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Aug 2, 2020
This week’s theme
Words having origins in tree names

This week’s words

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Relative usage over time

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Words derived from body parts

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AWADmail Issue 944

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, Richard S. Russell (see below), and hunkered-down brainiacs everywhere. WISE UP! NOW.

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

OpenAI’s New Language Generator GPT-3 Is Shockingly Good -- and Completely Mindless
MIT Technology Review

What Can Bonobos Teach Us About the Nature of Language?

From: Amy Miller (akmiller.ct gmail.com)
Subject: Cherry Tree

Such a beautiful introduction to this week’s words. Works of art and nature have to be messy sometimes. That’s what helps them grow and give. I’m rooting for the tree. Thanks for speaking up, Anu.

Amy Miller, Woodbury, Connecticut

From: James Howard (via website comments)
Subject: The story of a tree

Wonderful story about the cherry tree. I once served on a board of directors for an agency in charge of homes for elders. After a storm knocked a tree down across a fence, members began the push to cut ALL trees around the property’s perimeter! I fought a valiant fight with facts, figures, and the science about the life-giving energy given forth by every tree, every day. After seven months of debate, I lost the battle, 10 for chopping, 1 against. I sadly resigned in protest after observing a starkly naked fence enclosing what was once a pastoral setting.

James Howard, Morrisonville, New York

From: Steve Benko (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
Subject: cherry trees

Correction, Anu. Cherry trees have been chopped down since the days of George Washington. The difference in the Trumpian world is they would lie about it.

Steve Benko, New York, New York

From: Dozah (dozah aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--corroborate

Cherry trees do make an awful mess! Had that situation for years with a neighbor’s tree debris-ing (I wanted to say defecating or pooping) all in our yard/walkway and not on theirs! Note: the neighbors did nothing to mitigate the situation. Sigh.

One might suggest, if you are so fond of seeing this beautiful but horribly smutty tree, then maybe you can sometimes go pick up some of the hideous debris. Make the tree more of a joy to those living with it.


From: Jody Drake (drake.jody gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--corroborate

I share your love for trees and all that they give us. After my dad died my mother had three mature oak trees cut down because they were making acorns and strewing them around her yard. I still have great sorrow when I think of those trees that I could not shelter from her blows.

Jody Drake, Merriam, Kansas

From: Alice Campbell Romano (alicecampbell.romano gmail.com)
Subject: Jack and his beans

Oh! What a sad punch in the gut. To wish to destroy a tree because it’s messy?! So sorry. I had a poem accepted by the journal Thema about a neighbor who cut down a tree. In the poem, I had my revenge. Before she could plant her neat little patch of flowers where the tree used to be, I tossed a handful of beans into the dirt, beans a kid named Jack gave me when the maple and I were both much younger. Thank you for your Words.

Alice Campbell Romano, Bronxville Heights, New York

From: Cheryl English (cenglish blackcatpottery.com)
Subject: Messy trees

If you want to get on my very last nerve, mention “messy trees” or “destructive animals”. Everything that tree produces is biodegradable - and much of it nourishes other denizens of the planet; and there is no “animal” more destructive than our own species.

Cheryl M. English, Advanced Master Gardener, Wayne County, Michigan

From: Anna Bucciarelli (amb sbmgarden.net)
Subject: Trees

About three years ago, tears gushed from my old eyes as I watched the removal of one mighty oak in the wooded area behind my home. It had been long dead and while branches kept falling from it, it became increasingly dangerous to walk along the path beneath it as one very large one, the size of a tree itself, came down just in front of me. Fearing for the safety of children who played in my woods, I finally made arrangements for its removal. It is true that from small acorns mighty oaks grow as there are saplings growing around the area where it lived for so many years, no doubt descendants of that giant grandfather oak I so treasured. In the end I have to think that while nothing lasts forever, newness often appeases sorrow.

Anna Bucciarelli, Chelmsford, Massachusetts

From: Tessa van Rooyen (vanrooyentessa16 gmail.com)
Subject: Trees

In our small suburban garden in Cape Town we have two Eugenia or Australian cherry trees -- the bane of my husband’s life as they are slap bang next to the swimming pool. Expletives galore as he sweeps the fallen fruit up! But we love that they have brought many beautiful birds, and anyway, the sweeping up is good exercise. So they stay as long as we do.

