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Feb 23, 2020
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Onomatopoeic words

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AWADmail Issue 921

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

Sponsor’s Message: What are Sleeping Beauty’s two other names? “GED” is an abbreviation for a high school equivalency diploma -- what does it actually stand for? What’s unique about the word “facetiously”? WISE UP! -- The Wicked/Smart Party Card Game asks tons of devilishly difficult questions that’ll give you know-it-alls plenty of life lessons in humility, history, sports, science, literature, and geography. And wit. Here’s another: Everyone knows the First and Second Amendments -- what’s the Third? But beware, there’s also a slew of “challenge” cards that chuck Darwinian physical and mental wrenches into the works. For example: Throw this card on the floor and pick it up without using your hands. So much humbling fun for everyone, including this week’s Email of the Week Winner, Matt Saczawa (see below). WISE UP! NOW.

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

How America Developed Two Sign Languages -- One White, One Black
The Washington Post

The Original Sins of Grammarians Still Plague the Rulebooks
The Economist

Ranked: The 100 Most Spoken Languages Around the World
Visual Capitalist

The Point of Dictionaries Is to Describe How Language Is Used, Not to Police It
The Guardian

From: Jorie Ryan (jorie owrgarth.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--faff

Thanks for this word. It is one of my favourites. I experience great pleasure with some faffing around each day.

Jorie Ryan, Mudgee, Australia

From: Barbara Segalla (barbara barseg.co.za)
Subject: faff

Just love the word. I was forever telling staff to stop faffing around! We all know that nature abhors a vacuum so faffing around is one way of filling your day, as per Parkinson’s law. He must have been a very observant man!

Barbara Segalla, Somerset West, South Africa

From: Victoria Chapman (victoria.chapman bluescopesteel.com)
Subject: Faffing

To me, faffing isn’t wasting time, although it may *seem* like it. Faffing about “in the lab” or “in the kitchen”, for example, is exploration / experimentation but in an intuitive, unstructured, chaotic (not random) way, rather than a rational, ordered, and planned way. Great discoveries and inventions have occurred because someone was faffing about.

Faffing is what is needed when you’ve hit a brick wall and the logic and structure and planning haven’t been able to crack the problem. Go back and faff. Have fun, play around, do the dumb and illogical things. Make gigantic intuitive leaps that you can only explain when working backwards from the result. Sure, sometimes -- perhaps most of the time -- it will come to nothing, but you never know what you’ll find if you don’t faff for a while, and that is the joy of it.

Go and faff about for a bit -- it’s really REALLY important if you want a deep understanding of whatever it is you’re working on.

Victoria Chapman, Wollongong, Australia

From: John Feltham (wantok me.com)
Subject: Faff

My mother used the word a lot. She claimed that it came from the sewing machine manufacturer PFAFF, apparently from the busy busy noise that they made.

John Feltham, Townsville, Australia

Email of the Week (Brought to you by the wicked wonderful world of WISE UP! - Yes, you can BUY SMARTS.

From: Matt Saczawa (msaczawa cox.net)
Subject: Faff

Today’s word, faff, brings back memories from prep school over half a century ago.

At all-boys Kingswood School (now co-ed, as Kingswood-Oxford, in West Hartford, CT) during the early- to mid-1960s (and prior, and subsequent -- those were the years I attended) participation in daily athletics was compulsory.

During the winter months, due to the weather, the options were basketball, wrestling, or skiing - choices not especially popular for every student. Accordingly, a 4th option was offered for the less athletically inclined -- essentially, a program of calisthenics (jumping jacks, deep knee bends, etc.). Since the calisthenics did not continue for the full 90-120 minutes allocated for daily sports, there was a fair amount of just plain “goofing around” that occurred each day... and thus, the program was considered as being somewhat “less” than participation in the other three sports.

The common name given to the calisthenics program was “faff” or “pfaff” -- spelling indeterminate, since it was only spoken and not written. Among the students, the term was used in a humorous pejorative sense (as in “Are you gonna do a real sport this winter, or just do faff?”)

Surprisingly, the term was controversial! The administration and faculty disapproved of the term -- assuming that it was abbreviated slang for “f*** off”, and therefore not appropriate for “young gentlemen”. The more scholarly/less athletically inclined “faffers” insisted that it was a literary reference to the Sinclair Lewis character, Fatty Pfaff, in Arrowsmith. (The fact that Fatty Pfaff became a gynecologist probably also contributed to the faculty’s disapproval of the name.)

