Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



Aug 5, 2018
This week’s theme
Words that appear to be coined by flipping the letter p

This week’s words

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives

Next week’s theme
Words related to veggies

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 840

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

Sponsor’s Message: What Stephen King said about books applies equally to our wicked smart word game: “(One Up!) is uniquely portable magic.” It’s also way faster and funner than Scrabble and Bananagrams. No board. No complicated rules. 20 or so wicked fun cutthroat minutes. And stealing is the name of the game! Rinse (off your ego), and repeat. Congrats to Email of the Week winner, Joyce Michel (see below), as well as all AWADers -- you’ll get “free sardines” with every order of $25 or more. Feed your head now >

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

I’m a Librarian. The Last Thing We Need Is Silicon Valley “Disruption”.

A Brief History of Singular ‘They’
The Web of Language

What is the Morally Appropriate Language in Which to Think and Write?

Genome Study Upends Understanding of How Language Evolved
Scientific American

Countries Around the World Where Language and Politics Collide

Trump’s Team Keeps Using Mafia-Inspired Language -- to Defend Itself

From: Alison Litts (ali_litts icloud.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day

I’ve loved your A.Word.A.Day for years and so did my father, Robert Stanton, a University of Washington professor of English who passed away this May. My father, brother, and I often discussed your words and thought of the day in long email conversations. He even contributed to your AWADmail Issues a few times.

How I miss his wit and highly engaged mind. When he knew he was dying (at 92 years old), he quoted the deathbed words of Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and Dylan Thomas a few hours before he died. When he began to fade away, my brother nudged him asking if he was still with us; my father responded that yes, he was thinking, and said “I was thinking how written Japanese words sometimes have Chinese characters and how this must have social and political implications ... but I think I’m wrong.” Those were his last words.

Alison Litts, Eugene, Oregon

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Reinventing corporations by flipping a letter in their names

What corporations can you help reinvent themselves by flipping a letter in their names? I asked, and readers rose to the challenge. Here’s a small selection from the helpful suggestions that poured in. Any corporation wishing to use any of these ideas should contact the reader directly for their bermission.

OfficeMax could become OfficeWax, and sell floor care products.
-Debby Allison, Greensburg, Kansas (debbyallison gmail.com)

A.Word.A.Pay: Anu’s new monetizing scheme involving a single (micro?) payment per word.
-Jeff Matherly, Boston, Massachusetts (jmatherly mwareinc.com)

You could flip all the letters in COKE and end up with the same product! I’m guessing they won’t change much soon!
-Peter, Cape Town, South Africa (peteweatherman gmail.com)

Well, there’s Xerox, which when you flip its first letter, it becomes a perfect copy of itself.
-Richard Bruno, New York, New York (richardgbruno gmail.com)

Walmart could become Walwart a retailer of skin creams for unsightly blemishes.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpmarlin456 gmail.com)

WcDonAlbs: Dedicated to converting witches to clergy.
-Jon Lichtenstein, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (jlichtenstein comcast.net)

Pitcoin: buy your own buried treasure. -Donna Vogel, Bethesda, Maryland (dlv.dhm verizon.net) Fox Hews: We take the facts and reshape them by hewing them in the same way the president turns facts into the way he wants to see them.
-Louis Berney, Baltimore, Maryland (lbags aol.com)

Hewlett-Backard. It decides to go from making computers back to making slide projectors.
-Madeline Johnston, Berrien Center, Michigan (johnston andrews.edu)

IBW: making machines is hard, so they’ll just go for little International Business Widgets.
-Peter Kidwell, Southington, Connecticut (peterkidwell gmail.com)

IBM could flip the first letter in their name, and it would be business as usual.
-Lee Entrekin, Old Fort, North Carolina (harpo mindspring.com)

Wendy’s becomes Mendy’s, a place to eat while you wait for your shoes to be resoled, or a zipper replaced.
Burger King becomes Burger Kind, a place that uses gentle cuisine easy on the digestive system.
-Danielle Austin, San Diego, California (danielle13 san.rr.com)

