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Nov 22, 2020
This week’s theme
Words derived from body

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Supervocalic words

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AWADmail Issue 960

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

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

Will the Supreme Court Soon Be Policing Your Speech?
The Web of Language

The Language Police Were Terrifyingly Real. My Grandfather Was One.
Literary Hub

A Lullaby by Any Other Name Would Sound as Sweet
The New York Times

From: Marian Showalter (marianshowalter mac.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gambit

In other words, a way to get a “leg up” on someone or something.

Marian Showalter, Novato, California

From: Henry (Gus) Buchtel (gusb med.umich.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gambit

I’m not sure where you got the idea that the chess piece has to be minor in a gambit. Here’s a mate-in-three puzzle in which White’s most powerful piece is sacrificed to achieve the mate!


Gus Buchtel, Ann Arbor, Michigan

From: Allen Thomson (thomsona flash.net)
Subject: Gambit

Also the code name for the first US spy satellites, a very big deal in the Cold War: KH-7 Gambit.

Allen Thomson, San Antonio, Texas

From: Lew Hundley (lmhundley yahoo.com)
Subject: Today’s word solved one of my mysteries

I grew up during the ‘50s. Read a lot of comics, especially Blackhawk and Sgt. Rock, and there was no lack of stories featuring soldiers.

When a pretty woman would walk by, most times the military person would comment about her gams.

This is an example of why I like reading the Wordsmith postings.

Lew Hundley, Salem, Oregon

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

There are many gambits in the game of chess, which are used to gain not only strategic but tactical advantage as well. Such a series of opening moves have nothing to do with the leg, although sometimes they have nothing to do with the pieces on the board either. The opening attributed to the 16th-century Spanish priest Ruy Lopez of Segura, for instance, involves the suggestion of placing the board in such a way that the sun shine into the opponent’s eye, blinding him.

Accidental kicks under the table may also be administered, just as the unfortunate opponent is about to overstep the time limit in which a prescribed number of moves has to be completed.

Staring the opponent in the eye in a questioning way, drumming on the table with your fingers, dropping pens and pencils on the floor, and recurrent complaints about audience noise have also been successfully used as gambits whose psychological value cannot be overrated.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Marge Simon (msimon6206 aol.com)
Subject: gambit

I am surprised that no one mentioned The Queen’s Gambit! Both my husband and I enjoyed it -- excellent performances from all the cast! You can enjoy it, whether you’re a chess player or not. And the gambit is well-illustrated. :D

The Queen’s Gambit is an American novel by Walter Tevis, exploring the life of a female chess prodigy. A bildungsroman, it was originally published in 1983. It covers themes of feminism, chess, drug addiction, and alcoholism. The book was adapted for the 2020 Netflix miniseries of the same name.

Marge Simon, Ocala, Florida

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

From: John Norton (norton.john gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--propugnaculum

Using big words has a downside, and that is that, if your audience is unfamiliar with the term you use, you might not get the intended effect, and everyone is then worse off.

For example, I was on a date with Amy Jo Jaroczewski, a remarkably interesting young woman possessed of an impressive intellect and a reputation for easy virtue. This was a date I’d been looking forward to for some time, because the rumor was that she’d go all the way with the slightest provocation. We went to a drive-in and watched a forgettable movie for a bit, doing some smooching, and during the intermission, I went to the snack bar and got some refreshments. When I returned, we sat through the rest of the intermission enjoying said refreshments, and when the second feature started, she was pretty much refreshed, I’d say. We were making out like mad when she whispered throatily, “Do you have any propugnaculum?” Well, that word was unfamiliar to me. Given the context of the question, however, I could guess exactly what she meant. I quickly replied, “No, but there’s probably some of them french fries left.”

John Norton, Durham, North Carolina

From: Eric Kisch (kischmir musicalpassions.com)
Subject: propugnaculum

I solemnly promise that I will never use this word. It sounds and looks ugly. And I guess I’m not the only one who feels that way!

