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Sep 29, 2019
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AWADmail Issue 900

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

Sponsor’s Message: We’ve finally become our own worst nightmare: a sell out. Large anonymous corporation gets wind of One Up! -- The Wicked/Smart Word Game and wants to license it worldwide. We say sure, why not? Creativity, principles, artistic integrity, success on our own terms? Right out the window at the first sign of cash we’re happy to say. Seriously, we’re offering all AWADers, including Email of the Week winner, Barry Brunson (see below), 50% OFF our Special Dark Edition, while supplies last. Once this limited and lovely version of our best-selling cutthroat IQ contest is gone, it’s gone forever. So, smarten up (on the cheap) RIGHT AWAY >

A warm welcome to students from Eleanor Roosevelt High School and big thanks to their teacher who encouraged them to subscribe to A.Word.A.Day.

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

A Strong Ability in Languages May Help Reduce the Risk of Developing Dementia

Impeach ... Gate? What, if Anything, Will We Call This Moment?
The New York Times

Which Is the Best Language?
The Economist

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

I was pleasantly surprised by how the intro to last week’s words touched so many readers. Hundreds of readers sent notes of appreciation (read some below).

Here’s the back story. A few months ago, a bright young man on the other side of the earth who works with us here at Wordsmith.org went AWOL. A week later he emailed me to say that he was in the hospital because he had tried to take his life. I sent him my cell number and told him to call me any time he wanted to talk -- don’t worry about the local time in Seattle.

Then I started thinking about this world so full of suffering. I thought about personal struggles so many of us go through and wrote down the intro you read with last week’s words. Later I felt it was a bit presumptuous of me to tell others about their uniqueness and the write-up lay dormant.

Then, last week, somehow it found its way out.

May I take this moment to say to you reading this: thank you for being here! I so appreciate that you are a part of us.

From: Meng Kiat Janis Tan (janistanmk gmail.com)
Subject: You are amazing

I have been reading your daily email for years. What you wrote today moved me and made me smile and want to cry at the same time! This daily email is created with heart and soul. I look forward to receiving it every day and have collected many of the quotations you posted. Thank you a million times for enriching my life in more ways than one!

I have subscribed and unsubscribed to many emails. AWAD will always get the red carpet in my mailbox!

Thank you for this excellent work that you do.

Janis Tan, Singapore

From: Andrew Causey (drewland512 gmail.com)
Subject: Thank you

Thank you for this week’s preamble, it is a welcome pep talk this morning for me. I appreciate you thinking positive thoughts about all of us who read your offerings each day. I decided you may need a little pep talk yourself, seeing as though you send us words of wisdom (literally) and perhaps never get very much in return.

Your shuffling cards example reminded me of something my linguistics professor told us a long time back: Every utterance we make is unique and new, even if we are repeating ourselves. Over and over? and over? and Over? and OVER AGAIN!? Yes. Because spoken language exists in time and space, so the special context of our speech changes (perhaps ever so slightly) and so it’s not the same... it’s always new.

Andrew Causey, Evanston, Illinois

From: Meg Heisse (meggaroo comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--hebetic

Thank you very much for the metaphor of shuffling cards and the uniqueness of each person.

My beloved brother Jay passed away on Friday. He was indeed unique. Amazing even as an infant, and all through his 59 years composed of atoms.

I wonder whence each of his atoms came and where they have gone -- who or what they will become part of next, and next after that, and on and on.

Peace On, Precious Bro.

Meg Heisse, Towson, Maryland

From: Dr. Kemény Róbert (kemenydr gmail.com)
Subject: Well-shuffled cards...

I was deeply touched by your words today regarding the mere shuffling of a deck of cards and the exquisite uniqueness of each of us mortals. Thank you!

My father was a magician in Budapest, Hungary, and later in New York City, and I still practice and perform prestidigitation with a deck of well-shuffled cards here in our little village of Pécel.

