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Jan 6, 2019
This week’s theme
Words to describe people

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AWADmail Issue 862

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

Sponsor’s mesage: Already bored and tired of your family Christmas fun and games? One Up! is wicked smarter than Scrabble. And way better than Bananagrams. No board. No complicated rules. 20 or so fast and sweaty cutthroat minutes. Rinse (off your IQ), and repeat. Congrats to Email of the Week winner, James Eng (see below), as well as all AWADers -- you can ring in the new year and ring a few bells too while you’re at it. Wise your family time up now >

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

Where Have All the Vowels Gone?
The New York Times

“Victor Hugo Becomes a Sex God in My Mind” -- How to Get Better at French
The Guardian

Old English
The New York Times

From: Ramaswami S (ramaswami.s gmail.com)
Subject: Re: fabulist

What a coincidence that you should include the second picture with today’s word. Science magazine (Dec 21 issue) quotes this statement about the US government’s response to the National Climate assessment:

“The federal government is constructing an alternative reality,” says Phil Duffy, president of the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts. “They’re in la-la land.”

Ramaswami S, Thanjavur, India

Email of the Week brought to you by One Up! -- Playing mind games just got serious >

From: James Eng (jameseng hotmail.com)
Subject: fabulist

The excellent 2003 movie Shattered Glass, starring Hayden Christensen, depicts the career of New Republic reporter Stephen Glass, whose unique, vibrant, and meticulously detailed stories eventually brought about his downfall when they turned out to be the products of his imagination. His editor began to suspect that “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t.” Glass eventually penned a novel called, The Fabulist. I don’t think it sold very well. Ironically, his fiction-as-fact stories were better received than his fiction-as-fiction ones.

James Eng, Plainsboro, New Jersey

From: Arlene Carol (arlene.carol gmail.com)
Subject: A super way to start the year!! thank you so much for what you do.... (Re: numpty)

Oh BOY! I can hardly wait to see what haiku our friends will come up with this one.
Numpty tRumpty...go for it you all!!

PS: I’m secretly in love with Steve Benko and his brilliant limericks! xxx
Now the world knows.

Arlene Carol, Ayvacik, Turkey

From: Shannon Griffin (shannon.griffin acma.gov.au)
Subject: Numpty

Numpty is the name of a character in Dumb Ways to Die (video, 3 min.), the award-winning train safety campaign from a few years back. He set fire to his hair. But he has his own merchandise, so how foolish could he really be?

Shannon Griffin, Melbourne, Australia

From: Bob Scott (bobscott07 btinternet.com)
Subject: numpty

“Numpty” is a Glasgow slang word which long predates your 1985 earliest documented date. I’m sure I can remember it being current in the 1960s. There is a helpful piece by Jenny Colgan in The Guardian.

I think one of the ways this word may have spread into popular culture is via Taggart, the Glasgow detective series where use is often made of such local pejoratives.

Bob Scott, Huntingdon, UK

From: Audie Finnell (via website comments)
Subject: rentier

When temporarily assuming the role of rentier while playing Monopoly, I try to acquire the properties in the low rent districts, from Mediterranean to Connecticut Avenues, and usually do quite well. I guess that makes me a Monopoly slum lord rentier.

Audie Finnell

From: Alan Levitan (levitan.alan gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--rentier

You wrote: In German, a reindeer is known as a Rentier. Presumably, reindeer in Germany live off the land, renting it out to other grazing animals

I believe you are wrong about the German “rentier” and your explanation that it “lives off the land” and “rents” grazing land to other animals. I believe “rentier” in German is pronounced “ren-teer,” (or even “ren-deer”) and is a transliteration of the original Norse “hreindyr” or the English “reindeer”. The Germans created the word from other languages, having had no word for it in German itself. They do not pronounce it in the French fashion as “ran-tyay”. You should correct your web page.

Alan Levitan, Cambridge, Massachusetts

From: Angelika Lewis (jalewis66 msn.com)
Subject: rentier

The picture caption must be written tongue-in-cheek! German has two different words: “das Rentier = reindeer” (probably from Swedish), and “der Rentier = a (male) person living on income from rent, interest, etc.” (from French). The two words look the same, are of different genders and meanings, and are pronounced differently.

Angelika Lewis, Chelsea, Michigan

What? You mean the video clip I saw on Deutsche Welle the other day of das Rentier signing a rental contract was fake news?
-Anu Garg

From: Ronald Holden (inyourglass gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--rentier

In current French usage, a rentier is a pensioner, a retired person who collects social security payments.

