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May 3, 2020
This week’s theme
Words related to the hand

This week’s words
dead hand

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Relative usage over time

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AWADmail Issue 932

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, Gordon Hester (see below), and hunkered-down brainiacs everywhere. WISE UP! NOW.

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

In Tibet, It’s a Crime to Even Talk About the Value of Mother-Tongue Education
Los Angeles Times

Our Ever-Expanding Virus Vernacular
The New York Times

From: Mart Goodman (mart.goodman austin.rr.com)
Subject: Monday’s photo

I don’t appreciate the times you try and get political -- as in the, occasional, “Thought for the day” or today’s photo. You could have made your point just as easily with the picture of a heterosexual couple’s vows. I will be unsubscribing. Your words for the day are always interesting but I tire of your moralizing. Not all of us out here agree.

Mart Goodman, Cedar Park, Texas

Two people loving each other, not hurting anyone. Too much for you? Come to the 21st century some time. We may have other problems, but it’s less bigoted here.
-Anu Garg

From: Eley Kohn (dancingmom yonada.com)
Subject: Handfast

I love the fact that the picture accompanying today’s word was of a same-sex marriage. I’m hetero, but I believe everyone should have the right to be married to whomever they love. I anticipate people writing to cancel their subscription, but I applaud you for celebrating the diversity among your readers.

Eley Kohn, Teaneck, New Jersey

From: Kristine Danowski (silver_kd yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--handfast

I think we should permanently replace the handshake with something else. I dislike touching someone’s sweaty hand. My hands get sweaty too, so I don’t want to touch anyone either.

I prefer the Vulcan salute, but not everyone can make it. So I favor a slight bow, a gentle tilt of the head as an acknowledgement.

Kristine Danowski, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

From: Patricia Posito (dhrakos mac.com)
Subject: handfast

I’ve been using the Vulcan salute and Zoltan Kodaly’s five notes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind as greetings for decades.

Patricia Posito, Titusville, Florida

From: Marjorie Hilton (margiehill post.harvard.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--handfast

When I lived in Germany, shaking hands was almost automatic. I would miss that feature of greeting. Though, Mr. Spock’s long life and prosper is wonderful.

Marjorie Hilton, Cambridge, Massachusetts

From: Carol Lachman (sherlachman gmail.com)
Subject: hand

The handshake, to some, is far more favorable than what has become so common -- the hug as a greeting. As one who finds the hug an invasion of one’s personal space, and indicates more friendliness than is necessarily a fact, I much prefer the handshake. But just now, of course, neither is preferable. How about words like “Hello”?

Carol Lachman, Santa Fe, New Mexico

From: Daniel Miller (milldaniel gmail.com)
Subject: repugnant

“Aid for schools does not automatically raise spending on schools. The government may react by diverting the money it was going to spend on schools to another purpose, such as weapons or presidential palaces. Even attempts to fund worthwhile projects can facilitate repugnant ones.”

Reading this I’m reminded that Texas governor Rick Perry during the Obama years did exactly that with federal money that was supposed to improve the secondary school system. He used the money originally budgeted for the school systems to balance the budget instead of going to the schools. Then the next year when Obama wouldn’t give him anymore money without strings attached, Perry threw a hissy fit.

Daniel Miller, Laredo, Texas

From: Marge Simon (msimon6206 aol.com)
Subject: Aid for schools

This is tragically so. Our county school board tended to grant more money to mostly white schools and less to the outlying schools of Ocala (considered “poorer”, to start with, why change that?). I taught at both types of schools for years and observed a great difference in school budgets and equipment. That’s county/district government. In 1988, Floridians voted to accept the Lottery. The argument for it was the aid would go to schools. Come to find out, state gov’t slashed the amount for schools. “Robbing Peter to pay Paul” as it were! At first, the state of education in Marion County went downhill, and instead of more money for the schools, there was less.

Marge Simon, Ocala, Florida

From: Ben Silverman (bajabensilverman gmail.com)
Subject: re: Repugnant

The late beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Herb Caen, of the “San Francisco Chronicle”, used occasionally to make reference to the “Repugnican” Party. Unfortunately, much more apt in the 30 years since he died.

Ben Silverman, Playas de Rosarito, Mexico

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

From: Gordon Hester (chefgordon51 gmail.com)
Subject: backhanded

A backhanded shot in tennis is, indeed, made with the back of the hand facing forward. The “back” of the racquet likewise faces forward and strikes the ball. But, a backhanded catch in baseball is not made with the back of the hand facing forward, because you can’t catch a ball with the back of a glove (or hand). Rather, a backhanded catch is made by extending the arm and hand across the body (which does put the back of the hand forward) and then rotating the arm roughly 180 degrees so that the palm of the hand is forward for the catch. I’m unsure as to whether this is a third definition or an addition to the second one given. What I am sure of is that the second definition, as given, does not encompass the action of a backhanded catch.

Gordon Hester, Ashland, Oregon

From: Merry Pearson (pearsonps optusnet.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ironfisted

Here’s another fist you may not be aware of: the Joe Louis fist. Story behind it here.

