter’s lover Donna Elvira, while the notorious reprobate, disguised as the servant, is trying to woo Elvira’s maid to come to the window. Only the Mozart-Da Ponte duo could think of plots like that.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Robert W. Watson (rmacwat aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--defenestration

Another account of defenestration: 2 Kings 9:33 when Jezebel was thrown down from a window and her blood was spattered on the wall and the horses!

Bob Watson, Cromwell, Connecticut

From: Richard Stallman (rms gnu.org)
Subject: defenestrations

Don’t forget the more recent defenestration of Prague, in 1948, when Russian agents killed Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk.

Personal computers can also be defenestrated -- in two different ways:

  • Throw the PC out the window.
  • Throw Windows out of the PC and install a free (libre) operating system such as GNU/Linux.
Dr Richard Stallman, President, Free Software Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts

From: George Schober (417qahv telus.net)
Subject: Defenestration

Prague seems to be the “defenestration capital” of the world.

George Schober, Victoria, Canada

From: Thomas Koehler (tvkoehler lakeconnections.net)
Subject: defenestration

My first exposure to the word, defenestration, was in one of the many manuals that came with my first computer, an early Apple IIe. This was at a time when printed manuals were the norm for almost everything, and the manuals that came with the computer were written with the assumption that the new owner was an absolute newbie to computers. The manual was well and clearly written, and included a good dose of humor, including the use of “defenestration” in a manual.

Tom Koehler, Two Harbors, Minnesota

From: James Curry (CurryinNM aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--defenestration

In a poetry class some years ago at the University of New Mexico, I said in a humorous free-verse poem that defenestration was “the art, practice, or habit of jumping out of windows”, under the impression that it was often a voluntary if foolish act. I suggested that defenestration suicide could be avoided by getting overly involved in the question of whether to put the left foot or the right foot over the window sill first.

Somewhat to my surprise, I got heavy negative feedback from the instructor and some of the class, along the lines that suicide is serious and not to be made the subject of dark humor. Those in the class who had known someone who killed themselves were particularly critical, and I had not revisited this idea until now.

James Curry, Albuquerque, New Mexico

From: Ingram F Anderson (levelrex gmail.com)
Subject: Defenestration

Medical: Ear drum defenestration to allow drainage out of pus or other fluid.

Dr Ingram F Anderson, Pretoria, South Africa

Coulrophobia 1
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: coulrophobia and defenestration

Curiously, even the most seemingly benign, dare I say friendliest looking clowns can frighten the wits out of a chronic coulrophobic. Some kids, and even certain phobic adults, may just freak out with high-anxiety and fear in the presence of clowns, or merely viewing images of clowns of any stripe... the good, the bad, or the ugly. And that’s no laughing matter.

Coulrophobia 2
I noticed that our second USAGE example for the word “defenestration” comes from the erudite, witty, and intrepid local L.A.-based veteran journalist Patt Morrison. This clever Morrison quotation is typical of her ofttimes tongue-in-cheek, humorous take on “lighter” human-interest news stories.

Aside from her steadfast unofficial Southern California “booster” role, and her stellar record as an award-winning journalist, both in print and on the airwaves, her predilection for collecting and wearing funky vintage hats, and her enduring love of dogs has become near legendary amongst the legions of her City of Angels loyal readers, listeners, and admirers.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

1. kakistocracy
2. coulrophobia
3. boodler
4. ambisinistrous
5. defenestration
= 1. American politics
2. scared of Koko
3. briber
4. onerous hand ability
5. toss out
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. kakistocracy
2. coulrophobia
3. boodler
4. ambisinistrous
5. defenestration
= 1. ochlocracy
2. upset at kookier oaf
3. is bent in business
4. maladroit boor
5. rid

Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand

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

The one who is Democratic
Lost to a man plutocratic.
He’s not GOP
But actually
He’s just kakistocratic.
-Tom Keucher, South Bend, Indiana (tkeucher comcast.net)

A demagogue known for hypocrisy
Soon will serve up kakistocracy.
And now there is Bannon,
Forsooth a loose cannon,
To foster a new aristocracy.
-Willo Oswald, Portland, Oregon (woswald teleport.com)

There are countries enduring autocracy,
Kleptocracy, even theocracy.
But being creative
We’ve chosen a state of
The latest new trend: kakistocracy.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

In a kakistocracy top floors
Are the zones to settle old scores
Boodlers above their station
Are led to defenestration
By the canny script on exit doors.
-Mike Parsley, Malaga, Spain (slussen2 gmail.com)

