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Oct 13, 2019
This week’s theme
Pessimists and optimists from fiction who became words

This week’s words
Debbie Downer

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

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Words coined after days of the week

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AWADmail Issue 902

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, Pardner Wynn (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 Hackensack High School and big thanks to their teacher Caroline M. Krueger for sending them gift subscriptions of A.Word.A.Day.

From: Paul Calico (paul_calico ca6.uscourts.gov)
Subject: Pessimists

While on a family beach vacation, my brother-in-law Bill commented that he had been surprised to see someone with a beach towel bearing the logo of his alma mater, a small private school. Our mother-in-law June responded, “I can’t believe someone stole your towel.” Without pausing, Bill said, “June, for you, not only is the glass half-empty rather than half-full, but you want to know who drank the other half!”

Paul Calico, Cincinnati, Ohio

From: Nick Fiekowsky (nick.fiekowsky pfizer.com)
Subject: Pessimists and Optimists

My wife and I complement each other.

Show my wife some silver, she’ll describe the dark cloud that almost certainly lurks behind it.
Show me a dark cloud, I’ll describe the silver lining that awaits those who can penetrate it.

Her informal title in the family is “Our Lady of the Worst-Case Scenario.” This helps me temper my optimism with back-up plans if the cloud turns out to be deeper and stormier than expected.

Pessimist and Optimist -- Corporate View:

I’ve consoled less-experienced colleagues upon their first setback, “Sure, sometimes you end up with the short end of the stick. Hang in there, do your best. You’ll see things even out. Next time, it’ll be the long end of the... shaft!

Nick Fiekowsky, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania

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

From: Pardner Wynn (pardnerw lumify.com)
Subject: half-full / half-empty

Some years ago it occurred to me that there might be a definitive answer to the half-full / half-empty question that says something about the human condition: If it was recently full, it’s half-empty; if was recently empty, it’s half-full. Not saying that’s how humans ought to see it, but it does seem to capture the essence of how many of us actually do see it.

Pardner Wynn, Kailua, Oahu

From: John Felix (Jfelixb aol.com)
Subject: Glass half full?

If the glass appears half empty, add ice, lime, and vodka. Cheers!

John Felix, Hollywood, Florida

From: Steven Stine (scstine1672 gmail.com)
Subject: Who drank my water?

Here is my take on this expression. An optimist says, “The glass is half full; A pessimist says, “The glass is half empty; A cynic says, “Hey, somebody drank half of my water!”

Steven Stine, Mundelein, Illinois

From: John Sturtevant (Johnsturtevant mac.com)
Subject: Half-empty or half-full?

Is the glass half-empty or half-full? It depends on whether you’re drinking or pouring!

John Sturtevant, Austin, Texas

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Tigger

Whenever I see a reference to Winnie the Pooh I’m reminded of Dorothy Parker. For several years she reviewed books (anonymously) in The New Yorker. She signed those columns “Constant Reader”.

One of Dottie’s more famous quips appears at the end of her short review of The House at Pooh Corner: “Tonstant Weader Fwowed up.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: Kathleen Cain (kc caincreative.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Tigger

We must learn to honor excellence in every socially accepted human activity, however humble the activity, and to scorn shoddiness, however exalted the activity. An excellent plumber is infinitely more admirable than an incompetent philosopher. The society that scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because it is an exalted activity will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water. -John W. Gardner, author and leader (8 Oct 1912-2002)

I have always hoped, somewhat selfishly, that one of my daughters would become a plumber. Or, at the very least, would fall in love with and marry a plumber. So far, no luck. But I remain Tiggerish on the subject.

Kathleen Cain, Seattle, Washington

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

tigger, tigger, burning bright / in the forests of the night / what immortal hand or eye / pooh-poohed your fearful seam and try (to get away with it)?

From a song of innocence and inexperience.

With humble apologies to William Blake, A.A. Milne, and the citizens of Winnipeg, Canada.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Tyler Thompson (anotherday.tyler gmail.com)
Subject: Tigger

When I went out for my prep school football team, my coach asked me what my name was. When I told him it was Tyler, he said that sounds like Tiger so that’s what we’ll call you. Three weeks later, my roommate said “You are not a Tiger, you’re really a friendly bouncy Tigger.”

Now that I am 85 years old, I am known as Grandpa Tigger.

Tyler (Tigger) Thompson, Hancock, Maine

From: Donald N. Smith (mnr.dns verizon.net)
Subject: Debbie Downer

A synonym for this we used to use in the UK was a Dismal Desmond.

Donald N. Smith, Brooklyn, New York

From: Mayank Keshaviah (mkeshaviah gmail.com)
Subject: Debbie Downer

I was struck by today’s Word of the Day because I had had a conversation with my wife some months back about how terms such as Debbie Downer, Chatty Cathy, Nervous Nellie, etc., mostly seemed to skew both negative and female.

