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AWADmail Issue 794

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 Michael Kahan (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 >

Welcome, new readers!

A warm welcome to students from:
Audubon High School and thanks to their English teacher, Jessica Mellwig, for sending subscriptions to her students
Berwick Academy and our thanks to their teacher for helping spread the joy of words
Kansai Gaidai and a big thank-you to their teacher for spreading the word

From: Charlie Cockey (czechpointcharlie gmail.com)
Subject: sitzmark (Re: words that are not necessary)

I must object vehemently to the charge that “sitzmark” is “unnecessary” -- the person making this claim is obviously not a skier.

Just as it is impossible to learn a foreign language without making mistakes, some of them embarrassing, it is impossible to learn to ski without falling down; and one learns quickly that it is much better to give in to gravity and stop the downward rush by “falling” uphill, simply sitting down on one’s padded butt, than to tumble headfirst downhill and risk pain if not severe injury. The emblem of failure, the telltale and obvious impression in the snow, the aptly named sitzmark.

For one thing, what else can you call it?

Charlie Cockey, Brno, Czech Republic

From: Bruce Bailey (brucewbailey gmail.com)
Subject: That Bruce C. is so wrong!

I wouldn’t mind if some obscure synonyms were dropped to keep the dictionaries smaller, but those two examples (palimpsest and sitzmark ) are vital! I write palimpsests practically every day. I take pages that come off my printer, cut them in half, and write such things as “todo” lists on them. Better to reduce than to recycle. Once I’ve finished with my palimpsest, I then recycle it.

Think of all the extra paint that would be required at ski resorts if they had to resort to writing “Please fill the holes you make in the snow when you fall on your butt” rather than “Fill your sitzmarks.” Oh, you could maybe try to use “divot” as a new synonym for sitzmark, but only golfing skiers would understand. But what about snow-boarders you ask?

Bruce Bailey, Cupertino, California

From: Art Funkhouser (art funkhouser.ch)
Subject: Words we can do without

I vote for “dystopian”. I got along fine for more than 70 years without it and see no reason that I have to now be confronted with it so frequently.

Art Funkhouser, Bern, Switzerland

From: Danielle Austin (danielle13 san.rr.com)
Subject: Goodbye words

Your commentary about words that we wish didn’t exist reminded me that during my teaching career several teachers would have graveyard-themed bulletin boards and on the headstones would be words the students weren’t allowed to use in their final compositions (such as “like” and “good”). These teachers also gave their students lists of words to replace overly used words, which helped a lot.

Danielle Austin, San Diego, California

From: Faith Eckler (Wordways aol.com)
Subject: medication

When I was young (more years ago than I care to remember), if I was sick and went to the doctor, he (always he) prescribed some medicine. Nowadays she prescribes a medication. An example of needlessly using a long word when a shorter one will do. At least they don’t prescribe a medicament!

Faith Eckler, Basking Ridge, New Jersey

From: Don Frampton (collepardo btinternet.com)
Subject: wordless worthless words

Words that should not be: Immediately one springs to mind ... FREE. Used so often in the context of the sale..buy one and get one FREE. Book a holiday and get FREE luggage.. buy one coffee get the 2nd FREE. FREE is the big lie.

M Don Frampton, Newton Abbot, UK

From: Esme Greenfield (knersis maxitec.co.za)
Subject: A word that should not exist

The word “actually” should be wiped off the face of the earth! And what about “different” in a sentence such as “There are three different colours.” Duh?

Esme Greenfield, Vermont, South Africa

From: Elizabeth Bagby (elizabeth.bagby gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--whataboutery

Bachelorette should go away. It’s hideous -- you can’t pronounce it without sounding drunk -- and it’s never used unless a woman is about to get married, which makes it rather pointless (as opposed to bachelor, which can comfortably describe an unmarried man at any stage of life). No one seems to know the exact origins of bachelor, but it did spend some time as a gender-neutral term (meaning “serf”), and I’d love to see it become gender-neutral again. English does need a nonjudgmental word for unmarried women.

Elizabeth Bagby, Chicago, Illinois

From: Ama Bolton (barleybooks hotmail.co.uk)
Subject: Words that should not exist: wellness

Words that should not exist: I’d like to propose “wellness”. We have two perfectly good words, health and well-being. This monstrosity is redundant, but so ubiquitous that it’s probably here to stay.

