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Sep 16, 2018
This week’s theme
Words coined after stock characters

This week’s words

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Words that have many unrelated meanings

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AWADmail Issue 846

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

Sponsor’s Message: One Up! is wicked smarter than Scrabble. No board. No complicated rules. 20 or so sweaty fun cutthroat minutes. Rinse (off your brain), and repeat. Congrats to Email of the Week winner, Norman Holler (see below), as well as all AWADers -- you can get 1,000,000 worlds and worlds in your pocket for less than the cost of a couple of coffees. Caffeine your cranium up now >

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

The Mystery of People Who Speak Dozens of Languages
The New Yorker

Consternation over Suggested French Grammar Change

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

Stravinsky composed the one-act ballet Pulcinella, based on a Neapolitan theme, which had antecedents in the commedia dell’arte and may have been earlier attributed to the 18th c. baroque composer Pergolesi. Stravinsky tried to imitate the style of this earlier period. His first symphony, better known as the Classical Symphony, was a similar attempt, in which he used the four-movement symphonic form, but filled it with a modern content, based on dissonant chords and atonal harmonies.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Bruce Colbert (bruce brucecolbert.com)
Subject: Punchinello

Does this bring back the children’s song for anyone? Took me all the way back to circa 1979 elementary school!

Bruce Colbert, Elyria, Ohio

From: Mark Boylan (mark magebo.com)
Subject: Punchinello

It is Interesting how morphology morphs across languages. The word for Punchinello morphed from the original Neapolitan into the Italian Pulcinella (masculine, despite the terminal ‘a’). The additional ‘h’ is logical, to soften the ‘ci’ sound -- as we spell ‘China’ or ‘chin’ in English. But how did the ‘l’ become an ‘n’? An Italian scholar suggests that the English character Punch was responsible for this aberration. Indeed it was an Italian puppeteer, Pietro Gimonde, who in 1662 created this name for what went on to be the character in Punch and Judy shows.

Mark Boylan, London, UK

From: Daniel Miller (milldaniel gmail.com)
Subject: You may not be able to change the world

You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty. -Jessica Mitford, author, journalist, and civil rights activist (11 Sep 1917-1996)

Yeah, right. That assumes that they have the capacity to feel shame, a dubious proposition if there ever was one. Can you imagine Paul Ryan, Yertle McClellan, Donald Drumpf, or any of the rest of them feeling shame? Explaining shame to them would be like describing a Bach symphony to a person who has been totally deaf since birth.

Daniel Miller, Laredo, Texas

From: Tony Pivetta (apivetta aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--punchinello

Today’s thought of the day brought to mind economic historian Gary North’s quip: “You can’t fight city hall, but you can pee on the steps and run.”

Tony Pivetta, Royal Oak, Michigan

From: Antonio Christopher Dittmann (dittmann.antonio comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--alazon

Now who does “alazon” bring to mind? Oh, I just had it ... um, rhymes with “grump” ... It’ll come to me.

In the meantime, I was struck yesterday by a fairly new addition to the caravan of English used in an interview reported in The New York Times. Times journalist Lisa Lerer chats with candidate Cynthia Nixon. In one response, Nixon uses the word “Trumpian”, and in an immediate paraphrase, offers a terse definition: personal or erroneous information being used in a “nasty” (her word), predatory, and misleading way.

I’ve very little doubt that I’ve come late to the party on this one. This could hardly be the inaugural coining of the word. However, it’s new enough to be non-existent in the digital Oxford English or Oxford American dictionaries. I wonder also whether there’s a consensus on the definition. Nixon’s is as good as any, but (says he, rubbing his hands together with glee) I can think of a few other me

anings. It would be interesting to track down the first use of Trumpian. It’s a fledgling member of the flock, but it will probably be around for some time to come.

Antonio Christopher Dittmann, Vashon, Washington

The word trumpian isn’t in any dictionary yet, but trumpery is. Meanwhile, use it.
-Anu Garg

Email of the Week brought to you by One Up! -- A way better bargain than Bananagrams.

