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Today's Word

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May 13, 2018
This week’s theme
Words derived from animals

This week’s words
black dog
pork barrel

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives

Next week’s theme
Words made using combining forms

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AWADmail Issue 828

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

Hey, Wisenheimers! When was the last time you gave a housewarming/thank-you gift to the cleverheads in your life that actually flummoxed them? Email of the Week winner, David Fosse (see below), as well as all AWADers, can frustrate and fascinate their brainy generous frenemies for the rest of the year with our wicked smart word game One Up! -- The Gift That Keeps on Unforgiving. Purchase at your peril NOW.

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

”Be Best”: Does Melania Trump’s Oddly Named Initiative Break the Laws of Grammar?
The Guardian

Yellow Fever: Is It a Racist Slur or Just a Place to Eat?
The Web of Language

From: Dick Whetstone (Dick dicksdaily.com)
Subject: black dog

Jesse Winchester’s song Black Dog:

“I don’t know the black dog’s name,
when I call him, he don’t come.
How’d I ever get this black dog, Lord,
I sure never wanted one.”
(video, 5 min.)

Dick Whetstone, Fort Bragg, California

From: Phyllis Charney (charnyllis nyc.rr.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--black dog

I’ve had depression on and off for over 50 years, but I never heard it called black dog. Whenever I hear the phrase black dog, I only think of THIS. (video, 5 min.)

Phyllis Charney, New York, New York

From: Audie Finnell (via website comments)
Subject: black dog

Anyone who is sleep deprived for an extended period of time will start hallucinating. Truck drivers years ago who reached that state, compliments of the uppers they took to get there, called it seeing the black dog. A black dog crossing in front of their trucks was no doubt a common hallucination.

Audie Finnell

From: Alexandra Kriz (marchhare pobox.com)
Subject: Black dog

Upon seeing the term, I immediately thought of the bit of folklore about the “black dog”. It originates from Britain, and the black dog is said to be a hound of supernatural origin whose appearance foretells misfortune or death. I believe this same folklore is the root of the Grim in the Harry Potter novels, and I can only imagine the number of other literary references it has.

I first learned about it in a wonderful but obscure volume, long out of print, called The Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were, which has long been a fascinating and convenient resource to at least scratch the surface of many mythologies and folklore around the world. In my life I’ve only met two others who have heard of this book.

Alexandra Kriz

From: Barry Palevitz (bpclaylover8 gmail.com)
Subject: black dog

My pet expression is “the demons in the cellar”. When “the cellar door is open”, the demons are out.

Barry A. Palevitz, Athens, Georgia

From: Thomas Koehler (tvkoehler lakeconnections.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--black dog

While a black dog might be a term for depression, I thought immediately of bête noire, a black beast... a thing which is avoided, a pest, a thorn in the side...for me, a black cloud was a kind of depression, like being in a funk.

Tom Koehler, Two Harbors, Minnesota

From: Paul Pickering (PaulWPickering gmail.com)
Subject Black dog

I work for the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia. Of our 250+ staff, 46 countries are represented and 68 languages spoken. This is just to say we have a handle on diversity among staff. A few years ago, we had our annual staff day and showed the black dog video as part of an awareness-raising conversation on mental health. After a moment’s silence at the end, a staff member from South Sudan got up and said he was horrified to realize that with as much attention as the organization pays to being mindful of how messages impact people from all backgrounds, no one had realized that the “black dog” of depression serves to reaffirm the negativity of Blackness.

There are two levels to this. First -- that even one person had this reaction is cause to hear and increase our understanding. There were, in fact, a range of people so effected in that room. Most were too embarrassed, for themselves and for their “enlightened” employer, to speak out. We as a majority had not been aware and we had harmed some of our people inadvertently. The second level is how the “black dog” is described. Depression is perceived as a negative impact on individuals and society -- it interferes with “normal” functioning and is covered in shame. It is also part of the human condition, and can be seen as an opportunity to identify areas of challenge, understanding, and growth. In the early stages of depression, whatever we call it, we can celebrate that our emotional reality is telling us there are things to look at more closely, and to become more vibrant and settled in the world. We can work to sidestep the shame, which is what this video is trying to do. While “Black” so often has pejorative associations, aligning it with a socially shameful experience is a hindrance on the path to positive human expression.

Accepting another person’s reality as equally valid to our own is one of our biggest challenges. No one has the “right” to deny another person’s reality, and to do so merely illustrates the hierarchy of power in the very same society that allows us to overlook or disregard the impact of our words (and videos) in the first place.

