Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



Apr 5, 2020
This week’s theme
Words coined after mountains and hills

This week’s words

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives

Next week’s theme

Send a gift that
keeps on giving,
all year long:
A gift subscription of A.Word.A.Day or the gift of books
Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share

AWADmail Issue 927

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

Sponsor’s Message: Coronavirus got you down? Feeling cooped up? Going stir crazy? WISE UP! -- is the perfect cure for cabin fever -- it’s a Wicked/Smart Party Card Game that 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. For example: Everyone knows the First and Second Amendments -- what’s the Third? Sleeping Beauty’s real name? How long is a furlong? But beware, there’s also a slew of “challenge” cards that chuck Darwinian physical and mental wrenches into the works, e.g., “Throw this card on the floor and pick it up without using your hands.” Just what the doctor ordered, especially for this week’s Email of the Week Winner, Jeff Paulsen (see below), and hunkered-down brainiacs everywhere. WISE UP! NOW.

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

Policing and the English Language
The New Republic

Garbage Language: Why Do Corporations Speak the Way They Do?

“The Problem of Gendered Language Is Universal” -- How AI Reveals media Bias
The Guardian

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

The Panhellenic games in Ancient Greece were held every four years in a field near Mount Olympus in the district of Elis on the Peloponnesian peninsula. Each city-state (polis) sent a single representative, who contested every event. Significantly, all internecine wars were suspended for the duration of the games, and the victors received nothing but a laurel wreath (although, on return to their home city, they became celebrities, their livelihood guaranteed by the government of the polis for life).

When Baron Coubertin revived the Olympics in 1896, participants were required to take an oath that they would not receive any monetary subsidies. Since athletes had to train year-round to be successful, this rule was more honoured in the breach than in the observance. Today, of course, the amateur rule no longer applies, nor do hostilities cease during the games. Rather the reverse applies: the two World Wars of the twentieth century caused the cancellation of the Olympics in 1916, 1940, and 1944.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Mary Finch (finchm evergreen.edu)
Subject: Olympian

Under your definitions of Olympian as a noun, #3 is limited to natives or inhabitants of Olympia, Greece. Those of us who live in Olympia, WA (only about an hour south of Seattle), are also Olympians. Our daily newspaper is even called The Olympian. There may well be other cities or towns of Olympia somewhere else in the world and if so the people living there would also be Olympians.

Mary Finch, Olympia, Washington

Email of the Week -- Brought to you by Wise Up! -- the family that plays together stays together.

From: Jeff Paulsen (jeffpaulsen.17 gmail.com)
Subject: Olympian

I am a proud Olympian.

I am not a person of great achievement or position. My mother loved me anyway.

I’ve never been a contestant in the Olympic Games. Not even in my dreams.

I’ve never even been to Greece -- although I’d love to travel there someday.

And, of course, no one has ever mistaken me for a Greek god.

But even so, please feel free to call me an Olympian, if you want.

Jeff Paulsen, Olympia, Washington

From: Richard Burris (r_w_burris comcast.net)
Subject: Balkanize

Many years ago, when I was a graduate student, I bummed a ride from one of my professors in College Park, MD, to the NY meeting of the American Physical Society. My professor, who was Israeli, told me that we would stop in Wilmington, DE, for an hour so that he could visit a friend. While we were there, I noticed that her accent was not that of a Hebrew speaker, so I asked where she was from. Her reply was “The Knot.” Not knowing what she meant, I asked “The Knot?” She replied “The Carpathian Knot.” I asked “What country is that in?” and she replied “In what year?”

Richard Burris, Alexandria, Virginia

From: Lawrence Crumb (lcrumb uoregon.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--balkanize

The quotation from Andrew Marvell is from his poem “To His Coy Mistress”, where he cites the swift passage of time as a reason why she should not delay in giving in to his embrace. “The grave’s a fine and private place, but none, I think, do there embrace.” It has been suggested that his readers, with their knowledge of Latin, would have read “fine” and “private” as also meaning “final” and “deprived”.

Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon

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

One of the first poet-philosophers who opposed censorship was John Milton in his Areopagitica, published in the middle of the seventeenth century, at the height of the English Civil War. In a speech to Parliament, he stood up in defence of freedom of expression. Though blinded by illness toward the end of his life, he believed that “they also serve who only stand and wait.”

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Michael Paré (michael.pare sympatico.ca)
Subject: Areopagus

I first became aware of this word in my first year at the University of Toronto, whose magnificent Great Hall at Hart House has a quotation from Milton’s Areopagitica, that great defence of freedom of expression, which is inscribed for 100 yards around its walls. Even though I was a budding English and Classics scholar, I was then neither familiar with that work of Milton nor the site in Athens, but I soon informed myself of both, although it did take 54 more years before I visited the latter. The quotation is far too long to post here, but for those who wish to read it, it begins,

First, When a City shall be as it were besieged and blocked about, her navigable river infested, intrudes and incursions round, defiance and battell oft rumour’d to be marching up ev’n to her walls, and suburb trenches...

Michael Paré, Ottawa, Canada

From: Roger Williams (rogerw nordlink.com)
Subject: Mountains

There is a Haitian proverb that, in Creole, goes something like this: Aprez mon ou gin mon. Translated literally, it is “After mountains (or this mountain) you have more mountains.” If you go to Haiti, you will certainly see that this is true, as the topography is mostly mountainous. But it is also reflective of the Haitian situation: It never seems to get better, there are always new problems, it is a constant struggle.

Roger Clark Williams, Rapidan, Virginia

From: Bruce Floyd (brucefloyd bellsouth.net)
Subject: The thought of the day

Mankind’s true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -Milan Kundera, novelist, playwright, and poet (b. 1 Apr 1929)

“The history of the world will, one day, be defined by the people who witnessed the tragedy of impending extinction and were able to turn humanity’s destructive patterns into creative solutions.” -Jennifer Skiff, Rescuing Ladybugs: Inspirational Encounters with Animals That Changed the World

Surely most of us hope Jennifer Skiff’s augury is not too sanguine, that her prophecy will come true. Do we have indications that we are moving toward creative solutions to our destructive patterns? I don’t know. A somewhat cynical side of me wants to say, as a Hemingway character might say, “Isn’t it pretty to think so?” Macbeth says, “Come what come May / Time and the hour run through the roughest day.” In short, the future, with or without us, inexorably grinds onward, and in the end time will reveal whether we saved the planet or destroyed it.

Bruce Floyd, Florence, South Carolina

From: John Reid-Rowland (jreidrowland hotmail.com)
Subject: Everest

I was interested to see your story about Everest, named after the Surveyor-General of India. Of course, everyone pronounces the name of the mountain as you say, but it seems that George Everest pronounced his name EVE-rest.

Apparently the name of Winston Churchill’s nanny when he was a child, Mrs Everest, was pronounced the same way.

John Reid-Rowland, Harare, Zimbabwe

From: Barry Cavell (k503 live.co.uk)
Subject: Everest

Today’s word -- Everest, named after a British surveyor-general, brought home to me how inappropriate this name is; it now grates on the ear that the most famous mountain in the world still retains its colonial name. Surely it should be renamed by the Nepalese?

Barry Cavell, Surrey, UK

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

Yet one more example of the cultural norms imposed by the imperialists on the colonized world. Not that either Nepal or Tibet, on the border between which the mountain stands, was ever formally colonized. But influence is all and it’s the name given by the imperialists that identifies the mountain to the world.

Ask even reasonably well-educated people in the West to identify Chomolungma or Sagarmatha (respectively the mountain’s Tibetan & Nepali names) and you’ll be met with a blank stare.
Hey ho! Shows, doesn’t it, that the world we live in still to a great extent bears the imperial imprint.

Dr. Janet Rizvi, Gurgaon, India

From: Richard S. Russell (RichardSRussell tds.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Everest

You wrote: ... Mount Everest, the highest mountain (8,848 m) on the Earth (above sea level) in the Himalayas.

Thanks for that parenthetical “above sea level”. Fans of Mauna Kea appreciate the distinction. Also, fans of Olympus Mons are grateful for the “on the Earth”.

