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Dec 1, 2019
This week’s theme
Words related to weapons

This week’s words
hatchet job
smoking gun
great guns

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Relative usage over time

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Illustrated words
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AWADmail Issue 909

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

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From: Harold MacCaughey (harold.maccaughey verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--shell-shocked

My compliment to you on your excellent commentary. Ike was, as usual, correct in his prognostication about and observation of the Military Industrial Complex in his farewell address.

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. -Dwight D. Eisenhower, US general and 34th president (1890-1969)

Harold MacCaughey, Winchester, Massachusetts

From: Paul G Ross (paul.g.ross.gszh statefarm.com)
Subject: Military spending

Seems Eisenhower was right all along: (video, 3 min.).

Paul G Ross, Pembroke Pines, Florida

From: Don Fearn (pooder charter.net)
Subject: shell-shocked

George Carlin once observed that the descriptive term for the emotional damage to those who fight in the wars keeps getting more complex. First it was called “shell shock”, then “battle fatigue”, and now it’s “PTSD” (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). From two syllables to four syllables to eight. (video, 3 min.)

Don Fearn, Rochester, Minnesota

From: Kate Cook (via website comments)
Subject: shell-shocked

I think I’ve been shell-shocked (suffering from shell-shock?) at the right turn this country took after 9/11. I thought we’d survived running the gauntlet of the Bush-Cheney years and then we go and elect the loosest of loose cannons and pphhhhttt, there goes the American Dream. Disgusted. Shell-shocked. Sad.

Kate Cook

From: Jan Neville (janhneville gmail.com)
Subject: Mexican Artist Turns 1,527 Guns Into Shovels To Plant Trees

I thought you might like to see this article as it describes artist Pedro Reyes’s work: Mexican Artist Turns 1,527 Guns Into Shovels To Plant Trees. It seems to tie in well to your comments this morning.

Jan Neville, London, Canada

From: Donna Wells (donnacoxwells gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--shell-shocked

Bernie Sanders just pointed out that we also spend millions on keeping people incarcerated. No one ever asks, “How are you going to pay for that?”

Donna Cox Wells, Tarzana, California

From: Dave Wightman (davewightman icloud.com)
Subject: Nitpick

It is a rare moment when one can critique the work of master wordsmith Anu Garg which I enjoy daily.

BUT: “Millennia of fighting has left its imprint on the language.”

I respectfully suggest that this should read “Millennia of fighting have left their imprint on the language” as millennia is obviously plural. It would be even more clear perhaps if the quote had used “years” instead of “millenia”. Then there would be no doubt.

Fire when ready!

Dave Wightman, Victoria, Canada

The key question here is whether the subject of the sentence is “fighting” or “millennia”. Here we're talking about “fighting”. Even after replacing “millennia” with “years” or another word, the subject remains the same.

When it comes to subject-verb agreement, there is grammatical agreement and there is notional agreement. The former looks at grammatical form, the latter at the meaning, i.e., the subject phrase considered as a single unit. Consider the sentences:
  • Twenty-six miles is not that far once you get going.
  • Five thousand dollars is a lot of money.
It's also a matter of what sounds right. Sometimes you'll see "none is" and at other times "none are". In language, sometimes there can be two ways to say something and both can be right.

-Anu Garg

PS: I appreciate your kind words. I consider myself a life-long student of language. Student, not master.

From: Ryanne Cheffer (rcheffer nevadasalesagency.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--shell-shocked

With the daily barrage of Trump’s rhetoric, I find myself shell-shocked quite often.

We haven’t yet learned how to stay human when assembled in masses. -Lewis Thomas, physician and author (25 Nov 1913-1993)

I can’t agree more. Trump’s rallies come to mind.

Ryanne Cheffer, Las Vegas, Nevada

From: Anne Schmitz (annemuryo gmail.com)
Subject: swords into ploughshares

From the point of view of the earth, ploughshares are swords.

Anne Schmitz, Ottawa, Canada

From: Chuck Hankins (cjhankins3 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--shell-shocked

Thank you. I burnt my draft card because my conscientious objector status was ignored and Nixon lied about bombing Cambodia. Truth in words!