Paul Pickering, Halifax, Canada

From: Alvin Croll (acroll shaw.ca)
Subject: gobemouche

Arthur Godfrey, the radio and television personality who appeared in the Chesterfield ad, ended up being a strong anti-smoking activist after being diagnosed with lung cancer and died of emphysema brought on by years of smoking.

Alvin Croll, Winnipeg, Canada

From: Rosemary Parsons (roxemary gmail.com)
Subject: Mooncalf

My brother Steve’s contribution: The cow that jumped over the moon had strong moon-calves.

Rosemary Parsons, Carmel, Maine

From: Olga Levene (olgadoreen gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mooncalf

I like Egbert Souse’s accusation from the “Bank Dick” (Writer: W.C. Fields): “Don’t be a luddy-duddy! Don’t be a mooncalf! Don’t be a jobbernowl! You’re not those, are you?”

Olga Levene, San Francisco, California

From: David Fosse (mooncalf1313 yahoo.com)
Subject: mooncalf

As you can see from my email, I am a mooncalf. But I got to that name by a different route from that in the discussion this week. Christian Otto Josef Wolfgang Morgenstern (1871-1914) was a turn-of-the-(20th) century poet who wrote “nonsense” poetry. One of my favorite poems is about “The Aesthetic Weasel”.

Das ästhetische Wiesel
Ein Wiesel
saß auf einem Kiesel
inmitten Bachgeriesel.

Wißt ihr

Das Mondkalb
verriet es mir
im Stillen:

Das raffinier-
te Tier
tat's um des Reimes willen.

As you see in the poem, the Mooncalf has a role in the tale. I liked the poem and the idea of a calf of the moon, so I adopted the name. Later, I looked up its English meaning and decided to keep the name because I was a mooncalf for not looking it up in the first place.

English translation (with liberties) from the web:

A weasel
perched on an easel
within a patch of teasel.

But why
and how?

The Mooncalf
whispered its reply
one time:

The sopheest-
icated beest
did it just for the rhyme.
(Knight, Max)

David Fosse, University Park, Maryland

From: Karen Howell (bpwkhowell lycos.com)
Subject: Another term like railbird

In rodeo circles there is a similar term for someone who perches on the railings where broncos and bullriders start their rides. This person doesn’t actually participate in riding but offers “expert” advice to those who do. He is called a “chute rooster”.

Karen Howell, Evansville, Minnesota

From: Pam Robertson (pollish xtra.co.nz)
Subject: pork barrel

Congratulations to your researchers on finding the “pork barrel” comment in the “Dominion Post”, way down here in Wellington, New Zealand. A side comment: our coalition government currently comprises three parties with the opposition having one party. This came about from our election system which grants voters two votes -- one for their electoral party and one for the candidate of their choice. It’s called MMP (Mickey Mouse policy?) -- actually Mixed Member Proportional. Go figure.

Pam Robertson, Wellington, New Zealand

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: black dog and railbird

Black dog railbird
Clinical depression is no laughing matter. It can relentlessly dog its victims, and for some, caught in its tenacious grip, can symbolically manifest itself in the omnipresent specter of the dreaded “black dog”. Here, in the vein of familiar “psychologically-pressing” phrases like “the monkey on one’s back”, “an albatross around one’s neck”, or “a cross to bear”, I’ve envisioned “depression” as a gigantic “black dog”, weighing down a man clearly rapt in the throes of profound psychological/emotional pain.

On the heels (hooves?... Ha!) of the first run of the prestigious Triple Crown trifecta of high-stakes US thoroughbred horse racing, the Kentucky Derby, I thought I’d kick off the racing season with this pair of rabid railbirds, down at trackside, hoping their long-shot picks might win, place, or show... or even finish. Ha!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

1. black dog
2. gobemouche
3. mooncalf
4. pork barrel
5. railbird
= 1. gloom
2. gullible
3. dodo
4. prior earmark
5. crab of back bench
    -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

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

When you’re worse than just blue, it’s black dog,
And your errands and chores all backlog.
You can’t find your shorts
And feel all out of sorts,
For you need some Ex-Lax to unclog.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (janicepower25 gmail.com)

When black clouds fill the skies,
And heavy rains make rivers rise,
When outside it’s cold,
And one’s age is old,
Then black dog howls his mournful cries!
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

The highly recommended Pranic boot camp
I chose, for my mind’s total revamp.
There had seemed no respite,
from the black dog’s never-ending bite,
but the Deep Healing gave me a hippocampus amp.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