Tessa van Rooyen, Cape Town, South Africa

From: Melissa O’Connor (mel.a.oconnor gmail.com)
Subject: The Overstory

Read The Overstory by Richard Powers, an amazing novel. You’ll never think of cutting down a tree again. You’ll appreciate trees in a whole different light. It’s also a very good audio book.

Melissa O’Connor, Alameda, California

From: Elizabeth Block (elizabethblock netzero.net)
Subject: Cutting trees, whether they exist or not

Yes! A previous property manager for my neighbourhood -- the U of Toronto owns almost all the houses -- had as his forte cutting down trees. Whether or not they needed to be cut down. Whether or not they existed. He was a crook, and worked with crooked contractors.

Elizabeth Block, Toronto, Canada

From: Nancy W. Rosman (nwrosman comcast.net)
Subject: ginkgo trees

When I was in high school, we dreaded the spring fruiting season because, many years before, some idiot had accepted as a gift ten female ginkgo trees to line the pavements. They dropped their fruit all over the only available walkways, and their fruit absolutely stinks. It smells like rotting garbage. For a couple of weeks, the whole school smelled faintly like garbage, as did our shoes. But no one cut the trees down. For all I know, they’re still there.

Nancy W. Rosman, Schwenksville, Pennsylvania

From: Lynne Browne (brownel sunypoly.edu)
Subject: cherry tree

We have many crab apple trees on campus. There were two with “ribbons of doom” around their trunks. I started asking various upper-level people why were they marked to be chopped down. I finally received my answer from the person in charge of “tree death”. He said, oh, I don’t know (they are messy). He said, I suppose I can just have them trimmed and remove the ribbon of death. I sent him a card (a photo of the trees) saying, “Thank you for not killing us.” The trees stand today.

Lynne Browne, Utica, New York

From: Christine Shia (crshia gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--corroborate

Oh, long live the Cherry tree! It completely saddens me that people are so deprived of the joy of life that they cannot see it in front of them, nor its generosity. Was watching Gardener’s World on Britcom yesterday -- one of the ways I stay positive during the pandemic. And he was talking about how the sparrows were going after his spring peas, the other birds were picking off his blackberries like mad, and how other animals were digging into his tomatoes. And he said something similar: “And why not? There is plenty for us all here, so why not let nature enjoy the abundance as well?” YES.

I am so sad with Trumpians. It’s as if their souls have all turned to concrete and bullets. I am hoping with joy this present dark mirror directs us all to a better, clearer and more loving way of thinking, especially for the children being cultivated now.

Christine Shia, Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina

From: Anna-Sophia Leone (sophiequus mac.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--corroborate

Enjoy your lovely stone fruit while possible. Here outside of Philly, we must cut (not yet mandatory) our stone fruit frees in an effort to reduce the invasive and highly damaging spotted lantern fly. It’s heartbreaking; in my mind, plums are akin to magic. My sincere hope this destruction stays confined and the pest is eradicated.

Anna-Sophia Leone, New York, New York

From: Dan Dippold (hillyoung117 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--corroborate

Oh dear! I love my hemlock tree on my property here in the Midwest and always found hemlocks so restful!! When I was forced to go hunting by my father along the Pennsylvania Continental divide (although they didn’t actually call it the continental divide), he abandoned me at age 13 to stand watch for passing deer for four to five hours at a time in the cold... They’re homes of the wonderful black-capped chickadees and are lovely in the snow...

I appreciate your writing and agree with just about everything you’ve ever uttered, but when you said why not chop that hemlock, it made me wonder why??

Dan Dippold, Brownsburg, Indiana

Thanks for your kind words. I didn’t say that one *must* chop down hemlock, rather if you have to kill a tree, for some reason. Also, I should have been clearer. I meant a poisonous hemlock plant, not the unrelated hemlock tree.
-Anu Garg

From: David W. Moore (dwmoore businessolver.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--corroborate

You have a poetic way of talking about the trees.

Arborists call fruits and nuts “litter” because “they make a mess”. But people want pretty trees near them so they plant male trees that produce pollen, but no fruit.

In the wild, there is (as far as I can determine via google) about 1 male tree for every 4-5 female trees, but in our cities we just plant male trees. The result is reduced air quality and an increase of seasonal allergies as we humans have even messed up our attempts to be “green”.