I posited that the deeply ingrained sexism in our history (which still exists in many ways), especially of the more subtle variety, crept into the language (as society’s traits do), and created such nicknames that ascribed less than desirable traits mostly to women. Gloomy Gus is one masculine exception, but I was hard-pressed to come up with other negative male nicknames.

So, in the spirit of coining new terms (and trying to amend the wrongs of history), allow me to offer some alternatives to the traditional nicknames, with these new offerings describing traits that are equally characteristic of men and women (chattiness), or even more so of men (being a bro):

Chatty Charlie
Mansplaining Matt
Dominating Dave
Douchey Doug
Bro-ey Brad

Mayank Keshaviah, Los Angeles, California

From: Jess Green (jessjagreen yahoo.co.nz)
Subject: Eeyore

I had a psychologist who used to refer to me as Eeyore a lot. I used to think it was a pessimistic analysis until I got to reading the books and I learned that Eeyore is loved dearly and still invited to join in on fun and games with all the other characters. I think there’s a charming lesson for how we treat people with depression or grief. We may categorise people as “Eeyores” or “depressed” but that does not mean they don’t deserve our love and inclusion, especially because most often it’s what we need the most.

Jess Green, Christchurch, New Zealand

From: Matthew Mattingly (mdmattin1 gmail.com)
Subject: Eeyore

More than 60 years ago, the Wilkins coffee company issued two promotional rubber toys, Wilkins, who was all smiles and sunshiny colors, and Wontkins, who was blue, pointy headed, and wore a perpetual frown. Wilkins lasted a week or so before disintegrating; Wontkins survives to this day and presides over my desk. The power of positive pessimism.

Matthew Mattingly, Amherst, Massachusetts

From: Fred Geldon (fgeldon yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Eeyore

Every year there is a birthday party for Eeyore at a park in Austin, Texas. It is based on the famous chapter “Eeyore’s birthday”. It resembles a Be-in from the Sixties.

Fred Geldon, Rockville, Maryland

From: Jim Tang (mauijt aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Eeyore

Eeyore the pessimist can also be seen as a realist (“This probably won’t work anyway”), but he’s also the individual who always had his expectations met or exceeded. In that sense, he was never disappointed. Something to think about as we contemplate impeachment.

Jim Tang, Kula, Hawaii

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Tigger & Eeyore

Here, I’ve imagined Pooh bear world’s most abidingly upbeat character, Tigger, with his very own golf links...”Tigger’s Woods”, clearly a play on “Tiger Woods” *, arguably the greatest golfer of the modern era... although fans of the great Jack Nicklaus (aka “The Golden Bear”) might respectfully disagree on that score. Tiger, despite his career low-points, mostly rooted in interpersonal woes, or dealing with multiple physical injuries, for the most part, has been a positive, glass-half-full kind of guy. Clearly, our golfing Tigger is delighted with his drive, keeping things very basic with a crooked tree branch for his club and a pine cone for the “ball”. Tigger’s brought back the “wood” in woods, the original club-head material used prior to the advent of the so-called “metal woods”. (Hmm... a bit of an oxymoron, there, no?) Hit ‘em straight, Tigger! *Interestingly, Tiger Woods has used a knitted Tigger-motif driver head-cover throughout most of his years on the pro tour.

In this scenario, Winnie the Pooh’s sad-sack pal, Eeyore, sulking under a proverbial “black cloud”, is hopefully being cheered up a smidgeon by Jazz/Reggae-inspired a cappella singer-songwriter Bobby McFerrin... riot of flowing dreadlocks-and-all, with his upbeat 1988 signature song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. I’ve pictured a gleeful McFerrin as the extension of a rainbow, adding an element of positivity and vibrant color to an otherwise sad, monotone, and dreary scene.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

Pessimists and optimists from fiction who became words:
1. Gummidge
2. Tigger
3. Debbie Downer
4. Tapleyism
5. Eeyore
1. grumpy widow
2. frolicsome tiger
3. anticipates grimness
4. deft optimism
5. woebegone, bothered, maybe dismissed
1. Gummidge
2. Tigger
3. Debbie Downer
4. Tapleyism
5. Eeyore
1. eggy damper
2. doer
3. misery me
4. glee
5. wee bit doubting I
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)

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

He tried once again to uplift
her spirits with lovely new gift.
As always, glum Gummidge
dismissed it as rummage.
“From somebody’s yard sale!” she sniffed.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The old fogey had drunk just a wee smidge
Of champagne that was chilled in his new fridge.
But he said with a sneer,
“This stuff tastes like flat beer,”
And for that he was called a rude Gummidge.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

Not enthused by recurring success,
He seemed much like a man in distress.
With a Gummidge-like look,
Came his whisper quite shook,
“To the tax man we grant much largesse.”
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

