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Jul 5, 2020
This week’s theme
Back-formations

This week’s words
onymous
swashbuckle
zig
rort
couth

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

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Shirts and pants as metaphors

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AWADmail Issue 940

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

Sponsor’s Message: Staycationing, or summering somewhere special? WISE UP! is both the perfect cure for cabin fever, and the best travel companion -- 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, Ellen Samrock (see below), and all you cooped/freed up brainiacs everywhere. WISE UP! NOW.



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

Scots Gaelic Could Die Out within a Decade, Study Finds
The Guardian
Permalink

The Surprisingly Deep -- and Often Troubling -- History of “Social Distancing”
Time
Permalink

”Hidden Language”: Hong Kongers Get Creative Against Security Law
The Guardian
Permalink



From: Dorothy Coombs (djccc comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--onymous

I worked many years as a police dispatcher, and periodically I would have a caller (who didn’t want to give their name) tell me “I want to be an-ominous.” I always wanted to ask “An ominous what?”

Dorothy Coombs, Beaverton, Oregon



From: Brenda J. Gannam (gannamconsulting earthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--onymous

Fun tidbit: I had a good friend who used to write short, funny pieces of prose, and was a consummate punner. He would sign his manuscripts: A. Nonny Mouse.

Brenda J. Gannam, Brooklyn, New York



From: David Mezzera (damezz comcast.net)
Subject: Onymous

How does today’s word differ in meaning from eponymous?

David Mezzera, Vallejo, California

Eponymous implies a naming after someone that didn’t necessarily have to be. Washington state is named after George Washington, but it may well have been named after a river.
Onymous implies attribution, typically for a piece of writing, meaning that the work bears the name of the author, as opposed to being anonymous or pseudonymous.
-Anu Garg



From: Jonathan Rickert (therickerts hotmail.com)
Subject: Swashbuckle

My favorite recollection of this word comes from an article in Time magazine that I read years ago as a boy. Errol Flynn apparently had broken his leg while making one of his swashbuckling films. As Time put it, he buckled when he should have swashed.

Jonathan Rickert, Washington, DC



From: Sue Parrott (sueparrottmayfield hotmail.com)
Subject: Zigzag

Here in Surrey, UK, we have The Zigzag Road which climbs Box Hill (named for the plant, not its shape) This road was used by the Olympic cyclists in 2012 and is the challenge set by multitudes to themselves every day of the week, particularly at weekends. The views, though, are fabulous.

Zigzag Road, Surrey, UK
Sue Parrott, Surrey, UK



From: Lisa Hyatt Cooper (lisahyattcooper gmail.com)
Subject: zig

My favorite form of exercise is contra dance, a “called couples’ dance” like square dance but in lines instead of squares. One call uses not only zig as a verb but zag as well: “Zig to the left, zag to the right.” Here is an example (video, 9 min.).

Much of what makes contra so much fun -- coming in close physical contact with almost everyone in the room while exercising vigorously -- makes it completely verboten in this age of Covid-19.

Lisa Hyatt Cooper, Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania



From: Bert Ashbrook (bert.ashbrook comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--zig

The verb zig is documented from long before 1969. See, e.g., Anthony Hope, The Prisoner of Zenda, New York: Henry Holt & Co. (1894) p. 57 (“... the track zigged and zagged, preventing us from seeing our pursuers, and them from seeing us”). And who among us has not been accused of “doing a little zigging when we should do a little zagging, or zagging when we should be zigging”? Clyde H. Doolittle, ed., Proceedings of the Twenty-Ninth Annual Session of the Iowa State Bar Association (1923) p. 157. Perhaps the most prominent use of zig -- without its partner zag -- was a line spoken by Clark Gable in the classic 1958 war movie, Run Silent Run Deep. See here at 0:37 (echoing one of the several uses of the verb in Edward L. Beach’s 1955 novel upon which the film was based).

Bert Ashbrook, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

We have updated the entry. Thank you.
-Anu Garg



From: Rika Raby-Natsuaki (rika-et-wombats@ezweb.ne.jp)
Subject: A Thought for Today

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
We must dissent from the fear, the hatred, and the mistrust. We must dissent from a nation that buried its head in the sand waiting in vain for the needs of its poor, its elderly, and its sick to disappear and just blow away. We must dissent from a government that has left its young without jobs, education, or hope. We must dissent from the poverty of vision and timeless absence of moral leadership. We must dissent, because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better. -Thurgood Marshall, US Supreme Court Justice (2 Jul 1908-1993)

July 2nd, it’s my birthday as well. Thank you very much for choosing this profound message for today’s A Thought for Today. Great birthday gift for me for this year. Makes me resolve to become a better person and to contribute to society even in a small way. Thank you very much again.

