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Jan 3, 2021
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Words to describe people

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AWADmail Issue 966

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

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

How Poets Use Punctuation as a Superpower and a Secret Weapon
The New York Times

Lost Yiddish Words

From: Kerren Dempsey (kerren gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bounder

I read this word’s definition to my eight-year-old daughter and she said “Oh! Like Donald Trump!”

Kerren Dempsey, San Carlos, California

From: Nalini Sankaranarayanan (nalinis synamedia.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bounder

The first time I read the word bounder was in high school, reading a story Bounder and the Captain. It was a novel experience for me to read an anti-hero -- a lazy, scheming, transparently lying school boy with grandiose ideas of self importance, the bounder -- being the focus of the story apart from being the butt of the joke. Billy Bunter was a bounder indeed and now I wonder how many cliches and stereotypes we lapped up as children!

Nalini Sankaranarayanan, Bangalore, India

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

Charles Dickens is known for uniquely fitting character’s names and Bounderby came immediately to mind as a main character in Hard Times. He’s the irritable old cad in the story, depicted as a self-asserted capitalist, and a coarse, vain, self-interested hypocrite.

Marge Simon, Ocala, Florida

From: Venky Vembu (venky.vembu gmail.com)
Subject: bounder

Asked to explain the difference between a cad and a bounder, former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan is believed to have offered this illuminating -- and very droll -- distinction:
“In war, a bounder is a chap who goes to the Front, wins the Victoria Cross, and seduces his Colonel’s wife. But a cad seduces his Colonel’s wife -- and never goes anywhere near the Front.”

Venky Vembu, Chennai, India

Email of the Week -- Brought to you by Wise Up! + FREE Smarts Pills = unHappy Holidays!

From: Alan W. Ritch (aritch berkeley.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--worrywart

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. -L.P. Hartley, writer (30 Dec 1895-1972)

Today’s haunting Thought seems as timely as the word worrywart that precedes it. The sources of the quotation, both the novel and the superb Joseph Losey film adaptation of The Go-Between, were favorites of mine, decades ago. Their theme, the discovery of old papers by an aging man, who is reminded poignantly of his youth, undoubtedly resonates with many of your readers.

I am 80 years old. Keenly aware of the pandemic’s particular threat to the elderly, I have spent the last nine months organizing letters, stories, papers, and photos from my distant youth. I’ve been exploring my own foreign country, where I, my family, friends, and lovers all did things differently. Had I not traveled to that far-off place, the current, seemingly endless, crisis would have turned me into a worrywart. Instead it has rejuvenated me and given me something closely akin to the joy of a journey to distant lands.

Alan Ritch, Santa Cruz, California

From: Bruce Floyd (brucefloyd bellsouth.net)
Subject: The past

In Faulkner’s world, the past and the present are so intermingled and snarled together that they create a bizarre entity beyond the comprehension of the outsider. One could say that Henry Sutpen killed his half brother in Faulkner’s novel Absalom, Absalom”, but one could also say -- and it would sound mad to a non-Southerner -- that the past killed Charles Bon. I can tell you that I grew up in the rural Deep South and Faulkner’s world to me seems like home, not bewildering and grotesque at all, not gothic and strange, but intimately familiar. Of course, I know very well this skewed sensibility is also the great tragedy of the South, its startling contradiction.

Bruce Floyd, Florence, South Carolina

From: Brett Duncan (bdd1967 bigpond.net.au)
Subject: Worrywart

Michael Quinion has traced the origins of this phrase to well before 1956, from a comic strip called Out Our Way by J.R. Williams which ran from 1922 to 1977, in which one character was nicknamed Worry Wart. The more general use of the term then started appearing in newspapers from 1930 onwards. (See here for more details.)

Brett Duncan, Australia

From: Alan Shuchat (ahs613 gmail.com)
Subject: Airling

What a great word! Yiddish has the corresponding word luftmensch, airman, meaning someone who is carefree and has his head in the clouds. He “lives on air” rather than trying to earn money.

Alan Shuchat, Newton, Massachusetts

From: Heather March (ideasofmarch gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--altricial

I seem to remember someone commenting that the more evolved a life form, the more dependent it was on its parents, i.e. altricial, thereby making medical students the highest form of life.

