Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



Jan 7, 2018
This week’s theme
Blend words

This week’s words

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives

Next week’s theme
Long words with short definitions

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 810

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

Sponsor’s Message: Realing in the years? 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 a while back, and ended up playing One Up! with his friend Jon -- we all three going at it, hammer and tongs. Ray ended up just squeaking by with the win. Long story, short -- Jon is the guitarist for the band, and he'll make sure the Scrabble they usually play gathers dust from now on. Ha. Anyway, congrats to Email of the Week winner Bill Millard (see below) and all the other sarcastic wordy jazzers out there - you never know when you might become a (sidebar) hero to your hero. Get your own "Stealy Dan" now >

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

Words of the Year
The New Yorker

Newfound Pride in Guaraní, a Language Long Disdained in Paraguay
The New York Times

PC Language Saved My Life
The New York Times

From: C. Benjamin Brooks (cbenjaminbrooks gmail.com)
Subject: Voluntourism

This word is particularly apt for me today as I just returned from an 11-day trip to Haiti to see my parents for the holidays. They work in community development and social entrepreneurship in the poorest neighborhood of the poorest city of the poorest country in the western hemisphere. We spent much of our time deploring the misplaced charity of short-term volunteer groups and discussing the difficulties of doing good work well. I recommend the book From Aid to Trade by Daniel Jean-Louis and Jacqueline Klamer for a discussion of how to contribute to local economies and really benefit the place you want to help. For others who just want to vacation better, try eco-tourism.

C. Benjamin Brooks, Cumming, Georgia

From: George Kovac (gkovac stearnsweaver.com)
Subject: voluntourism

I am a bit more sceptical of the virtue of voluntourism. Lots of church groups I know send groups of parishioners for a week or two to a Caribbean or Central American destination to fix up houses or other work. The costs of transporting, housing, and feeding these volunteers -- and tending to their security when in that country -- is large. To be realistic, many of these do-gooders are not very skilled at that kind of manual work. Such church-based voluntourism is a well-intentioned effort, but, IMHO, the money would be better spent on direct aid. I thought of another group of virtuous tourists: those who go on expensive trips to tramp around the Galapagos or Antarctica or African game preserves, with a portion of the tour fee earmarked (ironically) for environmental protection. There is a word for that: eco-tourism. Which leads me to suggest an alternative word to “voluntourism” for all those church folks painting houses for five days on some imperilled island: theo-tourism.

George Kovac, Coconut Grove, Florida

From: Judy Shillito (via website comments)
Subject: voluntourism

Your word comes as I am planning my first foray into voluntourism, with Habitat for Humanity in Maui. Granted such small efforts don’t change the greater inequalities in our world, but I would defend the idea of trying to do some good while travelling as a tourist. We do need to be aware of the potential for misguided projects and harm to the populations meant to be helped.

Judy Shillito, Charleston, South Carolina

From: Jeff Clark (jclark332 comcast.net)
Subject: voluntourism

The word voluntourism reminded me of a word I hear sometimes in my job. When a boss assigns a project or task to someone who reports into him/her, but does so in a casual way, this is being “volun-told”. Being voluntold is not the same thing as being directly asked to do something, as in “please send me the reports by tomorrow.” It is more subtle and nuanced. Typically the manager who employs the art of volun-telling is either (1) too timid to overtly delegate tasks to subordinates or someone who (2) wants to appear collaborative and avoid the perception of being too blunt. The latter person is definitely a more skillful manager.

As an example, imagine a small team discussing whether to renew a data contract. The team leader might say something like, “Hey John, do you think it is a good idea to solicit opinions from those using the data -- understand their preferences and dislikes -- and compile that into a one-page recommendation that I can review with senior leadership?” John has just been voluntold to lead the entire project on the merits of the data provider.

Jeff Clark, Jamison, Pennsylvania

From: Dan Martin (via website comments)
Subject: voluntourism

Everything we willingly do, we do for ourselves. We wouldn’t willingly expend the resources, make the sacrifices, or pay the price for anything that doesn’t serve our purpose one way or another.

That is not a selfish statement, it does not describe or comport with the concept of selfishness. To acknowledge that people generally derive fulfillment and satisfaction from charitable acts performed willingly is, actually, to acknowledge the truth of that first sentence.