Richard S. Russell, Madison, Wisconsin

From: Bruce Adgate (rossgate gmail.com)
Subject: Everest

I recently returned from a visit to Ecuador and came across this curiosity. There is a mountain, Chimborazo, which is about 160 km south of the equator along the “Avenida de los Volcanos” in the Andes. Its height above sea level is 6310 meters. But because of the Earth’s equatorial bulge, the summit of Chimborazo is the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s center. So, in a way, depending on how you measure, it’s taller than Everest at 8848 meters (above sea level). But I haven’t come across any sayings or expressions re this mountain -- either in English or in Quechua -- the pre-Hispanic language of Ecuador.

Bruce Adgate, Spoleto, Italy

From: Joel Mabus (joel.mabus pobox.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Everest

Kalamazoo, Michigan, has a cemetery named Mount Ever-Rest, ironically on the flattest parcel of land in town. Name was coined in 1929, when it was started. It is a non-denominational graveyard of the “memorial park” type, with no headstones or monuments, only flat markers laid in the soil to mark graves. I suppose that might have been a reason for the flat field chosen -- there are indeed hills in Kalamazoo. The pun in the name hasn’t kept them from doing business these past ninety years -- they have even opened a second location on the north side of town!

Joel Mabus, Portage, Michigan

From: Roberta Prowell (wmprjp gmail.com)
Subject: Everest

At our house whenever someone is asked why they did something and the answer is “Mt Everest”, that means “Just because it was there.
“Why did you eat my cookie?”
“Mt. Everest.”

Roberta Prowell, Beaverton, Oregon

From: Larry Graham (larry.m.graham gmail.com)
Subject: Everest

I have never posted anything on AWAD, although my brother Phil is a regular contributor. But I think this has some merit and interest:

I think it is an extraordinary and beautiful coincidence that the first (Western) conqueror of Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary (20 Jul 1919 - 11 Jan 2008) lived exactly 88 years and 175 days. This equates to 88.48 years. The height of Everest in meters is 8848!

Larry Graham, Boulder, Colorado

From: Susan Muller (muller.susan gmail.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day

My father, long gone, “gave” you to me. What a wonderful gift.

Susan Muller, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Olympian and Pelion

Seeing the first mountain-related word of the week, Olympian, I immediately reflected upon the sad scenario of this year’s summer Olympic Games, hosted by Japan, having to be postponed till next year, due to the arrival of this global scourge, the coronavirus. Frankly, for many of our AWAD readers, it may be difficult to see even a smidgen of humor associated with this killer virus. (Perhaps gallows humor?) Hopefully, my cartoony take on how this pandemic has impacted the 2020 Games, crushing the hopes and dreams of so many elite athletes, will be taken in the sentiment that I intended... a sobering, but starkly all-too-real one. Folks, stay safe out there, and keep that crucial social-distancing. We’re all in this fight, together, against this invisible, relentless enemy.

As the story goes, Hercules, the legendary strongman of Greek myth, was commanded by King Eurystheus to perform 12 labors (or “pelions”), the 4th of which was capturing (and delivering to the king) the massive, hairy hell-raiser, The Erymanthian boar... alive, no less. This wild, ornery porcine, lived up in the rarefied heights of Mt. Erymanthus, hence the boar’s appellation. Here, in the dead of winter, with fresh snow blanketing the landscape, Hercules wrestles the feisty porker, gripping its snout with one hand and its right ear with the other. Long-story-short, after subduing and netting the great beast, Hercules brings his prize catch back to King Eurystheus, who cowers in fear at the sight of the half-conscious, gargantuan creature. The king implores Hercules to dispose of the captive boar. Forthwith, Hercules lugs the stunned boar, straddling atop his mighty shoulders, to the precipice of a seaside cliff and hurls the monstrous beastie to the waters below. Curious observational side note: As I’ve shown, here, in my illo, Hercules is often described as wearing a full lion’s pelt on his head, while executing his various labors. Interestingly, most of the word “pelt”, and the full word “lion” are embedded in our word “pelion”.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

