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Dec 6, 2020
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Illustrated words

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AWADmail Issue 962

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

Sponsor’s Message: Are you sick and tired of social distancing? Then try some intellectual distancing instead: THE OFFICIAL OLD’S COOL EDUCATION is “The Holy Trinity of wit, knowledge, fun, and games”, three pocket-sized handbooks that are chock-a-block full of gee-whiz, Shakespeare, history, how-tos, sports, anecdotes, and recalcitrance. There are also principles (Pareto, Peter), poetry, and trivia: What is Sleeping Beauty’s real name? How many towns are there in America? We’re offering this week’s Email of the Week winner, Mary Perez (see below), and all AWADers, a subversive call to intellectual adventure, a wild, edifying ride for less than a twenny. Buy Two, Get Three Special while supplies last.

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

Shopping While Spanish in Montana
The Web of Language

The Strange Language of Modern Marketing
The New York Times
[Also see this.]

From: Mim Eisenberg (mimeisenberg att.net)
Subject: Leah Palmer Preiss

I’m delighted you’re featuring Leah’s work again. Two of hers have a treasured place in my home: an ampersand and a Peregrine falcon. She’s a genius.

Mim Eisenberg, Roswell, Georgia

From: Cheng Huang Leng (chenghuangleng gmail.com)
Subject: A Thought for Today

Laws are like cobwebs which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through. -Jonathan Swift, satirist (30 Nov 1667-1745)

Swift restated what Anacharsis in the 6th century said and shouldn’t get the credit. Many have done the same with what wise Greeks, Chinese, Indians, and Persians had said. I hope you would not propagate this wrong and mislead your readers into thinking that most of the wise lived in the UK, Europe, or the USA.

Cheng Huang Leng, Singapore

From: Jerry Delamater (comjhd hofstra.edu)
Subject: Laws

Today’s thought for the day made me immediately think of the review in yesterday’s The New York Times Book Review about a new book, Big Dirty Money, which interrogates a system that allows white-collar crimes to go unpunished. The “wasps and hornets”, equivalent perhaps to white-collar criminals, cost “victims an estimated $300 billion to $800 billion per year”, whereas the small flies’ “street-level ‘property’ crimes ... cost us far less ... .”

Jerry Delamater, New Haven, Connecticut

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

From: Mary Perez (mperez cityoftulsa.org)
Subject: Ursiform

When I saw the word, ursiform, I immediately thought of tardigrades -- water bears. These are tiny, extremely resilient animals that resemble a bear. They are found in soil sediment and on mosses and lichens. We occasionally see them when we are identifying cyanobacteria in water samples. They seem to have sort of a cult following. You can even get a tardigrade Christmas ornament for your tree!

Mary Perez, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: Eric F Plumlee (ericfplumlee hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ursiform

While the name Ursula is more well known, Urs is also a common masculine name in German-speaking countries. Ursli is the diminutive form.

There is a famous children’s story here in Switzerland called, Schellen-Ursli, or in English, A Bell for Ursli. The story is about a small boy who goes up into the Engadin Alps to bring back the biggest cowbell for the Spring Festival in his village. Written in 1945, the book was first filmed in 1953 by Swiss photographer and filmmaker Ernst A. Heiniger, a two-time Oscar winner. The film, which is today considered lost, was produced in the Disney Studios and was used as additional program material like short animations in American cinemas. The latest filming in 2015 was also done by a Swiss Oscar winner, Xavier Koller. This full-length feature film, however, expanded upon the storyline quite substantially, and the part about the bell is left for the final 30 minutes. And yet, for anyone who would like a trip back to 1940s’ Engadin, this is a good opportunity.

Eric Plumlee, Niederlenz, Switzerland

From: Sam Long (gunputty comcast.net)
Subject: Ursiform

I’ve invented a new synonym for ursiform: teddoid, resembling a teddy bear. Winnie the Pooh is a teddy bear. The Ewoks of Endor in the Star Wars universe are not teddy bears, but they are teddoid. So are the Hokas (from the planet Toka) in the science-fiction stories by Poul Anderson & Gordon Dickson. The TV personality Bear Grylls is not.

