Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


A.Word.A.Day

About | Media | Search | Contact  


Home

Today's Word

Yesterday's Word

Archives

FAQ


Jan 5, 2020
This week’s theme
Americanisms

This week’s words
humdinger
ripsnorter
ballyhoo
foofaraw
lollapalooza

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives
Index

Next week’s theme
Unusual synonyms

Like what you see here?
Send a gift subscription
Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share

AWADmail Issue 914

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, Connie Branson (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 >



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

A Translation Crisis at the Border
The New Yorker
Permalink

The 5th Annual Tucker Awards for Excellence in Swearing
Strong Language
Permalink



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

From: Connie Branson (connie.r.branson gmail.com)
Subject: humdinger

When teaching fifth grade sciences using the FOSS method, following several weeks of lessons with lab work involving magnetism and electricity there was a concluding activity where the kids were given a box of materials with which small groups were told to create a humdinger. Their invention/creation had to hum and then ding. This was one of my favorite science activities. I loved watching the kids work together, sharing what they had learned, coming up with solutions to the problem. Great fun...for all of us. Thank you for the reminder of those ever so special days in the classroom.

Connie Branson, Alameda, California



From: Frances Weatherson (fweatherson att.net)
Subject: Humdingers

Many, many years ago my brother-in-law discovered new “toys” for the 4th of July called Humdingers. They were extremely loud, and he was so overjoyed with them he bought a case. As my family laughed at the noisy celebration, our neighbor ran out of his house asking us to stop because the noise was causing his hamster to have miscarriages.

Frances Weatherson, Wichita, Kansas



From: Ron Betchley (emef2012 aol.com)
Subject: Humdinger

When visiting the Soviet Union and in Red Square, we were approached by an individual who had all the markings of a fellow westerner, demeanour, dress, and impeccable English. He suggested an exchange of currency which at the time was illegal. During his intriguing pitch he commented on my camera, referring to it as being a “humdinger”. If ever an antiquated and revealing word to make one quickly move on.

Ron Betchley, Yarker, Canada



From: Paul Rust (pdrust gmail.com)
Subject: Ballyhoo

Ballyhoo is also a small fish used as bait. One scorching hot day out on the water, trolling ballyhoo without much success, my friend Bill was inspired to reach out, singing (a la Bloody Mary in South Pacific):
“Bally hoo-oo, bally hoo-oo, come to me, come to me.” We soon had a sailfish (which was caught and released).

Paul Rust, Raleigh, North Carolina



From: Sheila Eskenazi (sheila ballyhoo.ca)
Subject: ballyhoo

As you can see from my email address, I have a close relationship with this word. My husband and I used to own a small real estate brokerage, Doncaster Realties, here in the Laurentians north of Montreal, specializing in waterfront cottages. In the early 1990s, we began producing a newsletter for our client base, both existing and potential. We named it The Doncaster Ballyhoo, enjoying the definition we found in one of our dictionaries of “blatant self-promotion”. But we had a different way of promoting ourselves from other brokerages. There was never an ad for a property for sale in The Ballyhoo. It really was a community-building project. The first page had news of what was going on in the community - heritage, environment, fundraising for local causes, achievements of note by members of the community. Inside there was one page of advice for cottage owners like how to maintain a septic system or find and keep good local handymen. The next page was all about local history, and that grew into a regular column in our local newspaper and a book, Naming the Laurentians. The last page was a graph showing what the market was doing and all our contact information. We produced it three times a year for a dozen years, until we sold Doncaster, but we kept the Ballyoo name and website for ourselves.

Thanks for today’s word and all the others you give us to jump start our brain cells every morning!

Sheila Eskenazi, Ste Lucie des Laurentides, Canada



From: Mark Snow (MarkTSnow msn.com)
Subject: ballyhoo

Much of my background is media production, which has included some events. In the world of stage lighting, “ballyhoo” is the command name for a figure 8-shaped rotation of balcony spotlights. Visually, when several spots are doing it in a darkened arena, it adds an excitement and anticipation to the audience’s experience, often during a sports introduction, rodeo, ice show, or circus (when they had those).

