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AWADmail Issue 790

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

Sponsor’s message: “ONEUPMANSHIP is definitely a game where an agile, carnivorous attitude is your best ally. Pity the innocent who expects a pastel plastic drive-through Game of Life, or a gentlemanly contest of fisticuffs by Broughton’s Rules.” Anyway, congrats to Email of the Week winner Lawrence J McFarland-Groves (see below) and all the other winners out there -- now’s your chance to play a board game like you don’t like losing >

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

Alt-Right, Alt-Left, Antifa: A Glossary of Extremist Language
The New York Times

Communicating in a Foreign Language Takes Emotion Out of Decision-Making

Strangers Know Your Social Class in the First Seven Words You Say, Study Finds
The Ladders

From: Rick Duncan (rduncan mt.gov)
Subject: Why I unsubscribed (Re: astrology)

Your editorializing over astrology not being a science is a definite turn-off. Have enjoyed your daily offerings for years, but no longer. Check out the history of astrology, and how Arabic astrologer/astronomers of the 13th, 14th, and 15th centuries were considered some of the most enlightened minds on the planet. I am surprised you chose not to take similar aim at Vedic astrology, Chinese astrology, and any of a number of others. I am a classically-trained biologist. I am also, by the accounts of those who have readings from me, a reasonably accomplished astrologer. There may be a dichotomy, but the gap between the two is hardly a chasm.

Rick Duncan, Helena, Montana

At one time I believed in astrology, palmistry, and more. It can be difficult to admit that we have been wrong, but I have learned to follow the truth wherever it may lead. I have also found that to admit my error is another way of saying that I’m better-informed now.

Here’s a simple test that you and anyone can conduct to test astrology:
  1. Make (or have a trusted astrologer make) horoscopes of four people.
  2. Make four copies of each of these horoscopes. (It should be obvious, but remove names, birth dates, and other identifying information before making copies.)
  3. Give one copy of each horoscope to each person.
  4. Everyone has four horoscopes but only one describes their life -- it should be easy for them to identify which one is theirs.
If you believe in palmistry, numerology, phrenology, etc., you can do a similar experiment there. Over the years I have met many people who were very confident in whatever pseudo-science they believed in, but for some reason none of them were willing to do this simple experiment. Perhaps deep down they knew how it was going to turn out.

James Randi did an experiment like this (video, 1.5 min.). You can replicate it too. See also this summary of studies done to determine the validity of astrology. Required reading, for astrology believers and non-believers alike.

By the way, ever notice companies employ people in research, development, sales, marketing, HR, and so on, but not one person in astrology? They do not decide product launch dates based on the position of Venus and Pluto. They do not consider birth charts when identifying best recruits.

Some readers wrote that astrology can be harmless fun. It’s not. It can result in unconscious prejudice, and worse. I have seen astrologers in magazine Q&A columns prescribing astrological nonsense for serious problems relating to health, work, relationship, and beyond:

Magazine reader: Sometimes I feel suicidal. Please help!
Astrologer: That’s because your Saturn is in the third house. Wear a silver ring with a topaz.

Magazine reader: I don’t have a job and am having money problems.
Astrologer: Mars is in a difficult position. Wear a gold ring with a sapphire to pacify Mars.

On second thoughts, I stand corrected -- astrology can be harmless fun, in a comic strip: Star Battleship Astrology.

-Anu Garg

PS: When I said astrology is bunk, I wasn’t talking about any specific flavor of astrology. But since you asked, they all are bunk.

From: Robert Sanford (rhsanford gmail.com)
Subject: Astrology

Carl Sagan had an observation on astrology that your obstetrician had more influence on you than Jupiter. (video, 9 min.)

Robert Sanford, Camas, Washington

From: Scott Wallace (swallace qcmresearch.com)
Subject: Re: astrology

Some time ago, a group of bored engineers decided to foment discord (and perhaps entertain themselves a bit) by founding the pseudo-science known as Jumbo Jetology. The reasoning behind it being that the placement of jumbo jets in the sky at the time of your birth/conception (whatever) had several thousand times the effect on you than that of the planets and/or constellations. I myself was born under the sign of Trans World Airlines with Western Airlines rising.

Scott Wallace, Wildomar, California

From: Glenn Vanstrum (glennvanstrum gmail.com)
Subject: astrology

An acquaintance, a fresh journalism grad, was hired by a newspaper (both shall remain nameless). As a total rookie, he was given the bottom rung job of writing the daily zodiac column. He protested that he knew nothing about astrology. “Nobody else does, either. Just read up on it and fake a column every day,” was the reply. Although he thought he was pretty good at it, they soon hired someone else and booted him up a rung, to obituaries.