Rika Raby-Natsuaki, Osaka, Japan



From: Autumn Dobbins (autumninsandiego gmail.com)
Subject: couth

Oh! Flooded with nostalgia reading today’s word! I can see and hear my grandpa harumph and grumble, “Ain’t got much couth.” Sometimes directed at a public figure but more likely at one of his frenzied grandchildren. I’ve always understood the connotation but have never looked it up. I *love* that by pairing it with “ain’t” his expression was inherently uncouth. I’m going to choose to believe it was intentionally ironic.

Autumn Dobbins, San Diego, California



Email of the Week -- Brought to you by Wise Up! -- Don’t Leave/Stay Home Without It.

From: Ellen Samrock (esamrock gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--couth

USAGE:
“In public life, brassy, unclassy, light on couth. In private life, elegant home, antiques, Tiffany dinner service.”
Cindy Adams; You Can’t Find a Better Lady; New York Post; Sep 2, 2014.

For many years I worked for ABC News. For some reason it was important to stay ahead of what the NY Post, NY Daily News, and Washington Post reported in their gossip columns. So how did I know right away that Cindy Adams was talking about Joan Rivers? I guess she was the definition of “uncouth” in her public life, but the opposite at home.

Ellen Samrock, New York, New York



From: Jane Ferguson (janeferguson rogers.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--couth

The word couth reminds me of a word-loving friend who has long since passed away, but who once started the “Society for the Reclamation of Lost Positives” (or some similar moniker) and invited all and sundry to send him any word we came across that was a lost positive, that is, a word that is regularly used in its negative form while the positive form is neglected in everyday speech. “Couth” is a classic example of such a lost positive. A topic for a future week?

Jane Ferguson, Toronto, Canada

We have done a few weeks of these in the past and certainly there’s scope for more in future. See: 1, 2.
-Anu Garg



From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: zig & couth

Contemplating the word “zig”, I recalled that Japanese folk tales and woodblock prints often feature zigzag bridges as routes of escape from pursuing demons. As the story goes, evil spirits could only travel in straight lines. So, in fleeing some malevolent creature, running across a zigzag bridge was a surefire method of escape. Here, I’ve pictured a young sumo wrestler, making a narrow escape from a menacing demon.
Zigzag Escape! Flummoxed Lummox?
Seeing the word “couth” this week, I reflected on Trump, who is the antithesis of couth. His predilection for junk food, plus other debased personality traits, makes him one of the greatest unsophisticates of our age. Here, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, in the guise of KFC’s Col. Sanders, is one of The Donald’s prime aiders and abettors.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California



Anagrams of This Week’s Words

This week’s theme: Back-formations
1. onymous
2. swashbuckle
3. zig
4. rort
5. couth
=
1. if author uses moniker
2. bluster
3. to zag, switchback
4. wonky scheme
5. smooth
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)



Limericks

“In this garden of earthly delights,
On great fame am I setting my sights.
With a name like Hieronymous,
My works will be onymous,”
Said Bosch, and time’s proven him right.
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

The look that she gives him is ominous.
Says she, “So you claim you’re monogamous?
I now know the names
of your various flames,
‘cause the texts that they send you are onymous!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Oh, give me a byline, please do!
For credit I’d like to accrue.
I think you’ll agree
That if you were me,
You’d want to be onymous, too!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

View his paintings of sinners in hell,
and you’ll hot fires feel and stench smell.
They could never be onymous.
The Bosch called Hieronymus
did that sort of thing very well.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Trump is so awfully fond of us,
His Twitters -- so proudly all onymous --
Are constantly sent
And unfailingly bent
To reveal some thought horribly ominous.
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“With paintings of hell,” said Hieronymus,
“My name will someday be synonymous.”
But his dealer replied,
“Dude, I’m fit to be tied;
The damned things must be signed. Make ‘em onymous!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Whenever they traveled by air,
the twins drove their mom to despair.
While one would white-knuckle,
the other’d swashbuckle,
and warn flight attendants, “Beware!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The president loves to act tough.
His voice like a gangster’s is gruff.
He’ll swashbuckle, too,
And bluster right through
That boring diplomacy stuff.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The swaggerer, prone to swashbuckle,
Expects lesser mortals to truckle.
Their bluster’s a bore,
something we should ignore,
under which no one ever should knuckle.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

With the telescope named after Hubble,
Through the cosmos we Earthlings swashbuckle.
Once we find through its lens
Some place nice with new friends,
Having ruined our world, there we’ll scuttle.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


He took one too many a swig
before driving, which caused him to zig,
and lose all control.
Police on patrol
pulled him over. He’s now in the brig!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The coming election is big,
A fact most Americans twig.
If we are astute,
We’ll give Trump the boot.
Wherever he zagged we will zig!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Said Vlad, “Eet’s like flying a MiG;
Ve just yank and say, “Donald, now zig.
And he does! Eet’s such fun!
He’s our sveet honeybun,
And vunce more ze election ve’ll rig.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


It’s been said that I’m painfully short.
But look, mate, I’m a pretty good sport.
Though I’m near to the ground,
All my counsel’s quite sound.
I sure hope this don’t sound like a rort.
-Fred Jonas, Biscayne Park, Florida (fredjonasmd gmail.com)

In school I was known to cavort --
“Wine, women, and song” was my sport.
All those brain cells I lost
Were just part of the cost
Of four years of undisciplined rort.
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

He invites her to join in the rort.
She answers, “I do not cavort
in that manner, you know.
Instead, let us go
where in privacy we can disport!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

She attended rorts in her day,
When she was young enough to play.
Now years have passed by
And not wild nor spry,
She will just fantasize away.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

A suave suitor, a very swell sport,
Enjoyed sipping champagne and fine port.
The young ladies he’d wow,
Would all fawn and kowtow.
He was quite the slick rogue of the rort.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

The fellow engaging in rort
Was famed as a fraudulent sort.
He said with a shrug
And smile oh so smug,
“I fool all these suckers for sport.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Harry always was up for a rort.
He’d show up and drink beer by the quart.
And when there was no more
he’d pass out on the floor.
Couldn’t drive or he’d end up in court.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

We’ve been urgently yelling “Abort!”
At the Gorsuch and Kavanaugh court
But why should Trump care?
(He cares more for his hair!)
As he merrily goes on his rort!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

In old Roman days they’d cavort
At banquets, and have a real rort.
Their orgies would blaze,
And last many days,
Or so said the sordid report.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Dear Donald, Ukraine you extort,
And DACA kids try to deport.
You abandon the Kurds
And say masks are for nerds;
Oh, what fun! But we’ll soon end your rort.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Said Mitch to his capo, “Forsooth,
This year we’ll exclude from the booth
More voters than ever!
Those pulling the lever
Must match our description of couth.”
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

In the days of our callow youth,
lacking manners, polish, and couth,
who knew we’d grow older
and sometimes still bolder?
Now ain’t that the godawful truth?
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, NC (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

“These teas are indeed very couth,”
says she as she sips. But in truth,
I’d rather, my dear,
be quaffing a beer,
or even a glass of vermouth!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

No Botox would bring back his youth,
And money could not buy him couth.
Though cash he’d amass,
He’d still be an ass,
And facelifts would not hide the truth.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Even toadies would not call him couth
or depend on him to tell the truth.
He is causing alarm
and a great deal of harm,
without a scintilla of ruth.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

A vodka and splash of vermouth
Must be “shaken, not stirred”, to be couth.
As he bedded a blonde,
That’s the phrase that James Bond
Would cry out at the moment of truth.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)



Puns

The barber advised his customer, “You really shouldn’t put wax onymoustache like yours.”
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

Since I took this job at the used belt store, it swashbuckle, wash buckle, wash buckle all day long.
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

Many are hoping Trump’s end zig nominious.
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

When the engines begin to rort’s the start of the race.
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

The lisping dove said, “Couth, couth.”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Said the toddler, “Mommy, make me thome of that Moroccan pathta for dinner. You know, couthcouth.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)



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

A Few Bad Apples?
A Few Bad Apples?
In the aftermath of the murder-by-cops of Black man Geroge Floyd, and the subsequent protests across the nation and the globe, the nagging question of use of excessive force by police (and militia) against folks of color, particularly young Black males has rightfully been brought to the fore.

There has also been a debate as to how law enforcement should respond to civil disobedience in the streets. No matter that we’ve witnessed, time and time again, overreach, and in some instances, overkill, in how “The Law” responds to protesters.

In other instances, too often young men-of-color, particularly Black males, get accosted, stopped, or pulled over for some minor traffic violation, or broken car part, and ultimately yet another young man senselessly dies in the streets in police custody.

Trump has been effusive in his love and praise of “law & order” cops and the military, while showing little empathy for citizens, especially folks of color. The infamous “Thin Blue Line” has proven to be not so “thin” these days, and I’m guessing there are more than just a “few bad apples” in the ranks of law enforcement.

Sadly, many powerful police unions tend to protect their own at all costs, no matter how egregious or violent their officers’ conduct. “Serve and protect”? Now there’s a lofty concept.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California



A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
It’s hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning. -Bill Watterson, comic strip artist (b. 5 Jul 1958)

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