Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 757

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

Sponsor’s Message: Old’s Cool Company hopes that 2017 is a jingle-jangle interesting, ludic adventure for Email of the Week winner Thomas Wilson, as well as all word lovers everywhere. Cheers!

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

The Most Hilarious Sign Translation Fails from Around the World Revealed
Daily Mail

Volkswagen is Changing its Official Language from German to English

The 21 Best New Words of 2016

From: John M Estill (jmestill gmail.com)
Subject: parabole, parábola (Re: AWADmail 756)

I appreciated Serge Marelli’s biblical play on words:

Jesus said : “In Truth, y = x2!”
The disciples were a little confused, and Mark said, “Listen Jesus, usually we can understand what you mean, but this time you’ve lost us.” To this Jesus answered, “This is expected, it is a parable!”
Serge Marelli, Luxembourg

I suspect M. Marelli first cast his pun in French, where “parable” and “parabola” are indeed the same word -- “parabole”. A similar identity holds in Spanish, where both meanings are conveyed by “parábola”.

John Estill, Millersburg, Ohio

From: Julia Brown (juliabrownpr yahoo.com)
Subject: Lyric Tattoo on 12-26

The lyric you highlighted on Monday, Dec. 26 (“I see God in birds and Satan in long words.”) made me giggle. It is the exact opposite for me! I’m terrified of birds and see such great beauty in long words.

Julia Brown, Springfield, Illinois

From: Ron Betchley (emef2012 aol.com)
Subject: Chintz

The Cowardly Lion in the film Wizard of Oz manages to put chintz in its place, with his infinitely memorable line:

“If I were king of the fore-e-e-est / Not queen, not duke, not prince / My regal robes of the fore-e-e-est / Would be satin, not cotton, not chintz...”

Ron Betchley, Yarker, Canada

From: Michael Ross (mikerossqq blueyonder.co.uk)
Subject: long words in alphabetical order

As far as I know the longest word in English in alphabetical order is “billowy” (7 letters).

Mike Ross, Exeter, UK

From: Judy Purvis (judypurvis921 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sesquipedalian

My father, humorist and academic psychologist, once wrote a mock paper, complete with footnotes, on the discovery of an Arabian insect called the Sesquipede. The colonies were run by “surrugations (i.e., committees)” and subsurrogations such as the Sub-surrogations-on-Special-Groups-of-Surrogations. You can imagine how many faculty meetings he had sat through. I quote one of the footnotes here, however, because it applies to today’s word:

“Sesquipede is the accepted form of this name, rather than the frequently-heard sesquipedalian, which should remain adjectival. The vulgarism, sesquipedant, seems to have attained illegitimate popularity through what Professor von Drang identifies as ‘Erin gang zelbstverstandlicher aber volksetymologischer Irrtum’.”

Judy Purvis, Durham, North Carolina

From: David Calder (dvdcalder gmail.com)
Subject: Sesquipedalian

Loved the shop window photo. Recalls my father’s joke word: bachundpantsenschiffersnatcherwagenmechaniwerkehaus...for the garage where a mechanic repairs the dog catcher’s van.

David Calder, New Plymouth, New Zealand

From: Margaret Altman (MirAlt aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sesquipedalian

Yes, German is THE go-to language for sesquipedalian words. Matter of fact, back in the late 1940’s, the literary work our high-school German class was given to read, Albert Schweizer’s Leben und Denken (Life and Thought), was chock full of sesquipedalians. Our favourite indoor sport was scouring the book for its longest word. Finally, one of my classmates found it. It is “Karfreitagnachmittagsgottesdienst” (Good Friday afternoon service), nine syllables. Now, while that syllable count doesn’t exceed that of “Fussbodensschleifmaschinenverleih”, your example, it certainly matches it.

Margaret Altman, Toronto, Canada

From: Helen Colvin (tcolvin sympatico.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sesquipedalian

Image: Mélanie
I was reminded of the name of a village in Wales which has the longest word that I have ever encountered for its name, “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch” (fifty eight letters). Many years ago I had a Welsh friend who spent quite a while teaching me to pronounce it. I can still just about remember it and will on occasions quote it to my young elementary school students if they ask me if I know what the longest word is. They are usually rather taken aback at the torrent of syllables, as they are expecting me to say “Smiles”, as there is a mile between the first and last letters!

