Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


A.Word.A.Day

About | Media | Search | Contact  


Home

Today's Word

Yesterday's Word

Archives

FAQ


Aug 9, 2020
This week’s theme
Words derived from body parts

This week’s words
iron-hearted
pugnacious
ithyphallic
chicken-livered
hysteric

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives
Index

Next week’s theme
Characters related to slavery who have become words in the English language

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

AWADmail Issue 945

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



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

Why Is India Obsessed with English-Medium Education -- When It Goes Against Scientific Consensus?
Scroll
Permalink

Beer Brand and Leather Store Unwittingly Named after Maori Word for Pubic Hair
The Guardian
Permalink



From: Susan Wrathmell (spwrathmell gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--iron-hearted (Re: cherry tree)

I will plant a tree in my corner, something I do when hearing about such vandalism. And I celebrate the squirrels eating my wild cherries during the last couple of weeks.

Susan Wrathmell, UK



From: Lucie Singh (lmsingh aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--iron-hearted

What an iron-hearted neighbour you have. I am very sorry for your loss -- blossoms, fruit, birds, and mess, and all.

I can only speculate, but I’ll wager that her childhood was devoid of learning about the wonders of trees. Thus she grew into a tree killer. P.D. James understood this very well.

I went outside after reading your sad message and put my arms around my Prairie Fire crabapple and petted my 175-year-old white oak. I didn’t tell them what had happened.

Lucie Singh, Hudson, Wisconsin



From: Peggy Mallon (pgmallon bellsouth.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--iron-hearted

When my grandson was not even two years old, he used to look out into his neighborhood through a big picture window in his playroom. One day a neighbor cut down a tree to make room for a boat. My grandson was heartbroken for weeks and couldn’t stop pointing at the boat and the neighbor.

Peggy Mallon, Southwest Ranches, Florida



From: MaryAnne Glazar (maryanneglazar48 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--iron-hearted

It occurs to me that doing away with everything that is inconvenient to the Great And Powerful Us is what is rapidly making this planet uninhabitable. Maybe we are the worst invasive species...

MaryAnne Glazar, Berkeley, California



From: Marcy Robinowitz (mrobtz1 gmail.com)
Subject: The cherry tree

I live in a midtown wooded area. New neighbors came in and hired tree men to decimate their lot. All the trees disappeared from the backyard. Then they started in the front yard. They left an ugly yellow cutting machine next to a tree I’d known for decades. At dusk, I slipped over and wrote in chalk: Do Not Cut Me. Maybe they weren’t going to chop it down; I’ll never know, but I do know that the tree still stands.

Marcy Robinowitz, Tulsa, Oklahoma



From: Linda Smith (lsmith bhchp.org)
Subject: Cherry Tree

I am so sorry to hear about the demise of the lovely cherry tree. The gifts of the earth sometime fall in the hands of the wrong people. This example could not be more clear.

Let us hope that for every person who reads your work, it has touched them and that some will go and plant a cherry tree in remembrance of this lost one. Although the one will be gone, perhaps it will spur on the growth of many others through its loss.

Linda Smith, North Quincy, Massachusetts



From: Bruce Floyd (brucefloyd bellsouth.net)
Subject: Ran across this

Anent the cutting down of the plum tree: Robinson Jeffers in a poem says that humans “would shit on a star”. Some have called me misanthropic. Could be. I just conclude that our species has been a catastrophe for our planet. I’m not surprised at the cutting of the plum tree. The wonderful thing about the high school I attended was the number of huge live oak trees on campus, gigantic trees hundreds of years old. When they razed the school to build a new one, the planners ignored requests from those who urged that the new school be built around the trees, asked that the trees somehow be encompassed in the new school. Futility, complete and merciless -- the bureaucrats ordered the trees removed, and they were. Our culture is an ugly one. I detest it. I found this poem too late to use it in my comment. I thought, however, you might like it.

Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912), “The Fallen Oak” (“La quercia caduta”), tr. Arturo Vivante:

Where it cast its shadow the dead oak now
Lies outspread, nor does it vie with whirlwinds anymore.
People say: Now I see: it was really large!

Here and there the little nests of spring
Droop from its crown.
People say: Now I see: it was really good.

Everyone praises, everyone cuts. At evening
Everyone goes home with a heavy bundle.
In the air, a cry...of a chickadee

That seeks the nest she will not find.

Bruce Floyd, Florence, South Carolina



From: Matthew Rondeau (matt.rondeau gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--iron-hearted

Why do people hate nature so much? So much time cutting down trees, pruning flowers (saw a couple chopping up a beautiful crape myrtle), and worrying about cutting grass that they then don’t want you to walk on.

Matthew Rondeau, New York, New York



From: Bill Hutchins (bhutchins412 live.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--iron-hearted

As a wild guess, based on mere gut instinct, I speculate that the one person to whom all these words would apply is our beloved leader.

Bill Hutchins, Jacksonville, Florida



From: William Lamb (wclamb snip.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--iron-hearted

First thing I thought of (since I’ve been following NASCAR since the 70s) was (Ralph) Dale Earnhardt Sr. (1951-2001) who was often called “Iron-head” or “Iron-heart” for his ruthless antics on race tracks, taking out (wrecking) other drivers in the spirit of competition. Probably one of the most loved or hated drivers on the race track, he left a legacy that lives on to this day, even after his son, Dale Jr., followed in his footsteps, albeit with a different level of notoriety.

William Lamb, Mullica Hill, New Jersey



From: Stephen Hirsch (shirsch567 aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--iron-hearted

This word is exemplified by the Nazi, Reinhard Heydrich. I’ve seen him described thus: “He was the perfect Nazi; he had a heart of iron.” Also, this movie: The Man with the Iron Heart.

Stephen S. Hirsch, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania



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

In the title of her 1940 novel about two deaf-mutes and their unhappy life together, the American author Carson McCullers refers to a heart as a lonely hunter. The book describes the futile search of two friends for acceptance in a world that regarded their condition as a handicap, despite their showing talent in many different areas. In a way, the book is considered a cri-de-coeur by the author herself. McCullers died at a relatively young age.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada



From: John LaBella (catchall.chezvous gmail.com)
Subject: iron-hearted

On a semi-related vein ... Many many years ago I was traveling through Europe (and a little into Morocco). It was in Morocco that I saw a billboard for the “latest” Bruce Lee movie... In North America its title was Fists of Steel; there the title was given as Fists of Bronze. I thought interesting how the title had been changed to reflect the public’s perception of strength. There, steel is hard but brittle and could shatter, while brass could also be hard but be malleable....

John LaBella, Davenport, Iowa



From: Robert Sanford (rhsanford gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--iron-hearted

The Romans believed that a major nerve ran from the heart to the left hand’s finger on the right of the little finger, which is why that’s where we wear wedding and engagement rings.

Robert Sanford, Woodland, Washington



From: Barb Carmichael (carmichbj71 gmail.com)
Subject: ithyphallic nincompoop

What I wanted to tell you is: This 77-year-old, little white-haired lady, is adopting “ithyphallic nincompoop” as my new go-to insult.

Barb Carmichael, East Lansing, Michigan



From: Amy Metnick (amy.metnick gmail.com)
Subject: ithyphallic

Your entry on the word “ithyphallic” brought back memories of a wedding we attended in 1995 in St. Louis. My husband’s nephew’s new bride had her bridesmaids clad in tight black satin dresses -- kinda creepy and night-clubby but gorgeous nonetheless. They resembled a chorus of wasp-women in a Robert Palmer music video. Each woman clasped a single dark anthurium flower in her hand.