Poeing: Annual charter aircraft excursion to Baltimore for anniversary festivities at Edgar Allen Poe’s grave.
-David Underhill, Mobile, Alabama (drunderhill yahoo.com)

Medtronic, the medical device maker, could become Wedtronic, conducting weddings via Skype so that the bride and groom needn’t put down their phones and travel to a venue to meet in person.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Mitsubishi: Witsubishi (clever folks)
PetSmart: betSmart (for all the gamblers)
Walt Disney: Malt Disney (tasty)
Big Lots: Pig Lots (no comment)
CarMax: CarWax (naturally)
-Roger Davis, Canton, Ohio (photoguy.roger gmail.com)

Wendy’s: Mendy’s (alterations & dry-cleaning done as you wait for your food)
-Annette Boehm, Bochum, Germany (annette.boehm eagles.usm.edu)

I believe that clothing manufacturer Helly Hansen actually flips biweekly to “keep it fresh”, but nobody has noticed yet.
-Ben Newling, New Brunswick, Canada (bnewling unb.ca)

Reduce a capital Q to lower case, then flip q to d and Quality Hotels would become Duality Hotels.
-James Schaefer, Greenbelt, Maryland (jimschaefer0013 gmail.com)

From: Annelies Allain (annelies.allain gmail.com)
Subject: true story

Many years ago, IBFAN (International Baby Food Action Network) activists forced a Dutch company in Malaysia to change the name of its main product: Dutch Baby. They convinced the cooperative farmer owners of the company that cow milk is no good for small babies. The cooperative buckled under pressure and promised to change. But they only changed two letters: Baby became Lady, Dutch Lady, still selling baby milk.

True story, one of many by IBFAN. I began the protest.

Annelies Allain, Penang, Malaysia

From: Mike Parsley (slussen2 gmail.com)
Subject: IHOP slogan

“Their slogan: ‘We burger as good as we pancake.’”
Maybe they wouldn’t do as well with the slogan, “We purge er as good as we ban cake.”

Mike Parsley, Malaga, Spain

From: Jamie Diamandopoulos (jdiamandopoulos yahoo.com)
Subject: flipping letters

The best flip that I have seen was intentionally done for one day only (don’t mess with success) when McDonald’s flipped its M to a W to celebrate women.

Jamie Diamandopoulos, Houston, Texas

From: Jan Schwartz (jan.schwartz itron.com)
Subject: Re: Flipping a Letter

Bigger than a Corporation

I spent many years reading legal documents. I can’t tell you how many times I came across the “Untied States of America”. Alternate history perhaps? Maybe if John Adams and Alexander Hamilton had never been born? Or perhaps it exists in the multiverse?

On a similar note, I occasionally wonder how we’re all doing in the alternate reality where Hillary won?

Jan Schwartz, Florham Park, New Jersey

Email of the Week brought to you by One Up! -- Summerize your mind >

From: Joyce Michel (jhexagon yahoo.com)
Subject: Companies flipping letters: Is Target’s store brand “up & up” or “dn & dn”?

Target up n upTarget dn-n-dn
Target’s store brand is “up & up”, with its arrow pointing top and right. But ever since I saw the logo on a stack of upside-down boxes, it looks like “dn & dn” (down & down) to me.

Below is their logo rotated 90 degrees left and right. How do you see it? Maybe this could be used to distinguish optimists from pessimists. Imagine -- it flips both letters, the expression as a whole, and the arrow as well!

Naysayers will say the ampersand doesn’t flip properly. Bah, my vision’s not that good anyway,

Joyce Michel, Hopkinton, Massachusetts

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

It takes two monocles to make one binnacle.

Sam Long, Springfield, Illinois

From: William Abbott (wbabbott3 comcast.net)
Subject: Binnacle

In olden days a log was kept at the ship’s binnacle, right at the helm, or helmsman’s post, of all crew members who were excused from watch standing and other duties because of illness or injuries.

