Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


A.Word.A.Day

About Us | What's New | Search | Site Map | Contact Us  


Home

Today's Word

Yesterday's Word

Archives

FAQ


Dec 17, 2017
This week’s theme
Sword Words

This week’s words
contretemps
hilt
feint
ensiform
swashbuckler

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives
Index

Next week’s theme
There’s a word for it

Send a gift that
keeps on giving,
all year long:
A gift subscription of A.Word.A.Day or the gift of books
Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share

AWADmail Issue 807

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

Sponsor’s Message: Hey, Wisenheimers! When was the last time you gave a gift to the cleverheads in your life that you were actually proud of? Email of the Week winner, Neal A. Adolf (see below), as well as all AWADers, can impress/suppress their brainy friends and school family know-it-alls for the rest of the year with our wicked smart word game: One Up! -The Gift That Keeps on Giving. SPLURGE NOW.



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

Department of Redundancy Department
Twitter

Trump Administration Prohibiting Nation’s Top Public Health Agency from Using Seven Words or Phrases Including “Fetus” and “Transgender”
The Washington Post
[First they banned words ... then came newspeak]



Email of the Week brought to you BUY One Up !-Every Smart Aleck’s Delight/Doom.

From: Neal A. Adolf (naadolf bpa.gov)
Subject: This week’s theme

Ah yes, wordplay may be sharp. But in the sport of modern fencing the blades most definitely are not! Touches are scored electronically -- drawing electrons rather than blood.

Neal Adolf, Vancouver, Washington



From: Betsey Beckman (BBeckdance aol.com)
Subject: contretemps

One more definition of “contretemps” ... it’s a step in ballet meaning “beating against time” ... often used to change directions before the beat to be ready on the other side!

Betsey Beckman, Seattle Washington



From: William Edward Stacey, Jr. (wes946 aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--feint

Feint is also the term used in the distilling process to refer to the final spirit from the still at the end of distillation. They are low in alcohol and are often re-distilled. They are also called tails. Some of the more colorful distillers pronounce it fee-int.

William Edward Stacey, Jr., Fort Lauderdale, Florida



From: Hugh Saxton (hugh.saxton googlemail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--feint

I can’t be the only person to add the stationer’s feint, i.e. “having the faint horizontal rules sometimes printed in stationery” or “feint-ruled”.

Hugh Saxton, Stockbridge, UK



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

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Whenever books are burned men also in the end are burned. -Heinrich Heine, poet, journalist, and essayist (13 Dec 1797-1856)

This quotation brings to mind Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 in which the word fireman is used not in its conventional sense, but in reference to incendiaries whose job is to burn books. In that future society, reading is considered a subversive activity because it causes readers to become “unhappy” (i.e. thoughtful). On the other hand, deprived of books, people turn into “happy”, unthinking, dehumanized robots, indulging in ultra-hedonistic pastimes such as idiot-box watching, joy-riding, and wrecking cars.

This warning about the dangers of an illiterate society also creates its antithesis in the growing number of volunteers who memorize the classics in order to save them for a better, more enlightened future. That is why the seminal quotation of the book is derived from the story of the Bishops Latimer and Ridley as they step onto the pyre: “Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada



From: Daniel Miller (andrsm gmail.com)
Subject: ensiform

Medicine knows the word ensiform well. In first-year anatomy you learn that the sternum, or breastbone, is divided into three portions: the main/middle part is the corpus sterni (“body of the sternum” in Latin); above it toward the head is the manubrium sternum (“hand-like”), and below it is the ensiform process (the pointy or “swordlike” part), which can occasionally stick out quite prominently. (Not to worry if that’s you; it’s a normal variant.) This ensiform process is also known as the xiphoid process, which (need I say it?) is Greek for...swordlike.

Daniel Miller, Worcester, Massachusetts



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

The imaginative terms invented or repurposed to describe plant and animal morphology and behavior kept me amused and entertained during my college days studying botany and zoology. Today’s word brings to mind several others coined after armor or weaponry: lanceolate, peltate (shield-shaped), pistol-grip (used to describe tree trunks bent during growth), caltrop (such as goat head thorns), sagittate (arrow-shaped) and so on.

Matt Nash, Oak Harbor, Washington



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

The curved razor shell rejoices (insofar as a mollusc can be said to rejoice) in the scientific name Ensis ensis. (The swordfish’s scientific name is Xiphias gladius, “sword sword” in Greek and Latin, respectively.)

Sam Long, Springfield, Illinois



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

Common shared advice among Jeopardy! contestants was that if the answer contains the word “swashbuckler” the answer is “Errol Flynn”.

Nancy R Wilson, Petaluma, California



From: Norbert Hirschhorn (bertzpoet yahoo.com)
Subject: swashbuckler

It reminds of the old joke:

Husband: Am I a swashbuckler like Errol Flynn?
Wife: No, where he swashes, you buckle.

Norbert Hirschhorn, London, UK



From: John W. Price (johnwprice38 hotmail.com)
Subject: Swashbuckling along

Do ye know what we swashbucklers do when we reeelax?
We unbuckle our swashes.

John W. Price, Houston, Texas



From: Johnson Flucker (johnson.flucker yale.edu)
Subject: Sword words

This week’s “Sword Words” theme has got my blood up!

I don’t think I will be stealing the estimable Anu’s thunder when I share one of my favorite words associated with this category, “schlager”, as it really is a “not-yet-borrowed-word” from German and only finds its way into English via a tangential association: Schlager music (musik?). If musical pablum exists, then this is it: schlager music is defined as a style of popular music characterised by a catchy instrumental accompaniment to lyrics of an anodyne type. If you can stand it, here is a sample (video, 3 min.). I’ll wait here until you take your insulin...

So here is what I presume to be the connection: “Schläger” is German for “strike” or “hit”, thus some German music executive or other applied the word in its “hit” context to a successful piece of popular music. So far, so good, however...

More interesting still is schlager’s other German definition, that of a specialist sword used in German academic fencing -- “Mensur” -- as practiced at the University of Heidelberg and other German institutions of higher learning. Now get this: mensur is a type of highly refereed swordplay wherein the combatants attempt to “strike” (and we’re back) their opponents’ cheeks in such a manner as to open a wound significant enough that would heal with a plenitude of scar tissue. These scars were considered the “honorable scars” and were thought to add a certain doughtiness (Straße-cred?) to the bearer’s “phiz”.

Is it possible to be more Teutonic? We think not!

A few videos of the same lurk on YouTube to slake your “blut-lust” and here is the academic fencing/mensur Wiki article that includes some images of the duels and the scar tissue.

For those of you who would read a superb fictional account, George MacDonald Fraser’s Royal Flash is a hilarious retelling of (and quite superior to) The Prisoner of Zenda: picaresque story-telling of a very high order.

En garde!

Johnson Flucker, Trumbull, Connecticut



From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: feint & swashbuckler

Feint Swashbuckler
Arguably, bullfighting is not for the faint of heart. Here, I’m playing off the homophonic affinity between our word “feint” (a deceptive move) and the word “faint”, in this instance connoting a sudden loss of consciousness. A light-headed Señorita Amphibious can’t even bear to watch her heartthrob, matador Eduardo, as he executes a deft feint with his flowing crimson cape, the prelude to the ultimate dispatch of el toro.

Ornery swashbuckler, “Yoshiomiti” Sam, squares off with one of Akira Kurosawa’s formidable “seven samurai” warriors. Perhaps the irascible “toon” is presaging the later adaptation of master film auteur Kurosawa’s 1954 film classic Seven Samurai plot-line, reconfigured by director John Sturges in his 1960 swashbuckling epic Western, The Magnificent Seven?