David W. Moore, Des Moines, Iowa

From: Sherri Ozcomert (sherozcomert bellsouth.net)
Subject: Cherry tree

My heart hurts reading about your cherry tree. I’m happy it is still there and showing its glory.

My father was a third-generation sharecropper in Georgia. He always had a food garden with fruit-bearing trees, even after he became a chiropractor in his 40s. We all helped as kids and I remember many afternoons spent with family shelling peas and stringing beans. He taught me to grow enough food to share with everyone, this includes the animals. If I remember correctly, he said 75% went to the animals and 25% was for us. We always had a HUGE garden! Neighbors often complained when fertilizer was applied. As we say in the south, bless their hearts.

Sherri Ozcomert, Atlanta, Georgia

From: Bruce Floyd (brucefloyd bellsouth.net)
Subject: your hope to save the cherry tree

O if we but knew what we do
When we delve or hew --
Hack and rack the growing green!

Just a few days ago, taking my dogs to the park for their walk, I passed a house at which a raft of men were dismembering a giant live oak, the tree hundreds of years old. It was sad to see the once-majestic tree maimed and hacked, its arms going first. The next day nothing was left of the once-imposing giant but three or four feet of stump. A day later, after a voracious machine called appropriately enough “a stump grinder” fed on the stump, nothing was left, just earth mixed with sawdust where once the huge tree stood. Once again, the earth lost some of its beauty and wonder. I hope your words save the cherry tree.

Bruce Floyd, Florence, South Carolina

From: Barbara Jaspersen (barbjas gmail.com)
Subject: Trees

”Turn Off the Sunshine”: Why Shade Is a Mark of Privilege in Los Angeles

Barbara Jaspersen, San Francisco, California

From: Max Magee (maxpmagee gmail.com)
Subject: Oak

Immediately after reading your beautiful, sad story about your cherry tree, I noticed that striking image of the dilapidated oak tree on the sidebar and wanted to see more.

The Wikimedia entry for it had a much higher-res version of the oak in your message, and I was able to zoom in to see a small placard (in German) nailed to the trunk.

After some internet sleuthing, primarily on an English translation of the photog’s (Pascal Dihé) own website, I discovered that that tree is designated a natural landmark, and is afforded certain protections from destruction and damage! Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to designate your favorite old cherry or plum tree as a naturdenkmal here?

From that translation: “Otherwise, however, natural monuments are particularly considered to be “ambassadors” for the environmental concept...”

(If we cut down every tree or plant or human that made a mess, we’d pretty quickly run out of things to cut down.)

Another fun fact that I’ve always found interesting is that the Java programming language was almost named Oak after an oak tree outside of the Sun Microsystems lab window where James Gosling worked and where the software was being prepared for release in 1995, but because the Oak Technology company had already used the name Oak for an unrelated product, they had to quickly brainstorm a different name for it, and everybody kinda circled in on Java as a second choice.

Max Magee, Madison, Wisconsin

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

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

All across America, every year, people will search out an excellent specimen of an evergreen tree -- symbol of eternal life -- and proceed to murder it and drag its corpse back to their living rooms, where it will sit in a corner and slowly dessicate into a fire hazard. Then, after it’s become too pathetic to look at any more, they’ll drag its remains out to the curb, to be carted off to hasten the end of the useful life of the local landfill.

Here’s an alternative to this silvacide epidemic. Mark your calendar now for next spring, when you can head out to a local nursery and get a LIVE evergreen that you can plant in your front yard and have for years to come, enjoying its natural beauty year round while saving money, nurturing the environment, and still enjoying your holiday.

Richard S. Russell, Madison, Wisconsin

From: Zane Young (zane.young humanservices.gov.au)
Subject: corroborate

The word corroborate always makes me think of the similar word corroboree in Australian English, meaning a meeting. It was coined by British settlers from the Dharug word garabara, but isn’t it interesting that it sounds like Latin? Perhaps the 18th-century British settlers thought they heard the locals saying a Latin word.

Zane Young, Adelaide, Australia

From: Don Wright (wright.don sbcglobal.net)
Subject: palmary

Ah, light bulb! I had always wondered why a list of winners is called a palmarès in French, but I’d never troubled myself to look up the etymology. Now I understand. Thank you!