From: Norman Holler (via website comments)
Subject: A Thought for Today

The man who can make others laugh secures more votes for a measure than the man who forces them to think. -Malcolm De Chazal, writer and painter (12 Sep 1902-1981)

Unfortunately, 45 had it bang in his perception of the attentive state of many (maybe most) American voters with his comment on Barack Obama’s intelligent and well-expressed speech, last week.

Trump said “I fell asleep.” Razzle dazzle, distractions, and gaslighting move the mass electorate more than wisdom and reason. That can change. Takes thinking.

Norman Holler

From: Mike Kunz (hkunz93308 gmail.com)
Subject: Capitano

I got a kick out of today’s word since the definition you provided is almost exactly the opposite of the only usage I’ve ever seen. El Capitano is an earned term of respect from subordinate towards superior when both parties are personally close. Used extensively in the US Navy. “Aye aye, El Capitano”, in reply to a request to do some minor task.

Mike Kunz, Lake Havasu, Arizona

From: Vanni Prichard (varbie_99 yahoo.com)
Subject: Words Coined from Stock Characters

I heard my husband use a word today that seems to fit the week’s theme. I believe he coined it himself after a character regularly seen on the nightly news and social media. “We are going away for the weekend so we can detrump ourselves.” I hope it works. I’m feeling more relaxed even as we drive.

Vanni Prichard, Robertsville, Missouri

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Zany and Eiron

Playing off the “clownish” aspect of our definition of the word “zany”, and acknowledging the daily reality sideshow/three-ring-circus that is Trump’s bizarro, at times laughable, White House histrionics, I couldn’t resist this depiction of our Buffoon-in-Chief, with his fawning straight-man, Vice President Mike ‘Yes-man’ Pence, at his side. Barnum & Bailey must be roiling in their graves about now.
Zany eiron
In Bob Woodward’s new book, Fear, a scathing exposé chronicling the apparent daily chaos infecting the current Trump White House, he quotes Secretary of Defense, retired Gen. Jim Mattis, opining that this president “has the understanding of a 5th- or 6th-grader”. Frankly, that putdown could be deemed as an unintended insult to any 5th- and 6th-graders out there. In this scenario, on the set of the popular TV game show, “Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?”, Trump faces off with a 5th-grade brainiac, who reels off the correct answer to host Jeff Foxworthy’s query. Whereas Trump, decidedly flummoxed, hesitates, trumped (groan) by the homophonic affinity between our word “eiron” and the last name of home-run king, the great Hank Aaron. Trump would likely have argued that it was a “trick question”. Sad.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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


1. zany
2. punchinello
3. alazon
4. eiron
5. capitano
1. zoo
2. ninny
3. alpha con
4. no zeal
5. captain, I rule
     Words coined after stock characters
1. zany
2. punchinello
3. alazon
4. eiron
5. capitano
1. is crazy, inane
2. a loon, a sod, or an antic clown
3. chutzpanik
4. self-deprecator
5. hector
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)

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

Our president thinks he’s quite brainy.
He fancies himself sharp and zany.
But “all the best people”
Have called his mind feeble.
Can we please bring back Barack Husseini?
-Claude Galinsky, Boxborough, Massachusetts (cmgalinsky gmail.com)

The smell in the chambers got methany.
Pompous hot air was bonkers and zany.
The Judge bullshat;
Dem Sens smelled a rat.
It was torture writ large a la Cheney.
-Charles Harp, Victoria, Canada (texzenpro yahoo.com)

On a chilly day, gloomy and rainy,
I refuse to indulge in matters brainy.
Woolens swathe my body
as I sip and swirl toddy
and on YouTube watch videos zany.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Wakefield, Massachusetts (mukherjis hotmail.com)