Sam Long, Springfield, Illinois

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

For some reason, bears must have some special significance for the human mind, perhaps even on a subconscious level. In cosmology, the astral constellations Ursa Minor and Ursa Major; in the feminine name Ursula (diminutive of ursa); in the Ursuline Order of nuns; toys like the teddy bear (named after US President Theodore Roosevelt), Paddington Bear, Winnie the Pooh (bear); and musically, Henry Hall’s The Teddy Bear’s Picnic and Haydn’s Symphony No. 82, the latter being so titled because supposedly it was in imitation of street dancing bears, a nineteenth-century form of entertainment.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Roger Groce (rtgroce hotmail.com)
Subject: leptodactylous

And just HOW, pray tell, does anyone use this word in ordinary practice? Isn’t there a point at which obstreperous words exhaust their usefulness and no longer qualify for intrusion into your column and our already complicated lives?

Roger Groce, Mt Gretna, Pennsylvania

From: Daniel Welch (dfwel metrocast.net)
Subject: leptodactylous

I am reading Walter Isaacson’s Leonardo da Vinci and notice that many of daVinci’s models seem to be leptodactylous.

Daniel Welch, Pittsfield, New Hampshire

From: Sally Soderblom (ssoderblom yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--leptodactylous

This one reminds me of an old co-worker. I was wearing some shoes one day and they were cut very low at the toe, exposing some “toe cleavage” -- that was how my co-worker referred to it. (I don’t think my toes were necessarily leptodactylous, but the shoes made them appear that way.

Sally Soderblom, Ormond Beach, Florida

From: Bridget P. (bridgetpalmer comcast.net)
Subject: zaftig

I’ve always loved this word conjuring up images of up large women in taffeta brocade and lace reclining on a chaise with a book in Old World boudoirs or eating a Sachertorte mit schlag in Viennese coffee shops. In this tenth month of pandemic, a remarkable woman I know is distressingly claiming (can’t see it because we’re all social distancing) to be various synonyms for zaftig.

Wish you wouldn’t have used a lounging female pig, however prettily clad, as your illustration of a word that is essentially only applied to women.

Bridget P., Boston, Massachusetts

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

When I grew up in Vienna, Austria, zaftig was a compliment. What was NOT a compliment was to refer to a plump woman as a zugebundtene wurst. The English translation, a “tied together sausage”, doesn’t communicate the image quite as effectively: a sausage tied tightly at its middle but ballooning out above and below. I’ve been called both.

January Kiefer, St Louis, Missouri

From: Marco Davis (davis.marco gmail.com)
Subject: zaftig

It’s funny... in Dutch zaftig means boring. Same word, but it evolved in a weird different direction in the low countries.

Marco Davis, Orem, Utah

From: Larry Tubelle (larrytubelle outlook.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--zaftig

A word often heard in Jewish circles. Gets two hubbas in some rating evaluations.

Larry Tubelle, Indio, California

From: Ana Ross (via website comments)
Subject: evil

A belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness. -Joseph Conrad, novelist (3 Dec 1857-1924)

I remember watching The Exorcist one night and thinking that I bet that demon has to pick up Henry Kissinger at the airport when he arrives in Hell. He went through all that work and all he got was a little girl and an old man. Kissinger bombed the hell out of Cambodia, killed untold thousands of farmers, and never broke a sweat.

Ana Ross, Honolulu, Hawaii

From: John Sahr (jdsahr gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--noctilucent

Regarding noctilucent clouds: This is an interesting phenomenon, which has the interesting feature of having no ancient observations. Meteors, the Aurorae, yep. But not noctilucent clouds.

The first observation of noctilucent clouds occurred in the late 1800s, in the Arctic. I saw them in Seattle a couple years ago. They are a profound demonstration of global warming.

John Sahr, Seattle, Washington

From: Alexandra Halsey (alexandra.s.halsey gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--noctilucent

There’s a Facebook group, Noctilucent Clouds Around the World that features lovely images of this phenomenon.