I am an Anglican priest. I live in the Diocese of Central Florida, which is right wing. I, a Benedictine monk, with my Abbott, support choice.

Chuck Hankins, Orlando, Florida

From: Bruce Floyd (brucefloyd bellsouth.net)
Subject: shell shock

My father, an infantry platoon leader, landed at Normandy in the summer of 1944 and saw almost continual combat until the end of the war, fighting through France (snared in the midst of the Battle of the Bulge) into Germany and doing occupation duty in Austria until he was discharged in November, 1945. In a combat outfit he saw all the horrors of war, the brutal deaths and carnage, and the almost indescribable suffering. His division was one of the first ones into Buchenwald, and it was there he saw the horrors -- the mounds of bodies, the surviving scarecrows stumbling and shuffling around, the lamp shades made of human skin -- that haunted him the rest of his life, though the rest of his life he did his duty and fulfilled his obligations, evincing a steely discipline. When I was old enough to understand, my mother, in an attempt to exonerate my father from my adolescent charges that his actions bewildered me, told me simply that “the man who went to war didn’t return home the same man.” He’s dead and I’m old: I understand things better now.

He didn’t talk much about the war. I do know that he was an avid hunter before the war but after he came home, he never picked up another gun, simply saying to me, “I’ve had enough of killing.” I recall one winter afternoon when I was in college, home for Christmas vacation, when I drove him to a city for him to do some research on an engineering project he was directing. After he found his information, he and I stopped at a small coffee shop, and drinking coffee and both of us smoking (this was years ago), he then opened up on the subject of shell shock or battle fatigue. He told me that veterans of combat, the men who faced it on a daily basis, never thought a soldier showing signs of breaking down under the tremendous and harrowing emotional strain of war was a coward. A man, broken by combat, helpless now in battle, reduced to a shivering hulk during an artillery barrage, unable to fire his rifle, found that his buddies in the outfit protected him, even if they knew he was incapable of engaging with the enemy. Only an officious and ignorant fool, a soldier stationed in the rear, one who had never been in battle for days and months at time, would call a shell shock victim a coward. When a soldier became completely undone, paralyzed by exposure to trauma, he was inconspicuously transferred to the rear where he could receive proper care. When he left, his buddies, left behind to continue fighting, displayed only the deepest empathy. They knew the truth.

Bruce Floyd, Florence, South Carolina

From: Emma Smith (cultjunkie aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--hatchet job

I’ve heard “hatchet man” also refer to a consultant coming in to a company to make people redundant.

Emma Smith, Iver, UK

From: Mary Jean Mailloux (marie-jeanne alliance-francaise.ca)
Subject: hatchet job

I always thought hatchet job meant a botched job. Like instead of using a scalpel for an operation, the surgeon used a hatchet and made a mess, or a hatchet for cutting hair instead of scissors.

Mary Jean Mailloux, Oakville, Canada

From: Kiko Denzer (potlatch cmug.com)
Subject: hatchet job

A good sharp hatchet can be used with great precision to fashion everything from spoons to furniture to houses, as in this video (2 min.) of a Swedish spoon-carver. It’s not the tool, but the intent. Though of all the tools, from hatchets to pencils, I think the spoon is the least likely to be used as a weapon of war.

Kiko Denzer, Blodgett, Oregon

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

From: Janet Wooters Popish (jcwpopish yahoo.com)
Subject: battle-axe

The word of the day brought a chuckle... and a few tears. I recall playing a card game with my sister, our mother, and grandmother (Mom’s mother-in-law) when I was a child. Grandma made a play that disadvantaged Mom, and Mom spontaneously sputtered, “You old battle-axe!” Grandma took it in the spirit in which it was intended, one of playfulness, and we all had a good laugh. Mom died 12 days ago. I thank you for the warm memory on this cold snowy day!