Donald Wright, San Jose, California

From: Bill Venables (bill.venables gmail.com)
Subject: willowy

The scientific name for this willow is Salix babylonica, which rather poetically comes from Psalm 137 “By the rivers of Babylon...” The tree, normally growing drooped over water, is likened to the Jews in captivity in Babylon, weeping for their homeland.

The name is based on a misunderstanding by Linnaeus, that the tree had its origins in Mesopotamia. It in fact comes originally from China, but this hardly detracts from the poetry.

Boney M. did a very upbeat version back in the 1970s, but the strangest version I have seen is this one from Malaysia, where the graceful gyrations of the line dancers could be described as, well, willowy.

Bill Venables, Dutton Park, Australia

From: Steve Gilford (sageprod aya.yale.edu)
Subject: Willowy

The image of the gracefully drooping branches of a willow also has inspired feelings of sadness, remorse, and loss. Willows are often found engraved on eighteenth-century grave markers. In popular culture, in a traditional song sung today but is rooted in a distant past, the abandoned lover sings,

Bury me beneath a willow
Under a weeping willow tree
So he may know where I am sleeping
He no longer cares for me
(video, 4 min.)

Steve Gilford, Petaluma, California

From: Richard W. Burris (r_w_burris comcast.net)
Subject: Willow Weep for Me

One of the great jazz songs is “Willow Weep for Me”, written in 1932. Weeping, of course, a pun referring to the drooping or weeping structure of the tree as well as crying. Virtually all great jazz vocalists recorded it. Here is Billie Holliday and Sarah Vaughan.

Richard W. Burris, Alexandria, Virginia

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

The willow tree is often used as a symbol of sadness or tragedy, probably because of its drooping branches. Two famous examples are Queen Gertrude’s account of Ophelia’s death in Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Act 4, Scene 7, starting with Gertrude’s entrance in the second part of the scene: “There is a willow grows aslant the brook”, etc.) and Desdemona’s song in Verdi’s Otello (Act 4, Scene 3), based on the Shakespeare play. With its repeated lines of “willow, willow, willow,” Desdemona’s premonition of death at the hands of her husband has to be the most heartrending scene in the entire opera. Desdemona is sung by Barbara Frittoli in this La Scala production from 2001, Placido Domingo is Otello, and Rossana Rinaldi is Emilia. Start watching at 1:46:57.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Carolyn C Martin (carokei msn.com)
Subject: birch

Corporal punishment is still permitted in public schools in 19 states. In at least some of those states, even preschoolers are not excluded from this cruel practice. See the NIH. I expect corporal punishment is still practiced in some private schools as well.

Moreover, corporal punishment by parents is legal in all 50 states! See Time.

Incidentally, I, too, remember the days when the elementary principal in my public elementary school had a paddle hanging on the wall in his office. It even had a number of 1/2-inch holes drilled in it to make it easier to wield with greater force. Nevertheless, that school was located in Washington State, one of the more enlightened 31 states that has outlawed corporal punishment in the schools, so I expect that gruesome paddle has long been retired.

Carolyn C Martin, Litchfield, Connecticut

From: Robert Burns (robertburns oblaw.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--birch

My mother was fond of using switches on me and my brother when children. We had a birch tree in the front yard. I wonder if she used that.

Robert Burns, Ocean Beach, California

From: Padma Rao (mrvpadma yahoo.co.in)
Subject: birch

The epic Ramayana was written on birch bark or bhurja patra as it is called in Sanskrit.

Padma Rao, Bengaluru, India

From: January Kiefer (januarykiefer yahoo.com)
Subject: vasta

The birch bundle brings only happy memories to my mind. An extended visit to Finnish friends where I learned of the importance (spiritual, communal, healthful) of the savusauna. We made vasta, bundles of fragrant birch twigs and leaves. When used in the sauna the fragrance is released as the skin is stimulated. Lovely memories.

January Kiefer, St Louis, Missouri

From: Chris Craig (Ccraig laurellodge.com)
Subject: swinger of birches

As a more positive view of birch than its use in punishment, I’ve long loved Robert Frost’s poem Birches in which he pays tribute to birches’ durability through flexibility. As Frost says, “One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”

Chris Craig, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

From: Marek Boym (marekboym walla.com)
Subject: Fig

Why the fig gesture is called obscene escapes me. In my native Poland it was quite common, when one refused, to make that gesture and say something like “a fig” meaning “Forget it.” It might not have been considered elegant, but in no way obscene.