Heather March, Featherston, New Zealand

From: Ellen Dillman (ellen.dillman gmail.com)
Subject: altricial

Thank you for this lovely reminder of my best trip ever! Some 15 years ago, my mother took me on a trip to Churchill on the Hudson Bay to see the polar bears. Our guide broke our large group in two, and posed the question, “What is the difference between a rabbit and a hare?” It took forever, and as a hint, he said it was the same difference between a chick and a chickadee. The other half of the group got it first, and only after some finagling and bribery were we able to get the answer, and also learn the words: one is altricial and the other precocial. That’ll stay with me forever!

Ellen Dillman, Haslett, Michigan

From: Saurabh Mangal (mangals hcl.com)
Subject: altricial

I have done some calligraphy, inspired by the WOTD. You can see altricial in cancellaresca corsiva (cursive italic) with flourishes here.

Saurabh Mangal, Noida, India

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: worrywart & airling

Quoting from Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities opening line (at least the latter half)... “These are the worst of times.” Our annus horribilis, 2020, has been turned topsy-turvy, as we deal with Covid-19, self-isolation, unemployment, hunger, and the pain of losing loved-ones and close friends. So, it would be fair to posit that the population of worrywarts has risen exponentially in these trying items. Here, I’ve pictured perhaps not the atypical worrywart, his mind cluttered with his most worrisome concerns... hardly earth-shattering.

Airling in Stride
Cleaving to the definition of our word “airling”... “a carefree, thoughtless person”, I’ve arrived at this arguably simplistic example of a free-range airling... a self-absorbed young man out for a morning stroll, about to savor a Creamsicle, while flippantly tossing aside the wrapper, even though there are at least two trash bins nearby. Froggy, the upstanding creature that he is, takes umbrage.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Anagrams of This Week’s Words

1. bounder
2. toplofty
3. worrywart
4. airling
5. altricial
1. cad
2. royal
3. I warn (or irritant!)
4. butterfly
5. polliwog
     This week’s theme: Words to describe people:
1. bounder
2. toplofty
3. worrywart
4. airling
5. altricial
1. lecher President Trump
2. wow! elite
3. let’s grow scared or paranoid
4. foolish twit
5. baby-like tyro
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


Sweet Alice was one who would founder;
Her choices had need to be sounder.
She adored the wrong men,
There were many, say ten.
And each, she soon found, was a bounder!
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

His attentiveness served to confound her.
Alas, had her judgment been sounder,
she’d surely have flown
from a guy widely-known
to be nought, but a clever old bounder!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Here’s a theory to which I subscribe:
Words for humans can also describe
The beasts. No word’s sounder
For a tomcat than “bounder”.
“Toplofty” for all feline tribe.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

The old man from Nantucket caught flounder.
Every one was a prized seven-pounder.
When his wife gave him grief,
‘Cause she only ate beef,
He called her a wet fish. Such a bounder!
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

With his wealth did he woo and astound her,
So the pretty gal fell for the bounder.
Her life with the cad
Is not all that bad --
She is glad to have gold all around her.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The attraction was there, but she learned
more about him. Then she was concerned.
A romance doomed to founder;
the man was a bounder.
Inevitable he’d be spurned.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Years ago young men would hound her,
Jane’s forbidding looks made them flounder.
But the one she admired,
left much to be desired;
Strange she fell for a rakish bounder.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Such a flurry of people around her!
She needed a place that would ground her --
So she sought out a chair
And then who should be there
But the cad she’d escaped from -- that bounder!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

The lady responded, “Egad!”
To find out that her beau was a cad.
So, she found someone sounder,
And bounced out the bounder.
In with the good, out with the bad.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Sighed Ariel one day to Flounder,
“My Dad is a bit of a bounder.
He shouts, ‘Stay where it’s wet!’”
The fish answered, “Don’t fret,
For that ship with your lover will founder.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“I’ve a problem regarding your beau!”
says her father. She queries, “How so?”
“I find that too oft he
exhibits toplofty
behavior that’s malapropos!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The toplofty lady from Leeds
Has servants to see to her needs.
She puts on a show
And thus lets you know
How blue is the blood that she bleeds!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

There was something about him off-key.
The king of mixed signals was he,
coming on like a softy,
yet proud and toplofty.
From people like him, we should flee.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Said Donald -- believe me, not softly --
“You three Justices screwed me just awfully!”
“But you lost,” answered Brett,
“Neil and Amy, don’t sweat;
Grab a beer, he’s just being toplofty.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Harry, unmasking at Wal-Mart,
scoffs at those who obey. So smart
he is not. He caught the flu
and survived, but all too true,
he still calls Fauci worrywart!
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