Thank you, Anu, for all you do. You enlighten and cheer me every day, which is something I cannot say even of my husband!

Ama Bolton, Somerset, UK

From: Krishnan Vaitheeswaran (krishnancv yahoo.com)
Subject: Words that should be gone


Krishnan Vaitheeswaran, Brisbane, Australia

From: Reiko Umeda (umeda daido-it.ac.jp)
Subject: Don’t see the need of “fashionista”

I don’t like the word “fashionista”. I don’t know if it’s officially in English or just only Japanese like to use it.

Reiko Umeda, Nagoya, Japan

From: Victor Poleshuck (vpoleshuck gmail.com)
Subject: Words which shouldn’t exist


It’s everywhere on facilities along the roadside, and when I see it, I envision all the people who have locked themselves in cold, dark storage units.

Victor A. Poleshuck, Rochester, New York

From: Nelson (nelsonmybalo gmail.com)
Subject: Words that shouldn’t be

I would eliminate all nouns with feminine suffixes, e.g. waitress, stewardess, laundress, aviatrix, executrix, comedienne, majorette, and so on. A person who welds is a welder, regardless of gender. A person who tallies columns of numbers is an accountant, regardless of gender. At best these suffixes are irrelevant, at worst diminishing.

Nelson, Ha Noi, Viet Nam

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

One example of how the Soviets employed this rejoinder comes to mind. A delegation of American visitors is shown the latest wonder in Soviet technology: an artistically designed, elegant Moscow subway (metro) platform, decorated with paintings, columns, statues, etc., accompanied by fulsome praise on the part of their guide. He goes on like this for a while, at which point one of the visitors timidly pipes up: This is really wonderful, but we haven’t seen a train coming for three quarters of an hour. Yeah?, quoth the guide, and what about your lynching of the blacks?

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Bob Stein (stein visibone.com)
Subject: Noneedery

What I want a word for is the fallacious opinion that something has no use, when it merely has no use imagined by the speaker yet.

“Noneedery,” as it were. (Noneedist, noneedism, etc.)

And anyone who disagrees ... gets their picture taken for the definition.

Bob Stein, Lyme, New Hampshire

From: John Standish (standishjp aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--whataboutery

I use the word “ahbut” or “arbut”. That is what people say when they are trying to prove they know more than you do (“Ah but what about...?”). The world is full of arbutters.

John Standish, London, UK

From: Judi Birnberg (writejudi aol.com)
Subject: A relative of whataboutery

“Yeahbuttery” is slightly less refined but, it appears, more common in the USA. Usually pronounced “yeahbit”. Often used in tandem with today’s example: “Yeahbit whatabout...?”

Judi Birnberg, Sherman Oaks, California

From: Fred Harris (flhcarpediem aol.com)
Subject: Whataboutery

Today’s word, whataboutery, reminds me of a favorite sermon I heard years ago dealing with the “sin” of bearing grudges. The Rabbi giving the sermon, a respected orator, proposed that while having a good memory is a blessing, the ability to develop a good “forgettery” was equally as important in interpersonal relationships.

Fred L. Harris, Paramus, New Jersey

From: Nina Trasoff (nina trasoff.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--whataboutery

I always look forward to my word each morning, but this is the first that triggered a strong need to respond. Perhaps it was the example you gave ... so apt at this moment in our country. It seems to me your next word should be WTFery, the perfect response to Whataboutery. My example would be: “Your response to my statement is a true WTFery: irrelevant and ill-informed.”

Nina Trasoff, Tucson, Arizona

From: Tali Avishay-Arbel (tal_miqa zahav.net.il)
Subject: Whataboutery

“Whataboutery” reminds me of the beginning of Clutch of Constables by Ngaio Marsh. Hazel Rickerby-Carrick sits on her suitcase and writes in her journal, using another joined-together word: “’let us examine my philanthropy. Or rather, since I have no distaste for colloquialism, my dogoodery.”

Tali Avishay-Arbel, Jerusalem, Israel

From: Peter Y. Sussman (peter psussman.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--whataboutery

I too love that Jessica Mitford quotation (“You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty.”). It sounds just like her wit and has been cited on the web countless times, each one reinforcing the attribution to Mitford. Unfortunately, the words didn’t originate with her. Years ago I researched the attribution extensively as I was compiling my book Decca: The Letters of Jessica Mitford. I have traced the quotation back to an article ON Jessica Mitford, describing her attitude, but the words were those of the article’s author, not Mitford’s.

