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Oct 29, 2017
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Coined words

This week’s words
scare quote

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AWADmail Issue 800

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

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

Alphabet Soup as Kazakh Leader Orders Switch from Cyrillic to Latin Letters
The Guardian
(Imagine having to change your alphabet from Arabic to Latin to Cyrillic to Latin! Imagine having to transcribe all your literature ...)

Gatekeepers Say Gender-Neutral Pronouns Pose “Deadly Danger” for the French Language
The Washington Post
(Deadly danger? Oh please! The language will be just fine -- it has been evolving for more than a thousand years.)

Letter of Recommendation: Translation
The New York Times
(Translation - the art of finding just the right word)

From: Nancy R Wilson (wilsonna sonic.net)
Subject: Mimsy

This word leapt off the screen and into my brain in song. I first heard ‘Mimsy’ as a girl’s name in the duet “What a Swell Party This Is” sung by Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby in the 1956 movie High Society. And reading the definition ‘prim’ makes perfect sense.

“Have you heard that Mimsy Starr...” “No, what now?” “She got pinched in the Astor bar!” (lyrics, video 4 min.)

Nancy R Wilson, Petaluma, California

From: Tim Miller (tkmiller000 hotmail.com)
Subject: Mimsy

Besides describing borogroves in “The Jabberwocky” I’ve never heard mimsy used, except of course when referring to my mother. In our family Mimsy never meant feeble, because my mother’s other appellation, when she was swimming in her white bathing suit, was The Great White Whale, just to give you an idea of how unfeeble a Mimsy really is.

Tim Miller, Ithaca, New York

From: Carol Bauer (cacckicarol me.com)
Subject: mimsy

I am the happy owner of a two-volume paperback set of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I found it at a bouquiniste along the Seine. It is in English and again in French on the facing page. The French translation is a marvel of good translating comparable to the Wilbur Moliere translations in quality. For those who know French, the translation of the nonsense vocabulary of Jabberwocky is remarkable.

I have often thought that these two works by Lewis Carroll should only be read by adults who can fully appreciate the messages and plays on words so cleverly included. Just the same, the appeal to children is undeniable. The first movie I ever saw was Alice in Wonderland in 1932 or 1933 when I was about six years old. I was enchanted. I have been a film buff ever since.

Carol Bauer, Torrance, California

From: Paula Walborsky (gloriosagloriosagloriosa gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mimsy

Please let me say I have adored AWAD for many, many years and have come to adore the man who has slowly emerged from behind the chosen words, quotations, etc. I love when you insert your politics into the word choice and love the humor that is so often an ingredient in your posts. But I am drawing the line at “mimsy”. No. We will not give a nonsense word meaning thereby destroying the very thing we love about it. Can you not see it is a kind of etymological vivisection? What next? Gyre? Gimble? Toves? What exactly IS Brillig? We want so much as humans to understand everything. Everything must be analyzed. Nonsense says, oh, no you don’t! Put down that pen and come and play.

Paula Walborsky, Tallahassee, Florida

From: Eric Grosshans (uhclem frii.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mimsy

I tried to conflexicate your etymology of mimsy but my brain out-uffished my tongue and left me completely unfrabjous.

Eric Grosshans, Loveland, Colorado

We had mixed up slithy with mimsy. We’ve corrected the etymology on the website now.
-Anu Garg

From: Marlene Mitchel (marlenemitchel gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--scare quote

Always enjoy Wordsmith and often learn a new word, but today was really eye-opening. Actually “eye-opening” because I tumbled out of bed on this cold rainy day seeking the warmth of your column and learned about scare quotes, a term I had never heard even though I was an English teacher for many years. My students would have loved this term and the others that are related, which I discovered with a bit of research: shudder quotes and sneer quotes.

Marlene Mitchel, Wilmette, Illinois

From: Gordon Thomas (gordonthomas earthlink.net)
Subject: Thank you for the quotation today by Brenda Ueland and a brief note

Inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic striving, but it comes into us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness. -Brenda Ueland, journalist, editor, and writer (24 Oct 1891-1985)

I’m moved to write to you this morning with thanks for today’s quotation by Brenda Ueland. I lived in Minneapolis/St. Paul for the majority of my life (I now reside in Vancouver, BC) and my father knew her quite well. He’d go to her home on Lake Harriet and play the piano and kibitz together. She was a quirky and beloved local character.

I’ve admired her wisdom and wit all my life, and when I worked at Graywolf Press in the nineties, we reissued her classic If You Want To Write, which to this day sits on the bookshelf next to my desk. I actually prefer the edition published by the Schubert Club in 1983, however -- a simple and sweet hardcover volume that sits alongside a signed copy of her autobiography.

To her quotation regarding inspiration and daily practice you published today, here’s a favourite I’d like to share:

“Work on a Mozart sonata, say. There is the beautiful sound which suddenly makes the most ordinary things -- pieces of furniture, the rain, full of beauty and something touching as though a light had fallen on them. There is the wonderful athletic pleasure of motion in the hands and shoulders. There is the rhythm which is like an inward dancing. And all the time there is the solitude, the hour or two of isolation from daily life so much of which is nervous, cacophonous, where one’s attention is unhappily jerked from this to that, so that the imagination cannot accumulate its strength and light.”