Says she, “I would never consort
with a man who avows that his forte
is perpetual fretting.
He’ll be, I am betting,
forever an old worrywart!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Worrywart had a list that was long
Of things that she’d gotten quite wrong,
Of roads that weren’t taken,
Of projects forsaken.
But she turned it all into a song.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

The worrywart’s braced for the worst --
With visions of doom he is cursed.
If there is a coup,
He knows what to do --
Catastrophe he has rehearsed.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Those schlemiels? We’ll beat Moishe and Murray, Mort,”
Said Irving, “Don’t be such a worrywart.
At doubles in tennis,
They’re not such a menace;
Their cataracts make it a blurry court.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Says their mother, “If I were comparing
the twins, I would say one is caring.
He’s thoughtful and kind.
The other, I find,
is light-hearted, a bit of an airling.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

“That woman’s an airling,” they say.
“A ditzy, dumb blonde all the way.”
She answers, “Please know,
That’s simply not so,
For since the pandemic, I’m gray.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

He was always a bit of an airling --
his worrywart mom always scaring.
The way he’d evade
every effort she made
to protect must have been rather wearing.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

His social faux pas was glaring,
And all of the guests were staring.
He arrived at the ball,
Wearing nothing at all.
The hostess gasped. “What an airling!”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

White Christmas again? Don’t you dare, Bing;
Global warming has made it a rare thing.
Stop singing it, please;
Can’t you feel the warm breeze?
Don’t deny it like some kind of airling!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Your maturity’s just superficial,”
says mom. “You are really altricial,
not ready to roam.
I’ll keep you at home
for a while. It’ll be beneficial!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Newborns are altricial, we know,
So to their mother’s arms they go.
There they are endeared,
And lovingly reared
‘Til they have their own oats to sow.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

A somewhat altricial start
Sets us humans a little apart.
You’re never quite sure
When a person’s mature,
Whether mother or genes made them smart.
-Gordon Tully, Charlottesville, Virginia (gordon.tully gmail.com)

A baby’s a being altricial,
Who’s helpless in stages initial.
But when he is grown,
Most research has shown
Spoon-feeding him’s less beneficial.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

No more are we lambs sacrificial
To the whims of a leader altricial!
Less than three weeks to go
Till it’s “President Joe!”
Guys, it’s here! It’ll soon be official!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

She wasn’t the worrywart kind.
To his airling acts she was blind.
‘Til the toplofty bounder
Clasped his hands all around her
And she firmly put boot to his hind.
-Gordon Tully, Charlottesville, Virginia (gordon.tully gmail.com)


Happy New Year, Anu! Now to the puns. After all, it’s Anu year! 😉
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

If a surly fellow persists in hoping that some event will happen, it is bounder cur eventually.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

The real estate agent advertised the attic apartment as toplofty.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Said the cosmetic surgeon to the aging fashion model, “I guarantee these implants will make your toplofty again.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said June Cleaver, “Don’t worrywart, Eddie Haskell is sneaky but he won’t hurt Wally or Beaver.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Ireland’s airline company has a catchy slogan, namely, “Airling us.”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

When Hsing Hsing, the panda, got mad at his wife, he’d say, “I gotta go get some airling.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said President Nixon to his chief of staff, General Haig, “Don’t worry altricial get married right here in the White House for safety’s sake.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Tipping the Scales
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Tipping the Scales

With Trump’s threat to declare “martial law”, send National Guardsmen into the Biden-won states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Georgia, to confiscate their voting machines, and have a redo of the election, I’ve arrived at this scenario. A gobsmacked Lady Justice observes six-shootin’ Marshall Trump putting his fat butt on the scales of justice... rather than his tiny thumb. Playing off Trump’s penchant for misspellings, he thinks “martial law” must be the shootin’-from-the-hip frontier justice of the Old West.

Orange Ruffian
During this “lame duck” period, like a floundering fish-out-of-water, Trump’s been flip-flopping, literally and figuratively, gasping for enough oxygen to fuel his efforts to delegitimize Biden’s victory. Ain’t gonna happen! Here, I’ve depicted Trump as a thrashing “orange ruffian” (playing off “orange roughy”), because that’s the color we most associate with The Donald, and “ruffian”, since he fits the profile of a lawless, brutal bully to a tee.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him. -J.R.R. Tolkien, novelist and philologist (3 Jan 1892-1973)

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