However, what is my one voice and research compared with the hundreds of online attributions quoting other online attributions, with many more to come as your Wordsmith email pingpongs around the web. The web remakes our cultural history in odd ways, repeating errors so many times that they become tantamount to truth. So I will put my pedantry aside and concede that that quotation encapsulates Jessica Mitford’s attitude and that Mitford herself would have loved to have had it attributed to her.

Peter Y. Sussman, Berkeley, California

Thanks for taking the time to write. We’ve added a link to this note with the quotation.
-Anu Garg

From: Thomas W. Filardo (twfilardo aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tenesmus

Tenesmus can be a glaring and tell-tale symptom in an ill patient -- unlikely the patient would, of course, use such a term, but clinicians might record it as a not uncommon term in their vocabulary. Retrocecal appendicitis is not rarely suggested early in its development by rectal tenesmus. Bladder or vesical tenesmus can signal incomplete bladder emptying, from numerous underlying pathologies which would therefore need be investigated: stricture, stone, prostatism, etc.

Thomas W. Filardo, MD, Chief Lexicographer and New Terms Editor of Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, Director, Clinical Research, Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc. (Retired), Cincinnati, Ohio

From: Stu Tarlowe (stuarttarlowe gmail.com)
Subject: Xenophobia

When my psychiatrist told me I was exhibiting a textbook case of xenophobia, I said, “I don’t know what that is, but I’ll bet I caught it from one of those damned foreigners!”

Stu Tarlowe, Rosedale, Kansas

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

This isn’t the Word of the Day; this is the Word of the Year.

Eric Miller, Norwich, Vermont

From: Kate Cook (via website comments)
Subject: xenophobia

“We ‘mutts’ are the way of the future. That will fix xenophobia in the end -- make it too complicated to maintain.”
Sher Dawn; ’Twas Brillig: A Dark Faerie Tale for the Grown Ups; Xlibris; 2017.

Reminded me of this 1993 Time cover (Nov 18, 1993). Still a way off, I fear.

Kate Cook

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

From: Michael Kahan (kahan.michael gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--xenophobia

I remember learning the word xenophobia when I was young. During the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, there is a traditional Hebrew prayer in which congregants admit to a list of sins arranged alphabetically, from aleph to tav. The prayer book that we used translated this prayer by providing an alphabetical list in English from A to Z, and of course the “X” sin was xenophobia.

Michael Kahan, Mountain View, California

From: Sriram Shankar (sri213 yahoo.com)
Subject: kayfabe

That was exactly what DJT was trying to convey when his tiny little fingers typed “covfefe”. And we all mocked him! Shame on us...

Sriram Shankar, Durham, North Carolina

From: Caroline Lawler (cl1314 att.net)
Subject: kayfabe

Sounds like a good word for the entire Trump administration.

Caroline Lawler, Solon, Ohio

From: Jon VanSteenis (regberk yahoo.com)
Subject: Kayfabe

Kayfabe is of earlier origin than 1988. It appears in a book about wrestling, Fall Guys, the Barnums of Bounce published in 1937 by Marcus Griffin, and likely was used in that business before then. It is professional wrestling jargon.

Jon VanSteenis, Mandeville, Louisiana

Thanks for taking the time to write. We’ve updated the entry on the website now.
-Anu Garg

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: mythomania and kayfabe

Endearing cartoon character Pinocchio is the quintessential exemplar of the guilty prevaricator’s elongated schnoz.

In this Trumpian scenario, The Donald shows his true colors... a proclivity for stretching the truth. At least the fictive Pinocchio ultimately redeems himself, learning hard life lessons, and fulfilling his deep longing to become a real, flesh-and-blood little boy.
Clearly, no love lost between current Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and Trump. In this wrestle-mania-like tussle, milquetoast McConnell entered “the squared circle” thinking The Donald was pulling a harmless “kayfabe”. But true to form Trump has changed the rules of the game in midstream, with this potentially suffocating hold... hardly faking it.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

1. whataboutery
2. mythomania
3. tenesmus
4. xenophobia
5. kayfabe
= 1. rebuke
2. obnoxious fib
3. ya’ want to pee!
4. hate many
5. a sham, a myth
= 1. rebut, nay, hoke
2. many a sham
3. mayn’t poo, wee
4. bias; hate
5. bout fix
    -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)   -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)