In any case, this controversy, which pre-dated my arrival at Kingswood in 1960, was still on-going when I graduated in 1967. Given the wide array of social upheavals that ensued from 1968 onwards, I can only assume that use of the term “faff” soon became relatively inconsequential shortly after my class graduated. But... many thanks for the memories of a simpler time!

Matt Saczawa, Scottsdale, Arizona

From: Herbert Eppel (herb hetranslations.co.uk)
Subject: faff

Reminds us of the faffometer referred to in our translations agency article.

Herbert Eppel, Leicester, UK

From: Christopher Albertyn (chrisalbertyn me.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--faff

I trust you’ve seen Michael McIntyre on Faffing in Sport (video, 4 min.).

Christopher Albertyn, Toronto, Canada

From: Alex Adams (alex.adams yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--scroop

I know it isn’t easy to find/decide on citations, but I think one involving beaching a canoe would exemplify scroop better. Anyone who has beached a canoe or rowboat will remember that sliding crunch, variable depending upon the beach’s comprise.

Alex Adams, Denville, New Jersey

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

I hate to impeach AWAD, but there it is. The sound made by rustling silk is hardly a scrape, as a scraping sound requires more, and harder, mechanical action than silk can create. However, there is one source of onomatopoeia that remains unimpeachable: MAD’s Maddest Artist, Don Martin (1931-2000). See the alphabetical dictionary of his cartoon onomatopoeia.

David Franks, Fayetteville, Arkansas

From: Susan Grodsky (sjgrodsky yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--whicker

Among horse people the sound of whickering (aka “nickering”) is very different from the sound of neighing.

A neigh is LOUD. Horses often use it to communicate with each other. For example: video.

A whicker is soft. In the video below, the horse is whickering to communicate with a human. video.

Susan Grodsky, Potomac, Maryland

From: Chris Kawa (c.kawa att.net)
Subject: my father’s onomatopoeic word

My father was a machinist. In particular, a mold-maker.

Plastic injection molds have many moving parts that must fit+mate+match precisely. When they close together, they make a distinctive sound. My father’s word for it was “tsak”. It’s similar to “click”, but beefier. We’re talking about multiple blocks of steel meeting precisely in unison. It also became his word/sound for when things worked out, or success, in general.

Chris Kawa, Las Vegas, Nevada

From: Jane Platt (jhp nutmegancestry.com)
Subject: New word

Our son made up the word tinkoo, the sound the car’s turn signal makes. “Dad, you’re still tinkoo-ing.”

Jane Platt, Milford, Connecticut

From: Susan Gabbay (sdgabbay comcast.net)
Subject: Onomatopoeia

My brother and I used to “packle out” the parts for paper forts, paper dolls, and so on. To this day I don’t know what the real word is, punch out, maybe?

Sue Davis Gabbay, Washington, Virginia

From: Sasheena Kurfman (kurfmans kfalls.k12.or.us)
Subject: onomatopoeia

I’m writing a fantasy series, and when my main character arrives at the uninhabited island, he discovers big dumb birds with horny beaks. They sound like they are saying Willow Wall... so they became Willowal birds. I even made up their name in neighboring countries as Wallard (another variant on what their call sounds like). The fun part was getting the Audio Producer to say it realistically and believably.

Sasheena Kurfman, Klamath Falls, Oregon

From: Kenneth Carroll (krpcarroll gmail.com)
Subject: Onomatopoeic words

Remember back in the old days (maybe 20 years ago) if you made a credit card purchase, the merchant laid your credit card on a little machine, laid a paper form over it, then slid a rolling device over it, to take an impression from the raised letters on the card? In my family, we called that thing the cha-chunker, because of the sound it made. A cha-chunker is a thing that goes “Cha-chunk!”

Kenneth Carroll, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From: Willo Oswald (willooswald gmail.com)
Subject: Coined onomatopoeic words

When I was about six I proclaimed, “Scuttamabooch is MY WORD!” My little sister rejoined, “Doozyboomps is MY WORD!” But we weren’t able to supply definitions until Mom, chasing a cat off the table, hollered, “SCUTTAmabooch, you!” Later, cuddling the same cat in her lap, she crooned, “Doozyboomps.”

Willo Oswald, Portland, Oregon

From: Colleen Thompson (colleenthompson mac.com)
Subject: onomatopoeia

I’m not a poetry lover by any means, but I do like Edgar Allan Poe’s. His poem The Bells is the classic example of onomatopoeia. As a youngster, a mnemonic I used to spell onomatopoeia correctly was to remember that it contains the name Poe.

