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Today's Word

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Apr 15, 2018
This week’s theme
Words with odd pronunciations

This week’s words
hors d’oeuvre

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

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Next week’s theme
Phobias & Manias

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AWADmail Issue 824

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

Sponsor’s Message: Is April really the cruellest month? Email of the Week winner, Sara Hutchinson (see below), as well as all AWADers can find out fast by playing our wicked smart word game One Up! -- once -- that’s all it’ll take to pray for May. Miserable yourself up now >

From: Peter Bradford (peterjb1 yahoo.com)
Subject: Ceilidh

We named our Cocker Spaniel “Ceilidh”. Sadly, it was so difficult that she couldn’t spell it, so we re-named her “Kayleigh”.

Peter Bradford, Baltimore, Maryland

From: Sally Stretch (sestretch mweb.co.za)
Subject: “Odd” Irish pronunciations

On a visit to Dublin, I went on a bus tour which included the neighbouring town of Tallaght (pronounced talla or tally). Our guide had attended the local school and told us of an occasion when their school band went on a trip to the USA. It was shortly after 9/11. On arrival at JFK airport, a member of the group was asked who they were. He replied with some pride “We are the Tallagh band!” Apparently some panic ensued before the teacher in charge was able to explain the situation!

Sally Stretch, Durban, South Africa

From: Bruce Adgate (rossgate gmail.com)
Subject: ceilidh

A few years back a friend gave me for my birthday a ukulele. (In Hawaiian, ukulele means leaping fleas!) I immediately went online of learn chords and songs. I found a spoof of the Leonard Cohen song, Hallellujah. In this spoof was the word ceilidh which I’d never encountered before, but I gathered from the context that it had to do with a music venue and, based on the rhyming scheme, that it had to rhyme with ukulele! It was then I went online to find out, not only what this word meant, but how it was pronounced, ie. Kay-lee. Here’s the verse:

So armed with my half-dozen chords
I’m setting out to tread the boards
At folk-club sessions, open mic or ceilidh

From jazz, thrash-metal, country, pop
To little stick of Blackpool Rock
You’ll hear them all upon my ukulele
Ukulele, ukulele ukulele...

Bruce Adgate, Spoleto, Italy

From: Doug Begin (doug.begin rogers.com)
Subject: The home of ceilidhs in North America!

Cape Breton Island - Province of Nova Scotia - Canada (Nova Scotia of course being New Scotland, and home all things Gaelic)

Doug Begin, Toronto, Canada

From: Johnson Flucker (johnson.flucker yale.edu)
Subject: written vs. pronounced English

John Huston’s 1963 thriller The List of Adrian Messenger uses discrepant written vs. pronounced English as a major plot point wonderfully. The audience is advised (before George C. Scott’s detective character ‘twigs’) that the ancient family name Bruttenholm is pronounced “broom”. Watch the moment wherein the incomparable Gladys Cooper excoriates her most recent husband (a toad-eating poodle-faker of Brobdingnagian scale) played masterfully by Marcel Dalio. These very fine character performances lurk here at about 49’ 25”.

Johnson Flucker, Trumbull, Connecticut

From: John Bartlett (johnbartlett1934 gmail.com)
Subject: Pronunciation

When a new library was built in Victoria, BC, city council consulted the Songhees and Esquimalt nations and selected the Lekwungen word for the James Bay area, sxʷeŋxʷəŋ təŋəxʷ, pronounced s-hweng hw-ung tongue-oo-hw.
The Times Colonist (permalink)

What’s the betting it will just be called the James Bay Library?

John Bartlett, Cobble Hill, Canada

From: Peter Gross (plgrossmd gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ceilidh

As a native English speaker I am amused when I hear people complain about pronunciation in a language like French, of which I know a little. I point out to them that while romance languages may not be perfectly phonetic, they, unlike English, do follow some rules. I then point out our different pronunciation of the letters o-u-g-h in the following five words: enough, cough, through, bough, though. Enough said?

Peter Gross, Falls Church, Virginia

From: Howard Bussey (howard.bussey gmail.com)
Subject: Difficulty of mastering foreign language pronunciation

The opinions of pronunciation difficulty are usually from adult speakers, who do seem to have legitimate complaints -- just learning, let alone mastering, foreign languages as an adult is something that is very difficult for many. One famous exception is Sir Richard Francis Burton, the explorer, who learned an astonishing number, and variety, of languages (see here).

Almost all children have no trouble mastering the tasks of speaking and understanding spoken natural languages. It is arguably miraculous that children acquire these skills with little or no formal instruction.

The tasks of reading and writing, however, are not normally mastered without formal instruction. Reading has been called an unnatural act (see here, for example). At one of the International Dyslexia Association meetings, Dr. Guinevere Eden (of Georgetown University) told me that when people read or write their brains are moonlighting.