Eric Kisch, Shaker Heights, Ohio

From: Sara Schreiber Blake (saras.blake gmail.com)
Subject: consanguineous

I’ve been retired for about two years from my job in the regulatory office for child day care in New York State, but this word brought me right back to work. The definition of regulated child day care in NY state is caring on a regular basis for three or more children who are unrelated to you within the third degree of consanguinity. I spent untold hours explaining to people what that meant.

Sara Schreiber Blake, Albany, New York

From: Réjean Lévesque (kevel videotron.ca)
Subject: consanguineous

In Québec, in French, consanguin is often used to insult a person, meaning that the person suffers from bad sideeffects of in-breeding (for example, marriage between cousins).

Réjean Lévesque, Beloeil, Canada

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

Consanguinity usually causes recessive genes to predominate, resulting in serious physical conditions and mental disabilities. The more distant the relationship, the less chance for such problems. Hence the ideal pairing is probably between Maoris and Samis, the people of Lapland.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Sarah Ingram (sarah.ingram wvt.nhs.uk)
Subject: ham-handed

An alternative derivation of ham-handed (or -fisted, as I would generally use) is from the size of hands being comparable to a ham: Punch (1918).

Sarah Ingram, Hereford, UK

From: Christina Mills (cranmills gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ham-handed

I love that ham-handed is doubly related to this week’s theme. So are knucklehead and (of course) hamfisted.

Chris Mills, Waterloo, Canada

From: Nancy Cliff (ncliff49 gmail.com)
Subject: Ham-handed

Just listening to an NPR story about the tweet-firing of Christopher Krebs. For doing his job, admirably and well. With the tagline, “Nobody predicted it.”

To which I silently responded, “Of course we all did. The occupant of the Oval Office is nothing but predictable. He breaks things that work. He is artless. And he is ham-handed.”

Thanks for the perfect descriptor today.

Nancy Cliff, Silver City, New Mexico

Porcine Cuisine
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: ham-handed & flatfooted

What more apt exemplars of ham-handedness than two anthropomorphized porkers, giving credence to the admonishing plea of many a mom to her kids: “Don’t eat like a pig!” These two gluttons are making short work of the slop du jour, breaking most of the norms of fine-dining, clearly demonstrating nary a hint of social grace. Oink! Oink!

Clown School Reject
Sadly, our pink polka-dot-suited clown has been rejected for NOT having flat feet. For an aspiring pro clown, sporting the requisite humongous, floppy shoes, being flatfooted has its pluses. In this scenario, having extreme foot arching ruled him out. No clown school entry for hapless Bozo.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Anagrams of This Week’s Words
1. gambit
2. propugnaculum
3. flatfooted
4. consanguineous
5. ham-handed
= 1. get him a chess manual!
2. gun compound
3. off-guard
4. a blood aunt
5. inept
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)


He hopes to begin repartee
with the cute farmer’s daughter. Says he,
as an opening gambit,
“You know that your ram bit
my ewe!” “Just a nibble,” says she.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

My Dad taught me how to play chess;
A game I disliked, I confess.
From its opening gambit
I heartily damned it.
In his memory I dislike it less.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

How risky the gambit she’d played!
And for this maneuver she’d paid.
It cost her a rook,
But now take a look --
The groundwork for checkmate she’s laid.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Democracy? Donald Trump rammed it
Down deep in a river and dammed it
As far as he could --
He still thinks he should
Have his way as he plays out his gambit.
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Do you think you know something of chess?
Then you haven’t got Netflix, I guess.
If you watch The Queen’s Gambit,
“I don’t understand it,”
By Episode 2 you’ll confess.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The fortress, a great propugnaculum,
Gave shelter to each animalculum.
Whether human or beast,
Either layman or priest,
They were safe, though it seemed a miraculum.
-Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon (lcrumb darkwing.uoregon.edu)

Trump’s idea of defense is to tweet
at our expense from his ornate retreat.
But his propugnaculum
is hardly a vac-u-um.
With free press on his heels he is beat!
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

Setting up a propugnaculum
Is what I will do when problems come.
It’s my nature, you see,
To quickly protect me,
Then ignore them until they are done.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