The ithyphallic allusion may have been missed by many of the attendees, but my mother-in-law Perle turned around in her seat and gave us such an eye-roll, you bet she got it! The funniest part was that she was looking straight at my husband and me, forgetting that a synagogue full of guests would be seeing her expression. We squeezed each other’s knees hard to keep from bursting out in laughter.

That marriage is over and my mother-in-law is gone from us, but whenever a similar occasion arises, we give each other the famous Perle eye-roll.

Amy Metnick, Margaretville, New York



From: Jan Zita Grover (jzgrover gmail.com)
Subject: ithyphallic

The anthurium used to illustrate today’s word, ithyphallic, pales in visual and physical suggestiveness to the fruiting body of the stinkhorn fungus, Phallus impudicus.

The great Victorian gardener, Gertrude Jekyll, is said to have scoured her perennial gardens daily for stinkhorns, lest they sully the innocence of her young female servants.

Having found several of these fruiting bodies in my own garden, I’d say she was overly cautious but likely to have found them shocking with good reason. They are not only priapic but also very smelly, the better to attract carrion flies, which then carry their spores to new sites.

Jan Grover, St. Paul, Minnesota



From: Marek Boym (marekboym walla.com)
Subject: white-livered

Strangely enough, in other languages the term has different meanings. When I was about to go abroad for the first time -- foreign travel was not a common thing in Israel in those days, and I didn’t show great excitement, my mother said that I had “weise liver” (white liver in Yiddish), meaning keeping cool.

Marek Boym, Raanana, Israel



From: Cornelia E. Farnum (cef2 cornell.edu)
Subject: chicken-livered

When I was writing down some reflections about my childhood visiting my grandmother in western North Carolina and helping her take care of the chickens, I remembered how impressed I was about chickens as good mentors for young children. Here’s a bit of what I wrote:

“They get up at dawn, they cheerily bustle around all day, they eat their food, they take a daily bath, they contribute an egg every day and feel justifiably proud of their contribution, and they go to bed at dusk. They obey the leaders.” And I have always thought the adage, “When the chickens come home to roost ...” is a particularly wise thought.

Cornelia Farnum, Ithaca, New York



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

From: Karen Davis (info upc-online.org)
Subject: chicken-livered

The characterization of chickens as cowardly is unjust and incorrect. Therefore, so is using “cowardly chickens” and the like as a metaphor for human cowardice. I’ve lived with rescued chickens since 1985 and my personal experience with hens and roosters, added to extensive reading, shows chickens to be very courageous and assertive, and if they are threatened or feel threatened, quite aggressive in defense of themselves and their families. Please don’t perpetuate false stereotypes about chickens. If you want to introduce “chicken-livered” to readers, the definition of the word should include a clear statement of refutation of this false characterization and metaphor.

Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns, Machipongo, Virginia



From: Marni Hancock (mrh330 gmail.com)
Subject: Hysteric

The ancient Greeks had a particularly interesting belief about the causes of hysteria. From Wikipedia:

In ancient Greece, wandering womb was described in the gynecological treatise of the Hippocratic Corpus, “Diseases of Women”, which dates back to the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. Plato’s dialogue Timaeus compares a woman’s uterus to a living creature that wanders throughout a woman’s body, “blocking passages, obstructing breathing, and causing disease”.

I wonder what body part in males was responsible for similar symptoms and behaviors in males?

Marni Hancock, Springfield, Oregon



From: Mahzarin R. Banaji (mahzarin_banaji harvard.edu)
Subject: Hysteric

Hysteria is among the most pernicious of qualities attributed to women (heightened in by Sigmund Freud as the reason to draw rich women into therapy for decades). Hysteria is most often used (implicitly these days) as the basis of denying women positions of authority such as being heads of state. I recall my grandfather worrying about the election of Indira Gandhi but he resolved it by saying “but she’s like a man”.

It didn’t go unnoticed by me that both examples of hysterics were men.

Mahzarin R. Banaji, Cambridge, Massachusetts



From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: ithyphallic & pugnacious

To illustrate the word ithyphallic, I’ve depicted my Froggy character in the guise of a devotee of the Hindu deity, Shiva. He’s performing a milk libation on a carved stone Shiva lingam. Pink floral petals waft down from above, another aspect of the veneration ritual. The lingam is anchored at its base by a stone vessel, where the milk collects and flows forward. This surrounding vessel is the yoni. Water can be a libation option to milk.
Shiva Lingam Pugnacious Pugilist
When I saw the word pugnacious, the word pugilist came to mind. They share the same Latin root, “pugnus”, for “fist”. Then I recalled two of the most punishing fists in all of boxing, those of Panamanian Roberto Duran. Over a career spanning 1968-2001, Duran triumphed in most of his bouts by knockout or TKOs. His punishing, relentless aggression in the ring and the power of his punches earned his fists the moniker “Hands of Stone”. Here, I’ve depicted Duran on full-offense, landing a round-house knockout blow to his opponent. I gave him squared-off blocks of marble for fists... literally, “hands of stone”.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California



Anagrams of This Week’s Words

Words derived from body parts:
1. iron-hearted
2. pugnacious
3. ithyphallic
4. chicken-livered
5. hysteric
=
1. merciless, devilish
2. defiant
3. rigid ‘up-crop’ (her trophy?)
4. cowardly, uncertain
5. odd, sketchy behavior
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)



Limericks

One look, and he quickly departed.
Said she, “That’s a tad iron-hearted.
My voice on the phone
wasn’t that of a crone?
Blind dates are, by nature, uncharted!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

In tyrannous acts Trump engaged,
And immigrant kids he had caged!
So it really smarted
When Trump, iron-hearted,
Let pics with a Bible be staged.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Their relationship barely got started
ere the star-crossed young sweethearts were parted.
Their tender romance
had never a chance
‘cause her parents were so iron-hearted.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

In his prime he had touched the sky.
When skills waned and retirement was nigh,
007 departed;
Even iron-hearted
M moved, had a teardrop in his eye.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

If you talk about iron-hearted.
Mention Trump? Please don’t get me started.
He’s got no empathy,
For you, or for me.
To his golf club he’s departed.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

The iron-hearted Duke was so cruel,
He challenged himself to a duel.
Fair play he knew not;
He turned early and shot --
Now he’s killed himself twice, the damned fool.
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

When Bligh said, “It’s time we departed,”
His crew moaned, “You’re so iron-hearted!
On free-love Tahiti
We all have a sweetie!”
And soon a new course they had charted.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
(Author’s note: this is actually much closer to the truth of the mutiny on the Bounty story than the film versions depicting Captain Bligh as a cruel tyrant.)

Says he, “Though the chick was bodacious,
I found her demeanor vexatious,
and just couldn’t wait
to end our blind date.
Who knew she would be so pugnacious!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

His young girlfriend was oh-so-bodacious,
Not to mention extremely vivacious.
The men fell at her feet,
‘Cause she’s ever so sweet,
But to him she was really pugnacious.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

The state of our union is bleak,
And just as some guidance we seek,
Our leader pugnacious --
Who’s none too sagacious --
More havoc continues to wreak.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I’ve not read her book yet, but gracious,
Trump’s niece seems profoundly loquacious.
I gather her spiel
Tells the world what a heel
That her Uncle Don is -- plus pugnacious!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (Bindy eurekaevanston.com)

With the storm McDonald’s was closin’.
Trump panicked and caused a commotion.
Then the pugnacious old wizard
Went out in the blizzard;
Not only his burger was frozen.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

She had fought in the court tooth and nail,
For upkeep and to send him to jail.
But finding her rapacious,
ill-tempered, pugnacious,
Her demands the judge chose to derail.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

His government’s not efficacious
and his need for approval’s voracious.
Our allies he dismays,
adversaries he’ll praise.
He’s mendacious, perverse, and pugnacious.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Though my parents said “Always be gracious”,
In the end I turned out quite pugnacious.
Like Muhammad Ali,
I may sting like a bee,
Though I’m not like our POTUS mendacious.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

King Don’s got me feeling pugnacious
I’m losing my temper, good gracious!
Is this ego-feeder
A qualified leader?
The very idea is fallacious!
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

Said Stormy, “He’s rude and pugnacious,
With tastes that are crude and salacious.
In his outward attire
A cheater and liar,
Beneath it he’s not too fallacious.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Said the printer, “For typeface italic,
My feelings are far past nostalgic.
When a word’s on a slant,
Staying calm I just can’t;
The mere sight makes me grow ithyphallic.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Sumo wrestlers, he knows, must look bold.
When his shaking becomes uncontrolled,
he explains, “Chicken-livered
I’m not. I just shivered
‘cause scantily-clothed, I’ve grown cold!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Chicken Little saw something appalling,
But he ran to his friends without stalling.
He was not chicken-livered
When the news he delivered
To his friends of the firmament falling.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Said the wife to her spouse, as she shivered,
“The fuel company never delivered.
I’m so cold. Build a fire.”
Said he, “I might expire,
Fear of flames makes me so chicken-livered.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

The sound that she heard in the house
She figured was likely a mouse!
“I’m not chicken-livered,”
She said as she shivered
And clung for her life to her spouse.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I did not go to ‘Nam, that is true.
I had things so much better to do.
I was not chicken-livered.
As prez I’ve delivered.
Look how great I have made life for you!”
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Did Corporal Bone Spurs report?
“I don’t have to serve,” Trump did snort.
Chicken-livered, good grief,
Now Commander-in-Chief.
In the courage department he’s short.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Our ‘president’, so chicken-livered,
Took a look at the polls and he shivered.
“I’ve thought of a way
In the White House to stay --
I’ll make sure the mail can’t be delivered!”
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

“Recusing yourself’s chicken-livered!”
Roared Donald, as Jeff Sessions quivered.
“You can’t show backbone,
Or I might lose my throne!”
William Barr into office then slithered.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


We know of a certain young cleric
who claims that he has esoteric
knowledge of things
from cabbage to kings.
But when questioned, the guy gets hysteric.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

“A shortstop can’t be a hysteric;
If I panic, we lose,” explained Derek.
“I leap to my right,
And with all of my might,
Throw to first -- to cute girls, it’s magnetic.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The words of the week in a lump,
Can describe an iron-hearted Trump.
Ithyphallic, so true.
He’s chicken-livered too.
A hysteric that voters should dump!
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)



Puns

I don’t run races half-heartedly; iron-hearted.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

I asked McTavish if his dog was a pug. He replied, “Pugnacious a terrier!”
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

As the guy with a lisp asked, “What ith that? Ithyphallic thymbol?”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

The oilman lost everything when hysteric collapsed.
-Bob Webb, Central Lake, Michigan (rhw3fl aol.com)

“We Trump kids are NOT a bunch of snakes,” hysteric.
-Steve Benko New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)



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

Most folks can read Trump’s body language like a book... perhaps a grisly Bros. Grimm fairy tale? Ha! We get it when he’s either elated, or deflated, or, just plain bored to (crocodile?) tears. Here, crossed-armed and stone-faced, a signature Trumpian “tell”, he appears to have emotionally retreated into himself, likely feeling boxed in, or unfairly attacked, putting up a symbolic wall... distinct from his illusory Southern border wall.

Stone-Walled
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California



A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
What magical trick makes us intelligent? The trick is that there is no trick. The power of intelligence stems from our vast diversity, not from any single, perfect principle. -Marvin Minsky, scientist and author (9 Aug 1927-2016)

We need your help

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

Donate

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

© 1994-2020 Wordsmith