A poet will suffer black dog
If employed as a corporate cog.
You can take it from me
As a glad retiree
From the legions of Gog and Magog.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

All the gobemouches who voted for Trump
Have been given a kick in the rump.
The promises he made
Aside have been laid,
While he twitters away like a grump.
-Glenn Ickler, Hopedale, Massachusetts (glennwriter verizon.net)

Our president lies and deceives,
And thus, our great nation aggrieves.
In a manner uncouth,
He’ll tell a half-truth
That only a gobemouche believes.
-Lou Gottlieb, Hubbard, Oregon (gottlieb wbcable.net)

“Be Best” -- a cant for the gobemouche,
Warmed over treacle as a mob douche.
Pandering to the base,
In a land lost in space,
The First Sphinx suckles the obtuse.
-Charles Harp, Victoria, Canada (texzenpro yahoo.com)

Zuma was the ultimate gobemouche.
He thought AIDS could be washed, shower or douche!
The people died like flies.
He was not very wise
In his administration also -- touché!
Note: Deposed Ex President Zuma in South Africa was criticised about “sharing his physical favours” indiscriminately. When asked about AIDS, he replied that he always “had a shower”!
-Monica Broom, Morogoro, Tanzania (monicabroom2015 gmail.com)

He flew through the air with a whoosh,
Stopping many a villainous douche.
To have not caught the scent
That he posed as Clark Kent,
You’d have had to be quite a gobemouche.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Being an ultimate realist
I just don’t comprehend the gist
Of a mooncalf person.
Maybe I am the one
Who doesn’t know what I have missed.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

I’m not speaking on Donald’s behalf.
He’s a mooncalf spewing gaffe after gaffe.
A simpleton indeed,
A monotonous screed,
I’ll pause now for a good belly laugh.
-Joe Budd Stevens, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (joebuddstevens gmail.com)

There once was a clueless mooncalf
who committed a terrible gaffe.
He loved she was tall,
but then spoiled it all
by comparing her to a giraffe.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“Everybody but me is a mooncalf,”
Said Donald, “Just ask my baboon staff.
In a deal, the great art
Is to feel like you’re smart
Among sycophants, toadies, and riffraff.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Pols once hatched a pork barrel plan
To build a most unneeded span.
Though voted down,
It gained renown --
That bridge was going nowhere, man!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

To substitute Swiss or Gruyere’ll
place one’s re-election in peril.
They’ll say that it’s cheesy,
or too free and easy.
Take care when preparing pork barrels.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Greedy pigs engage in pork barrel
And their eyes as well as pockets swell.
It should upset us so
That we would make them go
To spend time in a place much like hell.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

“In Egypt we have no pork barrel,”
Said the judge as he pounded his gavel.
“Our Islamic laws
Permit no such faux pas,
I insist that you substitute camel.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

VP Pence, whose loins he must gird,
When dealing with matters absurd,
Said to President Trump:
“We’re in sort of a slump,”
Don: “Don’t meddle, you old railbird.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

At racetrack, he was a railbird,
As it started his cheering heard,
But the horse he had bet,
Came in last, so upset,
He uttered a very bad word.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Railbirds we are -- all of us who are Blue,
Wishing the term of The Donald was through,
Pundits, all yelling
And frequently telling
Republicans what we’d like them to do.
-Judy Distler, Teaneck, New Jersey (jam1026 aol.com)

On the dating scene, I was a railbird,
In my youth as a clumsy and pale nerd.
Other boys said, “Aha!”
When unhooking a bra,
But to me, it was worse than a braille word.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Anu sends words animal ‘em over

Moses gave a Bashan when he blacked Og. Amorite?

The panhandling sailor caused people to say, “Look at that gobemouche!”

I was kept awake all night by a bleatin’ goat and a mooncalf.

“Even great BBQ sauce makes this pork barrel’y edible.”

The Texan drawled, “Ranchin’ these days is a railbird’n.”

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: Elizabeth Harris (bobeliz1055 gmail.com)
Subject: Likes

I love reading the thought for the day, it’s always inspiring. I like the theme for the week to tie the words together, and I appreciate reading about words that I may not have ever heard before and so expand my horizons, vocabulary-wise! Appreciate the etymology. A really great way to start every day -- thank you so much!

Elizabeth Harris, Monmouth, Oregon

A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine desert us; when trouble thickens around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts. -Washington Irving, writer (1783-1859)

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