Glenn Vanstrum, San Diego, California

From: Gigi Gottwald (gottwalds axxess.co.za)
Subject: Astrology

The South African newspaper “Sunday Times” has just dropped the “Pedant Class” from its pages, a witty and informative column about the finer points of language. They have retained, however, a half-page of astrology drivel. If this is not a prime example of intentional dumbing-down of the readership, I don’t know what is.

Gigi Gottwald, Polokwane, South Africa

From: Sue McLaren (twenty4pawsmoreorless gmail.com)
Subject: Astrology

Giggles here. Now I am totally confused, have no idea who I am without the signature characteristics of Aquarius. And do you mean that “Mercury in retrograde” means nothing? What will we do without something to blame for things going haywire this month? All month!

Sue McLaren, Kimberton, Pennsylvania

From: Walter Richards (via website comments)
Subject: Jupiter

You wrote: Or planets. Jupiter has no effect whatsoever on you.

Actually, Jupiter has a very great effect. It determines whether we live or die, The large gravity of Jupiter affects the orbits of the planets, including Earth. Jupiter protects us from possible meteor collisions.

Walter Richards, New York, New York

From: Jon Vegar Lunde (jonvlunde lillehammer.online.no)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dog days

In Norway, the dog days last from July 23/24 to August 23/24. The tradition says things tend to rot and turn moldy during this period, which is not surprising before fridges. In all of Northern Europe there are weather signs connected with the dog days, like the first day is predicting the weather for the whole period, or that it will end as it begins, or the opposite.

Jon Vegard Lunde, Lillehammer, Norway

From: Peggy Hale Bilbro (pmbilbro knology.net)
Subject: Dog days in French

Thank you, Anu, for providing the etymology for a confusing French word. When it turned so warm here in Paris last month, everyone was bemoaning the canicule. I knew it meant heat wave, but had no idea where that odd word came from. Now I can ooh-la-la the canicule with confidence!

Peggy Hale Bilbro, Huntsville, Alabama

From: Mary Taslimi (mary.taslimi cogeco.ca)
Subject: dog Flower

I misread the first sentence of today’s post -- “My dog Flower is water-shy” -- and wondered why you, of all people, would render dog flower in such a fashion, and why a plant in your garden would be water-shy ...!

Mary Taslimi, Waterdown, Canada

From: Jim Brown (via website comments)
Subject: zoos

I saw this earlier today. A Calvin and Hobbes cartoon from 1993. Spot on, I think.

Jim Brown

From: Gabriel Lodovico (via website comments)
Subject: animals

We have no right to inflict pain, suffering, or even disregard on sentient beings. It’s speciesism and like other isms, time to know better. Flower is lovely. We have a bath-averse 100-lb. malamute. We spelled words until he caught on to w-a-l-k, c-a-r, f-e-e-d. Those were replaced with vehicle, ambulate, and repast, thanks to your site.

Gabriel Lodovico

From: Timothy Ebert (tebert ufl.edu)
Subject: Lionize

I love this word, but I can’t help thinking that it is what lions see with, or maybe what the Eagles sing about in their 1975 hit, “you can’t hide your lionize” (or something like that). At least that tune fits in with the THOUGHT FOR TODAY (O, what a tangled web we weave, / When first we practise to deceive! -Walter Scott, novelist and poet)
(video, 6 min., lyrics, also see mondegreen)

Timothy Ebert, Auburndale, Florida

From: Gail Cawkwell (gail.cawkwell gmail.com)
Subject: lionize

In biology, the similar word “lyonization” is the inactivation of an X chromosome. Women continue to have two X chromosomes, but only one stays functional.

Gail Cawkwell, Armonk, New York

From: Flash Rosenberg (flashberg gmail.com)
Subject: Re: Chicken Hawk -- defining song by satirist Roy Zimmerman

This song provides a rowdy, hilarious, memorable -- and very clear definition! (video, 3 min., lyrics)

Flash Rosenberg, New York, New York

Email of the Week -- Brought to you by ONEUPMANSHIP -- Cheek, challenges and nuance >

From: Lawrence J McFarland-Groves (ljmcfarland aol.com)
Subject: Chicken hawk

When I saw the subject line of today’s offering, chicken hawk, I thought to myself, “Well, this will raise a few eyebrows!”

What came to my mind was a term used in gay bars and clubs in the 1970s. A chicken was a young gay man, old enough to get into one of those establishments, but inexperienced in the social interactions in such a place. Hawk, however, referred to an aggressive older man who preferred young men in the form of a conquest.

As a 17-year-old in 1970, hitting the bars in Greenwich Village, there would always be a chicken hawk I would have to fend off.

Lawrence J McFarland Groves, Wolcott, Connecticut

From: Nils Andersson (Nilsphone aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--blackbird

Blackbird is (or was) also a moniker for a plane that could fly coast to coast in an hour. (US coasts, not Panama’s)

Nils Andersson, Anguilla

From: Bill Venables (bill.venables gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--blackbird

The illustration for ‘blackbird’ was actually a group of aboriginal prisoners rather than indentured labourers, as the meta-data from the site makes clear. It is, nevertheless, a very shocking image.

Most of the ‘blackbirding’ in Australia was in the East where Pacific Islander labourers were used in the nascent sugar cane industry. The practice continued into the early 1900s. Most Australians would now regard blackbirding as an embarrassing euphemism for slavery.

Bill Venables, Dutton Park, Australia

From: Anne Abbo (asabbo49 gmail.com)
Subject: Blackbird

One of my favorite new baby gifts is a new book with a bookmark featuring the last stanza of “The Reading Mother” by Strickland Gillilan. The first stanza includes a reference to blackbirds as slaves:

I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
‘Blackbirds’ stowed in the hold beneath.

Anne Abbo, Topeka, Kansas

From: Jill Lund (via website comments)
Subject: blackbird

I find that I am still not too old to learn. On a visit to Mount Vernon, the Virginia home of George Washington, I found that all references to “slaves” had been changed to “enslaved persons”. The reasoning was that calling persons “slaves” deprived them of their humanity, turning them into mere objects. This was a good lesson that the words we use shape our thinking as much as our thinking shapes our words.

Jill Lund

From: Cat Arnold (via website comments)
Subject: Blackbird

I didn’t know this about enslaved persons being called blackbirds. Immediately I began to hum the beautiful song Blackbird by the Beatles. My interpretation: once was enslaved but now found wings and the correct time. Good song for anyone going through a life change.

Cat Arnold

From: Lawrence Crumb (lcrumb uoregon.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--blackbird

And then there were the “four and twenty blackbirds baked into a pie” -- the 24 bishops of the Church of England.

Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon

From: Peter Duffy (neptune dircon.co.uk)
Subject: Spread-eagle

I’m in London, where not far away we have a pub called the Spread-Eagle. It was said that this term applied to a peculiarly horrible torture used by Vikings. Their prisoner, especially if a chief, would be tied to a tree, hands above head and spread wide. His chest would be cut open down the sternum so that the living organs would be visible, then slowly torn out.

Peter Duffy, London, UK

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Dog days, lionize, and chicken hawk

“Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.”*

This cautionary maxim came to mind in contemplating our word(s), “dog days”. Here, the quintessential English gent, Winston Churchill, finds himself in a bit of a hot-spot, under the pulsating midday sun, confronted by a trio of irate dogs.

Many chroniclers and caricaturists point out the resemblance of his often scowling countenance to a grumpy bulldog. So in my cartoon scenario, “Winnie” stares down his canine doppelganger, of sorts... as temps rise and tempers flair.

*Apparently this bit of observational wisdom came from Rudyard Kipling’s “Gunga Din”. In the ‘30s, playwright Noel Coward titled a catchy Broadway show-tune using this identical line, save, dropping the lead word... “only”.

Donald Trump... “King of The Hill”... “Boss of The Beltway”... clearly takes great pride in his “pride” of lionizing, sycophantic White House aides. None more so than his loyal-to-a-fault, shrewd, icy, senior policy adviser, and anti-immigration advocate (legal and illegal), Stephen Miller.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took considerable flack, as well as a modicum of praise from some quarters, for his kneeling-on-one-knee protest during the playing of the National Anthem. He was protesting the lack of respect and support for school teachers while billions of dollars flow into our military complex... “bombs bursting in air”.

Here, I’ve presented kneeling protester Kaepernick in the guise of a bald eagle team mascot... this once endangered, noble creature being one of our most iconic symbols of US patriotism, freedom, and endurance.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

The text in the right box is an anagram of the text in the left.
1. dog days
2. lionize
3. chicken hawk
4. blackbird
5. spread-eagle
= 1. laid back
2. idolize
3. belches no egg
4. kidnap
5. skyward reach
= 1. blazing
2. praise
3. dodger, cad; wild hen
4. yoke, hack
5. lies back
= 1. carry blaze
2. Ah, wise pick!
3. Hide, Donald!
4. bondage
5. kick legs
    -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

Hot weather can cause such malaise
Sweaty skin is a bothersome glaze.
But if swimsuits you skip
And with friends skinny dip,
You’ll have fun while for prudes it’s the dog days.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpower wowway.com)

Would that dog days were only for dogs
and slime ponds produced only frogs!
From you-know-who we’d be free,
we’d all shout “Yessiree!
No more tweets, midnight rants, pettifogs.”
-Brenda J. Gannam, Brooklyn, New York (gannamconsulting earthlink.net)

Summer’s lazy and sultry dog days,
Where we view life from hammock or chaise.
A time to retreat
To lethargy sweet,
‘Til the fall knocks us out of that phase.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

“The hatred is on many sides,”
Said the one whom most others deride.
It’s the Senate’s dog days
And they can’t muster “yeas”
For a man going out with the tides.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

While some keep their eyes on the prize,
One man provokes hatred and lies.
But all I’ll remember
When he’s gone in December
Is his orange hair and lionize.
-Adam Perl, Ithaca, New York (adam pastimes.com)

Trump likes to Putin lionize.
His obsession isn’t so wise.
While George Bush saw his soul,
Donald Vlad would cajole,
“Just look into my lyin’ eyes.”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

If with words of the self-lionized
Our crops could all be fertilized,
No more hunger among us,
Just a Washington fungus,
A magic mushroom we might not despise!
-Steve Cabito, Santa Rosa, California (steve cabito.com)

I still can’t believe my own eyes
When I see who crowds yet lionize.
A nasty old gremlin
Who works for the Kremlin
Selected by Vladimir’s spies.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I have witnessed this week a real chicken hawk;
A cheap coward who can not walk the walk.
He’s so busy condemning
Those who stand up defending
The ones who know how to talk the talk.
-Bill Raiford, Thomasville, Georgia (br2002 rose.net)

Old men make wars for young men to fight;
their agenda, let our might make right!
But our own chicken hawk
isn’t brave, he’s all squawk.
Maybe that’s why he can’t sleep at night.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

The chicken hawk as National Bird
Would be, for pure logic, preferred.
With all our politicos
Whose bravery is just a pose,
It really is not so absurd.
-Anna C Johnston, Coarsegold, California (ajohnston13 gmail.com)

“With fire and fury we’ll talk,”
Says the world’s number one chicken hawk.
“I’ll show them how brave
A real man can behave,
For I’m fearless as beaver I stalk.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Black birds are still some of my faves,
Their jet plumage deserving of raves.
But now that I’ve learned
how “to blackbird” was turned,
I’ll see all black birds henceforth as slaves.
-Brenda J. Gannam, Brooklyn, New York (gannamconsulting earthlink.net)

The blackbirds were aghast to find themselves in the pie.
They cried blue murder and vowed not to die.
After it was baked in the oven,
the king cut the big pie open.
Out flew the blackbirds and gouged out his eye.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Wakefield, Massachusetts (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Given this grim definition,
of which I had no precognition,
I find I lack words
to write of blackbirds --
poor souls in such wretched condition.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Said Donald, “Nice work on your placard,”
As Nazis and Klansmen he flattered.
“For the old days I yearn
When a cross you could burn
And when people of color we’d blackbird.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The tax returns Trump does conceal--
Imagine what they might reveal!
If deeds illegal,
See Trump spread-eagle
In need of the art of the deal.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Our national symbols are regal;
They give satisfaction moral and legal;
But when leaders support
Evil chanters’ cohort,
There’s a blot on the handsome spread-eagle.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

The officer said, “Spread-eagle now!”
So I asked him to please show me how.
He stepped off to one side,
Arms and legs opened wide.
Then he threw me in the old hoosegow.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (loscamil aol.com)

“Get down on the ground and spread-eagle,”
Said Lucy to Snoopy, the beagle.
“We’re making this yard
Great again and you’re barred.
We’ve decided your breed isn’t legal.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Anu sends his words animal ‘em over

When folks lose da family dog dey’s sad.

About whom did The Eagles sing, “You can’t hide, you’re lionized”?

Over-borrowing has put me and my chick in hock.

Three days after Mr. Blackbird his wife, he died also and was cremated.

His friend, Diegel, died the same day. They spread Diegel, too.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist. -Angela Davis, activist, author, and professor (b. 26 Jan 1944)

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