With just a bit more coulrophobia,
Oh Donald, we would have got over ya,
But into your circus
You knew how to work us,
I think I might move to Mongolia.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Anu hints at the POTUS-elect
With many words he chose to select
Coulrophobia? - you bet.
Kakistocracy? - better yet!
Will there be any more to interject?
-Kathy Schiavone, Port Jefferson, New York (mscarrera@optonline.net)

“My opponent,” says Trump, “was a boodler.
It says so whenever I google her.
The Internet’s true
And between me and you
I got slapped when I tried to canoodle her.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The corrupt and most dangerous boodler
Did twenty-five years in the cooler.
He passed his long days
In the strangest of ways
By being the prison’s best doodler.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodth snet.net)

Now, Trump is an often sued sir.
Many say that he’s a boodler.
When he is President,
It should be evident,
Our poor country, he will screw her.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

A boodler with nefarious intent
Settled lawsuits with the mogul’s consent.
By using his guile
To avoid a trial
There’s no compunction to ever repent.
-Kathy Schiavone, Port Jefferson, New York (mscarrera optonline.net)

For diplomacy’s fine warp and weft
we’ve had weavers both knowing and deft.
If the new “foreign minister’s”
unprepared, ambisinistrous,
we’ll have no credibility left.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

When you’re groping some girl or your mistress
It’s annoying to be ambisin’strous.
Writes Trump, “Santa, please,
I get nowhere with these.
Give me hands that are bigly for Christmas.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Democracy’s defenestration
Began with attacks on menstruation.
“She’s not very clever,
She bleeds from wherever,”
Said Trump, and became a sensation.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The two cats, they clawed in frustration
Over which caused the bigger sensation.
“I’m a Calico,” said one,
“With a fur coat bar none,”
While the Tabby planned his rival’s defenestration.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodth snet.net)

I knew a man, Jim, in Orinda.
Though married, he strayed from his Linda.
Said she to her Tim,
“Defenestrate JIM!”
Then Tim tossed ole Jim out the winduh.
-O.V. Michaelsen, (wordplayauthor yahoo.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: But is there a pun for it?

This week’s words put me in real Jeopardy as to whether I could pun upon them. Ergo, I’m “answering” the challenges in question form:

If a military junta takes over, does that create a “khakistocracy?” (What the “h” have I done?)

In “Henry VIII” would you rather wear ‘round your neck a coulrophobia commoner?

Was an ancient Egyptian who stole young foxes and people’s souls a kit ‘n ka boodler?

Masturbation ambisinistrous all, don’t you think?

Without question, defenestration our neighborhood with mosquitoes.

“Defenestration?” Gee, Anu, you pane me. Window I get an easy word to pun on?

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: Thomas Gille (musetomg gmail.com)
Subject: Words, Wit, and Wisdom

I’ve written before about bouts of depression, brought on by events in my life, which led me to stop reading AWAD for a period of time.

Recent events have led me to that sad place again. It was broken with a joyful shout of laughter when a good friend forwarded your Monday entry.

I’ve now caught up with the entire week, and still have a smile on my face. Though it may look rueful, it feels more hopeful than the frown that preceded it.

Thank you for the words, and also the quotations, which can only have been specially selected for this week.

I’m sure you’ll have some people cancel their subscriptions, as they did during other periods when you expressed your opinion through word choice.

But, to quote a wise man: “Never stop speaking. And speak loudly. That’s what language is for!”

Thank you.

Thomas Gille, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin

PS: My subject line is a tribute to William and Mary Morris, who helped inspire my early love of words through a weekly column of that name. You fill their role admirably, some 50 years later.

From: Winifred O’Shaughnessy (dwosh yahoo.com)
Subject: When you know all the words in the dictionary ...

Your story about your daughter made me think of one of my own. Years ago, before the advent of expensive SAT Prep courses, I helped students achieve better results on their Verbal section of the SAT. Realizing that there was so much emphasis on vocabulary, I made them a bet. If they heard or read a word that they didn’t know, they should bring me the word. If I didn’t know it, I would give them a free milkshake. I knew that the words were all around them, but they just weren’t questioning the meaning. So, they got into it. Every day I was challenged and usually I knew the word. But one day, a boy came in with a word I had never heard of, and I said, “OK. You got yourself a milkshake.” He said, “Nah. I don’t need a milkshake. I just like looking for new words now.” Ah. The teacher’s ultimate reward.

And I got my love of words from my father who always kept a dictionary next to the table...as do I...and as do my children. It gets infectious, doesn’t it?

Thanks for your words, ideas, quotations...

Winifred O’Shaughnessy, Mirror Lake, New Hampshire

You may shoot me with your words, / You may cut me with your eyes, / You may kill me with your hatefulness, / But still, like air, I’ll rise. -Maya Angelou, poet (1928-2014)

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