Helen Colvin, Mountsberg, Canada

Email of the Week: Brought to you by OLD’S COOL frugal -- Buy bargain loot you’ll love.

From: Thomas Wilson (thomas.wilson.percussion gmail.com)
Subject: hemidemisemiquaver

While I appreciate the sentiment, a hemidemisemiquaver is neither the shortest note nor the note with the longest name. In fact, Beethoven and Mozart both used notes that are four times shorter: 256th notes, or demisemihemidemisemiquavers!

Thomas Wilson, Charlton, Massachusetts

From: Jim Taggart (iagot alum.mit.edu)
Subject: hemidemisemiquaver

Years ago I was doing the New York Times Sunday crossword. The word ran across the whole puzzle. The clue was “Saver of 64th notes”. It worked out to be hemidemisemiquaversaver.

Jim Taggart, Hudson, New Hampshire

From: Robert Lapworth (robert.lapworth gmail.com)
Subject: A mouth full of air

My father recently passed away. He wasn’t a wealthy man, leaving just enough money for his burial and a few belongings -- but he was a rich man and he left me not only his love for words and language, but his complete Oxford English Dictionary and a voluminous collection of books which meant so much to him.

I just wanted to let you know that even though I am the proud owner of this collection, I shall not for one hemidemisemiquaver of a second consider unsubscribing from your A.Word.A.Day.

Robert Lapworth, London, UK

From: John Lepse (j.lepse att.net)
Subject: prefixes gone wild

Another example of prefixes gone wild comes from the medical field: esophogastroduodenoscopy. It’s a procedure most often performed by gastroenterologists.

John Lepse, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

From: Charles Livingston (cliv verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

And I just saw this for the first time today: Super callous fragile racist extra braggadocious.

Charlie Livingston, Plano, Texas

From: Steven Galkin (sgalkin optonline.net)
Subject: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Early on, when I got my first iPhone with Siri, I said to Siri “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” and she answered with, “Is that you, Mary?”

Steven Galkin, Greenwich, Connecticut

From: Sam Long (gunputty comcast.net)
Subject: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

It actually comes from a shopping list that listed cans of Campbell’s, a cruciate vegetable, check prices on a new icebox, some stretchy fabric, ingredients for omelets, some legumes, and some mouthwash. In other words, “Soup, a cauli, fridge, elastic, eggs, peas, halitosis.”

Sam Long, Springfield, Illinois

From: Gordon Cowell (gordoncowell yahoo.com)
Subject: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

When the modest Highland football side, Inverness Caledonian Thistle (Caley), turned giant-killers in the Scottish Cup and beat the mighty Celtic (who have practically converted all football competitions into a one-horse race in recent times), one wag produced the following headline in the Scottish Sun: “Super Caley Go Ballistic, Celtic Are Atrocious”.

Gordon Cowell, Salamanca, Spain

Officially, I'm a dermatoglyphist, but you can call me a palm reader, for short.
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: dermatoglyphics and supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

While working at Disney TV Animation on their studio main lot in the early 2000s, I was privileged to have witnessed the dedication ceremony of the very sound stage where much of Mary Poppins was shot... to Julie Andrews... now officially “The Julie Andrews Sound Stage”.

It was a noonish, outdoor event, and Julie, her “Poppins” costar Dick Van Dyke, and then-budding actress Anne Hathaway were on the improvised stage with quite a sizable gathering of Disney staffers in attendance. Anne had recently costarred with Andrews in the first of their three The Princess Diaries films. Van Dyke, after making a gracious speech extolling Andrews, actually broke into a little lively dance number, reminiscent of one of his “gambits” from Mary Poppins. He was still as spry and funny as ever.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Kathy Borst (kborst mcn.org)
Subject: long words

My favorite long word from high school was antidisestablishmentarianism.

