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Jan 12, 2020
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AWADmail Issue 915

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, Dan L Kays (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

Is This the Most Powerful Word in the English Language?

Just 700 Speak This Language (50 in the Same Brooklyn Building)
The New York Times

Languages Affected Differently by Brain Disease

From: Wendy Pollitt (wcrpollitt gmail.com)
Subject: Why not?

Have you heard the story (true or not, I do not know) about the philosophy prof who wrote the word “Why?” on the board for the final exam question? One student scrawled “Why not?” in his blue book, turned it in, and left immediately thereafter.

The student earned an A on the exam.

Wendy Pollitt, Kaneohe, Hawaii

From: Dick Figge (rfigge Wooster.edu)
Subject: Ombrifuge

This word is sheer delight, and it has had me chuckling on and off all day. I look forward to tossing it off when the next rain comes.

Can’t wait for further unusual synonyms. Many thanks!

Dick Figge, Wooster, Ohio

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

The word reminds me of a famous aria by Handel from his Italian-language opera Xerxes, where the Persian king admires the shade provided by a plane tree, singing the words “Never was a shade of any plant / Dearer and more lovely, or more sweet. In the original: Ombra mai fu di vegetabile, cara ed amabile, soave più. Of course in this context ombra means shade, not rain. The aria is also known as Handel’s Largo (video, 3 min.) or in Peter Sellers’s memorable parody as the host of a talent competition where one of the contestants claims he can play Largo’s handle on his tin flute.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Peter Gross (plgrossmd gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--splanchnic

Splanchnic is a relatively commonly used word in medicine usually referring to the digestive organs of the abdominal cavity. As might be expected, these organs have a large blood supply as they are responsible for delivering the products of digestion to the rest of the body. When a person goes into shock, a large amount of blood may pool in the these vessels. But it doesn’t take something as drastic as shock for this to occur. Years ago my friend Jay and I thought it would be a good idea to have a big early dinner at our favorite country restaurant and then go play three 21-point games of singles handball at the nearby rec center.

Well, we had the meal, but the handball didn’t go so well. After about the 6th or 7th point of the first game we realized, to our distress -- physical (ugh!) as well as emotional -- that our muscles just weren’t responding as they needed to. Seems our bodies had decided that in this case our gastrointestinal systems would get priority for digestion over our muscles for playing handball, i.e., that our splanchnic vasculature would come before our skeletal musculature -- a lesson hard-learned and long remembered.

Peter Gross, MD, Falls Church, Virginia

From: Ignacio Castuera (agne23 aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--splanchnic

It is important to note that in the New Testament parable of the Good Samaritan the Koine Greek word splanchnizomai is used for the reaction of the Samaritan. The translation usually is “he was moved to compassion” but the implication is that our reaction to the pain of others is visceral.

In Spanish we say entrañablemente to indicate a deep feeling as in “Te amo entrañablemente.” To the deepest part of me, “mis entrañas”.

Ignacio Castuera, Claremont, California

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

In the Futurama episode “Parasites Lost” (Season 3, 2001), the Planet Express crew undertakes a miniaturized mission to rid Fry of an intestinal parasitic infestation. They plan to stimulate the splanchnic ganglion (that is, the pelvic splanchnic nerves), so as to cause a massive bowel movement that will eliminate the parasites. The episode is a parody of the 1966 movie Fantastic Voyage. Your usage example quotes Isaac Asimov, who was hired to novelize the screenplay of the movie.

This is the only mention of the splanchnic nerves on television that I can recall.

David Franks, Fayetteville, Arkansas

From: Marilyn Burgeson (via website comments)
Subject: splanchnic

A related word is the splanchnocranium, or visceral cranium. This is mostly comprised of the facial bones, the mandible, and the ear ossicles, all derived from the first three branchial arches.

Marilyn Burgeson, Stratford, Connecticut

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

From: Dan L Kays (dan.l.kays boeing.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--singultus

It seems to me that those songs that have been any good, I have nothing much to do with the writing of them. The words have just crawled down my sleeve and come out on the page. -Joan Baez, musician (b. 9 Jan 1941)

Interesting take on writing from Baez. It reminds me of guitar-playing when I have played my best, most creative things ... it is more like I was watching it happen than I was actually doing anything. That is a description of the Zen state, which people who study creativity call flow. It is actually the very best state to be in when creating something, because what pours out of you is seamless, effortless, totally enjoyable, almost euphoric, almost like being outside yourself and brought into a magic place where this thing you are doing just develops in front of you.

If you had to think about it, you could not do it. So you have to be a bit practiced at what you are doing. I have played guitar so long I do not think about what my hands are doing, I just listen to what they produce.

It is an interesting process, because when you sit down to do something very creative, you start with the outline of a plan and a direction. Then at some point, a part of your brain takes over and says to your conscious, rational mind, “OK, you can sit back now, I’ve got it from here.” And then the magic happens, and a new work is woven before you.

Dan L Kays, Enumclaw, Washington

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

Stillborn attempt at a word. In nearly 40 years as a lawyer there is good reason why I never encountered this thing.

Robert Burns, Ocean Beach, California

From: Ray Martin (rpmartin.family verizon.net)
Subject: Lord Acton and John Steinbeck

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. -Lord Acton (John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton), historian (10 Jan 1834-1902)

I prefer what John Steinbeck said: “Power doesn’t corrupt, fear does; perhaps the fear of the loss of one’s power.” (The Short Reign of Pippin IV, 1957)

Ray Martin, Glendora, California

From: T. Wilson (t marlboro.edu)
Subject: Power corrupts

Your quotation of the day, that “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” brought to mind a modification my brother made, observing the tendency of men with machinery to modify the world in ways they had not thought through: “Power tends to corrupt, and horsepower corrupts absolutely.”