Marek Boym, Raanana, Israel

From: Alan Levitan (levitan.alan gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fig

In Italian every fruit is feminine except for the fig (fico). The feminine form fica is a taboo reference to a part of a woman’s anatomy. When I was a young man visiting Perugia, and still in the process of learning Italian, I innocently used the wrong term when asking my hostess, at a large dinner party, to please pass me a fig from the dessert plate. The other nine people suddenly fell silent with embarrassment, only to burst out, eventually, in laughter at my error.

Alan Levitan, Cambridge, Massachusetts

From: Kiko Denzer (handprint cmug.com)
Subject: give a fig

In Italian, the word for fig is also a word for female genitals. If you delight in both figs (currently ripening in our garden) and females, you have to wonder, no? How and why do we convert gifts of delight, deliciousness and life into epithets, slurs, and slander?

Kiko Denzer, Blodgett, Oregon

Why the word fig has come to mean something of little value? Readers speculate:

1. Fig trees are extremely prolific, and you can only eat so many figs at a time.
2. It’s because of the odd shape of the fig.
3. There is something odd about the flavor/texture/mouthfeel of the fig; it’s so different from any other common temperate-zone fruit. Although, all this is just speculation, and my old boss warned me not to speculate.
-Ben Silverman, Playas de Rosarito, Mexico (bajabensilverman gmail.com)

1. This type of tree was very common, hence of little value, also in the very old age.
2. Judas, repenting his treason against Christ, hanged himself on a fig tree, according to the New Testament.
-Carmine Casale, Milano, Italy (c_casale hotmail.com)

And was it not the lowly fig that Jesus cursed for the crime of not bearing fruit out of season (Mark 11:13-14)?
-M Henri Day, Stockholm, Sweden (mhenriday gmail.com)

It has always been my assumption that the secondary meanings (something of little value or a gesture of contempt) were a euphemism for fu*k, as is darn for damn and deuce for devil. Is there no evidence for this?
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

So “che figa” in Italian roughly means “she’s hot” but is a vulgar idiom that references female genitalia. Which the hand gesture in your image above also references. To understand this fully, one may need to have seen the Mediterranean variety of large, dark red figs that split open when over-ripe and drip with juice. Sorry, but it’s truly like that.
-Barbara Nadalini Priesnitz, Austin, Texas (bpriesnitz gmail.com)

Fig = figa in Latin.
Figa = pussy in Italian and Latin.
That is it!
-Carlo Castellucci, Hong Kong (carlocastellucci yahoo.com)

If you spent a couple of hours under a fig tree in the south of France in high summer, you would have noticed the remarkable similarity between the piles of over-ripe figs splattered on the ground around the tree and piles of dung produced by animals. The vulgar use could well derive from this similarity.
-Dan Laut, Tucson, Arizona (via website comments)

I’m sorry the fig has suffered undervaluation. For a remedy, see Ross Gay’s uplifting poem To the Fig Tree on Ninth and Christian.
-Joannie Stangeland, Seattle, Washington (joannieks msn.com)

From: Christine Romeiser (christine.romeiser web.de)
Subject: Words having origins in tree names

Although I’m far from being a native speaker -- but I master the German language rather well -- I hopefully may make a contribution on the topic of this week “Words having origins in tree names” in German: “Sie hat ihn hinter die Fichte geführt” (She took him behind the spruce) from the 16th-century means: She cheated him.

I am so lucky to get A.Word.A.Day as a daily gift, organized by an old and wise friend, who has a special liking for languages and knows that I too have a weakness for words. As someone whose native tongue is German, nevertheless I’m looking forward to AWAD every morning and take much pleasure in your ingenuity and in the infatuation in every single word of your language. Thank you also for your commitment in finding every day an interesting “thought”!