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

There isn’t any doubt you see,
In showing what a lout is he.
Trump’s quick to switch blame,
And Obama name.
He’s whiz of whataboutery.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

When questioned on his brushes with the law,
he would usually hem and haw.
Today’s whataboutery was something new,
blaming the City for things askew.
Like Donald, in alt-facts, reprieval he saw.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

“I needn’t use language that’s flowery,”
Says Trump, “for I’ve got whataboutery.
Suppose I’m in Vail
And my views they assail,
I just tweet, ‘Their fake snow isn’t powdery!’”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Yes, Donald won Pennsylvania,
Which adds to his mythomania,
But that’s not why he lies
Or brags ‘bout his size.
Why? No brain within his crania.
-Joe Budd Stevens, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (joebuddstevens gmail.com)

I think that it’s all mythomania
When my uncle from old Transylvania
Says Vlad the Impaler’s
Twin brother, a sailor,
Is coming to bite Pennsylvania.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpower wowway.com)

“We might not defend Lithuania?”
Oh Donald, that’s sheer mythomania.
And saying that NATO
Is dusty like Plato?
Oy vey! May Bob Mueller arraign ya.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

He suffered from mental tenesmus.
His words used to flow with much less fuss.
It came as a shock,
That darn writer’s block,
And made him in pique at his pens cuss.
-Vara Devaney, Damascus, Maryland (varadevaney att.net)

Tenesmus was the poor man’s fate,
An unmet urge to urinate.
He suffered so,
But as we know,
They also serve who stand and wait.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The patient’s perturbed, apprehensive,
till doc diagnoses, “Anent this
complaint: it’s tenesmus.”
Relieved, she says, “Tests must
have proved I’m not anal retentive!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

You asked if readers would discuss
A word whose purge would be a plus.
ko I offer to you
The urge to pee or poo.
I’d like to discard tenesmus.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

When Sheriff Arpaio gets restless,
It looks like a case of tenesmus.
The terrible frown
You will see if you’re brown
Is a look that could burn through asbestos.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Good people should repudiate
Walls built to “make our country great”.
Such plans appeal
To those with zeal
For xenophobia and hate.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Xenophobia’s despicable.
It’s certainly intolerable.
I’m from another country,
Which shouldn’t make one shun me.
It just makes world peace improbable.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (loscamil aol.com)

The Don, with acute xenophobia,
Resides in his own warped utopia.
His DACA besiegement
Is grounds for impeachment.
Evoking in us melancholia.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

“There’s foreigners walkin’ all over ya!”
Shouted Trump, stirring up xenophobia.
The guitarists’ convention
Paid little attention --
Their hero was Andrés Segovia.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Apologies to Alice, there are momeraths who outgrabe
in Washington, not Wonderland they’re gimbling in the wabe.
Oh, how we watch them gyre
adding fuel to the fire.
The slithy toves are running things; it’s all one big kayfabe.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Hey, Sweetie, come close and I’ll share
The biggest mystère in Times Square.
How a dummy like me
Could be tops in DC?
It’s kayfabe, from the pin to the hair.
-Anna C Johnston, Coarsegold, California (ajohnston13 gmail.com)

A gal wrestler named May Gabe
Was considered the queen of kayfabe.
She did wrestle the best,
With a double D chest,
And was thought of as a hey, babe.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said God to his angel, “Oh hey, Gabe,
My wrath in the old book was kayfabe.
Sprout wings like a fairy
And tell the girl Mary,
‘Our child will make things okay, babe.’”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: There’s a word for it (just no pun)

Upon seeing the 100,000 volt model, Edison exclaimed, “Whataboutery!”

Only Irish girls who lisp and live in Bangor, Kennebunkport, et al., may enter the Mythomania Pageant.

To fully enjoy the aroma of French cooking, tenesmus be clair.

The psychiatrist said to a colleague, “Speaking of fearful patients, I am xenophobia wouldn’t believe.”

“Mrs. Lincoln, would it be ‘kayfabe came over to play?”

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

You have to laugh at the things that hurt you just to keep yourself in balance, just to keep the world from running you plumb crazy. -Ken Kesey, novelist (17 Sep 1935-2001)

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