“If you thought ‘I Love Lucy’ was zany,
Just wait till next week,” said Dick Cheney.
“I’m producing a show
Called ‘Let’s Make Iraq Glow’;
It’s a hoot!” the veep cackled insanely.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“You should date that attractive young fellow,”
Said my mom as I practiced the cello.
But I answered, “Pour moi,
It must be Yo Yo Ma,
Every other’s a mere punchinello.”
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (janicepower25 gmail.com)

Punchinello would not go to bed.
He stayed up late tweeting instead.
In a bright patch of moonlight
He prepared his next bullfight.
Vengeful thoughts filled up his swelled head.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

“It’s happened,” she sighs, “once again!
A couple of cocktails, and then
of a sudden, the fellow
becomes Punchinello.
I’m done with the lot of them. Men!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Said the girls in the Moscow bordello,
“Must ve visit zat Trump punchinello?
Ven ve go for a shagging,
Of prowess he’s bragging
Ven rather than steel, he’s like Jello.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

That zany Punchinello
is an alazon sort of fellow.
His posturing exposes
how little he knows; his
mind is no sharper than Jello.
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

Andy was by no means a paragon.
In fact, he was quite an alazon.
He caused more woe than weal
And did not care how you feel.
The friendship ended bitter, like tarragon.
-Monica Broom, Morogoro, Tanzania (monicabroom2015 gmail.com)

Does the word alazon fit POTUS?
Arrogance? He’s the epitome, plus
Braggadocio too
What ‘bout that orange hairdo?
And self aware? Not that I’ve noticed.
-Joe Budd Stevens, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (joebuddstevens gmail.com)

In Crazytown lived a great alazon;
A large, loud, and hairy phenomenon.
From the island chateau
Of mad Doctor Moreau
Was The Donald, part monkey, part mastodon.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

An alazon, alas, holds sway;
I hope an eiron comes our way.
Bob Mueller’s the man
Who cleverly can
Get rid of the braggart some day.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I don’t need a person in my life
Burdening me with low ego strife.
My world is so sweet,
I live it upbeat.
Pity an eiron’s husband or wife!
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

Eiron, like his name, was ironic.
He was modest and calm and laconic.
When around his friend Alazon,
He felt very put-upon.
Alazon was a jerk and moronic.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Said Meese to the President, “Hey, Ron,
On TV you’re a really great eiron.
But I’ll run things with glee,
So just leave it to me,
For you aren’t a very sharp crayon.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

All hail to our Chief Capitano.
Whose style is like Tony Soprano.
He hires just the best,
(But chicks need some chest),
And never would hire a Chicano.
-Anna C Johnston, Coarsegold, California (ajohnston13 gmail.com)

Never ready for “mano a mano”,
see the swaggering false Capitano.
He hopes for some credit,
though Juvenal said it.
(not) mens sana in corpore sano.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Who’s the boaster who puts on a show?
Who’s the “stable genius” we all know?
When a hero’s deed
Would fulfil a need,
Our capitano has hidden below.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

There was once a young spinto soprano,
Why, he traveled from far Capistrano.
He liked strutting the stage
In op’ratic enrage
As the cowardly El Capitano.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

“He’s a RAT!” cried our chief capitano,
Spewing forth with his usual guano.
Though our discourse he’s dumbing,
The midterms are coming;
He soon could be singing soprano.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The week’s words describe in a lump
Our non-eiron President Trump.
Zany, punchinello,
With alazon bellow,
This capitano we should dump.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Let’s stock about some characters

I’m not zany was a wildman, but Robin Williams cracked me up!

If you greet someone with an arm Punchinello afterward says, “I’m not angry.”

Someone remarked about former VP Gore, “Alazon TV yesterday.”

“Didja see them crazy kids? Eiron drugs or somethin’.”

The boy who couldn’t pronounce S’s asked, “What day do the wallow come back to Capitano?”

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

The man who is always waving the flag usually waives what it stands for. -Laurence J. Peter, educator and author (16 Sep 1919-1990)

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