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Jan 19, 2020
This week’s theme

This week’s words
faute de mieux

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Relative usage over time

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Next week’s theme
Adjectives used postpositively

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AWADmail Issue 916

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, Brenda J. Gannam (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

Masculine, Feminist, or Neutral? The Language Battle That Has Split Spain
The Guardian

The Campaign to Redefine “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”
The New York Times

From: Maurice Schwartz (mschwar1 nd.edu)
Subject: Eftsoons!

How many students from the old days can’t forget this great piece from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner?

He holds him with his skinny hand,
“There was a ship,” quoth he.
“Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’”
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

Maurice E. Schwartz, Greensboro, North Carolina

From: Janet Rizvi (janetrizvi gmail.com)
Subject: eftsoons

Seems to me a word with three distinct but related meanings lends itself too easily to ambiguity to be useful. Here are my made-up examples. If used with the habitual present, it could be meaning no. 1 (“soon after”) or no. 3 (“from time to time”):
“I go for a walk & then eftsoons I settle down with a book.”
Equally ambiguous is:
“When I returned from my walk, eftsoons I settled down with a book.” Was it “soon after” my return, or had I been reading my book earlier & now settled down “again”? I strive for clarity in my speech & writing, & I don’t think “eftsoons” is going to be included in my vocabulary any time (eft)soon(s).

Dr Janet Rizvi, Gurgaon, India

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

From adverb to noun: people from the Territory of Oklahoma came to be called Sooners as they arrived at its border from Kansas, ahead of the rest of the would-be settlers, waiting their turn to claim their allotment in the Land Rush of 1889. To their shame, it was land seized from the natives they would acquire.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Gordon Thomas (gordonthomas earthlink.net)
Subject: Greetings and a quick note of gratitude

“Eftsoons we turned to the volume of Shakespeare that we had at hand.”
Al Sicherman; Al’s ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’; Minneapolis Star and Tribune (Minnesota); Aug 9, 1987.

As always, my gratitude for your dedication to providing one of my treasured morning rituals (along with the first cup of coffee!).

I’ve written before when a particular word or reflection touches my heart (as was the case with cowabunga some years back). Today’s word (eftsoons) prompted this note.

I moved to Vancouver some 13 years ago, and while I count my blessings for living in Canada, I do get homesick for my erstwhile home of Minneapolis.

Your usage example for today’s word (the Al Sicherman quotation) brought back a flood of memories: the Star Tribune (I can see his byline in the modern, sans serif font the paper adopted around the mid-eighties), his columns, conversations with my mother (who kept a copy of Shakespeare’s collected works next to her chair in the living room), and my early days in publishing when I worked for Scott Walker at Graywolf Press in St. Paul.

I know you hear this from many readers, but your gift of daily words and language lore is so appreciated. My mother died in 1994, but she would have adored AWAD as well, and we would have had many fun contests putting your words to use.

Gordon Thomas, Vancouver, Canada

From: Georgia Morehouse (gmoreho mchsi.com)
Subject: Amain

I have always associated this word with the sea, probably because I’ve read the phrase “over the bounding main”. I visualize a sailing ship speeding along before the wind, much as Captain Ahab would have done.

Georgia Morehouse, Columbia, Missouri

From: Buddy Gill (e-rgill2 juno.com)
Subject: amain

Sidney Lanier’s “The Song of the Chattahoochee”, with its lively consonance, was the first poem I took seriously. And it still owns the word “amain”:

“I hurry amain to reach the plain, Run the rapid and leap the fall, Split at the rock and together again...”

I still love it.

Buddy Gill, Black Mountain, North Carolina

From: Cécile Hessels (v.hessels versatel.nl)
Subject: faute de mieux

À propos de “faute de mieux”, great word, also used in Dutch like this, but it is the purest of pure French. À propos de “à propos” , (about something else, mostly at the start of a sentence, interrupting a conversation) or in the meaning of “about”, we use this pure French loan word in Dutch as well.

Cécile Hessels, The Hague, Netherlands

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

From: Brenda J. Gannam (gannamconsulting earthlink.net)
Subject: faute de mieux

I don’t think it exists in French, but why not: faute de pire (for lack of anything worse). I think all of you could find some excellent usage examples, such as “Faute de pire, the ignorantsia (opposite of intelligentsia) put DJT into the White House.”

Brenda J. Gannam, Brooklyn, New York

From: Mark Farnsworth (mark_farnsworth fanniemae.com)
Subject: My favorite occurrence of “faute de mieux”

My favorite occurrence of “faute de mieux” from Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse:

“A bit elaborate,” I said, trying to put the thing in as kindly a light as possible. “Your old failing. You can see that it’s a bit elaborate?”

“Possibly the plan I suggested might be considered open to that criticism, sir, but faute de mieux----”

“I don’t get you, Jeeves.”

“A French expression, sir, signifying ‘for want of anything better’.”

A moment before, I had been feeling for this wreck of a once fine thinker nothing but a gentle pity. These words jarred the Wooster pride, inducing asperity.

“I understand perfectly well what faute de mieux means, Jeeves. I did not recently spend two months among our Gallic neighbours for nothing. Besides, I remember that one from school. What caused my bewilderment was that you should be employing the expression, well knowing that there is no bally faute de mieux about it at all. Where do you get that faute-de-mieux stuff? Didn’t I tell you I had everything taped out?”

Wodehouse always brightens my day.

Mark Farnsworth, Ashburn, Virginia

From: Jean-Luc Popot (jean-luc.popot ibpc.fr)
Subject: Certes is not only Old French

From Old French certes, from Latin certus (certain). Earliest documented use: 1250.

“Certes” (pronounced “sert” in French) is by no way obsolete in current French. It’s a bit literary, but can also appear in an ordinary conversation. For instance, if your interlocutor asserts that a given president has, for once, done something the right way, you can answer “Certes, certes, mais ...” (“Yes, yes, but consider the number of his blunders”).

Jean-Luc Popot, Paris, France

Thanks for writing. Your example is helpful. When we say Old French in the etymology, we mean that that’s where we got the word from, not from Modern French.
-Anu Garg

From: John Hardy (jshardy blueyonder.co.uk)
Subject: Today’s quotation

Be kind to thy father, for when thou wert young, / Who loved thee so fondly as he? / He caught the first accents that fell from thy tongue, / And joined in thy innocent glee. -Margaret Courtney, poet (1822-1862)

Please put at least a bit more thought into the daily quotations. The sickly, sentimental, hugely outdated quotation about fathers is going to be anything from laughable to painful for many readers who have had abusive, neglectful fathers, or whose father has died or abandoned them. As a psychotherapist I have seen hundreds of people who have suffered everything from neglect to severe abuse of all kinds. This is daily reality for many. Your sentimental quotation for such people is yet another kick in the teeth.

John Hardy, Bristol, UK

Thanks for writing. You do important work with your psychotherapy practice, helping people come to terms with their past. By the very nature of your work, you don’t see a representative sample of humankind. Don’t let that give you a jaded view of the world.
Imagine a doctor saying: How can you feature a quotation about the importance of trees? I see so many people every year in my emergency room who are injured by fallen trees.
-Anu Garg

From: George Pohl (georgepohl hotmail.com)
Subject: alfresco

The meaning of “alfresco” in Italy has evolved and now means “in jail” If you want to eat outside you use “al aperto” which means “in the open”.

George Pohl, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From: Josefina Nielsen (jopro2014 icloud.com)
Subject: alfresco

When I came to live here in Umbria years ago, my first instinct was to make friends with neighbors. I asked them if they could come over to my place for a dinner alfresco, barbecue, and all that. My next-door neighbor balked at first, then replied, “You mean al aria, alfresco is what we used to do out in the fields before we had toilets.”

Josefina Nielsen, Umbria, Italy

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Amain and alfresco

France has given us the masterful Art Nouveau designer Émile Gallé; distinguished army officer and revered statesman, Charles de Gaulle; and last-but-not-least, Astérix le Gaulois (“Asterix the Gaul”, en anglais), the eponymous heroic title character and chief protagonist of the now, to date, 38 volumes of comic book adventures he and his motley band of Gallic warriors have pursued. Set in the era of Julius Caesar’s imperialist Rome, along with his portly, dimwitted, perpetually hungry sidekick, Obelix, Asterix leads his plucky comrades in their resistance to the invading Roman legions. In this scenario, Asterix is declaring his loyal companion, Obelix, his “strongman”, whilst the big galoot casually lifts a huge menhir (standing stone), as if it were as light as a feather. As an infant, Obelix was accidentally dropped into wizard Getafix’s roiling cauldron of “strength potion”, thus endowing him with everlasting superhuman strength. Hence, Asterix’s boast that Obelix is his “amain man”... clearly a play on the appellation, “main man”.

For me, our word “alfresco” (out-of-doors) has an intrinsic lyrical, upbeat inflection. We often associate it with restaurant patio dining in pleasant climes, perhaps enhanced by a hint of a zephyr, or the warmth of the afternoon sun. But as a longtime resident of Los Angeles, I am keenly aware of a more negative aspect of the “outdoor experience”... the sad plight of more than 50,000 homeless folk, exposed to the vagaries of the elements, barely surviving from day-to-day in our City of Angels. These unfortunates languish and struggle on our notorious downtown skid row, the suburban margins of the San Fernando Valley... my own stomping grounds, or the recesses of our freeway underpasses and the nooks-and-crannies of our city parks. Here, I’ve tried to draw a marked contrast between a down-and-out homeless man with his pooch, juxtaposed with a cheery, alfresco eatery, situated just beyond his squatting space. Admittedly, this scenario could be taken as a bit of a downer in kicking off the New Year. Yet for me, our word “alfresco” begs for a more sobering interpretation, as well. Hopefully bringing some serious food for thought... and action, to a crisis issue profoundly impacting all our US metropoli.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words
1. eftsoons
2. faute de mieux
3. amain
4. certes
5. alfresco
= 1. soon
2. inexact, sufficed
3. fleet
4. sure
5. met sea aroma
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