The list was, and still is, known as the binnacle list and is so termed in modern ships, nuclear submarines, etc., although it is now kept in the sick bay (the ship’s infirmary or hospital) or its equivalent on smaller ships.

To be “on the binnacle list” is to be too ill to serve, afloat or ashore.

Bill Abbott, Captain, USN (Retired), Saratoga, California

From: David B Dollenmayer (dbd wpi.edu)
Subject: Binnacle

As an illustration of how German forms new words from Germanic roots but English favors Latin and the Romance languages: binnacle in German is Kompasshäuschen (literally, little compass house) = habitaculum for the compass.

David B Dollenmayer, Hopkinton, Massachusetts

From: Chris Candell (beardingline att.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bollard

Some of the early bollards used on land were cast-off cannon which gave some of the shape to later purpose-built bollards.

Chris Candell, Oakland, California

From: James Zimmerman (james.zimmerman bsci.com)
Subject: bollard

I first learned this word when reading in City Pages about a parking lot and drive-through in my city (St. Paul, Minnesota) that is so bad it has become a local sensation -- it even has a Twitter hashtag with fans posting videos of mishaps. Dubbed Carbucks, the logistical nightmare that is this Starbucks Coffee lot has resulted in near-misses with pedestrians and cyclists, illegal turns, and even car accidents. These accidents result when drivers continue straight after leaving the drive-through and their car getting lodged on the curb. In the summer, it’s relatively clear that a sharp right turn is needed immediately after leaving, but here in Minnesota, that curb is covered in snow half the year. The bollards help, though some have had to be decommissioned after going head-to-undercarriage with vehicles.

James Zimmerman, St. Paul, Minnesota

From: Dave Rose (rosesall aol.com)
Subject: Bollard

Just a nautical comment for the nautical definition (#1) of the word bollard. A bollard is used to connect lines to/from a ship to secure it to a pier. There are no ropes on a ship. Only lines.

David Rose, Englewood, Florida

From: Tom Pater (tompater shaw.ca)
Subject: B-P words

The word bathophobia reminded me of the B-P pair bathos and pathos. When encountering the former, I intuitively read it as the latter and must consciously flip the p to get to its correct meaning of “anticlimax”. A deeply held tendency, one of my regular downfalls, so to speak.

Tom Pater, Courtenay, Canada

From: Chip Taylor (via website comments)
Subject: boodle

Thank you, Anu, for leading me to look back at your article from that primitive year of 2013 to discover the link between boodle and caboodle. That, of course, led me to read about the other words from that week in history and serendipitously to read the Thought for Today of Oct 1, 2013.

With a shock akin to awakening to finding a dead, cold Atlantic salmon somehow nestled in your skivvies, I read:

A strong nation, like a strong person, can afford to be gentle, firm, thoughtful, and restrained. It can afford to extend a helping hand to others. It is a weak nation, like a weak person, that must behave with bluster and boasting and rashness and other signs of insecurity.
-Jimmy Carter, 39th US President, Nobel laureate (b. 1924)

Had we all but had the foresight a mere five years ago to have understood that this could happen to our own nation.

Chip Taylor

pierres/bierres, photo by Jean Krist
Photo: Jean Krist
From: Jean Krist (jeanbkrist gmail.com)
Subject: Switching P to B

In Rouen, France, this sign in front of the 16th-century Saint-Ouen Abbey Church was meant to warn visitors to stay off the lawn in front of the facade to avoid being hit by falling decorative elements made of stones (pierres) -- but pranksters have changed that to warn of falling beers (bierres, a slight misspelling of bières, but would have been very welcome on a blazing hot afternoon!)

Jean Krist, Ventura, California

From: Kwan Tamakanic (quantum.mechanic.1964 gmail.com)
Subject: P to B

A check of a very large wordlist, and a little Perl tinkering, shows nearly 2000 words where one or more Ps, changed to Bs, is also a word. To be fair, this includes inflected forms, plurals, and some other entries that would not be considered as separate words (but I was too lazy to discount them).

This ranges from the short mop/mob, to the much longer pathetically/bathetically.