Janet Wooters Popish, Grand Junction, Colorado

From: Marge Simon (msimon6206 aol.com)
Subject: Battle-axe

My ex was embarrassingly uncouth in public. He would tell the server and anyone else nearby in the restaurant that I was his Old Battle-Axe. He said it was a term of endearment. I say it was NOT. But I do think the term fits old Carrie Nation!

Marge Simon, Ocala, Florida

Chaplain holding a smoking pistol
From: Craig George (cgeorge569 aol.com)
Subject: smoking gun

There are those followers of Sherlock Holmes who believe that he (A.C. Doyle) was the first to use the term smoking gun or smoking pistol. In The Gloria Scott episode, the faux chaplain is found holding a smoking pistol. This is nicely illustrated by the very famous Sidney Paget who did the original illustrations for the Holmes stories. This can seen in The Sherlock Holmes Illustrated Omnibus where the above is shown. The Gloria Scott was written in the late 19th c.

Craig W. George, Canandaigua, New York

From: Richard Stallman (rms gnu.org)
Subject: Smoking gun

Isn’t the smoking gun fired as a signal that people can light up?

Dr Richard Stallman, Boston, Massachusetts

From: Dottie Ellis Piper (via website comments)
Subject: Thought for Today

One must be very naive or dishonest to imagine that men choose their beliefs independently of their situation. -Claude Levi-Strauss, anthropologist (28 Nov 1908-2009)

The Thought for Today reminded me of the observation that where one stands on an issue depends on where one sits.

Dottie Ellis Piper, Westminster, Maryland

From: John Markis (jmarkis bidmc.harvard.edu)
Subject: Great guns

Great guns is an expression of admiration for well-formed biceps.

John Markis, Newton, Massachusetts

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Great guns

The greatest of all guns was probably the World War I howitzer nicknamed Big Bertha, which could fire a shell for nearly six miles. It could also play tricks on the gunner as illustrated in Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (video, 2 min.).

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Shell-shocked and hatchet job

In this scenario, a totally gobsmacked Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is locked in a state of bug-eyed shell-shock, on the receiving end of Donald Trump’s barrage of veiled threats, false promises, and outright falsehoods. The cumulative effect of Trump’s “shock & awe” offensive is finally sinking in, as Trudeau tries to process Trumpian “unreality”. Curiously, apropos tariffs, the long-in-the-works new free-trade US/Mexico/Canada Agreement (USMCA), the supposed replacement of the earlier NAFTA deal, has been signed by all parties, but has yet to be officially ratified. So, essentially, the trade pact still languishes in limbo. Hmm... is “poutine” the next Canadian export to land on Trump’s tariff ledger? We shall see.

Hatchet job
Now-former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, confronts her chief defamer, Rudy Giuliani, in her shocking, sudden exit from her three-year diplomatic post. Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, almost single-handedly orchestrated a hatchet job on Yovanovitch, smearing her good name and stellar reputation, ultimately convincing Trump that “this woman” was “bad news”, and had to be relieved of her post. No valid or compelling reason for her removal was ever given by the Trump Administration. Granted, Commander-in-Chief Trump (in name only) had the Constitutional right to recall Yovanovitch from her ambassadorial post for any reason, and at any time at his discretion. But most right-minded politics watchers would concur that Giuliani’s concerted smear efforts went way beyond the pale.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Arthur O’Meara (arthur aomeara.com)
Subject: AWAD and my father

My father introduced me to A.Word.A.Day over 10 years ago. He died in 2012, so whenever AWAD arrives in my inbox I am warmly reminded of him, through you. Thank you, and keep up the good work.