Howard Bussey, Pittsford, New York

From: Laurie Kaniarz (lauriszka att.net)
Subject: languages

Oh, I know I’m going to enjoy this week’s words! Thank you for the sensible observation that languages aren’t inherently hard ... as long as you know the rules. My dad (who spoke six languages) would mock-chide us as we struggled to learn Spanish or French: “C’mon, it’s easy! There are three-year-olds in Spain/France who speak it perfectly!”

Laurie Kaniarz, Kalamazoo, Michigan

From: Lynne Glasscoe (lynne.glasscoe gmail.com)
Subject: Ceilidh

If you’re Irish, a more common response to “I hear you were at the ceilidh last night” would be the more robust “That’s right. The craic was mighty.”

Craic (no connection to drugs) is about enjoying yourself, which is what you’d expect when attending a ceilidh.

Lynne Glasscoe, Blackwater Valley, Co. Waterford, Ireland

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

In music radio (I was Kansas City’s first “underground FM deejay”, circa 1967), a segue is the disk jockey’s technique of seamlessly overlaying the instrumental fade-out of one song with the instrumental intro of the next. Some disk jockeys assembled their own “books” of combinations of songs that lent themselves to particularly smooth and effective segues. But I was also led to believe that the term came from a “Mr. Segue” who had invented the technique!

By the way, my “air name” was “Lloyd Spencer Drake”. Besides the significance of the initials (!), it was a little “inside radio” joke, as I claimed to be the illegitimate son of Bill Drake, the man credited with creating the “Top 40” format, which was the antithesis of “underground (free-form) radio”.

Stu Tarlowe, Rosedale, Kansas

From: Vincent DeLuise (eyemusic73 gmail.com)
Subject: sophrosyne

Sophrosyne! What a kaleidoscopic word. Here is an essay I wrote on Sophrosyne, her many tangents, and why we need her more than ever today.

Vincent DeLuise, Waterbury, Connecticut

From: Carol Light (lightpc yahoo.com)
Subject: Hors d’oeuvre

This is the only example I found, I realized several years ago, that backs up NFL Hall of Fame’s Brett Favre for the pronunciation of his last name: R before V. It had bothered me since he joined the Packers in 1992, as I’ve been a Milwaukee-born Packer fan since 1966.

Carol Light, Mount Gretna, Pennsylvania

From: Arlene Carol (arlene.carol gmail.com)
Subject: halfpenny has another meaning too

I had to laugh when I saw today’s word. I had a Scottish friend years ago who taught me some colloquial phrases. One was “Keep your han’ on yer ha’penny”, i.e. “Keep your hand on your halfpenny.”

Her Granny used to tell her this when she went out. The connotation was: Don’t let anyone see or touch your pubic area.

Thanks for the memory and the laugh.

Arlene Carol, Turkey

From: Eric Marchbein (emarch333 me.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--halfpenny

It hardly needs to be pointed out that the halfpenny was the smallest unit of British currency and thereof derives its meaning of least-valued. The American version of this expression is two-bit, the colloquial for 25¢ or a quarter dollar. This term is derived from two pieces of the Spanish dollar, also called pieces of eight. It could be aaargh-ued that this is a coin of considerably greater value than the lowly halfpenny.

Eric Marchbein, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

From: Ron Betchley (emef2012 aol.com)
Subject: Halfpenny

I remember the halfpenny (Hapnee bit) as a youngster back when I found it difficult to understand why a coin twice the size of a penny (Pence) was worth only half as much. Much like I now find it difficult to understand, now that Canada has abolished the penny coin, why gasoline should be priced in tenths of a penny at the pumps, i.e., $133.9/litre.

Ron Betchley, Yarker, Canada

From: Boyd H. Wilson (wilson hope.edu)
Subject: pronunciation

When you mentioned how words “tumbling in the river of humanity has polished its edges and smoothened its pronunciation”, I immediately pictured the formation of the Banalinga (Svayambhu Linga), tumbling along the bottom of the Narmada River. Beautiful imagery!

Boyd H. Wilson, Holland, Michigan

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: sophrosyne & halfpenny

Sophrosyne Halfpenny
Moved by yet another of this week’s USAGE quotations, in this instance the one for our word “sophrosyne”, i.e., “In this sense, sophrosyne seems to be the key for the solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ...”, I imagined a scenario where the late John Lennon, a man of peace and universal goodwill amongst nations, magically appears on the streets of Palestine, situated between an entrenched flag-bearing Arab Palestinian and a recalcitrant Israeli Jew. With his signage messaging, I’m clearly playing off Lennon’s now-iconic, hopeful anthem to world amity, “Give Peace a Chance”. Sorry Jared*, John beat you to it!
* “Jared” being Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and amateur Middle-East mediator.

Inspired by our “halfpenny” USAGE quotations from US News & World Report scribe Gerald Parshall, namely... “The Iraqis, by contrast, were led by a halfpenny Hitler.”, implying that Saddam Hussein was Hitler-lite, I offer up this mirror-image. For me, they were equally diabolical... two sides of the same sullied coin. Filthy lucre!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

1. ceilidh
2. sophrosyne
3. segue
4. hors d’oeuvre
5. halfpenny
= 1. heady fun
2. he/she’s sound
3. rollover
4. pierogi
5. pence-shy
    -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

From: Judy Fern (jfernrn aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ceilidh

I know two people, one a new baby, one an adult, whose names are Niamh. That’s pronounced “Neeve”. Go figure.