Merry Pearson, Former Detroiter, now in Ulladulla, Australia

From: Robin Sutherland (sfsland gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dead hand

When you get groped on Italian streetcars, and the identity of the groper remains unknown, owing to the madding crowd, what you have experienced is known as “la mano morta” -- the “dead hand”.

For this information I’m indebted to the eminent harpsichordist, Robert Veyron-Lacroix.

Robin Sutherland, San Francisco, California

From: Richard Bailey (hms-rose comcast.net)
Subject: dead hand

In working or traditional sail (think tall ships), where the navigation chart is often brought on deck, the need to secure it from blowing away is met with small (about 4x6’) sewn canvas lead shot or sand-filled sacks called dead hands. Sometimes even a glove is used, making the name more vivid.

Richard Bailey, Wellfleet, Massachusetts

From: Teresa Rosher (teresa.rosher bentley.com)
Subject: dead hand

When I was in college, my Spanish teacher said that Mexicans referred to how Americans eat (fork in right hand, left hand in lap) as “la mano muerta” -- the dead hand. I laughed out loud because my parents are Mexican-American and Puerto Rican, and we always had both hands on the table.

Teresa Rosher, Huntsville, Alabama

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

Any card player will tell you that a “dead hand” is one that cannot win no matter what cards are dealt. More generally, quite apart from card games, if you have been “dealt a dead hand” in some situation, you have been placed in a no-win position.

Charles Payne, San Jose, California

From: Gary Muldoon (gmuldoon kamanesq.com)
Subject: dead hand

A mortgage is a dead hand, a dead pledge, mort + gage (or wage). (A gage is something that is thrown down or offered as a pledge, or as a challenge to a fight.) As opposed to vif-gage, or vivum vadium, which Black’s Law Dictionary 11th defines as “A living pledge, which exists when an estate is granted by a borrower to a lender until a debt is paid out of the estate’s proceeds. The pledge was so called because neither the money nor the lands were lost; it was a ‘living pledge’ because the profits of the land were constantly paying off the debt.”

Gary Muldoon, Rochester, New York

From: Allen Thomson (thomsona flash.net)
Subject: Dead Hand -- another meaning

Dead hand has another meaning, made infamous during the Cold War and perhaps still in existence: automatic nuclear weapons-control system.

In this usage, I suspect it may be inspired by the earlier “dead man’s switch”, which Google Ngram indicates goes back to at least 1908 and perhaps farther.

Allen Thomson, San Antonio, Texas

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: dead hand and backhanded

Dead Hand
Seeing our word “dead hand” almost immediately took me back decades to an annual National Rifle Association (NRA) confab where keynote speaker, actor Charlton Heston (aka Moses, Ben Hur, Michelangelo,... Ha!) addressed the gathering of rabid Second Amendment/pro-gun delegates, ending his speech with these bombastic words: “I’ll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” (Yikes!) So here, as a bit of an homage to the recently deceased cartoonist of the creepy and macabre, Gahan Wilson, I’ve pictured Heston in his coffin, still clutching his precious firearm, as three safe gun use advocates try to pry it from his “cold dead hand”. Curiously, Heston’s personal pledge still resonates with the pro-gun rights folk, emboldening the ranks of even today’s pro-gun lobbyists, who are bound-and-determined to stifle most progressive gun reform initiatives. So, Heston’s exhortation clearly fits our definition of a dead hand legacy.

Backhanded compliment
In the competitive domain of broadcast media, and in particular, the area of news/infotainment, good-looks or a pretty face, plus a pleasant, somewhat authoritative voice, are definite assets for on-air personalities. TV is essentially an audio/visual medium. Now, regarding radio broadcasting, entirely a “sound” communications medium, looks, good or bad, shouldn’t even be factored into the equation. In radio, one’s on-air voice is both the medium and the messenger, as the Canadian deep thinker, Marshall McLuhan, might have opined. So, in this cartoon scenario, we visit radio station K-FROG/FM, with my Froggy character hosting his own late-late-night talk-show, interviewing a man of few words, “Frankie” (aka Frankenstein). Froggy knows that the scary, scarred visage and hulking body of “The Monster” won’t faze his audience, ‘cause it’s radio. D’ah! And Frankie has the ideal face for it. Hence, Froggy’s backhanded compliment.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words
This week’s theme: Words related to the hand
1. handfast
2. repugnant
3. backhanded
4. ironfisted
5. dead hand
1. pact; troth; and wedded with the softest handshake
2. base
3. snide
4. hardhearted
5. unended frankalmoign
     This week’s theme: Words related to the hand
1. handfast
2. repugnant
3. backhanded
4. ironfisted
5. dead hand
1. draft deal, shake hands with thanks
2. abhorred, detested
3. two-edged
4. inhumane hand
5. confined, trap set
-Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com) -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

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

A whim caused a coed from Baylor
To handfast a handsome young tailor.
But alas when they married
She found that he tarried,
So left him and married a sailor.

Well, she didn’t take long to conclude
That his ways were repugnant and crude.
He would often break wind
And was very thin-skinned,
So she felt once again she’d been screwed.