I fear that, if Trump is impeached (or never inaugurated), an eventuality I expect and many predict, Mike Pence, an establishmentarian if ever there was one, will further the cause of creating a State Religion/Church. Then we who oppose it will be the disestablishmentarians. And, if a future president dumps the State Church, those who oppose that will be antidisestablishmentarians. Even though things will be dreadful, at least we’ll get to use some really great words. I find I’m already anticipating looking for the little pleasures through the chaos and hard times.

Kathy Borst, Yorkville, California

From: John Sgammato (john.sgammato actifio.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

In June, we visited Ireland, a land known for its men of letters. From the window of our room in Cork, we saw a dreary alley, on the wall of which was spray-painted Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcani. Alas! to get 36/45ths of the way...

John Sgammato, Waltham, Massachusetts

From: Sonny Gibson (Swgibson74 gmail.com)
Subject: Unsubscription feedback

Unsubscription feedback: Sent way too often and in the middle of the night. Email alerts wake me.

Sonny Gibson, Eugene, Oregon

No one should be woken up in the middle of the night (or day) because the latest A.Word.A.Day has landed in their mailbox, no matter how interesting the word or how profound the thought for the day. The server that delivers A.Word.A.Day to your mailbox gets into action at midnight (New York time) and puts together various components (the word, its definition, etymology, usage, pronunciation, quotation, sponsor’s message, and more). It then hands over the finished email to the mailer which picks up its bicycle and starts its delivery route, putting AWAD into readers’ email boxes around the world. Six days a week. Year round. Santa has to travel only once a year.

Our mailer is a hard-working program. It continues delivering for about five hours without even a single coffee break. Most readers receive AWAD without a hitch. A small fraction don’t. Their mailserver might say, for example, “Hmmm... you have the h-word in the email and it’s a slur. We do not want this email.” What could have been that offending word? The first word of the unabbreviated term H. Sapiens.

By the morning readers have the latest A.Word.A.Day in their email, ready to enjoy with their morning coffee. Since our readers are all around the globe, some receive it when it’s their lunch time or dinner time in the case of Australians.

Back to your feedback. Yes, it’s sent every weekday, as the name implies. It used to be every day, but back in 2000 we changed from seven to five days a week. About the delivery time, we could ask each reader their preferred time to receive it and then program our systems accordingly, but that’s making things too complicated.

So the question is why someone would want to be alerted in the middle of the night on receiving an email, any email. I understand that some might expect important alerts, doctors, for example, but then there are better modes of communication than email.

At any rate, thanks for being a subscriber for the last two years. We appreciated having you over. If you miss us, you know where to find us again. Our mailer still remembers the delivery route to your email box.
-Anu Garg

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words

1. chintz
2. sesquipedalian
3. dermatoglyphics
4. hemidemisemiquaver
5. supercalifragilis- ticexpialidocious
= 1. cheap quilt choice
2. admire his impressive dialog
3. palm reading
4. music equalized in sixty-four
5. it’s special!
= 1. glazed material
2. speech is maxed
3. I have horridly specific palm lines
4. ding (music)
5. is, I quip, quite atrocious
= 1. cloth piece
2. large size phrase
3. I do palm lines
4. music each divided in similar sixty-fours
5. quite a magic quip
    -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)   -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)   -Josiah Winslow, West Allis, Wisconsin (josiah12301 yahoo.com)

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

There was a young lady from Minsk
Who liked to wear flowery chintz.
While eating one day
Her nap’ fell away
And on her lap landed a blintz.
-Gigi Pagani, San Rafael, California (gigi4cats gmail.com)

“In the Oval I should have worn chintz,”
With regret did young Monica wince.
“But to see you-know-who
I put on solid blue.
Now the stain won’t come out in the rinse.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Sensation at the outer space show!
Anti-climax, if you really want to know.
A small, underfed alien
Gave a speech sesquipedalian
And put all to sleep in front row.
-Mike Parsley, Malaga, Spain (slussen2 gmail.com)