Christine Romeiser, Kleve, Germany

From: Terry Stone (cgs7952 bellsouth.net)
Subject: Trees

My heart ached when I read of the impending fate of your neighborhood’s cherry tree. My wife and I are fortunate in our sixties to live on 12 acres -- not far from you in eastern Washington -- that was left to us by my grandparents. Thanks to them, our little gentleman’s farm (there is an expression for a future AWAD!) is covered with trees, many allowed to grow here because of the nurture afforded this place by previous generations. Some of these perennial giants were here before us, planted by pioneers, including a 150-year-old pear tree standing nearly 50 feet tall out in our pasture that graces us every fall with over 2,000 pounds of Bartletts. Imagine the chagrin of your HOA if they had to contend with fist-sized fruits instead of tiny cherries! This tree has survived being struck by lightning during three bad storms, just in my lifetime, and though it is hollowed out with charred wood in its massive trunk and never receives a drop of irrigation water in our arid, rain-shadow induced summers, it soldiers on.

But my grandparents thought ahead for centuries with their plantings. We have eleven 70-year-old American chestnut trees, saved from the feller’s axe and a horrible blight that nearly wiped out their species, and lovingly transplanted from forest remnants in Alabama to Washington before it was too late. They thrive today, with the loss of only one of their number to drought and neglect, and give us delicious nuts around Thanksgiving every year. My grandmother’s two 70-year-old Jonathan apple trees and a single Gravenstein apple tree now make an enormous hedge, 40 feet tall by 100 feet long, that also encloses a Damson plum tree of similar age, with seasonal harvests that we count at nearly a thousand pounds. In addition, these trees shelter and host within their branches the vines of a seven-decade-old Concord grape arbor that is 50 feet long and 20 feet wide, and from which we harvest over 150 pounds of purple grapes each season (and that’s after the birds have had a go at it all).

My grandmother knew about hub trees before they were ever enumerated by scientists -- evergreens that provide nourishment and disease-fighting enzymes and microbes, along with nourishing sugars, through a system of mycelia (another AWAD entry for you!), and which I credit for the longevity of her orchard. Your HOA would balk at the load of cones shed every day by these giants. My grandmother planted two Douglas fir trees 70 years ago that have today reached over 115 feet in height, with canopy drip lines extending 100 feet across. She also prevented the builders of the home we now enjoy from taking down any of the Ponderosa pine trees on the property, all of which today exceed 120 feet in height and shade the house from harsh summer sun or protect us from damaging winds in winter. These trees have likewise survived numerous lightning strikes, with both the firs and an enormous pine next to my kitchen window getting hit last August 9 in a violent storm. Our trees directed the explosive energy of the bolt away from the house, incurring significant injury in the loss of huge strips of bark, but surviving with little sign of stress, likely due to the help of other hub trees.

And the greatest gift these trees have given us is the attraction they provide for our local fauna in shelter, shade, and windfall fruit snacks. Indeed, as I write this, I am watching triplet mule deer fawn siblings cavorting under the firs and apple trees shading our back yard as their mother looks on. She has been browsing on green apples that have fallen prematurely and will soon find a contented resting place to nap under their shade. In addition, I count 18 wild Merriam turkeys pecking for seeds and insects and occasionally playing with the young deer in some comical game of chase they have collectively made up. Later in the day when it gets unbearably hot, our well-shaded lawn will be covered with contentedly-napping turkeys and deer.

In fact, when you combine old-growth forests, open dry-land savannahs of Oregon white oak, and a river brimming with rainbow trout and signal crayfish running through it all with alder-, maple-, cottonwood-, and hawthorn-lined banks, we have the gift of a wildlife sanctuary. And that sanctuary regularly provides us, on view out our picture windows, coyotes, raccoons, rare eastern gray squirrels, meadowlarks, scrub jays, great blue herons, cinnamon teals, California quail, swallows, three species of owls (including one visit from a rare spotted owl), red-tailed hawks, Cooper’s hawks, eagles, flickers, varied thrushes, evening grosbeaks, robins, belted kingfishers, American goldfinches, nuthatches, chickadees, king birds, and even the occasional mountain lion. This exquisite menagerie would never have been possible on this relatively tiny 12 acres had it not been for the vision of my grandparents and the trees they so lovingly encouraged to grow here. My wife and I are now the fortunate caretakers that can only hope to aspire to such a legacy for our children and grandchildren.

Our place, as a consequence almost entirely of its stately old trees, is a sanctuary for humans, as well, a respite for the soul. Those who have visited us, even if only briefly, seem to come away awed and refreshed.