Mark Snow, San Antonio, Texas



From: Chris Kawaja (ckawaja gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ballyhoo

The quotation you are using is from Joseph Campbell, not E.M. Forster. There’s a whole history behind this.

Chris Kawaja, Ross, California

Thanks for catching this. We’ve updated the quotation on the website:
We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come. -Joseph Campbell, professor and writer (26 Mar 1904-1987)
-Anu Garg



From: Steve Benko (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
Subject: Letting go of the life we have planned

Never has any Thought for Today been so relevant as I reach the fifth anniversary of my corporate retirement this month. It became, not by coincidence but surely not with any plan or forethought either, the moment that launched my AWAD limerick-writing career. With time on my hands, I wrote them on that week’s work as a lark, won Email of the Week, got a great reader response, and never looked back.

Steve Benko, New York, New York



From: Jay Florey (jfflorey integra.net)
Subject: Foofaraw

Here in Olympia, the local yacht club holds an annual event called Foofaraw. It is intended to honor and support the military community. For the event, boat owners transport military personnel and their families out to a small local island for a picnic barbecue and a day of fun and games. Recently, law enforcement and first responders have joined in as well. As the boats leave the harbor in the morning, they pass in review by a lineup of police, fire, and rescue vehicles on the port of Olympia dock. The emergency vehicles have their lights on, and if a ladder truck is available, an American flag will be hung from the top of the extended ladder. They also sound their sirens as the boats pass by. It is a moving salute and a reminder of the sacrifices our military personnel make and the debt of gratitude we all owe.

Jay Florey, Olympia, Washington



From: Mitchel Schapira (mitch schapira.org)
Subject: Foofaraw

Sounds like the Yiddish word ungepatchke. The meaning of the word is best understood from the following story.

There was a Rabbi who had never committed a sin and feared that he might be rejected from Heaven because Moses famously committed one sin, and the Rabbi’s ascension might embarrass Moses. So this Rabbi decided that he must commit at least one sin and decided to go whole hog, so to speak. He went to Luchows and ordered the roast suckling pig.

While he was waiting for his order, one of his students passed by and saw him. The student was horrified: “Rabbi! Rabbi! What are you doing in a traif (not-kosher) restaurant!!??”

The Rabbi coolly replied:
“Everyone must have a hobby. My hobby is to study architecture. Now, among people who study architecture, some study houses, some study public buildings, etc. My interest is studying restaurants. So I came here to look around. And to tell you the truth, I find it a little ungepachke.”

Just then, the waiter came over with his roast suckling pig. The Rabbi looked at his student and said, “See! You order a baked apple ...”

Mitch Schapira, Anchorage, Alaska



From: Robert Burns (robertburns oblaw.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--foofaraw

I have never seen such a sight and just do not believe that there is such a word.

Robert Burns, Ocean Beach, California



From: Kibbe Fitzpatrick (kibbef msn.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lollapalooza

The most interesting thing I know about the word lollapalooza is that it was used as a kind of shibboleth during World War II in the Pacific. Obviously, there were many times when an unknown figure would approach a gate or an entryway and have to identify himself. Americans are hardly great linguists, but it was soon discovered that the Japanese couldn’t pronounce an L anything like we do. So the all-purpose password lollapalooza was used. When guards heard raraparooza they knew who was there. I worked for many years at the United Nations and a joke that went around was the Japanese delegates feared discussing matters having to do with an election because they had learned that they would say erection when they wanted to say election and that would produce giggles and a loss of face for the delegate.

Kibbe Fitzpatrick, New York, New York



From: Ted Hochstadt (tedbh yahoo.com)
Subject: lollapalooza

A Virginia House of Delegates member, Marcus B. Simon, hosts an annual latkepalooza party/fund-raiser around Chanukah time.