Colleen Thompson, Castle Valley, Utah

From: Mildred Lam (mlam metrohealth.org)
Subject: An onomatopoeic comment

In this 13-second video, our grandson Henry illustrates the onomatopoeic character of the word “hiccup” -- twice!

Mimi Lam, Cleveland, Ohio

From: Wendy Northway (wendy.northway gmail.com)
Subject: Onomatopoeic words - a joke

Doctor: Sir, your medical test results show that you have a serious case of Onomatopoeia.
Patient: What is it?
Doctor: It’s exactly what it sounds like.

Wendy Northway, Winsford, UK

From: Dino Cafolla (dino limelightbelfast.com)
Subject: onomatopoeia

Squelch and slap -- a great onomatopoeia.

From Irish Poet Seamus Heaney (video, 2 min.)

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

Dino Cafolla, Belfast, Northern Ireland

From: Bob Cowen Jr (bobcowenjr aol.com)
Subject: Foreign sounds

When I was in China in 1989, my associates and I were treated to a dinner in the Peking Duck restaurant. I said during the meal, “They use everything about the duck but the quack.” The translator said to our hosts, “xxx (Chinese) and then “zhug zhug”. That brought laughter from the Americans. After that we went through the sounds many different animals make and the only two that were the same in English and Chinese were the cat and the lion.

Bob Cowen Jr, Morristown, New Jersey

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: fanfaronade and whicker

In first contemplating this unfamiliar word (to me)... “fanfaronade”, I immediately latched onto the last syllable, i.e., “ade”, and conjured up this scenario of Trump, in his pink-striped pajamas, having slathered gobs of his self-branded orange marmalade (labelled “FANFARONADE”) onto a slice of toast. Here, I’m punning on the “spreading” action, a symbolic confectionery version of Trump’s bombastic layering of one strata of outright lies and deception... one upon the other. My caption is a play on the gritty women’s prison TV drama, “Orange is the New Black”. Chaos-maker Trump has managed to project a black and bleak prospect for a once free and democratic America. We politics watchers have come to associate The Donald with the color orange... he being L’Orange Gras, if you will, exhibiting an ever-florid complexion that suggests he may be pushing the artificial tanning envelop... to the max. Just saying.

As a diehard fan of the ’90s sitcom Seinfeld, when I was introduced to our word “whicker” (defined as a neigh, or chortle... verging on a laugh), I immediately recalled Jerry (Seinfeld’s) best buddy, George Costanza’s propensity for often emitting what could be interpreted as a chortle (or two) during the flow of regular conversation. What can I say, George could well be a chronic “whickerer”. Ha! Here, I’ve revisited the hilarious episode of “Seinfeld” where regular cast member, Cosmo Kramer, accidentally receives the wrong NY State license plates, getting the rather suggestive vanity plates of a prominent NYC-based proctologist. Oops! George appears slightly bemused, yet humored by the State DMV’s gross faux pas. In his reply to Kramer, George emits a couple of porcine-like snorts. Hmm... in my opting for an admittedly risque subject for this cartoon offering, I may still be running on fumes from last week’s “seemingly dirty words... that aren’t” word-theme. Oh behave!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words
This week’s theme: onomatopoeic words
1. faff
2. scroop
3. fanfaronade
4. jape
5. whicker
1. dither
2. scrape of new taffeta
3. pomp, show off
4. joke, crack
5. horse noise in a meadow
     This week’s theme’s onomatopoeic words
1. faff
2. scroop
3. fanfaronade
4. jape
5. whicker
1. dither
2. scrape (as feet)
3. swank parade
4. jest; chaff; spoof
5. woof; meow; moo; oink; nicher
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)
nicher: 1. to neigh 2. to snigger or laugh (British informal, ref)

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

I’m retired, which means I can faff
At coffee with friends, share a laugh.
To dull business meetings
I just send my greetings --
No guilt here. Hey, pass the carafe!
-Willo Oswald, Portland, Oregon (willooswald gmail.com)

Thus reads the deceased’s epitaph:
“He committed no blunder, no gaffe.
All the days of his life
were blameless, and rife
with nothing but innocent faff.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

I do crossword, Sudoku, and jumble;
Among Those Who Achieve, I am humble;
They may well get a laugh
At poor me as I faff
And try to explain in a mumble.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

When I knew I was guilty of faff
It usually just made me laugh.
What is it you get
When you worry and fret?
Excessive concern drives you daft.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

Said Trump to his kowtowing staff,
“I’m fed up with you loathsome riffraff.
You will need to recall,
It’s nine months ‘til the fall;
There’s no time to sit back and just faff.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