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

I hope that the time ends eftsoons
When leaders behave like buffoons.
They’ll be more discreet
And never will tweet --
Commanders they’ll be, not cartoons.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

In a rage cried the warrior, “Eftsoons
I’ll be quits with those paltry poltroons!
We’ll find them and fight them,
With vigor we’ll smite them;
Their country our courage impugns.”
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

You’re told please don’t feed the raccoons,
But if you do, don’t feed them prunes.
For results aren’t pretty,
And your yard, what a pity.
The outcome you will see eftsoons.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said Ahab, “Men, grab the harpoons,
Launch the boats and we’ll have him eftsoons!”
But Moby just shrugged,
“By that ship I’ve been bugged;
Time to burst those dumb sailors’ balloons.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Hey, buddy, how great to see you!
Let’s have us some wine -- or a brew?”
Soon their glasses were clinking
With each of them thinking,
“I’ll drink with this jerk, faute de mieux.”
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Ballerina creates new routine.
“Neat pliés, pirouettes. In between,
I’ll inject (faute de mieux)
a sweet pas de deux.
And then we begin the beguine!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

I looked at that lunch and thought, “Eww!”
There’s nothing so gross in my view.
I guess I’ll adjust
If dig in I must --
I’ll eat escargots faute de mieux.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Weeth hees merde we shall deal faute de mieux,”
Sighed Macron, “But Le Donald -- Mon Dieu!
‘Neath his strange orange tuft
Full of ham he is stuffed,
Like a chicken that’s cooked cordon bleu.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

They tuck into the feast amain.
Eftsoons no traces will remain
requiring dogs to lick plates clean
as if unused, pure and pristine,
before they belch, stuffed and profane.
-Mariana G. Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

At first the enamored young swain
proceeded to court her amain.
But soon his pursuit
grew less resolute,
as she proved just a cute scatterbrain.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

He spent hours in TV’s domain;
From workouts each day he’d abstain.
When he tried out a gym
His demeanor was grim,
And he soon made his exit amain.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

The candidates battle amain.
Some quite worthy have struggled in vain.
Their answer was no
‘cause they ran out of dough.
Only big bucks might end Donald’s reign.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“I should murder my uncle amain,
But I just can’t decide,” said the Dane.
“It’s as though I’ve forgotten
That something is rotten;
To wait till Act V is insane.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I arose just as pert as you please --
There was naught could disturb me, certes --
Then what should befall
To endanger it all --
Than a megawatt, all-you-got SNEEZE!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Perceptive young mice cry, “Certes
this appears to be innocent cheese.
But we fear it’s a trap
intended, mayhap,
to zap us. Mom warned us of these!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Certes today the news depresses;
Our modern way, alas, regresses;
Was the earlier time
In reality, prime?
Or just a hope that oppresses?
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

A feisty coquette named Louise,
Came across as the world’s biggest tease.
She had such a strong yen
For entrapping her men,
But despite that they chased her, certes.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

The poor lad would constantly sneeze.
He had a bad cough and a wheeze.
A fever and chills
Would add to his ills.
The Doctor said, “Flu most certes.”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

The girl on the flying trapeze
Asked the clown to get down on his knees.
Said she, “Funny faces
In delicate places
Lead rapture to happen certes.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Like Omar Khayyam, let us dine
quite simply: just bread and some wine.
We’ll do it alfresco,”
says he. “I confess, though,
I’d rather have pie and moonshine!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Italian, she certainly should know
The meaning of the word alfresco.
Though it was years ago
When she would love to go
Outdoors just to play in the cold snow.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

The Italian head Chef, Donny Dresco,
Had his own sort of weird manifesto.
He cooked with elation,
With one stipulation:
Every meal must be eaten alfresco.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

Some folks love a meal that’s alfresco;
Such dining is often a mess, though.
While you eat your s’mores,
I’ll just head indoors,
Where civilized sorts find they’d best go.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

There once was a girl from Modesto
Who loved being naked alfresco.
Saying “Look all you want, schmucks,”
She’d sit outside Starbucks
And happily sip an espresso.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Added blurbs on adverbs

“I’ve solved problems A thru E and will do eftsoons as I can.”

The shy boxer faute de mieux-ly and was knocked out in the first round.

Making one up quickly is amain tenet of punning.

On her honeymoon the bride asked, “Please certes me a bit first.”

Indoors or out, when the 49ers win alfresco fans are happy.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little. -Edmund Burke, statesman and writer (12 Jan 1729-1797)

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