They tell the sad story of Joan
who would always bewail and bemoan.
Every word had a glum edge.
That clueless live Gummidge
wept, “Why am I always alone?”
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

When at Customs they open your luggage,
Through your bras and your panties they rummage.
When they find a sex toy,
Then you really say “Oy,”
But without it, you’d feel like a Gummidge.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I’d like to be seen as a Tigger,
But Eeyore’s sad imprint is bigger.
Trump opens his mouth,
Optimism goes south,
And away goes both comfort and vigor.
-Willo Oswald, Portland, Oregon (willooswald gmail.com)

My two-year-old grandson with vigor
Proudly bragged he was getting much bigger!
“Can you tell?” he inquired,
Then laughed, quite inspired,
And stood in his high chair -- that Tigger!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“I know what to do,” says the fox.
“I’ll paint a few stripes on my locks
and summon some vigor.
Soon vixen-turned-Tigger
will be on your cereal box!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

“I’m small, but I’m happy,” smiled Tigger,
“’cause I know someday I’ll be much bigger.
Then I’ll cheer up Eeyore,
out-jump Roo, and what’s more
I’ll tell Pooh honey’s bad for his figger.”
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

He liked that his date was a Tigger.
She was full of pep and great vigor.
And they nearly did wed,
But he found out instead
She was really just a gold digger.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

As a child, my son was a Tigger,
Always brimming with sweet vim and vigor.
Never down in the dumps
Even when he had mumps,
He just laughed as his cheeks swelled up bigger!
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpmarlin456 gmail.com)

“Ah’m feelin’ today lak a Tigger,”
Said Dubya, “A war Ah should trigger.
Here and there a smart bomb
Oughta do fer Saddam;
Then it’s ‘Mission Accomplished,’ Ah figger.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Hooray for our queen, Debbie Downer!
We’ve voted her best crabby frowner.
Come next rainy day,
we’ll paint the town gray.
We’ll have a parade, and we’ll crown ‘er!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

She will suck all the joy from a room
As she broadcasts her message of gloom.
Debby Downer’s no fun
And her job isn’t done
‘Til we’re left with the mood of a tomb.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

There once was a real Debbie Downer,
Whose glum views made her such a sad frowner.
All her friends she’d annoy,
Being such a killjoy,
All they wanted to do was just drown her.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“At the beach, Mom’s a real Debbie Downer,”
Said the girl, “Nagging, ‘Please don’t get browner.’”
But when strapless I’m sunning,
The boys all come running;
She’d better shut up, or I’ll drown her.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Relentlessly chipper is he,
More jolly than you or than me.
A rose-colored prism
Called “Tapleyism”
Means upsides he always will see.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

He pumps himself up with his followers
Who roll in his jargon like wallowers.
His fake Tapleyism
And smug cynicism
Are believed by his base of lie-swallowers.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

Pollyanna, Micawber, Candide
have the kind of world-view we all need;
see it through a pink prism,
embrace Tapleyism,
but the news that’s embraced might impede.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

These days we must choose Tapleyism,
Or we’ll all get a brain aneurysm.
But when Moby’s been beached
(That is, Donald’s impeached),
All we limerick writers will miss him.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Why, according to Milne’s sad Eeyore,
He’s a donkey with problems galore.
Until Pooh took his hand,
Saying, “Life’s much too grand
To sit ‘round like a mule whose hoof’s sore.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

The note that she left said, “I fear
I must leave you forever, my dear.
You’re just an old Eeyore!
Too bad you can’t be more
like me, full of zest and good cheer!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

She was really a full-fledged Eeyore,
Since she complained about life galore.
When we’d see her face,
We’d all make a race
To see who would be first out the door.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

“I know he means well,” moaned Eeyore,
“but Tigger’s become quite a bore.
To cheer me he keeps trying,
but I enjoy crying,
and smiling I’ll always abhor.”
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Said the gold miner, “Don’t be an Eeyore;
Any day now, I’m sure that I’ll see ore.”
“When you find it, come back,
And we’ll roll in the sack,”
Came the answer, “Cuz I ain’t no free whore.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: I ought to skip some of these words, i.e., optimism of ‘em

If you constantly chew sugary gummidge-ust rots your teeth.

That girl is so optimistic there is nothing you can do to tigger off.

My wife hates desserts. I can’t even get a Little Debbie Downer.

How the Dickens do you pun “Tapleyism”?

On an optimism scale ranging from A to G, I’m an Eeyore F.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

You can’t do anything with anybody’s body to make it dirty to me. Six people, eight people, one person -- you can do only one thing to make it dirty: kill it. Hiroshima was dirty. -Lenny Bruce, comedian and social critic (13 Oct 1925-1966)

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