“A Cockney girl sounds like an alien
To a gentleman sesquipedalian.
While trying to teach her
He falls for the creature,”
Thought Shaw, “I shall call it ‘Pygmalion’.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Politicians are long-winded folks,
Content of speeches just jokes,
With truth alien,
While given to many a hoax.
-Chris Papa, Colts Neck, New Jersey (doxite verizon.net)

Sesquipedalian is a very long word,
It’s autological I once heard,
Like “finite” or “shown”
Or ‘descriptive” or “known”,
Such words to themselves are referred.
-Kathy Deutsch, Melbourne, Australia (kathy deutsch.net.au)

Blasé, the ecdysiast critic
pronounced her quite dull, soporific.
Then she took off a glove,
and the man fell in love
with her beautiful dermatoglyphic.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Adherents of dermatoglyphics
Insist that it’s science, like physics:
“Your life line is long
And your character strong.”
Like the Donald, it’s short on specifics.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The sad and yet gory specifics
Resulted from a mishap in physics.
The Prof burned his finger,
Over flames he would linger,
Which altered his dermatoglyphics.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

There once was a girl who liked ice cream.
But she didn’t like just any flavor.
“May I have the pistachio?”
She said with braggadocio
And a hint of hemidemisemiquaver.
-June Cussen, Sarasota, Florida (june pineapplepress.com) Hemidemisemiquaver?
Dear Wordsmith, you’ve done me no favor!
Correct limericks
require meter that’s fixed.
Overdone, my line one needs a waiver.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

First hemi-, then demi-, then semi-, then quaver?
From Anu I’ve never yet heard such palaver.
He thinks, “This is it.
It’ll give Steve a fit.”
But like Churchill, I never shall waver.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

A hemidemisemiquaver
Is a term musicians do savor.
It means, and I quote,
“A 64th note,”
But sounds a lot better, I favor.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Lim’ricize Mary Poppins’s word?
To attempt it would be quite absurd.
Since it has fourteen beats
the rhyme scheme it defeats
not to mention this limerick nerd.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

A giant word ending in “docious”
Gives limerick writers psychosis.
But start “supercali”
Insert “expiali”
With “fragil” and “istic,” here goes us!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I am suffering from a word so atrocious,
It feeds into my limerick neurosis.
Anu’s gone round the bend,
Here’s the culprit, my friend:
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

From: Steve Benko (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
Subject: Limericks

This week marks the end of my unbroken streak after just under two years as I prepare to leave on a backpacking trip through India with my younger daughter. The good news is that our (that is, myself, Zelda Dvoretsky, Phil Graham, and Lindsay Crane) book, Limericks in the Time of Trump, a selection of works relating to the 2016 election and featuring an introduction by Anu, will imminently be coming out on Amazon!

I hope AWAD readers will enjoy it and spread the word, and I look forward to resuming my sanity-saving retirement hobby at the end of January.

Steve Benko, New York, New York

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Puns on (mostly) long words

“Would I buy those curtains? Not a chintz.”

The Pacific Northwest’s version of a yeti leaves Sasquapedalian footprints.

That 10-pounder is the world’s largest dermato (glyphics not a fake).

Wanting less vibrato from Ms. Moore on the 5th hymn, the director said, “On Hymn E, Demi, semi-quaver.”

Thank goodness, a pun on “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ has been in the public domain for at least 50 years. On the off chance that a reader has yet to hear it, here goes...

As you know, Mahatma Gandhi walked barefoot most of the time, which produced an impressive set of calluses on his feet. He also ate very little, which made him rather frail and, with his odd diet, he suffered from bad breath. These features combined to make him a super callused fragile mystic hexed by halitosis.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: Jaya Nicholas (jaya.dutch googlemail.com)
Subject: First word

My first word arrived today. Am so thrilled I was introduced to you by a friend. My step-father, Robert Dutch, revised Roget’s Thesaurus in 1962. So we were always aware of words and I now realise how much I missed “new” ones. Thank you.

Jaya Nicholas, UK

In words as fashions the same rule will hold, / Alike fantastic if too new or old; / Be not the first by whom the new are tried, / Nor yet the last to lay the old aside. -Alexander Pope, poet (1688-1744)

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