Judy Fern, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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

An Irish lad, name of O’Bailey
Met a lass at the Kilkenny ceilidh.
She said, “My name’s Niamh.”
He said, “Call me Steve.
The name’s written upon my shillelagh.”
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Ah! the joys of a traditional ceilidh,
more so, after temperance holy.
Dance, folk songs are jolly good,
we love too, the story-telling dude.
And, the buffet and the bar are in our thoughts wholly!
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India(mukherjis hotmail.com)

“I shall do a fine jig at the ceilidh,”
Said Colleen, “for I practice it daily.”
But the steps and her brogue
Were both quite out of vogue
At a night of folk dancing Israeli.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (janicepower25 gmail.com)

When tribbles convene for a ceilidh
They snack on quadrotriticale.
The females then posit
A date in the closet;
Their numbers thus grow larger daily.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Wake up Donald. Get out of that bed.
Don’t you know there’s chaos ahead?
There are troublesome relations
With Africans and Haitians
Someone’s sophrosyne is hanging by a thread.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

A birthday in April means a ceilidh
With hors d’oeuvres served sophrosyne.
This annual segue
Goes best on that day
With a two-litre bottle of Bailey.
-C. William Elliott, Sarasota, Florida (evenports msn.com)

These days your millennial progeny
Are a test of parental sophrosyne.
“You have to surrender
The concept of gender,”
They shout, “For we’re into androgyny!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

On parents’ approach, he cried, “Ix-nay
on eer-bay! Get rid of the eg-kay!”
The kids quickly hid
their barrel, then did
an innocent soda pop segue.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Jane and Jim indulged in a roll in the hay.
Then came the inevitable segue.
Jane had become pregnant,
The “romance” was not extant,
And the babe, the reminder of that fateful day.
-Monica Broom, Morogoro, Tanzania (monicabroom2015 gmail.com)

When speeches are dull, then I fear
The segue I most want to hear
Is “So to conclude,”
Which brightens my mood
Since it signals the end is near.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The king’s vice stares smugly at the back
of his head -- a creepy foreboding knack.
Kick start the segue
From a Stormy lay
To the rollover of the PenceBook hack.
-Charles Harp, Victoria, Canada (texzenpro yahoo.com)

Into government now you can segue
By using the lobbyist gateway.
For noble’s your goal
That we burn up more coal
While the air and the water cry, “Mayday!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

As the grizzly walked through the deep wood,
He felt hungry and that wasn’t good.
He wished someone would serve
A tasty hors d’oeuvre
And then he saw Red Riding Hood.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

The chef himself made the hors d’oeuvre.
He prepared it with brio and verve
and we ate with delight
savoring every bite.
I can’t wait for the next course they serve!
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

The young maid, oh she had such a nerve,
When she worked the large party with verve.
On the way to the fete,
Every chance that she’d get,
She would snitch a dainty hors d’oeuvre.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

Pass the hors d’oeuvres to POTUS today,
Before the main course, a quick roll in the hay,
He’s got dollars and clout,
And will gladly pay out
To hush all the stories and insure his stay.
-Judy Distler, Teaneck, New Jersey (jam1026 aol.com)

She chided the waiter’s poor serve
When he dropped the tray with hors d’oeuvre.
He stooped down to replace
Them back on. “A disgrace!”
She sneered, “Young man, you have your nerve!”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

The sight of a passing hors d’oeuvre
Always makes his trajectory swerve.
The Donald gets hungry
For snacks all and sundry,
And some of them make him a perve.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

As accusations abound galore,
A halfpenny for those on the floor.
In Washington, DC.,
They’re corrupt as can be.
This country deserves a whole lot more.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

You think that you’re not being tracked?
It’s time to accept the plain fact:
Security? Ain’t any
Worth half a halfpenny.
Facebook’s already been hacked.
-Phyllis Morrow, Fairbanks, Alaska (phyllismorrow1 gmail.com)

In the old days when children would scrape a knee
The doc would come by for a halfpenny.
But now where we are
Is a high-tech ER;
For a scratch, sticker shock is awaiting me.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Punny pronouncements

Casey Anthony’s home no longer has ceilidh.

Edward Thomas praised Robert Frost’s early work sophrosyne became great friends.

W.C. Fields liked to say “G’way, kid, ya bother me.”

It’s ‘dived,’ not ‘dove’ (hors d’oeuvre if you have an odd accent.)

Does it show minuscule interest when you greet someone with, “Wha’s haypenny?”

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

The greatest analgesic, soporific, stimulant, tranquilizer, narcotic, and to some extent even antibiotic -- in short, the closest thing to a genuine panacea -- known to medical science is work. -Thomas Szasz, author, professor of psychiatry (15 Apr 1920-2012)

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