Arthur O’Meara, Aurora, Illinois

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

1. shell-shocked
2. hatchet job
3. battle-axe
4. smoking gun
5. great guns
= 1. bangs get them anxious
2. black joke
3. old hag
4. the clue
5. strengths
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

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

A sorority girl got “defrocked”
When she found herself overly crocked.
She had drunk too much wine,
Now she’s left to opine,
Not to mention she’s very shell-shocked.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

When asked to a naturist fest,
Unsure what to wear, he thought best
That like them he’d go nude,
But was shell-shocked, the prude.
So they all showed respect, and got dressed.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

I’m shell-shocked from watching the news
And hearing the views Donald spews.
His insults and lies
I simply despise --
A break from all this I could use.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

He strikes such an arrogant pose,
Causing shell-shock wherever he goes.
He’s no sight for sore eyes,
But his base won’t realize
That their emperor’s wearing no clothes.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

For Black Friday sales people flocked.
To get bargains expect to be knocked.
If you survived the battle,
Of the stampeding cattle,
You’ll return with your spoils, shell-shocked.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“The election appears to be deadlocked,”
Al Gore said one night, looking shell-shocked.
But Dubya just grinned
And said, “Ah’m not chagrined,
Cuz the Court with Dad’s judges is well stocked.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Says our leader, “I need a vacation
from all of this argumentation!
Dems’ lame hatchet job
continues to lob
cheap shots at Ukraine conversation!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The Ambassador to the Ukraine
Was recalled from her post with disdain,
Because Trump’s vile mob
Did a hatchet job
As part of their venal campaign.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Just one loaf of bread did I rob,
And I’ve suffered a real hatchet job,”
Said Valjean. “That Javert
Is so full of hot air,
You should boo him in Les Misérables.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I thought Granny an old battle-axe,
Till she passed around handfuls of snacks!
Then, lo and behold,
Though she’s really quite old
She gave all of us kids piggybacks!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Since his mother-in-law’s come to stay,
he’s been planning a fast getaway.
Now he’s gotta make tracks.
If the old battle-axe
sees him leave, there will be hell to pay!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

When they call me “that old battle axe”,
I am hurt by those verbal attacks.
I assert, not aggress,
and they’d better not mess
with someone who asserts to the max.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

As he stood there so puffed-up and proud,
A heckler jeered from the crowd.
His anger soon piqued:
“Throw her out!” Donald shrieked.
“That old battle-axe isn’t allowed!”
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

There once was a lady from Halifax
Whom the townspeople called an old battle-axe.
For they thought they should all
Drive a car that was small,
But she shouted, “I buy only Cadillacs!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Well, how do you know it was me?”
says the kid. Mom replies, laughingly,
“’Cause you are the one
with the still-smoking gun!
There’s crumbs on your chin, plain to see!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

If President Trump were to say,
“I murdered a guy, by the way,”
Announce what he’d done --
A real smoking gun! --
His fans would still cry, “Let him stay!”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Pretending to not know a thing,
Pence’s honor is on the downswing.
Smoking gun at the ready,
The Dems aren’t steady;
So still he’s a wannabe king.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

“The phone call was no smoking gun!
It’s a big Shifty Schiff hit-and-run!”
Says Donald, but truly
He likes things unruly;
He wins by at facts poking fun.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

For many a year the renowned
fam’ly bus’ness was fiscally sound.
It was going great guns,
till the daughters and sons
at last ran it into the ground.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

She was going great guns for someone
In her eighties, still getting things done.
She chose to not lag
Like some lazy hag
And believed living life should be fun.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

The President’s proud of his sons.
Their business is going great guns.
“I won’t tell what I’ve earned,
But where money’s concerned,
The Trump name is bringing in tons.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The general said, “Though I hate puns,
This is one of my favorite ones.
When asked if I’m knowing
How the battle’s going,
I reply, ‘It is going great guns.’”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Though the people of Europe hate Huns,”
Said Attila, “we’re going great guns!
We love all the plunder
When foes knuckle under;
I like best of all to ‘date’ nuns.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: This week’s AWADs left me weapon crocodile tears

The limerick writers can’t have enjoyed working with them, either.

Excepting this one ---
When it ceased producing fossil fuels, Royal Dutch Shell shocked the world ---
I came up empty. Here’s a limerick instead:

I’ve made puns on the AWADs -- a ton of ‘em.
And admit it -- you’ve often made fun of ‘em.
Some weeks chances are slim
For a good homonym,
Though I hate giving in, this is one of ‘em.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

If God exists, I hope he has a good excuse. -Woody Allen, author, actor, and filmmaker (b. 1 Dec 1935)

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