Dan Martin, Colorado Springs, Colorado

From: Ossie Bullock (via website comments)
Subject: hokum

Through the wonderful (and free access) California Digital Newspaper Collection (part of the National Digital Newspaper Program), I have managed to push the word’s first appearance back nearly a decade. A theater review in the LA Herald of 9 Nov 1908 says of two performers in a new show, “Watson and Williams, who jingle the bells for this spicy aggregation, hand out a high class line of hokum, and some of their merry quips have the surprising quality of newness.”

Ossie Bullock, London, UK

From: Galen Denio (denio.galen4 gmail.com)
Subject: Hokum

Hokum bowing with the fiddle is a style of bluegrass music.

Galen Denio, Las Vegas, Nevada

From: Roy Stewart (stewart roadrunner.com)
Subject: squirl

Do you remember when we (older folk) were taught to write in elementary school. We practised such squirls, although we didn’t know what they were called. It’s nice to be complimented on one’s handwriting by those who can actually read it!

Roy Stewart, Buffalo, New York

From: Michèle Iadeluca Page (via website comments)
Subject: squirl

As I age, I notice that sometimes my handwriting takes on a life of its own in that my emotional status of the fractional moment gets transmitted through my penmanship into an exaggeration of a letter’s formation. I’m glad to have learned that this is called a squirl.

Michèle Iadeluca Page, Paris, France

From: Tom Brenner (tombmot gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--squirl

In the Southern US, squirl is the same as the Northern US word squirrel.

Tom Brenner, New Hyde Park, New York

From: Lisa Hallberg (wirely.lisa gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--satisfice

Thank you so much for this word -- it is perfect for software development (and probably many other similar disciplines, as well). As a developer, I am constantly tasked with imagining and building a software solution to a complex problem, but within a limited timerame. It is always tempting to succumb to “scope creep” as the project moves along: as I build pieces of the system and demonstrate them, there is a very natural urge to be inspired to ask for more, for the scope of the project to creep into a much vaster -- and probably untenable -- breadth. It’s my responsibility (to the client and to myself and my own sanity) to keep that urge in check, and to emphasize solving the problem at hand, and how to, indeed, build something that will satisfice.

I’m going to frame that word over my desk.

Lisa Hallberg, Lawrence, Kansas

From: Bruce Bailey (brucewbailey gmail.com)
Subject: Satisfice

In engineering, we often resort to satisfice. KISS (keep it simple, stupid) is actually optimal in a certain sense. If you make a solution too complicated, it is more likely to have defects. Do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Bruce Bailey, Cupertino, California

From: Joe Silber (bishopjoey gmail.com)
Subject: satisfice

In my industry (enterprise software), for each new feature or change, we have something called the Minimum Viable Product - this would be only what satisfices the customer without extra bells and/or whistles.

Joe Silber, Leiden, The Netherlands

From: Ian Adam (adam.ian.52 gmail.com)
Subject: satisfice

In the UK, Health & Safety law operates a concept of BATNEEC (Best Available Technology Not Entailing Excessive Cost) encouraging a sensible compromise. In reality, a concept related to satisfice operates known as CATNAP (Cheapest Available Technology Narrowly Avoiding Prosecution).

Ian Adam, Epsom, UK

From: Doug Hough (douglas.hough jhu.edu)
Subject: Re: Satisficing

What a lovely word. Thanks for including it in your portmanteau series.

When I was a young economist, learning my craft in the early 1970s, I came across the work of Herbert Simon. His work made so much more sense than the mathematical precision of neoclassical economics. But neoclassical economics ruled the profession, so I learned the catechism of marginal this and marginal that. It wasn’t until much later that I started reading the work of Richard Thaler and Daniel Kahneman, both of whom went on to win Nobel Prizes in Economics. And it was the field of behavioral economics that they have championed, which takes into account the foibles of real people and their satisficing rather than maximizing behavior, that explains so much of what people do. I only wish that I would have followed my original instinct and embraced it earlier.