Ted Hochstadt, Pimmit Hills, Virginida



From: Bert Ashbrook (bert.ashbrook comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lollapalooza

Forms of lollapalooza predate 1904. On Aug 9, 1897, the San Francisco newspaper The Argonaut published a poem (attributed to the Chicago Record) about the telling of an anecdote considered “a pure lalapaloosa and a stemwinder, b’gosh, and other things”. On Feb 16, 1905, Boston Herald music and theatre critic, Phillip Hale, opined that “lallapalooza” was a corrupted form of “lollapotosa” that was slang either used as an interjection to award a woman, a thing, or a deed “the highest praise” or used as a noun meaning “a woman that demands imperatively a toast drunk standing, or a thing or deed what is worthy of a solemn toast.”

Bert Ashbrook, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



From: Geoff Kennedy (geoffkennedy07 gmail.com)
Subject: Thought for today

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
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)

As a gardener, I assume that Jerrold was writing in his capacity of humorist, since what I usually get when I tickle the earth with a hoe is weeds!

Geoff Kennedy, Peninsula, Ohio



From: Gary Muldoon (gmuldoon kamanesq.com)
Subject: Americanisms

Your choices for words for this topic all had certain elements: a bit of overstatement and a portmanteau quality, which may aptly reflect our Johnny-come-lately image to the Old World and our immigrant culture, combining old and new. You had me gobsmacked.

Gary Muldoon, Rochester, New York



From: Janet Anker (jsbees gmail.com)
Subject: Usage this week

I love that all your usage examples for this week’s Americanisms come from places other than the US.

Janet Anker, Cape Elizabeth, Maine



From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: lollapalooza and foofaraw

Foofaraw
For me, our fun word “foofaraw” conjured up a pair of superstar, outrageously flamboyant, entertainers from two separate generations, both consummate ticklers of the ivories... the late Liberace and the very much alive Elton John. Liberace, of the beaming, dimpled smile, grand feathery boas, sequined capes, fur wraps, and outsized rings, was viewed by some harsher critics as too over-the-top with his sartorial choices and somewhat effete manner. Yet his flawless piano-playing and engagingly warm on-stage/on-camera personality made up for his foofaraw showman persona. Elton John, in the prime of his decades-long career, performed before sold-out audiences in the tens-of-thousands, becoming notorious for his outrageous costumes... one get-up more bizarro than the next. He made Liberace look like a modest fashion plate. Ha! Frankly, Elton knew no sartorial bounds... giant feathers, sequins galore, wacko glasses, funky headdress. On occasion, Elton would even perform in period costume, in the guise of Marie Antoinette or Mozart... powdered wigs and all. Here, I’ve tried to capture Elton in one of his decidedly foofaraw costumes. Beyond all the surface glitter-and-glam, Elton John remains one of the greatest pop vocalist/performers of our generation. “Rocketman” is still a blast! (The emerging rainbow is my shout-out to the LBGTQ community... a cohort so close to Elton’s heart.)

Lollapalooza
Couldn’t resist riffing on our usage quotation for the word “lollapalooza”, pulled from my former hometown go-to newspaper, The Toronto Globe & Mail, from the Dec 1992 piece titled “One Humdinger of a Snow Job”. As an early “boomer”, growing up in Southern Ontario through the ‘50s and ‘60s, I still have vivid recollections of those hellacious snowstorms impacting our Great Lakes region. In fact, our local TV weather gurus often attributed these mega snowfall events to the lake effect. Hometown Toronto, on the north shore of Lake Ontario, would invariably get slammed really hard with monstrous snow “dumps” almost every winter. But our US neighbor to the southwest, Buffalo, NY, seemed to eclipse Toronto in the severity of annual snow assaults. In my cartoon tableau, I’ve tried to capture one those throwback lollapalooza “snow jobs” from my youth... a snowbound pooch and his guardian, frozen in their tracks, engulfed in one of those proverbial snowstorms for the ages. One upside of these paralyzing snowfall events was that our public schools were usually closed for the duration.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California



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

1. humdinger
2. ripsnorter
3. ballyhoo
4. foofaraw
5. lollapalooza
= 1. doozy
2. power rainfall
3. hoopla
4. hullabaloo
5. for ringmaster
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)



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

That election was quite a humdinger!
Joe, my neighbor, became a right-winger.
So now when we meet
I just beat a retreat
Or else wave with a nice middle finger.
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