Now, when I will shuffle them, I will always remember that amazing 80 followed by the 66 zeroes...!

Dr. Kemény Róbert, Pécel, Hungary

From: Geordie Schimmel (vgschimmel gmail.com)
Subject: This morning’s email

I appreciate so much the email I received from you this morning. I feel this truth deeply and try to live by it -- but life gets complicated, as it has for me, and I forget. Family, kids, work, the vicissitudes of life as a prosecutor in south Texas, etc. But your email reminds me that our very existence is so incredibly improbable, and more than that, we -- two perfect strangers -- are discussing words with our own words, and probability, and all kinds of breezy, perfect things. Anyway, things have been hard, I needed perspective, you gave it to me, and I thank you for being a kindred soul in this sea of weirdness that is our life.

Geordie Schimmel, Corpus Christi, Texas

From: Bruce Adgate (rossgate gmail.com)
Subject: The Galaxy Song

Your introduction to this week’s theme brought to mind The Galaxy Song from Monty Python’s film The Meaning of Life. I think the lyrics are a poignant picture of our existence and a reminder of how fragile it is -- particularly in this age of global warming.

Bruce Adgate, Spoleto, Italy

Email of the Week brought to you by One Up! -- Play mind games on the cheap NOW >

From: Barry Brunson (mathisfun mac.com)
Subject: shuffling cards

Following your nifty intro (23 Sep) about shuffling cards, I can’t resist calling attention to a brief aside on the subject in Isaac Asimov’s essay “Exclamation Point!”*, wherein he recalls a day playing bridge in the Army. He quotes one friend as saying “We’ve played so many games, the same hands are beginning to show up.” Asimov proceeded to do the calculations, both for the number of shuffles of the entire deck, and for the number of distinguishable bridge hands (52!/((13!)^4), along with decimal approximations. After telling his friends,

“We could play a trillion games a second for a billion years, without repeating a single game.”

To which the same friend gently replied “But, pal, there are only fifty-two cards, you know”, and proceeded to lead Asimov “to a quiet corner of the barracks and told [him] to sit and rest awhile.”

Of course, Asimov was quite right.

Along similar lines, once during a job interview, I heard mathematician Joe Diestel tell an anecdote about his days in a parochial school. In response to a question about eternity, the nun had said “Joe, imagine a sparrow, flying around the world, and each time this sparrow crosses Mount Everest, it whacks that mountain with its wing. Joe, by the time that sparrow has leveled Mount Everest, that is not even one second in eternity.”

Inspired by that story, I developed a brief talk that I gave for several student audiences with a title “How Big is Big?”. In one part of the talk, I related Joe’s story, then made realistic assumptions about the shape and dimensions (and hence volume) of Mount Everest, the speed of a sparrow, the length of its path around the Earth, and about the size of the particle that said sparrow would dislodge on each pass. Then I defined “one e-second” as the length of time for leveling Mount Everest. I would have to dig up my notes (written by hand; this was before routine consumer computer availability), but suffice it to say that, even with a trillion shuffles a second, it would take a vast number of e-years to come close to 52!.

*“Exclamation Point!” appears in the collection Asimov on Numbers (ISBN 0-571-371456), and is available in its entirety at The Internet Archive.

Barry Brunson, Professor Emeritus, Department of Mathematics, Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, Kentucky

From: Tim O’Hearn (tjohearn aol.com)
Subject: Eventide

You may get a lot of people mentioning our early exposure to this word in a hymn. “Abide with me. Fast falls the eventide. The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.” (Henry Francis Lyte, 1793-1847)

Tim O’Hearn, Albuquerque, New Mexico

From: Bruce Floyd (brucefloyd bellsouth.net)
Subject: Eventide

Not long ago I saw a list of the most beautiful words and phrases in the English language. I’ve seen such lists before. It seems the words “aurora” and “petrichor” and “mellifluous” are on all lists. “Cellar door” is always called the “most beautiful phrase in the English language.” Henry James counters with “summer afternoon”. One wag, I seem to recall, said “gonorrhea” sounded euphonious, fluent off the lips to him. I thought of James Boswell, a wag and a libertine, who once wrote to a friend that he, Boswell, was immured in his quarters because “Senor Gonorrhea had come for a visit.” The good Senor, ever amiable, came, I seem to recall, to visit Boswell about nineteen times.