Doug Hough, Baltimore, Maryland

From: Rich Haverlack (r.haverlack comcast.net)
Subject: satisfice

I first learned this word in England at the University of Bath. That was in 1977. It was taught in this context: when seeking to do something of benefit one can maximize, optimise, satisfice, minimize, or ignore. In this sort of hierarchy, satisfice means doing the minimal good. The notes above seem to “promote” satisficing as a way to control cost of analysis, but we were taught that satisficing was simply doing the least good for the least cost -- with the emphasis on least cost. Today, satisficing seems to be de rigueur.

Rich Haverlack, Allison Park, Pennsylvania

From: Steve Hirby (steve hirby.org)
Subject: satisfice

In Tracy Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine, the project manager from Data General has these watchwords on the chalkboard in his office: “Not everything worth doing is worth doing well.” An example of satisficing.

Steve Hirby, Appleton, Wisconsin

From: Ava Torre-Bueno (avatb3 gmail.com)
Subject: satisfice

This is a term of art in psychology. My husband and I (both in that field) took a satisficer/maximizer test and he was off-the-charts a maximizer and I’m an off the charts satisficer. Needless to say, we have a lot of compromising to do!

Ava Torre-Bueno, San Diego, California

Email of the Week - Hey, Nineteen - Buy The Wicked/Smart Word Game here >

From: Bill Millard (wbm1.nyc gmail.com)
Subject: a portmanteau term that might have some usefulness and relevance these days

Here’s a portmanteau I’ve been using for several years in political and economic contexts: laissez-fairytales, defined as the absurd and counterfactual beliefs of right-wing economists who mistake markets -- artificial politicoeconomic constructions that inevitably cause wealth to trickle up, not down, and that fail to account for essential values such as environmental “externalities” -- for natural or even divinely ordained phenomena, and who dread and delegitimize any form of reasonable regulation of economic activities by the public sector despite many decades of evidence establishing the indispensable role of such regulation. In the 21st century, knowing what we know, it’s absurd that the doctrines of the French Physiocrats, Bernard Mandeville, Friedrich Hayek, Milton Friedman, the abominable Ayn Rand, et al. are still taken seriously. Yet some self-serving myths die hard, especially when they’re convenient for powerful kleptoplutocratic interests. Laissez-fairytale economic theory isn’t just of antiquarian interest, one should note: it underlies the current US administration’s efforts to dismantle environmental and consumer protections. We’re discovering once again how far from reality the laissez-faire delusion lies, and how much damage it can do.

Bill Millard, New York, New York

For a selection of portmanteaux sent by readers, see AWADmail 810 Extra.

From: Judy Paul (ianpaul worldonline.co.za)
Subject: Thank you!

Thank you and your team so much for the exceptional work put into providing us with our daily word, and for the “Thought for the Day”. You make my day. You really do!

I would also like to thank you and the readers who compose/draw such entertaining limericks, anagrams, and illustrations. I am in great admiration at the dexterity of minds. Such fun.

All the best wishes for 2018.

Judith Paul, Cape Town, South Africa

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: hokum & squirl

Hokum Squirl
A president who ofttimes has a tenuous grip on the truth and reality, with his borderline obsessive penchant for spontaneous twitter tirades, invariably comes off to most reasonable, level-headed folks as a nonsensical buffoon. “Hokum” appears to have become Trump’s default refuge as he embarks on his second year in the Oval Office, tweeting thumbs of fury ever at the ready.

Here, I’ve engaged a wizardly squirrel, magical scrolling wand in hand (paw?), deftly scribing our word “squirl” with the requisite arabesque flourish that it so deserves, giving my signature frog character some hope that recent rumors of classic cursive script’s ultimate demise may be far too premature.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

1. voluntourism
2. hokum
3. squirl
4. satisfice
5. scrouge
= 1. go seek virtuous focus
2. rot
3. curl
4. minimal
5. squish
= 1. traveling
2. um, rot
3. curlicue
4. if so-so’s, um, ok
5. squish
    -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)   -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)

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

Voluntourism should be admired.
Those who do it work ‘til they’re tired.
They go everywhere
To show how much they care.
Their giving trait is so hardwired.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

Join Now -- it’s a new voluntourism.
Aiding Delft’s new entrepreneurism.
Rehabbing old framing
Gets you buttons proclaiming
“I sweated for Holland’s Renewerism.”
-Anna C. Johnston, Coarsegold, California (ajohnston13kgmail.com)