Ronald Holden, Seattle, Washington

From: Anna Bucciarelli (amb sbmgarden.net)
Subject: Quotation

Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest. -Douglas William Jerrold, playwright and humorist (3 Jan 1803-1857)

Today’s thought touches the very soul in me as an avid gardener. Not only do I think the earth laughs but sings and is generous in rewarding us for the joyous time we spend tickling her. It almost seems unfair, she gives back far more than we give at times. Then to think how brutal we often are in treating her with disrespect, using poisons harmful to her as well as to creatures, human and otherwise. I bet anything that she sometimes cries.

Anna Bucciarelli, Chelmsford, Massachusetts

From: Yitzhak Dar (yitzhakdar gmail.com)
Subject: Fink

In the 1960s, when I was a student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, there was a famous bar in Jerusalem named “Fink”. We always looked at US tourists, who used to take their pictures in front of the bar (no selfies at that time) while pointing to the bar’s sign, wondering why they did it.

It took living in the US (and some sabbaticals) to learn the meaning of the word. BTW, the bar closed years ago.

Yitzhak Dar, Haifa, Israel

From: Valorie Mooney (valorie.mooney icloud.com)
Subject: About Fink

In Graz, Austria, across the street facing the opera house was an old and elegant building. On its street level was a brass tablet, upon which was written:
Rat Fink

The English translation of that German phrase is: Counselor-at-Law Fink.

It was difficult to go to rehearsals with a straight face after seeing that Rat Fink sign.

Valorie Mooney, Boulder, Colorado

The King is a fink!
Image: Amazon
From: Scott Kruize (scotkruize yahoo.com)
Subject: Fink

How can you possibly claim to be an authority on word meaning and usage, while leaving out of the definition of fink an additional meaning, namely “The King of Id”. His tyrannical grip on the Kingdom is opposed only by the Lone Haranger, who dares to ride through the Kingdom at night crying “The King is a fink!”

Scott Kruize, Seattle, Washington

From: Louise Fink Smith (louisesmith698 hotmail.com)
Subject: Fink

Fighting words from my childhood growing up in the era of Steve Allen and “rat fink”.

I still have a fuzzy little pink fink a kindly store clerk gave me. I wonder how many other “phynques” there are out there reading AWAD. When I married a man named Smith years ago, the laws in my jurisdiction had to be changed to let me retain my (maiden) name as my middle name on my driver’s license.

Louise Fink Smith, Michigan

From: David Ornick (david.ornick ymail.com)
Subject: Fink

You didn’t mention the keelboatman and frontierman Mike Fink. By many accounts he was “a contemptible person”, as you cite, although Walt Disney inaccurately portrayed Fink as a likeable, farcical character.

Dave Ornick, Morgantown, West Virginia

From: Robert Carleton (enchanted128 outlook.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--swellhead

“Swellhead” reminds me of the old saw about the difference between a violin and a viola. They are actually the same size, but the swollen heads of violinists make their instrument seem smaller.

Robert Carleton, Albuquerque, New Mexico

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: numpty & swellhead

In this scenario, I’m presaging Trump’s (aka Numpty Trumpty’s) likely fall from grace. (That’s presupposing he’s ever exhibited even a modicum of “grace”?) I’ve taken the ill-fated nursery rhyme character Humpty Dumpty’s crashing descent from that great wall, but inserted roly-poly Trump in Humpty’s stead. My frog character’s comment is a veiled reference to the title of the ground-breaking, seminal 1974 tome, All the President’s Men, written by Washington Post dogged investigative reporting duo of Woodward and Bernstein, chronicling their uncovering of the now infamous Nixon-orchestrated Watergate scandal, that broke wide open in 1973. Seems like Numpty Trumpty’s “men”, i.e., his duplicitous partners in crimes, coverups, collusion, and other assorted misdemeanors, are now fleeing like scared rats from a sinking ship, with only his nepotistic family members left to lean on, as the “The Good Ship Numpty Trumpty” descends to the shadowy depths.

numpty swellhead
Sporting an ego the size of his beloved Manhattan Island, I’ve envisioned swellhead Trump as a humongous inflated blimp, to match his humongously inflated ego... and corpulent body. I would contend that if he had his druthers, I could see The Donald petitioning the City of New York and the mucky-mucks at Macy’s to have his self-aggrandizing dirigible floating at the very head of the famed MACY’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, followed by the likes of Snoopy, The Michelin Man, Gumby, and Goofy. Hmm... remind me... which one is “Goofy”?