Words coined after mountains and hills:
1. Olympian
2. balkanize
3. Areopagus
4. Everest
5. Pelion
1. a saintly god in his manner
2. rezone (as Poland)
3. law court
4. impossible peak
5. futile endeavor
     Words coined after mountains and hills:
1. Olympian
2. balkanize
3. Areopagus
4. Everest
5. Pelion
1. a noble I all aloof
2. newly divide an area and persons
3. supreme court
4. zenith
5. imposing task
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)

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

When questioned about recent date,
she replies, "Well, it wasn't that great.
The guy’s no Olympian.
Rather, he’s simply an
unattached male who is straight!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

An athlete who astounds us with flair,
Or an artist whose work makes us care:
They’re the ones hard to find,
They all boggle the mind,
‘Cause Olympian talents are rare.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

Olympians hoped to appear
In Tokyo later this year.
Though athletes inspire us,
We all dread this virus --
The games are postponed out of fear.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Since Covid-19 did appear,
In Japan, no Olympics, I fear.
For now we won’t see one
Crowned Olympian,
Till July comes again the next year.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Though they call me a lowly amphibian,
At the high jump I’m truly Olympian,”
Said the frog. “From a story
Extolling my glory,
A guy named Mark Twain made a million.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The States are divided, it’s true,
With some being red and some blue.
Some voted for Trump;
Some think he’s a chump.
We’re Balkanized, split into two.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Covid-19 should make us all realize
that fear shouldn’t drive us to balkanize
from suspicion and hate.
We must cooperate
or our very existence we jeopardize.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“In high school your girls balkanize,
And in cliques all day long talk of guys,”
Observed Spock. “When they’re aging,
Their hormones stop raging,
But still they’re not like Vulcan wives.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

If Trump and his base have their say
(Can’t they see that his feet are of clay?),
The Supreme Areopagus
Will be worse than a flop for us
(It’s already headed that way).
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

In SCOTUS, our Judge RBG
considers each case carefully.
When issues preposterous
reach Areopagus,
duly dissenting she’ll be.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Rules of pandemics are too often fudged;
Too many people, alas, must be nudged.
Now, always stay home,
And if you dare roam,
By the Areopagus of world health then be judged!
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

While touring in Greece I would hop a bus
And head up to Mount Areopagus.
A high court met there,
A lovely place where
The judges could see the Acropolis.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“The current Supreme Areopagus,”
Says Bill Clinton, “would find me monogamous.
Their muscles they’d flex,
And agree it’s not sex
If your willy’s just down an esophagus.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The Everest of my ambition
Never got any higher than wishin’
To do nothing at all
But let the chips fall
And spend every day goin’ fishin’!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Cries contestant, “I’ve reached Everest!”
But her assets are now reassessed
by the judges, who’ve found
that her body’s too round.
Alas, she’s declared second best.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The Professor of English, a real pest,
Gave assignments and one very hard test.
He announced to his class,
“If you all want to pass,
Then consider me your biggest Everest.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

A narcissist craving attention
Who’s full of self-serving invention
Did Everest climb
And finds it sublime
How often his name we now mention.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“To hijack a plane is the Everest,”
Said Osama, “of being a terrorist.”
“I will do this with joy
Many times!” said one boy,
But was answered, “You aren’t the cleverest.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

We are cursed with a Pelion today,
Not knowing how to make it go away.
It’s beyond serious,
Leaving many of us
Feeling all the world can do now is pray.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

On Ossa is Pelion piled
In April, when taxes are filed.
Just ask CPAs
About those spring days --
The deadline can drive them all wild.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

If your instincts are like a chameleon,
To win an election’s no Pelion.
Just rev up the motors
Of ignorant voters;
Voilà! A disaster Shakespearean.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: What the hills a guy to do?

“What have you been doing since spraining your ankle?”
“Olympian a lot.”

I could tell my date was gonna say “No” by her balkanize.

The Apollo I pre-launch test was the last areopagus Grissom’s career.

Between siring 20 children and writing over 1,100 compositions, did Bach everest?

I hope you found a few of these puns a pelion.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Curiosity is a lust of the mind. -Thomas Hobbes, philosopher (5 Apr 1588-1679)

We need your help

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


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

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith