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Apr 19, 2020
This week’s theme
Words formed by clipping

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Relative usage over time

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AWADmail Issue 929

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

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

In Argentina, a Bid to Make Language Gender Neutral Gains Traction
The New York Times

The Many Languages Missing from the Internet

From: Gerald Feldman (gfeldman uci.edu)
Subject: rad

A rad is also a unit of radiation dose equal to 100 ergs/gram (now obsolete and replaced with the SI unit, the Gray).

Gerald Feldman, Tustin, California

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

Rad is a term used virtually daily in medicine. It is a unit of radiation received during an x-ray examination such as a CT scan. Keeping rad exposure low is important because the dose of ionizing radiation used in medicine is cumulative over a lifetime and may eventually lead to an increased risk of malignancy.
Usage: I’m not being a rad when I say it’s rad to keep the rads as low as possible.

Peter Gross, MD, Falls Church, Virginia

From: Graham Heddle (grahamheddle yahoo.com)
Subject: Rad

Here in the UK, if you hear the word rad you’d think of a plumber talking about a radiator, a device for diffusing heat into a room. They never use the long form of the word those “dunny divers” as Australians jokingly call them.... “dunny” meaning toilet, of course.

Graham Heddle, London, UK

From: David Ornick (david.ornick ymail.com)
Subject: Rad

Rad is also a shortened version of radian, an angular measure far beyond my math skills to describe.

Dave Ornick, Morgantown, West Virginia

From: Jim Toscano (jvt1937 gmail.com)
Subject: Rad

In healthcare, a rad is a radiation tech.

Jim Toscano, Gladstone, Oregon

From: Liz Allan (mamalizzo aol.com)
Subject: Bae

One thing I disagree with: “Sometimes clipped forms are respelled, for example, bae (short for baby/babe, a term of endearment).” Though bae is indeed a synonym for baby/babe, I’m pretty sure it originated as an acronym -- it’s the person you put Before Anyone Else.

Liz Allan, Wilmette, Illinois

“BAE = Before Anyone Else” is an example of a backronym, an acronym slapped on top of an existing word. Some other readers also wrote asserting this acronymic origin of the word, but so far we have not seen any evidence in support of that, beyond “Everyone in my child’s school/college knows that.”
-Anu Garg

From: Richard Bruno (richardgbruno gmail.com)
Subject: phiz

I wonder if you know this charming poem of Carl Sandburg’s?


This face you got,
This here phizzog you carry around,
You never picked it out for yourself,
At all, at all, did you?
This here phizzog somebody handed it
To you, am I right?
Somebody said, “Here’s yours, now go see
What you can do with it.”
Somebody slipped it to you and it was
Like a package marked:
“No goods exchanged after being taken
This face you got.

Richard Bruno, New York, New York

From: Rob Gilgan (rgilgan gmail.com)
Subject: Physiognopuss

When I was a small child, our parents referred to the look on our face as our physiognopuss, as in, “What kind of a physiognopuss is that?” Until this morning, I thought they’d made that up.

Rob Gilgan, Red Deer, Canada

From: Alan W. Ritch (aritch berkeley.edu)
Subject: Phiz

Charles Dickens’s most prolific illustrator was, of course, Phiz, whose real name was almost as eccentric as his false one. Hablot Knight Browne did the illustrations for ten of Dickens’s fifteen novels. His pseudonym echoed Dickens’s buzzing monosyllabic Boz and also, more pertinent to the primary meanings of today’s word, reflected his earlier career as a facial caricaturist. His first assumed name had been Nemo (nobody), who might well have turned up in another of your engaging weekly themes.

Alan Ritch, Santa Cruz, California

From: Oliver Fletcher (mroliverfletcher gmail.com)
Subject: pleb

A complex word tracing back to Roman times and linking perfectly to Plebgate, as you point out.

Plebgate was huge back in 2012, as was the subsequent libel trial in court which crescendoed the attention of deep-rooted Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell who sternly denied that he had called a Downing Street policeman a pleb, amongst other charming words. Humorously, it was also referred to as ‘Gategate’ because of the incident taking place at the main gates of Downing Street with the police constable telling Mitchell to dismount his bicycle and use the pedestrian exit rather than the main gates being opened before the abuse was launched at the Police Constable doing his job and protecting Downing Street. The large black security gates are the first and only significant line of defence against vehicle attacks at Downing Street, so common sense says that a bicycle should be taken through a pedestrian gate.

Mitchell resigned as an MP and went on a suing spree, first aiming at the PC for his inaccurate version of events, then The Sun newspaper which printed alleged libelous stories. Neither attempts worked and he was left with an even larger bill, almost £3 million. Mitchell was also countersued by the PC involved to add a cherry on top of the proverbial cake.

For the libel case, it was left to an Old Bailey judge to decide whether or not Mitchell had said what was claimed. It was ruled that he had, “on the balance of probabilities”, used the word pleb. Mitchell still denies, with an almost Trumpian arrogance, that he used the word pleb, and now finds himself back to where he was before as an elected MP thanks to David Cameron who chose to gloss over the whole incident.

Oliver Fletcher, London, UK

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

According to the Roman historian Livy, in 494 BCE the plebeians (plebs, i.e. the common people) staged a strike of sorts against the privileged class of the patricians. For example, only patricians (the word probably derived from pater, meaning father) were allowed to hold political office. The dissatisfaction was finally quelled by the patrician Menenius Agrippa, who used a fable from Aesop about the limbs refusing to serve the stomach, which they claimed to be a parasite. The somewhat specious argument Agrippa advanced was that if the stomach was not supplied nourishment, the limbs themselves would soon starve to death.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Bob Crocker (raracrocker hotmail.com)
Subject: Pleb

Plebe: slightly different spelling, same root and pronunciation -- a freshman, underclassman, especially at the US Military Academy at West Point on the Hudson River in New York state, for training future US Army Officers.

Bob Crocker, Des Plaines, Illinois

From: Joe Martinka (exegrec3 yahoo.com)
Subject: pleb

One of the my most searing and challenging years of my life was plebe year at the US Naval Academy. All the military academies name their freshman classmen (and women) plebes. This plebe year starts in the first summer with a life-altering seven weeks of boot-camp challenge unlike any other college. The trials continue through the entire year as the “person of low social status” acclimates to the traditional academy goals of finding deep inside one’s person reservoirs of persistence, grit, and honor, in spite of, and because of the hazing. This plebe year resonates for a lifetime. That one can change and become a better person by being challenged to excel.

Joe Martinka, Sunnyvale, California

From: Matthew Male (male.matt gmail.com)
Subject: Pleb

Here in England, back in the 1980s, I briefly attended a boys’ grammar school (a type of secondary school where you need to pass an entrance exam). New boys were routinely referred to as plebs by students in more senior years. I expect that the widespread, derogatory use of a Latin term as a mild bullying tactic was a source of both pride and disappointment to the teachers.

Matthew Male, London, UK

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

From: Kathy Davis Sladek (sksladek hotmail.com)
Subject: plebeians

First learned this word when I was teaching Julius Caesar to 10th grade. Marc Antony manipulated the “plebeians” to turn against the honorable Brutus, thus beginning a long, bitter war in Rome. The students got very little from this play by William Shakespeare, but even in today’s political atmosphere, I mentally remind myself that men can tell lies to stir up the plebeians.

Kathy Sladek, Corpus Christi, Texas

From: Elizabeth Block (elizabethblock netzero.net)
Subject: pleb

From Gilbert & Sullivan, Iolanthe, the chorus of peers singing:

Our lordly style
You shall not quench
With base canaille
(That word is French!)
Distinction ebbs
Before a herd
Of vulgar plebs
(A Latin word)
‘Twould fill with joy
And madness stark
The hoi polloi
(A Greek remark)

Elizabeth Block, Toronto, Canada

From: Michael Poxon (mike starman.co.uk)
Subject: divvy

Certainly here in the UK, insult-wise, you really only ever hear the even more shortened form as div for example, “He’s a right div.”

Divvy, or divi, has been used for many years in conjunction with the co-op stores (itself a result of the 19th-century co-operative socialist movement) who give a dividend to their regular customers, thus hugely predating store cards. I can even still remember my parents’ divi number as 6365!

Michael Poxon, Norwich, UK

From: Rob McKay (mckayrob bigpond.net.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--divvy

There is also an Australian use for divvy -- the divvy van (short for Divisional Van) -- a police ute (truck to the North Americans) used for holding prisoners. In widespread use in Australia, and used interchangeably with “paddy wagon”, depending on the origin of the speaker.

Rob McKay, Sydney, Australia

From: Charles Payne (charlierp gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--divvy

We called a person who professed to find water with a forked stick (divining rod), a divvy. And, in the antique trade someone who could sense when something that appeared old was genuine and valuable was also called a divvy. (See the wonderful English TV series Lovejoy staring Ian McShane, in which he is frequently referred to as a divvy.)

Both uses are surely a shortening of “diviner”.

Charles Payne, San Jose, California

From: Michael Pettersen (pettersen_michael shure.com)
Subject: Clipped words

My career is in the field of professional audio. The word microphone has been clipped for decades, but this is no universal agreement about how it should be clipped.

As a noun, there is mic and mike. I prefer mic. Example: “I use a dynamic mic for a snare drum.” The plural mics is awkward, but certainly better than mice!

As a verb, there is also mic and miked. I prefer mike. “I mike a snare drum using this placement.” Mike as a verb also works better in the past tense miked, compared to the dreadful miced or mic’ed.

Michael Pettersen, Evanston, Illinois

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

The topic of clipped words immediately reminds me of the old Gershwin standard from 1927 -- ‘S Wonderful. The gimmick throughout the choruses is to clip the “it” from “it’s”, of course. But there is also that seldom sung introductory verse, lyric by Ira Gershwin:

Don’t mind telling you,
in my humble fash
That you thrill me through,
with a tender pash
When you said you care
‘magine my emoshe
I swore then and there,
permanent devoshe

I don’t know if it was a particular fad of the fashionable set in 1927 to speak like that, or if it was just Ira’s imaginative way to paint the picture of the upper crust. ‘S marvelous, either way.

Joel Mabus, Portage, Michigan

From: John D. Laskowski (john.laskowski mothman.org)
Subject: Clipping

Clipping of words has been going on for centuries for sure. Some are cute, but some are definitely annoying. But the ones created by adults rather than teens are the most annoying. For instance: At some point politicians speaking on the floors of the House and Senate started to “clip” many words in order to squeeze more words into their sound bites. “Present” and “presdent” are replacing the correctly enunciated three-syllable word president. So when you hear politicians, pundits, and media persons “clipping” president, consider the following news release: “The present present will presently present a present to the President of Bolivia.” Laziness is devolving our language. They also created “Washing DC”, “Washton Times”, “Washshun Post” with their Washington, DC Beltway - Speak. George is turning over in his grave !

Their devolution of the English language has created “Constution”, “Sochcurity”, and “representive” rather than the correct and complete word representative. My research shows that, on average, it takes 6-8 months for a newly elected member of the House or Senate to pick up these insidious “clips”! The saddest aspect of all of this is that in today’s culture nobody ever seems to correct anybody!

But the most annoying one ever was coined in 2009 by a national network show host who always slurred the word administration as “ahministration”. Then, with the advent of Barack Obama onto the national political scene, this person coined the phrase “Obama ministration” by dropping the second “ah” sound to form this asinine “clip”. “Obama ministration”! I WANT OUR “AD” BACK! Yes, I am swearing! To date this bastardization has spread to all national networks and even the BBC worldwide!

I shudder to think what our language will reflect down the “ro”.

John D. Laskowski, Carsonville, Pennsylvania

From: J Scott Morrison (jscottmorrison77 gmail.com)
Subject: Words formed by clipping

I have been amused by this week’s words formed by clipping, but was even more so this week when I happened to do a crossword puzzle in which the words were more or less the opposite of clipped. It contained a number of retronyms: words made longer than their originals because of changes in our culture, e.g. cloth diaper (as opposed to simply diaper), AM radio (made necessary by the invention of FM radio), live music (as opposed to recorded music), and silent film.

Scott Morrison, Middlebury, Vermont

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Rad and phenom

Who’d a thunk it... a brash, vivacious young (30) member of the House of Representatives, from the Bronx, NYC, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC), would have found a political ally in a 79-years-young, crusty, curmudgeon-esque Senator from Vermont, Brooklyn-born-and-raised, Bernie Sanders? Talk about the quintessential “odd-couple”. Both have been labeled leftist radicals by rival Republicans, and even some of their more center-right fellow Dems have deemed them left-wing extremists. Here, Ocasio-Cortez calls a spade-a-spade, with her... “Bernie, you are totally, RAD!”, acknowledging Sanders’s decades-long reputation for advocating a passel of liberal/progressive prospective federal initiatives (and ultimately legislation), such as healthcare for all, forgiving student loan debt... with certain caveats, free tuition for all public universities and community colleges, and obligating the wealthiest Americans, “the millionaires, and billionaires”, to pay their fair-share, as do the other 99% of our taxpaying populace. In his now-suspended 2020 run for the Democratic Party candidacy for president, Bernie preached his mantra that his supporters are part of “a real revolution”, not just an ad hoc “movement”. Hence, cartoon Bernie’s retort to AOC, touting his status as being beyond a mere radical, but that he’s a bona fide “revolutionary”.

When he passed at the age of 91, Apr 8, 1973,* artist Pablo Picasso was deemed by art critics as the greatest, most prolific artist of the modernist era. Along with his artist colleague, George Braque, Pablo was recognized as co-parent, so-to-speak, of abstract/modern art, with his and Braque’s invention and development of Cubism. From his early youth, Pablo demonstrated an uncanny precociousness... a genuine phenom. He exhibited such natural, mature artistic ability in his early-teen years that his painter/art professor father, José Ruiz Blasco, was so blown away, and frankly, intimidated by his son’s artistic gifts, that he abruptly stopped painting. In my cartoon scenario, I’ve depicted an early-teenage Pablo, having surprised his mother, Maria Picasso Lopez, belying his relatively tender years, in painting an imagined voluptuous nude woman, whilst his mum was under the impression he’d be painting a still life of that sad bowl of fruit. The nude female form would be a subject Picasso would avidly return to, time and time again. He was seduced by many muses over his almost nine decades of constant creativity... and he even married a few of them. Ha!
*It’s rare that I remember the exact place, date, and time of day, where I was at, when I first heard of the passing of some famous individual. The deaths of both Kennedy brothers... JFK and RFK, and MLK Jr.’s assassination come immediately to mind. But I do vividly recall this date, April 8, 1973, when Picasso died. That day of his passing, I commiserated with a handful of my fellow Ontario College of Art colleagues, all of us living in the same housing co-op in Toronto. Picasso meant so much to us budding artists.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

This week’s theme: Words formed by clipping
1. rad
2. phiz
3. pleb
4. divvy
5. phenom
1. mod, ‘the bomb’, preppy
2. skin, glow
3. farm herd psyche
4. divide, even split
5. whiz
     This week’s theme is words formed by clipping
1. rad
2. phiz
3. pleb
4. divvy
5. phenom
1. fab; be topping; hmm swish
2. kisser
3. prole
4. divide; clod; nerdy type he
5. whiz; MVP
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)

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

Oo la la! I love to wear red,
or crimson-vermilion instead.
But la rouge is so rad
it makes good boys go bad --
yes, even les messieurs well bred!
-Mariana G. Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

“I dyed my hair red! It’s so rad!”
she declares. “So you did!” says her dad.
“I mean no offense,
but it seems quite intense.
You might tone it down just a tad!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Said Trump, “Though I’m thought of as bad,
A slick guy who’s a sleaze and a cad,
Believe me, it’s known
As I sit on my throne,
I’m so cool and just utterly rad.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

It’s a clipword and also a fad.
Dad would never be caught saying “rad”.
Kids keep up with the times --
(so convenient for rhymes.)
Not so long ago, “rad” was called “bad”.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Squawked Mackenzie one day to his lad,
“Och aye, ya wee bairn, where’s yer plaid?”
Said the boy, “Old beliefs
In a kilt with no briefs
Are long gone, Dad, now blue jeans are rad.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Bold masher says, “Pardon me, Ms.,
but you have such a beautiful phiz!
Do you live hereabout?”
“Begone, boorish lout!”
cries the lady. “And mind your own biz!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