With repute neither sterling nor platinum,
“Getting sick is our best propugnaculum,”
Dr. Atlas insists,
“Go to parties! Have trysts!”
But let’s not to the words of that quack succumb.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The arborist looks at our tree.
“Much worse than I thought it would be!
You’ve caught me flatfooted.
This tree’s crooked-rooted,
which can’t be reversed,” declares he.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Unconcerned with the havoc he’ll wreak
At rallies they stand cheek-to-cheek.
If Covid infects them,
Trump quickly rejects them
With his flatfooted trite doublespeak.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

Flatfooted distortion of fact
Is all part of Donald Trump’s act.
“Fake news!” he will cry,
“It’s all a big lie!”
He’ll even deny he’s been sacked.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Teacher thought Billy looked a bit scared.
Guessed that he came to class unprepared.
There’s no nice way to put it;
she caught him flatfooted.
“I’ll study next time,” he declared.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Beach-bound at the first sign of summer
For us the downpour was a bummer.
We were caught quite flatfooted,
And to the spot rooted
But the Sun was the next up-and-comer.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India( mukherjis hotmail.com)

To a clearing in hinterlands wooded
The riders came white-robed and hooded.
“Long live Donald, our boss!”
They cried, burning a cross,
But Election Day caught them flatfooted.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

This holiday I’ll quaff a brew
With a family member. It’s true.
We are both consanguineous
Me and old cousin Phineas.
He’s an ape and he lives at the zoo.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Consanguineous unions can lead
To some serious problems indeed.
Congenital flaws
Can happen because
Those incestuous couples inbreed.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

In the Bible for those who believe,
We descended from Adam and Eve.
We’re all consanguineous.
Some say ignominious.
An idea that’s not hard to conceive.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

To his students one day declared Linnaeus,
“My chart shows we’re all consanguineous.”
But a girl on a diet
Just couldn’t keep quiet;
“Not me,” she cried, “Just look how thin he is!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The boss has taught Pence how to dance.
Now he wanders around in a trance.
He flits here and there
Like he’s walking on air
In his toady ham-handed bromance.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

The attraction was so instantaneous.
With such feelings of love most spontaneous.
But the problem, you see,
Was that both he and she
Were corrupted by bonds consanguineous.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

The ham-handed guy loved to shop.
Antiques he would handle and drop.
With damage extensive,
His sprees were expensive,
But no one could get him to stop.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

For four bitter years we’ve been stranded
with a leader inept and ham-handed.
Soon we’ll have a new leader,
a thinker, a reader.
On happier shores we have landed.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

The White House in most recent days?
Seems like working its way through a maze!
Where once it grand-standed,
It’s now just ham-handed.
Let’s hope it’s a soon-ending phase!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Her boyfriend was rather ham-handed,
So as a big klutz, he was branded.
When they met on the street,
He tripped on his own feet,
And in a great heap, he crash-landed.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Just look what your girl to our band did,”
Said Ringo, “She’s awfully ham-handed.”
Answered John, “While my Yoko
May be a bit loco,
By days spent in bed, I’m enchanted.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Said the toddler, “When Grampa said we could stay all week, gambit his head off.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Knowing that I was hard up for cash, the generous landlord of the British flatfooted the first month’s rent.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

As Shem said to his brother Japheth while building the ark, “Ham-handed me the saw.”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Split Personality
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Split Personality

“The Great Miscommunicator”, Donald Trump, in terms of his addresses in which he often refers to “the lame-stream/fake news media”, presents a kind of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde dual personality. When given a pre-scripted speech, he generally stays on-script, reading off a teleprompter, with minimal effect or emotion.

Pre-scripted Trump is your equivalent of Dr. Jekyll. Yet when he speaks off-the-cuff, he morphs into a shoot-from-the-lip Mr. Hyde. Here, all his insecurities, petty grievances, prevarication, and pent-up invective well up to the surface. The “free-deranged Trump”.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

It is easier to lead men to combat, stirring up their passion, than to restrain them and direct them toward the patient labors of peace. -Andre Gide, author, Nobel laureate (1869-1951)

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