There are those who may point a finger
At a skater, a dancer, and maybe a singer,
And then wish for that skill,
But soon find they are still
Themselves, and not at all a humdinger.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

Now granny would get off a zinger,
And put poor grandpa through the wringer.
With a comeback that’s snappy,
She would put down grandpappy.
He’d laugh, “That was sure a humdinger!”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Our wedding was quite a humdinger;
We had hired my friend as a singer.
But she messed up our song,
Kissed my groom far too long,
And got drunk -- why on Earth did we bring her?
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpmarlin456 gmail.com)

In the movies, we’ve had some humdingers
Of soldiers and cops and gunslingers.
Gary Cooper! John Wayne!
And Clint Eastwood! Insane!
But I’m more into bards and folk singers.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


They may call you a dreadful old hoarder
If you never throw out what you order,
And the rooms of your dwelling
Are buckling and smelling --
Let’s say you’re a saving ripsnorter!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

The oration was quite a ripsnorter.
Candidate gave opponent no quarter.
He was after our vote,
His opponents he smote,
energizing each eager supporter.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

He had tried, oh so hard, to court her.
Not caring that he was much shorter.
And, on their wedding night,
Said, “In bed, there’s no height.”
Their honeymoon was a ripsnorter!
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Want your evening to be a ripsnorter?
Take your date to a show by Cole Porter!
She’ll be tapping her toes
During “Anything Goes”;
“Kiss Me Kate” to your bed will transport her!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Of course there’s a huge ballyhoo
To impeach Donald Trump -- wouldn’t you?
This prez is a guy
Who would spit in the eye
Of an immigrant toddler with flu!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

For Bloomberg there’s been lots of ballyhoo;
His cause anti-Trumpers can rally to.
This man who’s self-made
Is on a crusade --
With billions of bucks will he sally through.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Forty-five has a talent for ballyhoo;
a genius at running a rally, who
can stir up his base.
Facts with lies he’ll replace.
Trashing enemies, his grand finale.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

There once was a great ballyhoo
At the sight of a lost caribou.
“Santa Claus must be real,”
Said a Sherpa with zeal,
“For a reindeer to reach Kathmandu!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“Enough!” cries her husband in awe,
as she dons yet another gewgaw.
“Just give it a rest.
You are way overdressed
already. No more foofaraw!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

When dressing up for a big date,
All the foofaraw made her late.
She’d fuss with her hair,
Since she did not care
If he had to sit there and wait.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

At those rallies we heard and we saw
lots of blather and great foofaraw,
and the doctrine he preaches
for which we should impeach is
that he should be above the law.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

In the days when he ran Arkansas,
Bill would charm every girl who he saw.
When they came with their clothes
To the places he chose,
He’d say, “Drop all that dang foofaraw.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The bachelor grins boyishly.
“There’s a reason I’m single,” says he.
“I’m looking to choose a
lollapalooza
to wed.” (He is seventy-three!)
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

What a lollapalooza he had.
His black eye certainly did look bad.
He taunted the guy
And now wonders why
He just enjoyed making him so mad.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

A young gangster so called Kato Souza,
Was Tokyo, Japan’s feared Yakuza.
He gave classes each night,
Teaching men how to fight,
Thus was hailed as a lollapalooza.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

I marched in the band on parade.
The piccolo part’s what I played.
A lollapalooza
Of John Philip Sousa --
Oh, what an impression that made!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“He’s louder than John Philip Sousa,
And he acts like some kind of Yakuza,”
Shinzō Abe entreated,
“O Buddha, you’re needed;
For Donald’s a lollapalooza.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)



From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: The average Americanism likely to use these words

When struggling with physics would you rather Schrödinger’s cat out the window or humdinger himself?

Judges opposed to cocaine usage ripsnorters.

Did you know it was ballyhoo invented the coin-operated pinball machine?

If you’re throwing a party, remember to buy beer and foofaraw your friends.

I’d rather chat up a winna than lollapalooza.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma



A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Fear prophets and those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them. -Umberto Eco, philosopher and novelist (5 Jan 1932-2016)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere

Donate

Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2020 Wordsmith