A similar mechanism highlights the number of words with different accepted spellings, such as the z in characterize and the s in characterise (Oxford vs Cambridge, or more broadly, American vs British). Or lead you on an adventure following the shifts in language over time and space, such as v/b, t/d, m/n.

It’s lots of fun, and sometimes rewarding, to have a little puzzle program to ask and answer these kinds of questions. And a big thank you to the folks who keep the word lists updated.

Kwan Tamakanic, Toronto, Canada

From: Joel Mabus (joel.mabus pobox.com)
Subject: B-P

I offer up bunt and punt for my flipped words this week. I waited until I saw Friday’s entry to suggest them, as I thought surely they must be coming. Sports fans in North America know these as strategic maneuvers in our two most favorite team sports. A batter might bunt in baseball, while a kicker may punt in football. Most etymologists seem to think these are unrelated terms -- bunt from the German for “head butt” from a farm animal, and punt from the Latin languages for boat or floating bridge.

Joel Mabus, Portage, Michigan

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: boodle & baragnosis

In keeping with this week’s theme of swapping out the initial “p”s for “b”s, I’ve played off the familiar French poodle breed to arrive at my depiction of the Parisian mob (boodle) of rebellious working and under-class anti-royalists taking to the streets, as the Bastille, symbolic of longstanding oppressive monarchial rule, goes up in flames... July 14th, 1789. Vive la France libre! Of course, my partisan frog character is quoting from the opening line of Charles Dickens’s novel, A Tale of Two Cities.

boodle baragnosis
Aside from Trump’s narcissism, delusions of grandeur, and small-hands complex, he appears to suffer from baragnosis, viewing himself as a trim, fit, “stable genius”. So, here I’ve envisioned portly Trump on the bathroom scale, where he’s labelled his special regimen for weight loss, i.e., The Mar-a-Lago Diet. Essentially, it’s the popular South Beach Diet (high-fiber, low-glycemic carbs, unsaturated fats, and lean protein), turned on its head. For the Donald, regular intake of copious amounts of sugary and starchy carbs, saturated fats, and not-so-lean protein... read “beef”, reinforces his out-of-whack body image.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

1. binnacle
2. bollard
3. bathophobia
4. baragnosis
5. boodle
= 1. a hold
2. post
3. balance on a billboard? no!
4. so big? ha!
5. bribe
= 1. a bin
2. held a rope
3. no balloonist!
4. a broad blob
5. big cash
     1. binnacle
2. bollard
3. bathophobia
4. baragnosis
5. boodle
= 1. case
2. a post
3. bad on high
4. lb: a load; or nil; no, a blob; ...
5. bribe
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)

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

Perhaps Binnacle transmuted from Pinnacle?
The first word for the mast of the compass, pivotal!
Suppose etymology evolved
And P became B -- problem solved!
That “Binnacle” should segue, becomes clinical!
-Monica Broom, Morogoro, Tanzania (monicabroom2015 gmail.com)

There once was a man at his pinnacle,
Who, alas, was always too critical;
He needed his tongue
And larynx as one
To be housed in a well-hidden binnacle.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

A binnacle contains car and shipware
Instruments expensive. Take great care,
It can hold lots of stuff.
Pinnacle? Sure enough
But what can contain Donald Trump’s hair?
-Joe Budd Stevens, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (joebuddstevens gmail.com)

An admiral reaches the pinnacle
When aware of the use of a binnacle.
He can tell north from south
Without opening his mouth
And bellowing something cynical.
-Denis Toll, Aberdeen, UK (denis.toll outlook.com)

One look in the Enterprise binnacle,
And Scottie turned angry and cynical.
“At Star Fleet, the cuts
In our budget are nuts!”
He exclaimed, and the rest is unprintable.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

To tie down your boat, use a bollard.
Knot your lines ‘round them all, tightly collared.
Don’t fear the boat’s loss,
Lest your name be De Voss.
For otherwise it won’t be bothered.
-Anna C. Johnston, Coarsegold, California (ajohnston13 gmail.com)