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California



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

1. contretemps
2. hilt
3. feint
4. ensiform
5. swashbuckler
= 1. problem
2. the stem
3. con
4. knife
5. star in swift lurches
= 1. row
2. crank
3. bluff, isn’t it?
4. simple
5. hectors these men
    -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)   -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)





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

In the provocative days, au printemps
The animals make skittish contretemps,
With a feint meant to wilt,
They sink their "claws" to the hilt
And say "I am the superior contemp..."
-Monica Broom, Morogoro, Tanzania (monicabroom2015 gmail.com)

Two days ago, I had a bender
that wrecked a lot more than my fender!
I escaped in one piece --
though my wallet they'll fleece --
this contretemps didn't end Brender.
-Brenda J. Gannam, Brooklyn, New York (gannamconsulting earthlink.net)

"To distract from this small contretemps,
We can still Crooked Hillary whomp,”
Said the Donald. “So Vlad,
For more help I’d be glad
As together we two drain the swamp.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Using your awesome pow’r to the hilt,
You tear down what Obama has built.
Bad enough, but what’s more
You’ll push us into war.
H__l, it won’t be your blood that is spilt.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Her cart filled to the hilt, she still shopped
Until finally, with a sigh, she stopped.
Wanting Christmas to be
Quite special and merry
Was her reason to shop ‘til she dropped.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

Don Juan’s sword was known not to wilt,
Or so reputation was built.
When asked, he’d confess,
Secret to success,
“I always take it to the hilt.”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“I’ve peeked at what’s under your kilt,
And I’ll have it right up to the hilt,”
Said the bonnie young lass.
“Though I hate to be crass,
Wear this sheath so you don’t stain my quilt.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“The news is fake!” is Trump’s complaint.
But this is just a tyrant’s feint.
The prez takes the prize
For scandalous lies.
It is Trump who’s fake, and the press ain’t.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

He appears to have great self-restraint,
but his kiss on her cheek is a feint
to disguise furtive moves.
Appalled, she reproves
him, “That kind of a girl, sir, I ain’t!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

“Though ah thought mah behaviuh was quaint,
On mah way to the Senate ah ain’t,”
Said the judge called Roy Moore.
“They done showed me the door,
Mebbe next time some morals ah’ll feint.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


While his ensiform tongue runs amok
And his habit of passing the buck,
Now that it’s December
We all should remember
He’s a blockhead named after a duck.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

In college I slept in the Mensa dorm;
We were polymaths, even knew cuneiform.
But our cognitive skills
Didn’t cure all our ills
For we’d lose all our girls while still ensiform.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The Swashbuckler now in control
Could soon have a much smaller role.
For all it might take
Is a giant youthquake
To have Trump topple, down in a hole.
-Judy Distler, Teaneck, New Jersey (jam1026 aol.com)

Ah! those halcyon days when all was reckless and wild,
a wasting swashbuckler’s life when rules and regimen riled.
Now that our hairs are grey, we are mighty miffed:
Youth is a glorious God-given gift,
why waste it so much on a child?
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

We all remember the young Errol Flynn,
And those movie sword fights he’d always win.
A swashbuckler true,
And so handsome, too;
Sadly, in life, his rep was a bit thin.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

Today a girl wants something subtler
Than a swaggering loudmouthed swashbuckler.
You’ll have to eat quiche
To your manhood unleash
And when done, I’m afraid you must cuddle her.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)



From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: These are sworda bad puns

The corrupt southern sheriff bragged, “Ah have a contretemps mah shoes fo’ me.”

“Look at that show-offy sword swallower. Hilt try anything to get attention.”

Fencing ain’t for the feint of heart.

The sculpture of the 4th musketeer was ensiform of D’Artagnan.

“Cadet, your belt-clasp is filthy, swashbuckler receive demerit.”

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma



A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been.” -John Greenleaf Whittier, poet (17 Dec 1807-1892)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere

Donate

Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2018 Wordsmith