Alexandra Halsey, Seattle, Washington

From: Peter Gross (plgrossmd gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--noctilucent

Noctiluca is the name of a tiny marine organism capable of causing fatal red tides. It is so named because under the right conditions, disturbing it at night such as by a moonlight swim, will cause it to bioluminesce. What a way to go!

Peter Gross, MD, Falls Church, Virginia

The Zaftig Lady Sings
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)(br)
Subject: zaftig & ursiform

As the saying goes, “It’s never over till the fat lady sings!” Here, I’ve enlisted the zaftig mythic Nordic warrior, one of the Valkyries, Brunhilde, from the Wagnerian opera cycle, Der Ring des Nibelungen. Even though Trump is having a hard time coming to terms with his election defeat, our diva belts out his very real political demise.

Russian Regret
In this scenario I’ve resurrected the Cold War era trope of Motherland Russia in the guise of the threatening bear, with ursine Putin crying crocodile tears, as it’s slowly sinking in that his pliable puppet, Trump, can no longer be cajoled and manipulated, at will. Their faux bromance has ended.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Anagrams of This Week’s Words
This week’s theme: Illustrated words
1. yeanling
2. ursiform
3. leptodactylous
4. zaftig
5. noctilucent
1. little calf, wee donkey
2. animal structure
3. scrawny digits
4. stouter, plus-sized
5. light of the moon
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)


In the barn, all the sheep are convening.
They’re having a party this evening
for one of the ewes,
a proud mama who’s
given birth to a sweet little yeanling.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

There was joy in the town with much singing,
As the country folk all began mingling.
Celebrations galore,
With receptions in store,
“Twas the birth of a newborn calf yeanling.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

That yeanling’s remarkably sweet;
She’s melting my heart with her bleat.
She’s such a delight,
I must say tonight
Those lamb chops I’d rather not eat.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The ewe knew ‘twas against the rule,
Yet she took her young yeanling to school.
L’il lamb ran to Mary;
Teacher, though vexed very,
couldn’t on Animal Day be cruel.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

“My two darling kitties are yeanlings,”
Said the duchess. “Such smart little keen things.
In the palace all day
The prince watches them play;
On her throne when she sees them, the Queen sings!”
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

Has a unicorn yeanling a horn?
It’s a question that leaves me forlorn,
For there aren’t any samples
To use as examples
And inventing them I have forsworn.
-Gordon Tully, Charlottesville, Virginia (gordon.tully gmail.com)

Though our polity Trump’s still enfeebling,
2020 will soon bear a yeanling!
Like a cute little lamb
Or a babe in its pram
It will come, and a COVID vaccine bring!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

To the bees, things were far from the norm,
so they fled from their hive in a swarm.
Beekeeper was new,
and from their point of view,
he appeared to be too ursiform.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

He’s good at his job, and here’s why:
This bouncer’s an ursiform guy.
He’s massive in size,
But in his wife’s eyes,
A big teddy bear is her Sy!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

She had flown in one night braving jet-lag,
With hopes her pen-pal’d be a good snag.
But the hulk ursiform,
Didn’t quite fit her norm;
Laws of chance would next get her a wee scrag.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

They’ll go where the bees tend to swarm --
those fairy tale beasts ursiform,
whether Winnie the Pooh
or that family who
briefly gave Goldilocks lodgings warm.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“In beer,” said young Brett, “we’ll immerse the dorm.
And behavior towards women? We curse the norm!”
He was years later gored
By Christine Blasey Ford;
He survived; in his dreams, though, she’s ursiform.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

We’d never seen anyone’s toes
as long and as slender as those!
That sly leptodactylous
guy sure attracted us
gals when he showed sans sabots.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Frank Baum’s leptodactylous witch
Was a wicked and murderous bi*ch;
Now they’re saying she’s good
And just misunderstood
But I don’t think I’m ready to switch.
-Gordon Tully, Charlottesville, Virginia (gordon.tully gmail.com)