For me, though, I’d put “eventide” on a list of words that sound beautiful to me. I confess the word lacks the gorgeous sound of, say, “mellifluous”, but “eventide” is one of those words that means more than its definition. For one thing, it’s a vague word. Down South (I wonder if the word’s use is pretty much restricted to the South?), it does not mean twilight or dusk. I’d say it means about anything from twilight to about eight or nine o’clock. To say, for example, “The Joneses came round last evening for a visit,” probably means the Joneses came not too long after darkness and stayed for perhaps as long as two hours. But “eventide” is a word teeming with connotation. It conveys -- to me it does -- a sweetness of melancholy to it, a homesickness; it somehow has a hint of death to it, the tragedy of the human condition. It’s Lear on the cusp of madness. We don’t picture one gamboling through the eventide or being roaring drunk at eventide; we’d find one musing or contemplating at eventide. We might see Thomas Gray wandering through a country churchyard. He won’t be yodeling.

For the life of me, though, I can’t imagine anyone using the word. I don’t think I’d ever use it, save perhaps in a really bad poem or in an attempt to be humorous. No matter. I find the word beautiful.

Bruce Floyd, Florence, South Carolina

From: David Franks (david.franks cox.net)
Subject: cacophony

You write: “Kakos is ultimately from the Indo-European root kakka-/kaka- (to defecate), which also gave us poppycock, cucking stool, cacology, and cacography.”

With the help of a non-majority of uninformed voters, it also gave us kakistocracy.

David Franks, Fayetteville, Arkansas

From: Ginny Stahlman Crooks (via website comments)
Subject: cacophony

I won a spelling bee on this word in seventh or eighth grade. My mom was amazed that I could spell it because she’d never even heard of it, and she was so proud of me. I’ve loved the word ever since (maybe because it reminds me of winning and my mom’s admiration?), and try to use it every chance I get..... Living in New Jersey, the most densely populated state in the US, I’m often “treated” to a cacophony of car horns at rush hour -- truly a bad sound!

Ginny Stahlman Crooks, Bloomfield, New Jersey

From: Debbie Evans (kiwidebbieevans outlook.com)
Subject: cacophony

And of course who can forget the character Cacofonix from the Asterix comic books -- the village bard who’s an unbearably bad singer.

Debbie Evans, Wellington, New Zealand

From: Robin Carpenter (RobinC carpenteranalytix.com)
Subject: Eventide

This word reminds me of admonition from high school English teacher (Ray Kavanagh) that phrases like “Time and tide wait for no man” refer not to anything nautical, but “tide” as in eventide or yuletide, that is, “time and times” or “times and eras”.

Robin Carpenter, Lebanon, New Hampshire

From: Jean-Luc Popot (jean-luc.popot ibpc.fr)
Subject: Probability of picking the same five words twice

You wrote: This week we have picked five words randomly. The odds of these five words appearing together has been left as an exercise to the reader.

Assuming that you use the Oxford Dictionary, and it contains 273,000 words, the probability of picking these five words in the order in which they’ll appear this week is about 1 in (273,000)5, i.e. 1 in ~1.5 x 1027. If you don’t care about the order, you’d divide the number of combinations by 5!, that is 120, and it collapses to a more reasonable 1.26 x 1025. Assuming you draw five words at random every second for 14 billions years, you have one chance in about 2.9 x 107 (29 million) to hit a second time on the five-word batch you started with.