Iron-fisted when asked for some money,
He heard her say “toodle-oo honey,
I’m heading for Baylor,
Sans sailor and tailor!”
Her days now are cheerful and sunny.
-Series by Gordon Tully, Charlottesville, Virginia (gordon.tully gmail.com)

The king issued an edict: “Yea, stand fast
We’re seeking our daughter a handfast --
Line up if you’re willing,
Entry fee is a shilling” --
You can bet that that entrance hall manned fast!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

When he asked her to get handfast
She believed their marriage would last.
Many men since, she
Is on husband three.
No regrets for her sketchy past.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

Said the girl with a very risqué past,
“I’m so glad to be married at long last.
My dumb fiancé Joe,
May be kind of a schmo,
But together we’re bound to be handfast.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

“A handfast is all that we need,”
The very young couple agreed.
Informally wed,
They hopped into bed,
Proceeding their hormones to heed.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Nell thought things were like in times past.
She settled for Peter’s handfast.
Of the man she was fond;
thought his word was his bond,
but he jilted her. Nell is downcast.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Although they had a bland past,
The couple did quickly handfast.
They sped up their date,
For a twist of fate.
Her belly was growing, and vast.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said the sheriff in days now long past,
“Mah girl ah sure want to handfast.
And life’s cheap in this town,
But a fine weddin’ gown
Will cost more’n ah’ve ever amassed.”
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpmarlin456 gmail.com)

When Avram with God made a handfast,
To the children of Israel the land passed.
But it came at great cost,
For their foreskins they’ve lost,
And endure on Yom Kippur a damned fast.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Your adverbs are overabundant,
to the point of becoming redundant,”
says teacher. “Were you
to get rid of a few,
your work might appear less repugnant!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Trump’s comments repugnant abound --
On Google they’re easily found.
He constantly spews
Despicable views.
So why is this man still around?
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Telling lies is considered repugnant,
So I’ll do it in numbers abundant,”
Thought Donald, “They’ll rack
Their poor brains keeping track,
And voila! I’ll remain the incumbent.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

He smiled, and did not hesitate
to observe that she’d surely lost weight.
Were his words simply candid,
or were they backhanded,
implying “too little, too late”?
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The back-handed tribute he paid her,
Although well-intended, dismayed her.
He said over dinner,
“In person you’re thinner.”
At that point their date hit its nadir.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

When I hear, “You look good for your age,”
It’s a comment that brings forth my rage.
That remark when landed
Seems always backhanded.
And, with friends like that, I won’t engage.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“If I catch you once more being candid,”
Said Donald, “I’ll slap you backhanded.”
Dr. Fauci replied,
“But, sir, multitudes died
When this virus as flu you rebranded.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

He attempted to be ironfisted,
but found that his partner resisted.
She threatened divorce,
so he altered his course,
and from dominance quickly desisted.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

“My heroes are men ironfisted,”
Our president’s often insisted.
“Those really tough guys
I just idolize --
They’re charmers who can’t be resisted.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Dickens’s Scrooge was a character twisted --
miserly, mean, and so ironfisted,
but the ghosts changed his mind.
Christmas day he turned kind
and Bob Cratchett’s poor family assisted.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“When my analyst told me I’m twisted,”
Said Donald, “I had him blacklisted.”
Scolded Vlad, “Zis crackpot
Should be dragged out and shot;
You must learn to be more ironfisted.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The dead hand of magical thinking
Means into some nonsense we’re sinking.
When lives are at stake,
Precautions please take;
Don’t sell us some Clorox for drinking.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“To save us from hunger’s dead hand,
I’ll go shootin’ at food,” ol’ Jed planned.
Well, the next thing you know
He was rollin’ in dough,
When some crude bubbled up from the land.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Not handled very handsomely

Why is Clapton nicknamed “Slowhand”? If ever there were a handfast...

Re: pug ‘n aunt: Even during this lockdown mom’s sister and her dog are still taking walks.

If Jesus came backhanded miracles would people believe in him?

While I was away my best friend raised my ironfisted my wife’s bedroom overnight.

By now, laws allowing discrimination should be dead hand gone.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Slaughterhouse Thrive?
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Trump’s Foibles & Follies

Slaughterhouse Thrive? Trump loves his meats... be it his KFC (extra-crispy), his Big Macs (double-cheese), or just his plain old down-home Texas BBQ. So, when the likes of Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest supplier of chickens and chicken products that recently reported scores of their slaughterhouse workers having tested positive for the coronavirus, were forced to close down several of their major operations, the Carnivore-in-Chief went absolutely apoplectic. Within days of the news that our meat processing industry was getting walloped by COVID-19, Trump insisted that, no way José*, was an “essential service” going to close down. So, he summarily signs an executive order, mandating that major meat producers must remain in operation and just work around the “inconvenience” of this deadly virus. The show must go on... slaughterhouse workers be damned.
*Ironically, there are likely many on-line meat-packing workers in US plants named José, as the majority of staffers in this gory, demanding enterprise are people-of-color, and largely Latino.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

The world is more malleable than you think and it’s waiting for you to hammer it into shape. -Bono, musician and social activist (b. 10 May 1960)

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