In an hour-long facial she basked,
But back home was her husband aghast.
It had all been a faff;
Still, to please the distaff
He just smiled, his sentiments masked.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

The apps on his phone are a faff,
Distractions installed for a laugh.
He’ll sit there and play
For hours each day,
Neglecting his duties on staff.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The quest for a star’s autograph
was a perfect example of faff.
Now a selfie can do it
and many pursue it:
Shared fame on your ego’s behalf.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

The grandkids were coming to eat;
Burgers, fries, and a sweet frozen treat.
“Good china? Such faff!”
Grandpa said with a laugh.
“But these tykes,” said Grandma, “are elite.”
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpmarlin456 gmail.com)

“Your browsing down low is pure faff,”
To her spouse said the lady giraffe.
“Now hold your head higher
If what you desire
Is doing what gets us a calf.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

For a princess, I love the word scroop!
The sound is so perfect, I whoop!
Her gown sweeping the sides,
It occurs as she glides
To the “Ladies” -- she’s rushing to poop!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

On hearing hysterical whoop,
then grating sound, sort of a scroop,
we rush to the attic,
find Granny ecstatic,
gyrating with old hula hoop!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Through the door of the stage she would swoop,
She belonged to a famous dance troop.
Her lithe moves were so grand,
Known throughout the wide land,
While the hem of her tutu would scroop.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

A ravishing beauty from Yonkers
Loves driving her paramours bonkers
with combs in her tresses
And stiff satin dresses;
It’s due to her scroops that she conquers.
-Gordon Tully, Charlottesville, Virginia (gordon.tully gmail.com)

She wanted to learn the real scoop.
On her rival, she tried to snoop.
The rustle of her dress,
Undermined her success,
For she was found out by her scroop.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

As they opened the door to the coop,
Said the fox to her cub, “Make no scroop.
For the farmer will hear,
And this cold of yours, dear,
Needs a bowl of your mom’s chicken soup.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Great timing! Great partner! “I prayed,”
Said Blagojevitch as he displayed
No penitence, not
A shred or a jot!
Just his usual fanfaronade.
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

With falsehoods and fanfaronade,
The con man on innocents preyed.
His boasts they believed,
But they’d been deceived --
Relieved of the money they’d paid.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

With bluster and fanfaronade
the candidate falsely portrayed
a world under the gun,
and his competence, (none.)
A sadly successful tirade.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Thought Valjean as he helped man the barricade,
“This rebellion is mostly fanfaronade.
Of these characters various,
I’ll carry off Marius,
While freeing Javert ere the cannonade.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

His lawyer declares, “I submit
that my client’s an innocent twit;
a young jackanapes,
Hence all of his japes
are forgivable. Let us acquit!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

A magician in high hat and cape
Kept his spectators’ mouths all agape.
He received much applause,
And gave everyone pause,
Sawing ladies in half -- quite a jape!
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

Trump launched his campaign as a lark,
Then found it a walk in the park.
This very bad jape
We now can’t escape,
And that’s why my mood is so dark.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“The mouths of our fans were agape,”
Harry Potter told Severus Snape.
“With every last breath,
They thought Dumbledore’s death
Made you evil; oh, what a fine jape!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Dad and salesman discussed what to pay
for the used Chevrolet on display.
While the two of them dickered,
the kid grinned and whickered,
“Mom’s gonna say no, anyway!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

When he came, her heart beat quicker.
The sight of him made her whicker.
We really wondered why
She was into this guy.
It all made the plot grow thicker.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

Said the boy with the mischievous snicker,
After drinking too much of the liquor,
“See that girl over there?
The cute one with red hair?
I just love her coy smile and her whicker.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

He urged his old horse to go quicker.
Dobbins’ only response was a whicker
which we all know, of course,
in the language of horse
is between a horselaugh and a snicker.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

As Stormy plied Donald with liquor,
“I want you, of course,” she would whicker.
Then pour him a double --
Not one, but a couple,
In hopes that he’d fall asleep quicker.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Criticize these puns onomatopoeia pint on you!

“How dare you claim I’m faffing? My sewing machine isn’t even plugged in.” (Pfaff)

If I were unable to pun this AWAD, readers would find me unscroopulous.

When comparing ballpark food to my wife’s cooking I give the fanfaronade.

Trump berated the impressionist, “Why’d jape me so viciously?”

“Hey, everyone, should I re-cane my whicker chair? No? Then it appears the neighs have it.”

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Leaving home in a sense involves a kind of second birth in which we give birth to ourselves. -Robert Neelly Bellah, sociologist and author (23 Feb 1927-2013)

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