Jean-Luc Popot, Paris, France

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Cacophony & hebetic

Here, I’ve gathered a quartet of some of the most vocal denizens of the Amazon rainforest... a macaw, a howler monkey, a jaguar, and a venomous tree frog. All these creatures can singularly, or as a collective, make quite a racket, as I’ve hopefully illustrated. I could have added a majestic harpy eagle and a humongous-billed toucan to this raucous troupe, but figured that the macaw’s raspy “caw”, combined with our jaguar’s sonorous roar, would have drowned out these two less imposing avian voices. Kinda wish I had the luxury of “illo-sound” on this one. Ha!

Life, puberty, and the pursuit of happiness! OK. Admittedly, I put a decided hebetic twist on that familiar axiom. So much for “liberty”. Aha!... “puberty”... when our sex hormones kick in, big-time, testosterone-raging male voices descend at least an octave, the phrase “really horny” slips into our teenage lexicon, and hair that-wasn’t-THERE-before predictably sprouts up, hopefully, in all the right places. In my classroom scenario, 12-year-old class comedian/prankster, Johnny, gets a jump on puberty, sporting a fake goatee, knowing full-well that teacher, Ms. Elliot, would take notice, and then single him out, much to the delight of his fellow classmates.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Neil Parsons (mrnaparsonsuk gmail.com)
Subject: Words

I love words and how they freely offer us meaning to the world around us.

As a child I fell in love with literature and with books and would visualise the scenes in my mind’s eye.

As an adult I’ve rediscovered that love with the emails I receive from Wordsmith.

Neil Parsons, UK

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

1. hebetic
2. eventide
3. cacophony
4. indefeasible
5. contumacy
= 1. has become C-cup
2. end in day
3. coyote fete
4. invincible
5. hate
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

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

Beginning when she was hebetic,
Her wish to be “in” was frenetic.
Still on fashion she’s hyped,
Now she’s stereotyped;
The quest for her own look’s pathetic.
-Willo Oswald, Portland, Oregon (willooswald gmail.com)

Gram was frantic -- “He’s so darn frenetic!”
Her classic home cure: “An emetic!”
“Don’t be silly,” Mom said,
“There is nothing to dread --
He is clearly just being hebetic!”
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

As her mirror shows changes hebetic,
she sighs, “I look really pathetic!
But when you combine
two parents like mine,
you get what you get. It’s genetic!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

With an effect so staunch and magnetic,
Plus a penchant toward interests athletic,
The girl rose to great fame,
She was top of her game,
At a time best described as hebetic.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

He suffers afflictions hebetic,
And frankly I feel sympathetic.
A face full of zits
Is really the pits,
A look that is most unaesthetic.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Jeff Epstein liked girls pre-hebetic
And Trump didn’t find that pathetic.
After writing this rhyme
I feel covered in slime.
Now I have to go take an emetic.
-Claude Galinsky, Boxborough, Massachusetts (cmgalinsky gmail.com)

This advice you will find quite prophetic:
Life will change when your kids turn hebetic.
Once so cute and so sweet,
When their new friends you meet
You will feel like you’ve gulped an emetic.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Every night just around eventide,
The ice-cream truck dallies outside.
But tonight he was gone
‘Fore I got my shoes on,
And of course I was fit to be tied.
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“Day’s okay,” says Count Dracula’s bride.
“But too soon comes the dread eventide.
He’ll awake with a thirst,
and will make me the first
to assuage it. I’ve no place to hide!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The time of day loved far and wide:
The time after dinner called eventide.
The “gloaming” we may name it,
Or “twilight” could frame it,
The colours of evening are muted and pied.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

She always enjoyed the eventide,
Since it was a time that she could hide
From a hectic day
And relax her way.
Being at home, warm, and safe inside.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

At eventide night owls awake;
They’re ready their booties to shake.
But I am a lark
And when it gets dark,
I’m greatly in need of a break.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

With ego full up to the brim,
The Donald went out on a limb;
For one fine eventide
As they sat side by side,
He declared, “I’m in love with you, Kim.”
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