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

1. fabulist
2. numpty
3. rentier
4. fink
5. swellhead
= 1. I’d bluff
2. nitwit
3. he’ll earn
4. snake
5. yes, Trump!
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

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

Sigmund perfected a Master List
re: who is World’s Greatest Fabulist?
And, yes, Freud chose Trump
A narcissistic chump
(Not bad for a dead psychoanalyst).
-Joe Budd Stevens, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (joebuddstevens gmail.com)

When asked how many fish they’ve caught,
even the most honorable lose the plot.
Captains of the industry,
Leaders of the world free,
all lapse into a fabulist’s argot.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

His money and fame were the catalysts
To make Donald the greatest of fabulists.
We late-night show hosts
To his health often toast,
As each day for our mills is his babble grist.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (janicepower25 gmail.com)

Among other results, six-pack abs you list,
But Ms. Fonda, I say you’re a fabulist.
C’mon, we’re no schnooks,
From your Dad came your looks;
If you think I’ll work out, you’re on cannabis.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Trumpty Dumpty sat on his wall.
“Mexico will pay” the numpty would call.
As Dems come to power,
Perhaps this is the hour
That Trumpty Dumpty finally will fall.
-Chris Fedderson, Watsonville, California (cfedderson verizon.net)

Woe to those who are ruled by a mumpty.
An incompetent, ignorant lump, he
teeters high on his wall,
always fearing he’ll fall --
just a bring-it-all-down humpty dumpty.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Numpty-Trumpty wanted a wall
On Mexico’s tab, you’ll recall.
Now Donald’s stuck
With Nancy and Chuck,
Who won’t support that wall at all.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

As he sat on the wall, Humpty Dumpty
Was believed by the king’s men a numpty.
“Each day up so high,
All alone, downfall nigh,”
They lamented, “the dope looks more Trumpy.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said the wife of a farmer one day,
“These three sightless mice ought to pay
a sensible rent.
If they would assent,
in a trice I’d become a rentier!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthllnk net)

In Canadian days of yore
Second sons, scapegraces, and more
Were sent over here --
Rentiers -- out on their ear;
These remittance men are part of our lore.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

There was once an old rich rentier,
With a tenant who never would pay.
But he kept her around
To take care of his hound,
Plus, his motives were very risqué.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

“There’s that girl who enjoys curds and whey,”
Said a frightening creature one day.
“Down beside her I’ll sit
And she’ll surely submit
To a famous New York rentier.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I’d have to really stop and think
About who deserves the title fink.
Enough to choose from.
Some smart and some dumb,
But they’ll turn on you in a blink.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

My colleague turned out to be a fink!
He told my boss what I think.
The product was old
Demand had gone cold.
I was out of my job in a blink.
-Monica Broom, Morogoro, Tanzania (monicabroom2015 gmail.com)

This new year I’ll stop and I’ll think
Before I call someone a fink
Or a humpty or lout
Or a young lay-about.
A saint? Well, I’m just on the brink.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Said Jesus, “Among you’s a fink,”
But shouts Donald, “The lot of you stink!
How come in the Gospels
Eleven apostles
Stayed true, but away mine all slink?”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Quintessentially ignorant Trump
Plays senile Uncle Sam for a chump.
We’re weirdly wed
To a freak swellhead
With a lot of lemmings keen to jump.
-Charles Harp, Victoria, Canada (texzenpro yahoo.com)

Don Juan was a master in bed.
At least, that’s what Don Juan said.
But, if you took a poll,
The women would cajole
That he was only a swellhead.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

When the swellhead was put in command,
He planned things exceedingly grand,
But from his frame of reference
Golf was his preference,
Needing time to work on his tan.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

In Moscow, a stain on the bedspread
Was left by some girls for a swellhead.
So their boss with his trolls
That big dummy controls,
But now Congress by Nancy is well led!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The fabulist down in D.C.
A numpty all would agree
Is a swellhead and fink
And one who I think
Should become a rentier and flee.
-Bonnie House, Phillipston, Massachusetts (bonbon3444 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Guess who fits dis cryptive group of puns?

What a fabulist POTUS we’ve elected!

The oval office has become a numpty room.

When they saw him coming, his cheering toadies rantier as loud as they could.

Do you fink he will end the government shutdown soon?

Thanks to him, we might as swellhead for oblivion.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. -Carl Sandburg, poet (6 Jan 1878-1967)

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