It’s interesting to consider that, in 1938, Brenda noted the “nervous and cacophonous” nature of daily life. And, that daily practice of a Mozart sonata on the piano remains a welcomed respite from the madness today.

Gordon Thomas, Vancouver, Canada

From: Dilys Daraheart (daraheart hotmail.com)
Subject: proxemics

Proxemics calls to mind one of the best science fiction books I have ever read, Janet Kagan’s Hellspark. It’s the only book I have ever read that made me really understand that all cultures have different “kinesics and proxemics” and that there is a lot more to communication than just the words. My son, after reading it, was stationed in Germany and watched an American back a German down the length of a bar by just continually getting in his space. He said neither one of them realized what was happening and that it amused him to watch the dance of language neither one realized they were performing!

Sharron Crowson, Seabrook, Texas

From: Matt Nash (mattanash live.com)
Subject: proxemics

It’s not just people who observe and defend personal bubbles. I’ve got a cat with a sphere of about a meter that you had better not mess with. Also, sparrows on a telephone wire remind me of a queue at the post office, with spacing perfectly and politely maintained.

Matt Nash, Oak Harbor, Washington

From: Buddy Gill (e-rgill2 juno.com)
Subject: proxemics

It has long been alleged that if 25 Americans squeezed into an elevator made for 20 people, none of them would touch.

Buddy Gill, Black Mountain, North Carolina

From: Pierre Laberge (P1m2L3 hotmail.com)
Subject: Muppet

A small disagreement: Well, one meaning, in some places, might be “stupid person”. But the word often exclusively refers to the puppets, who are clearly not stupid. And it also refers to young children. Now, they may be smart, or stupid, or inexperienced, or ... As in: “The child was a cute, blond-haired, little muppet.” Kinda like saying it was a doll.

Pierre Laberge, Sudbury, Canada

Email of the Week: Brought to you by One Up! -- 1,000,000 words and worlds in your pocket.

From: John Carver (jcarver islandnet.com)
Subject: muppet

I see it as an example of how readily the meanings of words and phrases evolve without regard to their origins.

I’ve often heard the term mickey mouse used in reference to something that is cheaply made or flimsy, likely to fall apart. But you wouldn’t say that about Walt Disney’s most enduring character.

John Carver, Nanaimo, Canada

From: John Saddington (johnsaddington1 sky.com)
Subject: muppet

Muppet, in the UK at least, is used to describe generically a type of fishing lure of silicone rubber or similar, broadly resembling a small squid/calamari. Presumably (?) postdates Henson’s coinage ...

John Saddington, London, UK

From: Hugh Hyatt (hugh.hyatt gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--proxemics

The doctrine which, from the very first origin of religious dissensions, has been held by bigots of all sects, when condensed into a few words and stripped of rhetorical disguise, is simply this: I am in the right, and you are in the wrong. When you are the stronger, you ought to tolerate me, for it is your duty to tolerate truth; but when I am the stronger, I shall persecute you, for it is my duty to persecute error. -Thomas Babington Macaulay

Though published by Macaulay in his Critical and Miscellaneous Essays (Vol III) in 1840 (p. 13, quotation on p. 60) and widely attributed to him, the article from which this quote is taken, “History of the Revolution in England in 1688”, was actually written by James Mackintosh, who had died in 1832. Macaulay had previously published this article in The Edinburgh Review, Vol LXI, No CXXIV, July 1835? (p. 265, above quotation on p. 302), prefacing it with “a Notice of the Life, Writings, and Speeches of Sir James Mackintosh”.

Hugh D. Hyatt, Upper Holland, Pennsylvania

We’ve added a note with the quotation now. Thanks.
-Anu Garg

Update: Nov 5, 2017: This quotation is, in fact, by Macaulay.

From: Robert Frumkin (robert.maxim.frumkin gmail.com)
Subject: coined word

One of my favorite coined words is “arruginated” from James Joyce’s Ulysses. It is used to describe a key and means rusty. It comes from the Italian word for rusty.

Robert Frumkin, New York, New York

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: muppet and scare quotes

muppet scare quotes
Sesame Street reluctantly adds a new muppet-on-the-block, “Joker Donald J. Dunce”. The predominantly orange-hued, bug-eyed, newbie muppet claims to have an “unbelievable” IQ, and a “H-U-G-E” vocabulary. “Oscar the Grouch”, a super reader of character(s), has his doubts.