The bollards in front of the school
For traffic control are a tool.
We’re safer this way,
Although I must say
With candy cane stripes they’d look cool.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

She stood beside the bollard that day
Taking everybody’s breath away.
Rarely did anyone see
Such a stunning beauty.
A real traffic stopper, I would say.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

The sons that the Donald has fathered
Have the brains, it would seem, of a bollard.
“I tried to collude,”
Says Don Junior, “But dude,
I got nothin’, so shouldn’t be collared.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The blowhard will soon fall from grace.
Bathophobia he’ll try to outpace.
With lies causing his ruin,
It’s a mammoth undoin’.
He debases the whole human race.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

I recently bought a new bed,
And since then I’m filled with such dread.
It’s so high off the ground,
Bathophopbia, I’ve found,
Has me sleeping in bathtub instead.
-Judy Distler, Teaneck, New Jersey (jam1026 aol.com)

You can clearly imagine the scene
When mum explains what the words mean:
“Bathophobia’s a fear
But let me be clear,
It’s of depths, and not to be clean.”
-Jan Bosman, Cape Town, South Africa (jbosman media24.com)

“The discussions I call my symposia,”
Said Plato, “are like a utopia.
In depth we discuss
Great ideas without fuss,
But one day will come Trump’s bathophobia.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

One look at her corpulent form
and he wrote fasting as the next week’s norm!
She looked in dismay,
at the Doc’s old school way
to bring on her baragnosis reform.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Wakefield, Massachusetts (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Clothes were getting too tight. Diagnosis?
Doctors said what I have is baragnosis.
My old mirror was small;
never noticed at all,
but, alas, now I know just what gross is.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

The effect is like liquid hypnosis:
Your mind will contract baragnosis.
That’s the glory of beer,
So there’s nothing to fear
Though your wife finds your belly atrocious.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The Grande Dame and her snooty French Poodle
Strolled the Champs Elysee with her boodle.
She procured all her loot
When she went on a toot,
And with men she agreed to canoodle.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

The baker, he used his noodle
To entice the critics with boodle.
For a good review,
The baker, he knew
To send each critic his strudel.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Says old woman in shoe, “This durn brood’ll
drive me right out of my noodle!
I’ll give them some bread,
and put them to bed,
then try to forget the whole boodle!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

“I need you to launder some rubles,”
Says Vlad when with Trump he canoodles.
Answers Donald, “Delighted!
I can’t be indicted;
Helsinki’s the place to get boodles!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

We abbreviate down with dn.
Unambiguous? Yes, except when
It is turned on its head --
Then it reads up instead.
What a contrary stroke of the pen!
-David Goldberg, Pinckney, Michigan (goldberg wccnet.edu)

The king of the beasts left his pride
And searched high and low, far and wide.
“Eureka”, said he.
“If I just flip the p
I can find me a lovely young bride.”
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: The Pb switch lead to these plumb awful puns

Our street has binnacle de sac since they built the freeway.

Which golf bollard da pros usin’ nowadays?

The sergeant warned, “Stay dirty. When you’re taking a bathaphobia lot harder to fight.”

Either say you do or you don’t believe in God. I can’t baragnosis!

Only cheer young athletes; a boodle hurt their feelings.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: James Ertner (jde31459 gmail.com)
Subject: What flippin’ words!

Businessman to secretary: “I’ve been waiting to hear from the bank. Has there binnacle for me?”

Catcher to pitcher: “Throw me the bollard as you can.”

Mother to her young daughter and then to her young son prior to bedtime: “Is the shower a foe? Be a good girl. Is the bathophobia good boy?”

It was bad enough that his parents inexplicably named him Barag. But he hated it when he had a cold and people would say to him, “Baragnosis running again.”

Complaining about something is useless: hiss and boodle get you nowhere.

Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina

Patriotism is a kind of religion; it is the egg from which wars are hatched. -Guy de Maupassant, short story writer and novelist (5 Aug 1850-1893)

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

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith