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AWADmail Issue 792

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

Sponsor’s Message: Life’s a funny old dog, innit? One of our favorite bands of all time is Steely Dan -- always loved their cool, ludic, laid-back vibe. Their glib, erudite, and clever lyrics and the origin of the name always resonated too, since we’re also a huge fan of William S. Burroughs. Anyway, we met our buddy Ray at Tusk & Cup the other morning for coffee, and ended up playing One Up! with his friend Jon. We all three went at it, hammer and tongs, and Ray ended up just squeaking by with the win. Long story, short -- Jon is the guitarist for the band, and he’s going to make sure the Scrabble they usually play gathers dust from now on. Ha. Anyway, congrats to Email of the Week winner Russell Lott (see below) and all the other wordy music lovers out there -- you never know when you might become a (sidebar) hero to your hero. Read more about “Stealy Dan” here >

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

In Singapore, Chinese Dialects Revive After Decades of Restrictions
The New York Times

Trying to Save South Africa’s First Language

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Welcome students!

A warm welcome to:
  • Students from Hong Kong International School who joined this week. Our thanks to Kelly Perez, English & Humanities teacher, for telling her students about it. She wrote, “I really enjoy my A.Word.A.Day and as a lover of words I wanted to get my students engaged in expanding their vocabulary, too.”

  • Students from James Logan High School in Union City, California, and a big thank-you to Patrick Hannigan, English & Journalism teacher, for telling his students about it.
If you are a teacher, you can have your students subscribe themselves, or you can send them a gift subscription or we can send them a gift subscription for you (just email us).

From: Bruce Graham (brucegrah gmail.com)
Subject: Gung Ho

Gung Ho was used earlier than 1942 by a New Zealander, Rewi Alley, who worked with the Chinese.

Bruce Graham, Hanoi, Vietnam

A few other readers wrote about Rewi Alley. Please note that we list the earliest documented use of the word in English. While Rewi Alley was involved with the Gongye Hezuoshe (Chinese Industrial Cooperative Society), the term as used in English “gung ho” is a different beast. Much happens as words travel across oceans. As another example, the English word juggernaut has its origins in Hindi jagannath, but it has completely changed, in meaning and pronunciation, as it’s used in English. For more on the term “gung ho”, please see this article in the journal American Speech (Feb 1967).
-Anu Garg

From: Mabel Downing (mabenid aol.com)
Subject: Gung ho

My dad used to say, if someone comes to you all gung ho with a new project, be sure to find out who is going to be doing the gung-ing and who is going to do the actual hoe-ing.

Mabel Downing, Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania

From: Clinton Meza Anglin (san_diego_top hotmail.com)
Subject: Ho-hum

I thought you might be interested in this photo of a street sign from Carefree, Arizona.

Clinton Meza Anglin, San Diego, California

From: Rachel Blau DuPlessis (rdupless temple.edu)
Subject: juncture

Gung-ho, ho-hum, ... single syllables--head to tail. Like a renga (Japanese poetic form/mode), but word or syllable or phoneme, not a line. Tail of one is head of the next.

Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Professor Emerita, English Department, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From: Susie Doherty (macgoddess1989 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ho-hum

I am sitting here, reflecting on the irony of ho-hum as the word of the day today. On Day Five of Hurricane Harvey, we are stranded in our subdivision east of Houston. We are luckier than most since we are high and dry and still have electricity and Internet. We stocked up on just about everything before the storm, so we are doing OK.

Neighbors are checking on and helping other neighbors. Friends and family have been texting, emailing, and calling from afar. One friend, a weather spotter in Denver, gets up in the middle of the night and follows us on her radar screen during warnings, letting us know where the tornado is headed as we shelter in our safe place.

My husband says we are watching disaster from within. This is a surreal experience, and I’ll never describe it as ho-hum.

Susie Doherty, Baytown, Texas

From: Sara Hutchinson (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)
Subject: humbug

There is a joke about a couple of students who took the body of a praying mantis and glued the wings of a dragonfly and the head of a beetle onto it and then took their creation to their science teacher. The teacher asked if the insect had made a humming noise and the students nodded. “Well then, it must have been a humbug” said their teacher.

Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware

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

Dickens puts this word into the mouth of Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. The old man uses it every time the question of charitable and cheerful behaviour is proffered, but also when he tries to chase the spooks of his bad dreams and superstitious fears. The word is linked to Bah, not to be confused with the homophone that is the name of the composer who, with his magnificent talent, has given us the most compelling music of charity and kindness ever created. I am referring to his Christmas Oratorio.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Autumn Zawadzki (autumn trinityfreeclinic.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--humbug

I was surprised to see the meaning. I live in Indiana, and I have heard it used here in a very different way. You might hear someone say something like, “He’s such a humbug!” or “Don’t be such a humbug!”, meaning that a person is very discouraging, has a bad attitude, or is a downer. In other words, they don’t want to join in with activities or frivolities with their companions.

Autumn Zawadzki, Indianapolis, Indiana

From: Glen Toogood (gardenislandcanoe ontera.net)
Subject: humbug candy

Actually, mint and molasses. My grandfather always had a couple in his pocket. I thought the lint was part of the candy. I still buy them whenever I can.

Glen Toogood, Temagami, Canada

From: Frank Baldock (frankbaldock768 bigpond.com)
Subject: Balzac on mothers

The heart of a mother is a deep abyss, at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness. -Honore de Balzac, novelist (1799-1850)

Unfortunately, Balzac’s words are not necessarily universally true, much as it hurts me to report.

Frank Baldock, Allingham, Australia

From: Eric Miller (ericmiller1957 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bear leader

German has a parallel expression, der Bärenführer, based on the same metaphor, but it means a tour-guide.

Eric Miller, Norwich, Vermont

From: Sandi Kurtz (sandik drizzle.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bugbear

Too bad there isn’t a word “bear gung” or you could have circled around quite tidily.

Nonetheless, it’s been fun to see the week develop!

Sandi Kurtz, Seattle, Washington

Email of the Week -- Hey, Nineteen -- Shop The Wicked/Smart Word Game now.

From: Russell Lott (russellwlott comcast.net)
Subject: Re: Word Chain

Each Christmas I put together a “mystery mix” CD for my family and friends. Each year’s mix is a playlist of a dozen or so songs pertaining to a secret commonality. There’s always a lot of competitive fun, and sometimes collusion, to see who can solve the mystery theme most quickly. Your word chain theme this week reminds me of a playlist I did a few years ago that I called “Wheel of Song”.

In it, the first word of each song title was also the last word of the preceding title. Plus, I “completed the circle” with this chain of songs by ending with a song whose title shared this commonality with the first track in the playlist. I’m anxious to see if any AWAD readers will try to “complete the circle” with their word chain submissions this week. Of course, it took 20 songs in my “Wheel of Song” playlist -- beginning with Bobby Darin’s “Dream Lover” and ending with Billy Joel’s “Everybody Has a Dream” -- to make the loop. That was quite a challenge.

Russell Lott, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

From: Sue Litchfield (sue.litchfield bluescopesteel.com)
Subject: Word chain of 17!

This is my second attempt at a word chain -- I instantly thought of one as a result of your first email -- didn’t write it down -- and it was lost forever!

Auto pilot / pilot whale / whale song / song bird / bird dog / dog days / days end / end game / game face / face off / off hand / hand stand / stand down / down play / play time / time out / out wit

Sue Litchfield, Waiuku, New Zealand

From: Stanley Furrow (f13 psu.edu)
Subject: chain

Here is a chain that seems like what you had in mind:

gung ho, ho-hum, hum-drum, drum roll, roll back, back seat, seat belt, belt out, out back, back forty, forty winks, winks at, at best, best man, man up, up front, front office, office boy, boy toy, toy line, line item, item veto, veto proof, proof sheet, sheet music, music box, box social, social service, service dog, dog paddle, paddle wheel, wheel horse, horse opera, opera glass, glass eye, eye-brow, brow-beat, beat-up, up-beat, ...

Stanley Furrow, Reading, Pennsylvania

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: humbug and bug bear

A meeting of two classic misers. Disney’s Scrooge McDuck tries to convince Dickens’s Ebenezer Scrooge that his quest for filthy lucre is not life’s be-all and end-all.

Granted, thrifty Scrooge McDuck does have a pecuniary bent, whilst Ebenezer, in his dotage, ultimately saw the light and the error of his miserly ways, realizing love and compassion far outweigh the dogged pursuit of accumulated wealth. No more “Bah! Humbug!”.

David and Goliath redux? My mischievous gamin, armed solely with a slingshot, stands up to a bellicose bugbear, clearly oblivious to the threatening hirsute, big galoot.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

This week’s theme: Linked words
1. gung-ho
2. ho-hum
3. humbug
4. bugbear
5. bear leader
= 1. being eager bees
2. humdrum, blah
3. (s)he’d sulk, “Ugh”
4. boogie man
5. her tutor
(dk, “Whew!)
      1. gung-ho
2. ho-hum
3. humbug
4. bugbear
5. bear leader
= 1. eager
2. bland, meh!
3. bum, bah!
4. uh, booger? ugh!
5. guru
   -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)     -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)

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

They carry torches in the night
And dress themselves in sheets of white.
“Fine people, you know.”
Our leader’s gung ho,
To these neo-Nazis’ delight.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Our hockey players just go, go, go,
Incurring penalties -- repeated in slow-mo,
But icing the puck
Won’t bring them good luck
No matter how much they’re gung-ho.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

Said Kipling, “The kids are gung-ho
For the stories I wrote called ‘Just So.’
The elephant’s trunk
And the camel’s great hump
Are explained, or else how would one know?”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Business was good for the ho’, some,
For her sex was just something ho-hum,
But customers came,
With groins all aflame,
Just there for relief to flow some.
-Chris Papa, Colts Neck, New Jersey (doxite32 gmail.com)

What can one answer but ho-hum
When I tell you Donald is so dum
“Boring, dull, and routine”
And not seen as quite keen,
I’ll bet he thinks “poem” rhymes with “ho-hum”.
-Joe Budd Stevens, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (joebuddstevens gmail.com)

The weather just used to be ho-hum.
To weather forecasts we’d become numb.
But then came ole Harvey.
Poor Houston! So sorry!
The “climate change” theory’s NOT hokum.
Anna C. Johnston, Coarsegold, California (ajohnston13 gmail.com)

A wannabe chef took a risk
tossing humbugs into a salad. Tsk-tsk!
The bloke was gung ho, let’s give ‘im that,
but he didn’t know where he was at.
His career, never ho-hum, was brisk.
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw37 gmail.com)

“In school all my grades were humdrum,
But in bed girls don’t think I’m so dumb,”
Said the jock to his bride
As he swelled up with pride,
But one look and she muttered, “Ho-hum.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The new bride-to-be was gung-ho.
When he’d asked she’d sung high and sung low
Till his lover’s old flame
Unexpectedly came
To her door with three toddlers in tow.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpower wowway.com)

With a smirk on his mug
And the voice of a thug,
Trump lies through his teeth
And expects all in belief
To accept his atrocious humbug.
-Bill Raiford, Thomasville, Georgia (br2002 rose.net)

The First Lady with latte and mug,
Kept herself so protectively snug.
In high heels, “dressed for flood,”
She tip-toed through the mud,
Crying, “Donald, I’m wet. Bah, humbug!”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

“The sheriff’s conviction was humbug,”
Said the man with the heart of a sea slug.
“I’ll issue a pardon,
And oh, how I’ll harden
If next he beats men on a prayer rug.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Happy Winnie the Pooh in his snug lair
might be even a little bit smug there;
without Twitter, TV
he’s content as can be.
Lack of honey is his only bugbear.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Fission or fusion, the radiation bugbear
instills a deep sense of fear
in our hearts and minds
that totally rescinds
any thoughts of going full nuclear.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

At first the little boy didn’t care
When Mom told him about mean bugbear.
Raiding the cookie jar
Went a wee bit too far,
So that night he prepared for a scare.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (loscamil aol.com)

The biggest Republican bugbear
Is providing the masses with healthcare.
“Contagious infections
Help win us elections,”
They say, “cutting voters on welfare.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Years ago a rich young man’s bear leader
was his mentor and his knowledge feeder.
He’d expand his world-view,
teach a language or two,
and encourage him to be a reader.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“Your sister’s an excellent reader,”
declares the young master’s bear leader.
“Keep learning from me,
and soon you will be
as good -- and indeed may exceed ‘er.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Said tutor to student, Peter,
“I resign as your bear leader.
Answers to the test,
You cribbed, you confessed.
I can’t abide a big cheater.”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said Jesus to Andrew and Peter,
“Stop fishing, I’ll be your bear leader.
I’ll heal all the blind
and turn water to wine
Though I’ll never play shortstop like Jeter.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Take a fence at these chain-linked puns

My roommate said, “I’m gung ho to see my parents --- wanna cuh?”

Does a singing prostitute give a ho hum?

No matter how inane the professor’s remarks, don’t let humbug you.

How can a bugbear to see the exterminator coming?

“The Emperor’s New Clothes” featured a bear leader.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

It is frequently the tragedy of the great artist, as it is of the great scientist, that he frightens the ordinary man. -Loren Eiseley, anthropologist, educator, and author (3 Sep 1907-1977)

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