T. Wilson, Marlboro, Vermont

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Ombrifuge

Our word “ombrifuge” inspired this drizzly scenario, where a Smurf,* one of that tribe of endearing blue elfin cartoon creatures, has sought cover from a heavy deluge, hunkered down under a giant mushroom. A curious mallard duck looks in on our anxious Smurf, reminding him that his breed of waterfowl enjoy being in the rain, fully exposed to the elements... where the saying goes for surfaces that defy liquid absorption, that they remarkably repel “like water off a duck’s back”.
*Back in the early ‘80s, I designed key background layouts for at least a year on The Smurfs TV series, at Hanna-Barbera Studios. After a while, I could almost draw their fun mushroom-houses in my sleep... and likely did, when my REM slumber phase kicked in. Ha!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words
1. ombrifuge
2. exemplum
3. splanchnic
4. singultus
5. indagate
= 1. umbrella
2. explain
3. omentum
4. a hiccup
5. suggests finding
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

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

Despite the forecasted deluge,
We gathered with no ombrifuge.
So, did we get wet?
Saturated, you bet!
The puddles we splashed in were huge!
-Willo Oswald, Portland, Oregon (willooswald gmail.com)

As he dances and sings in the rain,
Gene Kelly is quick to explain,
“When in a deluge,
this old ombrifuge
makes me feel a great deal more urbane!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

When it comes to a heavy deluge,
There’s an adage no one should refuse:
“You can stand in the rain,
And forever complain,
Or just carry a large ombrifuge.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

We’ll all need a stout ombrifuge
For the upcoming terror deluge.
Says the head ayatollah,
“We’ll spread some ebola;
Hey Donald, it’s gonna be yuge.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“We thrive on deception!” she quips.
“Cosmetics enhance eyes and lips.
As another exemplum,
my dress has a peplum
designed to exaggerate hips!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Students in class may be glum
As they wait for those tidbits that come
From a teacher they like
Who then comes down the pike
With a pertinent and useful exemplum.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

There was once a Professor so glum,
Who would set such a poor exemplum.
He attempted to teach,
But he slurred every speech,
All because he was so high on rum.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

“I cut down that tree; I can’t lie!”
George set an exemplum thereby.
Inspiring our youth
By telling the truth
Is something that Donald won’t try.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

As a dropout, you’ll end up a bum,
For employers will label you dumb.
Graduate! Learn a trade!
Show of what you are made!
To the lazy, you’ll be an exemplum!
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpmarlin456 gmail.com)

“Of innocence they’re the exemplum,”
Said the snake, “But my job is to tempt ‘em.
Though I got a slow start
Turning Eve to a tart,
With this apple I’m gaining momentum.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

There once was a sous chef named Billy.
He thought recipes were quite silly.
So his meals were inferior
And his splanchnic interior
Was ablaze on account of his chili.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

So why are you looking so blank, Nick,
When asked to define the word splanchnic?
Anatomy class
You never will pass
And then as a surgeon, you’ll tank, Nick.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

At the nursing home “organ recital”,
to recite all your symptoms is vital.
Win the crown! You can click
with your problems splanchnic
and hobble away with the title.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“From my heart and each other part splanchnic,”
Said Victor, “I have you to thank, Rick.
In this film it must chafe
To have helped keep me safe,
Then to watch me fly off with a swank chick.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

When we tried a new ride at the fair,
poor Granny received such a scare
that we feared her singultus
might soon catapult us
away into goodness knows where!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

When a singultus came his way,
While saying what he had to say,
He would have to pause
A moment because
His speech was important that day.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

The doctors he’d call every day
With worries he had to convey.
“A single singultus?
Oh, please don’t consult us!
Your hiccups will just go away.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

We cure hiccups, you ought to consult us.
If you don’t, it will deeply insult us.
We’ll never prepare you --
we’ll just sneak up and scare you,
then hold your breath; bye-bye, singultus!
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

There once was a young man named Gus,
Who had suffered from singultus.
When during a stickup,
He started to hiccup.
The thief ran away. What a plus!
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“If we keep having babies,” said Malthus,
“Our survival will hit a singultus.
We must teach a new moral:
In bed keep things oral,
Or sex will to woe catapult us.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

When I heard the new word indagate
I did ponder and then speculate
That Steve Benko would run
To his desk for some fun
Writing lim’ricks about Watergate!
-Scott Swanson, Pendroy, Montana (harview montana.com)

British royals are trying to indagate
Meg and Harry’s decision to abdicate
prescribed obligations
and live in two nations.
It seems a bit much to assimilate.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

What Donald has done, Mitch won’t indagate --
For so to the press did he indicate:
“I’ve made up my mind;
With Trump I’m aligned.
His rep I will rapidly vindicate.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Though my snacking McGregor may irritate,”
Said Peter, “His garden I’ll indagate.
And the story will sell,
For your pictures are swell.”
Agreed Beatrix Potter, “I’ll illustrate.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Abusual synonyms

“No matter how difficult, ombrifuge’n to cave on punning this word.”

When ah caught m’ boyfrien’ cheatin’ ah decided to exemplum offa ma list.

The pirate captain ordered Nicholas, “Walk this splanchnic.”

If sese hiccups don’t stop, I singultus srow up!

Holmes told Watson, “To search the grounds we’ll have to go indagate.”

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

War’s an auction where whoever can pay the most in damage and still be standing wins. ... War may be an auction for countries. For soldiers it’s a lottery. -David Mitchell, novelist (b. 12 Jan 1969)

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