Caught off guard by his deceiv’n bride,
Who fled from his bed by eventide.
She took all his money,
And said, “See ya, honey!”
So forlorn, the poor groom griev’n cried.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

As daytime becomes eventide,
My sweetie stays close by my side.
Just for me she is meant,
Curled up, purring, content
With the mouse she’s digesting inside.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpmarlin456 gmail.com)

In the morning, at noon, and at eventide,
A leader, who racists believe in, lied.
“Such a very fine Prez,”
Their Grand Dragon now says,
“In the end, though, his skill at deceivin’ died.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

If we don’t understand it, it’s Greek.
Someone’s diff’rent? We call him a freak.
And in ignorance, often we
judge as cacophony
language that strangers may speak.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The Professor of paleobotany
Was depressed from the daily monotony.
Old plant fossils abound,
Never making a sound.
How he longed for a bit of cacophony.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

The panelists fight, daggers drawn,
Hurling insults: a televised con.
Execs grin as they yell,
For they know this’ll sell;
The cacophonous show rages on.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Cacophony’s driving me nuts,
All thanks to my neighbor, the putz.
His lawn he will mow
And leaves he will blow --
The upshot’s that I hate his guts.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Should you stray from the path of monogamy,
From your wife you will hear a cacophony.
One minute she’s cooing,
Then suddenly booing
When texts on your phone show dishonesty.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

He demands of his lawyer, “I need
this divorce decree done with great speed.
Make it firm, indefeasible,
rend’ring unseizable
assets of mine by her greed!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The union of Europe seemed strong
‘Til some of the Brits said, “So long!
Indefeasible? No!
We’re determined to go.”
But others think Brexit is wrong.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

They engaged in a great game of chess.
Boris Spassky he had to impress,
And although indefeasible,
His title was seizable.
Bobby Fischer achieved sweet success.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said Whipple, “Though Charmin is squeezable,
In this store we have rules indefeasible.
You’re a MILF, though, and blonde,
Of your shape I am fond;
In my office I might be appeasable.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

A two-year-old child, you’ll agree,
Personifies contumacy.
Mom tells dad with a sigh,
“I’m afraid you and I
Will just have to hang on till he’s three!”
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

He was handsome and she very fair.
It seemed they would make a good pair.
But it wasn’t to be,
for their contumacy
was too grievous for either to bear.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

We once governed ourselves so assiduously,
Making rules which were built on tight accuracy.
Now a brash head of state
Preaches violence and hate,
With such attitudes shaped by his contumacy.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

“Miss Boleyn,” complained Henry, “your contumacy
Is most rude, for I’m king, and I want what I see.”
“On this hand put a ring,”
Answered Anne, “or no fling;
I demand for our child legitimacy.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Took these words and random into the ground

I wagered that the youth couldn’t outrun me but hebetic could.

“Not eventide will get out those bloodstains.”

The old m-man had a bad cacophony d-died.

A bovine can weigh over 1,600 pounds indefeasible, even more!

Is that contumacy in the prison cemetery Al Capone’s?

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: Jim Ertner (jde31459 gmail.com)
Subject: Ran dumb words

The psychiatrist diagnosed the gambler as hebetic.

The gambler pleaded for a larger loan, saying it would not only suffice for the night’s games, but would eventide him over until tomorrow.

After the police recruit was shown how to put handcuffs on wrists and ankles, he asked, “N-now, how to cacophony?” (“Cu-cuff a knee”)

An emphatic (albeit not grammatical) way of saying something is impossible is to say it’s indefeasible.

When asked if he could make out the image of his cancerous growth on the x-ray, the Boston prisoner hesitantly replied, “Contumacy”. (“Con tumor see.”)

Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina

There are two possible outcomes: If the result confirms the hypothesis, then you’ve made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you’ve made a discovery. -Enrico Fermi, physicist and Nobel laureate (29 Sep 1901-1954)

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