Those who travel for pure altruism
show the opposite of narcissism.
They see need and they care.
and they pay their own fare.
There’s a name for it - voluntourism.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

From his resting place Jesus was risen,
Thus ending his voluntourism.
“Your sins I’ll take home,”
He announced, “But with Rome
I’m afraid that I’ve caused a slight schism.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

That voluntourism is sacrificial is hokum,
Because in fact they want to go to that locum.
In a Kibbutz, all day,
It is hard work, and play,
And if their clothes get really dirty, they soak’em.
-Monica Broom, Morogoro, Tanzania (monicabroom2015 gmail.com)

The hateful hokum that he spews
Is now the focus of our news.
I’m not entertained,
Just utterly drained;
His tweets have me singing the blues.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

When it comes to his brains he should grow some,
For out of his mouth comes pure hokum.
Says Trump, “You’ll be fine
If my pockets I line,”
But the poor to his tax cuts say “Ho hum.”
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (janicepower25 gmail.com)

“Them city folks sure spout some hokum,”
L’il Abner told Daisy Mae Yokum.
“Like General Bullmoose
On Kickapoo Joy Juice,
That Trump fella needs us to stroke him.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

While his mouth is forever opining,
His hobbies are whining and dining.
Like a crafty old harpy,
He picks up his Sharpie,
Adds his squirl to the constant bill signing.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

A squirrel by the name of Pearl
Did give calligraphy a whirl.
It was quite a sight,
If you’d watch her write.
For Pearl was the girl with the squirl.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

In Sandwich one day said the Earl,
“A new kind of lunch I’ll unfurl.
My fame will be spread
By creations with bread,
Which in mustard I’ll sign with a squirl.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

You know what might sort of satisfice?
(And, yes, this would be at a price.)
But what about this?
‘Twould be far from bliss,
How ‘bout Pence POTUS and Don VICE?
-Joe Budd Stevens, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (joebuddstevens gmail.com)

Don’t ever go that extra mile,
Do just enough and sigh and smile,
Don’t sacrifice,
Just satisfice;
Be smug and smiling all the while.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

An olive branch seems to make Mattis nice.
But wait, heads of state get to roll the dice.
If we leave it to POTUS,
Kim Jong will explode us.
In practice, tweet tactics won’t satisfice.
-Phyllis Morrow, Fairbanks, Alaska (phyllismorrow1gmail.com)

Donald Trump, he does not play too nice,
His large ego is his worst device.
With his hand on the trigger,
Says, “My button is bigger.”
It’s his sick way to self-satisfice.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

“These Germans are not very nice,”
Said the Captain, “We must satisfice.
But they won’t get our scalps
For we’ll climb up the Alps
And be gone once I’ve sung Edelweiss.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I don’t mind being scrouged at all,
If it’s on the Washington Mall
With millions of women
Who’d like to see Him in
Big trouble that leads to a fall.
-Judy Distler, Teaneck, New Jersey (jam1026 aol.com)

Louis’s jewels were not huge,
yet many belles dames he would scrouge.
Once the fait accompli,
he would shout out with glee,
“Sacré bleu! Après moi, le déluge!”
-Brenda J. Gannam, Brooklyn, New York (gannamconsulting earthlink.net)

These jostling, scrouging, wild-looking men,
fretfully waiting for the clock to strike ten,
would then descend like locusts on the racks,
try grab ‘em all to fill their sacks!
For, Black Friday is upon us again.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Wise kid explains,”In that deluge,
all but the dinosaurs scrouged
on old Noah’s boat,
cause he said ‘twouldn’t float
with those guys, they were really too huge.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Said Donald, “Just look at these crowds,
How the better to see me they scrouge.
Without much ado
They’ll enroll in Trump U.,
And then, Jared, their wallets we’ll gouge.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Blend (but not bland) words

“Help! I can’t get up! I’ve voluntourism that’s un-danceable.”

Hokum so many people fall for pyramid schemes?

I can’t stand the squirl of a quazoo.

The cockney was so drunk that he satisfice in his food.

“This scrouge just crazy about football!”

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

There are years that ask questions and years that answer. -Zora Neale Hurston, folklorist and writer (7 Jan 1891-1960)

We need your help

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


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

© 1994-2023 Wordsmith