In the spirit of Halloween, my resurrected, unravelling Egyptian mummy unwittingly makes the familiar “air quotes” sign, framing his less-than-scary exclamatory “BOO!”. Pharaoh frog is unmoved with his slightly admonishing take.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

1. mimsy
2. scare quote
3. proxemics
4. muppet
5. bafflegab
= 1. prim
2. “air quotes”
3. gap, my space
4. lummox
5. effect ebbs
    -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

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

The words of our POTUS are mimsy;
His reasons for action are flimsy.
With an ego like his
And his record of biz,
Who’s to believe his pronouncements, like kimchi?
-Bill Raiford, Thomasville, Georgia (br2002 rose.net)

She was touted as feminine and mimsy,
And her knowledge of governing was flimsy.
But! She was a woman of note
And the “Thatcher scare quote”
Was but the opposing sides’ cherished whimsy.
-Monica Broom, Morogoro, Tanzania (monicabroom2015 gmail.com)

The woman he liked was too mimsy
To give him a thrill based on whimsy.
“Not one little bit, “
She said, “till you commit,”
But that turned what was hard rather flimsy.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (janicepower25 gmail.com)

“A job here is not for the mimsy,”
At interviews warned Doctor Kinsey.
“We film in my lab
Bits of muscle and flab
You won’t see in a movie by Disney.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

It gives me a sense of relief
That I can assuage my great grief
By putting a scare quote
On words which get my goat,
Donald Trump, “Commander in Chief”.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Short fingers alive with scare quotes,
Alone in his bedroom he wrote
An ode to his beauty,
Just doing his duty
While keeping the bogus afloat.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

Donald Trump likes to posture and gloat,
While remaining steadfastly afloat.
“Make America great,”
Has continued to grate
As the nation’s most flagrant scare quote.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

He goes on about all this “fake news”
So that journalists he can abuse.
But expressed with a scare quote
It gives us a rare gloat,
Adds irony to disabuse.
-Kathy Deutsch, Melbourne, Australia (kathy deutsch.net.au)

Podiatrist carefully wrote
for his patient an Rx “footnote”.
(Professor’s e.g.
to help students see
a way they might use the scare quote.)
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

“She ran at my use of a scare quote,”
In his memoirs the famed Papa Bear wrote.
“She’d messed with our stuff,
And I growled in rebuff,
‘Hey there, blondie, my kid’s ‘just right’ chair broke.’”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

My sister and I, no debate,
On same birthday do celebrate.
As our closeness depicts,
Due to birth proxemics,
For I call my twin, my “wombmate”.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

If you please, have a care of my space --
I might spray an intruder with mace;
One needs, perforce,
In proxemics, a course,
To be safe when we meet face to face.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

In the proxemics study,
she stood close to her buddy.
Cautioned not to touch,
they didn’t speak much
fearing an unwitting jeopardy.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

The distance from New York to Phoenix
Is observed in the Donald’s proxemics
With Flake and McCain,
Or most anyone sane.
He stands close, though, when groping bulimics.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

He claims to have a high IQ,
Instinctive grasp of what to do.
“I’m not a muppet
Nor Putin’s puppet.”
But talk like this won’t make it true.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I always thought a muppet
Was a winsome TV puppet.
But now I find
It should bring to mind
A person who’s just not up to it.
-Vara Devaney, Damascus, Maryland (varadevaney att.net)

Calling stupid folks “muppets” is frightful!
Those who do it are hardly insightful.
Henson’s creatures are clever.
Kids will love them forever.
The Muppets are wholly delightful.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

As Joshua found with his trumpet,
A rampart’s as firm as a crumpet.
Just ask Humpty Dumpty,
A wall isn’t comfy,
Behind which the boss is a muppet.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

A few eons after Eve plucked the apple,
the people of Shinar became but rabble.
Their leaders spoke in bafflegab,
well suited to a power-grab!
What’s left? The ziggurat now known as Babel.
-Brenda J. Gannam, Brooklyn, New York (gannamconsulting earthlink.net)

Who else but Trump would take a stab
At writing so much bafflegab?
In almost every tweet,
Never being discreet,
He thinks he’s got the gift of the gab.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

The world’s a human linguistics lab
Dear leaders masters of bafflegab
Experiments show
The subject most low
Tops in the praxis of pussy grab.
-Charles Harp, Victoria, Canada (texzenpro yahoo.com)

For high-level bafflegab skill,
Go visit those folks on “the hill”.
It’s not just the voters
Who’re scammed by promoters.
How else to get passed their own bill?
-Anna Johnston, Coarsegold, California (ajohnston13 gmail.com)

Was it bafflegab heard by the masses?
And luring in all lower classes?
It isn’t defensible
Spewing insensible
Incomprehensible gasses.
-Suzanne Heymann, Nanaimo, Canada (s.heymann live.ca)

“We’ll hit them with some sort of bafflegab,”
Said Cheney to Bush in a taxicab.
“Your words disconnected
Will get us elected,
Then off go our boys dressed in olive-drab.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Wasting my dime punning on coined words

Oh, that Lewis Carroll. I love some of the synomimsy coined.

Each day I fear the AWAD will stump me. Tuesday’s was a real scare quotidiom.

Can a bartender’s proxemics drinks just as well?

If the batter hits a ply ball, don’t muppet!

President Ford often referred to wife Betty Ann by her spelled initials, e.g., “If you let her, BAFflegab for hours.”

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

He who has provoked the lash of wit, cannot complain that he smarts from it. -James Boswell, biographer and lawyer (29 Oct 1740-1795)

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