Perhaps your HOA might keep that in mind and consider, instead, the great treasure they have in their messy old cherry tree. It provides them so much more than the minor annoyance of an occasional seasonal clean-up problem. If they do end up taking it down, they will have lost something irreplaceable in trade for a transient inconvenience, something that will break their hearts, even though they will be unaware of it.

Please keep us, your readers, updated on the plight of a tree you seem, rightfully, to love so much.

Terry J. Stone, Goldendale, Washington

From: Cindy Fabricius-Segal (cfsegal roadrunner.com)
Subject: Biology teacher

When I taught college prep biology at Upland High School (just retired), I covered every available space at the front of the class with word roots that I learned from you over the years. (Just sent a donation your way, sorry for the lapse.)

My students said that it taught them to look at long words and figure out the meaning without looking the word up. Here’s some of the relevant words I tested them on for beginning bio (it was the one quiz I gave all year on which everyone did well, even the English learners):

Carnivore, omnivore, herbivore, cardio, geo, bio, zoo, -ology, photosynthesis, therm, phono, tele, hypo, hyper, hydro, phil, phobia, and graph. The students loved when I gave them a word they had never seen before and said, “Work it out!”

Cindy Fabricius-Segal, Alhambra, California

PS: Love the thought for the day at the bottom of each page. Shared a few hundred of those with my students, too.

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Willowy and fig

When I saw the word “willowy”, I conjured up the Greek myth of Apollo, struck by Cupid’s love arrow, becoming smitten by the willowy wood nymph, Daphne. Here, echoing the marble sculpture (1622-1625) in Rome’s Galleria Borghese, by the sculptor Bernini of Apollo giving chase to Daphne, I’ve tried to capture the moment when Apollo is about to plant a kiss on Daphne, who suddenly begins to morph into a tree... a laurel tree to be exact. For a little thematic reinforcement, notice the weeping willow tree in the background. Regarding my caption, “will-o’-wisp” is defined as a misleading, or elusive goal or hope. I’d argue, quite apropos this unrequited love scenario.

Will-o'-the-wisp Digital Diplomacy
Trump holds autocratic world leaders in high esteem and goes out of his way to curry favor of these strongmen. They include Erdogan (Turkey), Bolsonaro (Brazil), Duda (Poland), Netanyahu (Israel), Kim Jong-Un (North Korea), Putin (Russia), and Xi Jinping of China. Here, Xi is giving Trump “the finger”... in this case, the “fig”, expressing contempt. Clueless Trump takes Xi’s gesture as an affirmation of their friendship and responds with an “OK” sign. His sentiment echoes Sally Field’s 1984 Best Actress Oscar acceptance speech for “Places in the Heart”, where she blurts out... “You like me... you really, really like me!”, gobsmacked that she’d actually won the trophy.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Anagrams of This Week’s Words

Words having origins in tree names:
1. corroborate
2. palmary
3. willowy
4. birch
5. fig
1. prove, as in crime
2. admirable, rosy
3. agile girl/boy
4. switch for warning
5. no worth
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)


“My theory the clues don’t corroborate,”
Said Sherlock. “He fled through the robber gate;
But his DNA sample
Was much less than ample --
We’ll patiently now for his slobber wait.”
-Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon (lcrumb uoregon.edu)

Gossipers tend to exaggerate
wild scandals they cannot corroborate.
Spreading lies like wildfire
all the more, if they’re dire,
such tall tale tellers promulgate hate.
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

The fam’ly sits down to partake
of what daughter’s decided to bake.
Says Ma, “Your peach cobbler rates
high!” Pa corroborates
this, but predicts stomachache.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

I’d like to corroborate claims
That Trump with his taxes played games.
Returns he won’t show,
Because, as you know,
An IRS audit he blames.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Said the Pope, “Now you listen and concentrate;
What I say there’s no need to corroborate.
Your theory we shun
That Earth circles the Sun;
Galileo, you’d better cooperate.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Ms. Streep is a marvel, we know,
A palmary actress, and so
She frequently gets
Those gold statuettes --
A slew of them all in a row.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Because of what happened at Calvary,”
Said Jesus, “my life became palmary.
So it all worked out, Dad,
For they think I’m so rad
That my portrait’s in many a gallery.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

She explains, “Well, the cakes were on sale,
and my craving I couldn’t curtail.
So my normally willowy
bod’s a bit pillowy
now. (Mustn’t let them go stale!)
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

If you long to be willowy and tall
And instead are short-statured and small,
Consider bonsai
A really small fry
Whose beauty and grace says it all.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Now Twiggy was famous they say.
The best-known model of her day.
One day that was billowy,
Because she was willowy,
The wind nearly blew her away.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said Hamlet, “Ophelia is willowy,
But to girls I prefer a soliloquy.
We poison and stab
While we endlessly gab;
It’s a thing with the Danish nobility.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The bride-to-be waiting at church
Soon found she’d been left in the lurch.
Daddy said, “Never fear!
I’ll catch that rat, dear,
And he’ll soon feel the sting of my birch!”
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

Each Sunday, their mom had to search
for the kids when the time came for church.
She’d plead and she’d shout,
but they wouldn’t come out
till she threatened each culprit to birch.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

From crisis to crisis he lurches,
And thus the whole country he birches.
Folks die of disease
While Trump, if you please,
For memorable photo ops searches.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Says Trump, “I did not do research
Into what someone does from this perch.”
Well, clearly you should’ve
And maybe you would’ve
Refrained from our country to birch!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Said the kitty, “For mice I will search;
When I catch one, its hide I will birch.
Though my humans denounce
Eating meat, I will pounce
And then ask for forgiveness in church.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Trump told us, “You’re gonna win big!”
His accomplishments? Not worth a fig.
The sight of this bounder’s
Sick ploys has our founders
Collectively flipping their wig.
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

A coarse and dastardly vandal,
Completely surrounded by scandal,
He whined and he sniveled
‘Cause his fig leaf had shriveled.
Reality was too hard to handle.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

To Adam says Eve, “Look at these!
We’re both gonna be, if you please,
beautifully figged
in these knickers I’ve rigged
from the leafage of one of the trees.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

A bored lawyer with clients so big,
Into cases he’d somberly dig.
When he went into court
He would first take a snort,
High on coke, he did not give a fig.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

Elections the Russians may rig,
But Trump seems to care not a fig.
Does Trump even know
That Russia’s our foe?
His bromance with Putin is big.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

He loves being called a bigwig,
but a lot of work goes with the gig
and he just doesn’t do it.
Let’s face it, he blew it.
For his oath he does not give a fig.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Just picture a knight say, Arthurian --
Approaching a pig: “I will lure ye in!
Come here, little pig --
I don’t give a fig
For your life -- I will eat epicurean!”
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

At the fair an event that’s big
Is to see people fig their pig.
The one that was the best
Was decked out as Mae West,
Dressed up in a gown and blond wig.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

For Wilbur he gave not a fig,
Till a spider web spelled out, “Some pig!”
Then the farmer, perplexed,
Asked, “Why didn’t you text?”
Charlotte answered, “An iPhone’s too big.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The Rotten Tomatoes website assigned a pair of android critics to corroborate the movie.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

When the lookout throws up during a heist, the safe cracker may wonder what his corroborate.
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

The eager girl turned to her boyfriend and said, “Hey, palmary me!”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Arriving in Bethlehem, Joseph inquired, “Is there any room at the inn for me and my pregnant virgin palmary?”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

After this loan, you willowy nough to need a job.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

Buffy told her friend, “Willowy must never forget that Spike’s a vampire.”
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

As the young white-barked tree said, “Well, I’ll be a son-of-a-birch!”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

The alphabet was distraught: “I’ve lost my N! This is no laugh fig matter!”
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

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

In a recent interview with FOX News’s Chris Wallace, when Wallace pointed out that Trump kept referring to the major viral hotspots as mere “embers”, implying that they could be snuffed out in short order, Trump admitted he did use the term “embers”, but then added that he’d also used the word “flames”. Fact check: He’d never mentioned “flames”. Here, I’ve pictured Le Grand Orange as the devil, feeding the conflagration with his chief toady Beelze-Barr in tow, aiding and abetting him in stoking the COVID-19 blaze.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

You think your pains and heartbreaks are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who have ever been alive. -James Baldwin, writer (2 Aug 1924-1987)

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