I could make my phiz rad with cosmetics,
But I’d sooner try taking emetics.
It’s not that I rate
My looks as so great,
I simply believe in genetics.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

He believes he is such a whiz.
Thinks a phenom is what he is.
I don’t have to tell you
The name of the guy who
Acts like the entire world is his.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

Each time that I went to the store
My gloves and my face mask I wore.
I covered my phiz,
But, golly, gee whiz,
No points for my look did I score.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The actress who’s well known as Liz
Was famed for her fabulous phiz.
Her violet eyes,
Would sure mesmerize,
And Burton would twice call them his.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

The parents could tell by his phiz
That he didn’t do well on the quiz.
Said they, “Please stop crying,
We know you were trying,
Cheer up now and have some Cheese Whiz.”
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpmarlin456 gmail.com)

One look at her beautiful phiz,
And Richard begged, “Marry me, Liz.”
She answered, “How nice!
And we’ll tie the knot twice,
For at weddings I’m truly a whiz.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

At her coming-out party the deb
Said, “Why am I here? I’m a pleb.
“I’m ragged and rough
“Not made for this stuff.
“You know, I’m just not a celeb.”
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Quite a stupid young man from Antibes,
Was a person known as a dumb dweeb.
He proclaimed himself cool,
But, in fact, was a fool,
A most common, uncultured low pleb.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

In her dreams as a glamorous deb,
champagne flowed with never an ebb,
but reality bites;
after glorious nights
came her drudgery days as a pleb.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

The rajah she met in Mumbai
Is really a wonderful guy.
He’s hardly a pleb;
She calls him Sahib.
His nickname for her’s Sweetie Pie.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

When Athenians scorned them as plebes,
It riled the people of Thebes.
With the Persians allied,
They invaded and cried,
“Your philosophers here are all dweebs!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I’m waiting to get the deliv’ry
And then I’ll see you and we’ll divvy
That armload of wood
But be careful, we should
Wear warm clothes, for the weather is shivery!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

This quarantine’s tough to get through
For folks who are sharing a loo.
They must fairly divvy
Their time in the privy
And wash their hands thoroughly too!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

A scullery maid named Livy,
Slaved day and night as a skivvy.
It had all changed, it’s said,
When his lordship she wed,
For dear Livy was no divvy.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Between many a porn star and skivvy,
The Donald his sperm likes to divvy.
“My power is total
In all matters scrotal,”
He says as we go down the privy.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Greta Thunberg’s a teenaged phenom;
She must have a great dad and mom
to be oh so aware
as to go on a tear
to arrest our global-warming bomb.
-Mariana G. Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

Poor comedian’s feeling depressed.
He laments, “Though I know I am blessed
to be such a phenom
on popular sitcom,
the ladies remain unimpressed!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Young Wolfgang impressed Dad and Mom,
Performing with skill and aplomb.
His musical chops
Were certainly tops --
On tour he became a phenom!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The young chess wizard was a phenom.
She competed with total aplomb --
ignoring the crowd.
Dad was ever so proud
and he gave all the credit to Mom.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

She said, “Can I ever be calm?”
For she was a soon-to-be mom.
Her mom who adored her,
Quickly reassured her.
“Don’t fret dear. You’ll be a phenom.”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said Wernher, “Just watch and you’ll see, Mom;
In rocketry, I’ll be a phenom.
American status
I’ll gain once I practice
By building for Hitler a V-bomb.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Puns with a clipped accent

When I rad this week’s AWAD theme (clipping), circumcision came to mind.

If I had that nose o’ phiz I’d wear a mask continually.

In the Middle Ages, serfs who got arrested almost always pleb guilty.

Fagin told the kids, “Count what you stole from that storekeeper an’ divvy shows up, run!”

Admiring the Cambodian rancher’s corral I remarked, “That’s a phenom pen ya got there!”

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: Ellen Ruby (ellenpruby aol.com)
Subject: comment

Thank you for your daily word gifts! Especially now when we are isolated this is such a joyful daily activity -- reading your words every day.

Ellen Ruby, Sag Harbor, New York

Adding manpower to a late software project makes it later. -Fred Brooks, computer scientist (b. 19 Apr 1931)

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