Leptodactylous fingers and toes
Are inherited, everyone knows.
This elegant trait
Not only looks great,
It’s convenient to have, I suppose.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The jeweler, artistic, inspired,
with all skills her profession required,
esteem for her knack filled us.
Dextrous, leptodactylous,
to watch her work we never tired.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Houdini had toes leptodactylous
As nimble as Newton with calculus.
King Arthur was gallant;
We all have a talent!
And Donald’s? The art of the fatuous!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

When wishing to praise, I’m never a slouch,
And I liked Miss Piggy at ease on the couch;
She was zaftig and cool,
And will make many drool;
Who complains or abjures is a grouch!
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

She came in the pub looking zaftig.
She smiled and my heart did a fast tick.
‘Twas without a doubt Dolly
Last name Parton, by golly.
I drank half a carafe of moonshine quick.
-Joe Budd Stevens, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico (joebuddstevens gmail.com)

Says the overweight lady, “I own
that my bod a bit chubby has grown.
But I stay philosophic
by dubbing it zaftig,
then spray on a little cologne.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

When it came to zaftig, Mae West
Was certainly among the best!
Then the Twiggy fad
Which was very bad.
Now women are not so obsessed.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

Madame Tussaud had Trump on display,
Looking zaftig with hair made of hay.
But she soon got fed up
With the orange buttercup.
Now he’s out with the trash sans toupee.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

He likes zaftig women the best,
For with a big chest he’s impressed.
“The female ideal
I strongly feel
Is someone who’s built like Mae West.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Though some mean kids would call her a fat kid
she would pay them no mind. She was that big.
They all could go jump
in the lake. She was plump
and pleasingly so, merely zaftig.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Oldies fondly remember those years
When fashion models had zaftig rears.
From front row they’d see
Perfection in 3-D.
Thin cat walkers now only bring tears.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

I’ve always wanted to be it.
But my chest? You could just barely see it!
And it’s that chest that I mention
That causes the tension --
We pad while the zaftig girls free it!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“In bed I like being on top, Rick,”
Said Ilsa, “It’s not like I’m zaftig.”
Thought he, “Then on Victor
I think I’ll inflict her;
It’s time for the ‘hill o’ beans’ drop kick.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The teddy bear, a pearl beyond price;
The noctilucent butterfly, yes, very nice;
One a day was a treat --
Though the word were the meat --
I do like the art of L. Palmer Preiss.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

Lucy dreamt that she saw a butterfly
with wings noctilucent flutter by.
She awoke in the dark
from her dream. What a lark,
when a live Luna moth caught her eye!
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

The evening was planned out. It was well-spent,
The young couple was very insistent.
She climbed down the long rope.
They ran off to elope,
Helped along by the moon, noctilucent.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

That cloud’s noctilucent and so
It lights up the night with a glow.
“Just look at the sky!”
Romantics will cry --
“For couples in love, what a show!”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

No drapes! But it isn’t a nuisance
I love all the Christmas translucents!
At Christmas the night
Is gorgeous! Alight
With an overall glow: noctilucence!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

The rain that night sent a dew scent.
We lay content in our new tent.
From the flap we caught sight,
Of fireflies in flight,
With tails that glowed noctilucent.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Since I lost, let’s make Earth noctilucent,”
Said Donald to Kim, “for amusement.
As a couple of kooks,
We’ll be safe from the nukes,
For our DNA’s already mutant.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Some medical paperwork procedures require either a doctor’s form or an ursiform.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Said the clockmaker, “Zis model von’t keep you avake at night. It has a very zaftig.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

When Mike Tyson was in the ring, whole mouthfuls of teeth noctilucent bit ears off, too.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The US Gets Its Spine Back
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: The US gets its spine back

America is tired of the Trump slogan “Make America Great Again!” Truth be told, more like “Make America HATE Again!” Here, president-elect Biden declares his rallying cry to a nation that has suffered four chaotic years of Trump incompetence, still facing a global pandemic and massive job loss. Biden’s slogan largely speaks to his commitment to restoring America to a place that others look up to and a rebuke of the isolationist/jingoistic path taken by Trump.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

A timid question will always receive a confident answer. -Charles John Darling, lawyer, judge, and politician (6 Dec 1849-1936)

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