Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



Jan 24, 2021
This week’s theme
Words to describe people

This week’s words

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives

Next week’s theme
It’s raining cats & dogs

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 969

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

Sponsor’s Message: Quarantine got you down? Cooped up blues? Unpleasant relatives? 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, Kathleen Cain see below), and hunkered-down brainiacs everywhere. Wise Up! + FREE Smarts Pills = unHappy Holidays!

From: Eric Ahrendt (eric grayscaleimages.com)
Subject: I just thought that was Willard Scott (Re: diversivolent)

High though his titles, proud his name, / Boundless his wealth as wish can claim; / Despite those titles, power, and pelf, / The wretch, concentred all in self, / Living, shall forfeit fair renown, / And, doubly dying, shall go down / To the vile dust from whence he sprung, / Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung. -Walter Scott, novelist and poet (15 Aug 1771-1832)

I’m sure you’ll hear from legions of Groundhog Day fans (like me) that Andie MacDowell tries to shame Bill Murray with today’s quotation in one of the diner scenes. Here’s the clip (2 min.). She recites the lines and names Sir Walter Scott as the author. Bill laughs, and she asks him if he doesn’t like poetry, to which he replies: “I love poetry. I just thought that was Willard Scott. I was confused.”

Eric Ahrendt, Fremont, California

From: Kate Cook (kborst mcn.org)
Subject: quotations

Your ability to find words and quotations to describe the many facets of our national scourge is remarkable. (For proof, see how many people remark upon it.) That these words and quotations exist demonstrates that this scourge is merely the latest manifestation of an age-old problem humanity has faced before and will face again. I think the root of the problem is the willingness to believe we are better than someone else, especially by virtue of some intangible moral measurement.

So while we condemn the vile actions and directions of the outgoing president and his willing minions, I hope we can keep from seeing ourselves as above them. For myself, I try to keep in mind the notion, “There, but for fortune, go you or I.”

Kate Cook, Yorkville, California

From: Oscar Franklin (oscar.franklin actionaid.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--smatchet

A smatchet was a type of heavy fighting knife developed by Fairbairn for close-quarter fighting in WWII. A fearsome, ugly thing.

Oscar Franklin, London, UK

From: Pascal Pagnoux (pascal.pagnoux gmail.com)
Subject: The beauty of delusion and propaganda

America has changed over the years. But these values my grandparents taught me -- they haven’t gone anywhere. They’re as strong as ever; still cherished by people of every party, every race, every faith. They live on in each of us. What makes us American, what makes us patriots, is what’s in here. That’s what matters. And that’s why we can take the food and music and holidays and styles of other countries, and blend it into something uniquely our own. That’s why we can attract strivers and entrepreneurs from around the globe to build new factories and create new industries here. That’s why our military can look the way it does -- every shade of humanity, forged into common service. That’s why anyone who threatens our values, whether fascists or communists or jihadists or homegrown demagogues, will always fail in the end. -Barack Obama, 44th US President (b. 4 Aug 1961)

I wonder if people in Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Yemen and everywhere the US has left a bloody trail either directly or by aiding and abetting gruesome dictators (Pahlavi, Suharto, Marcos, Pinochet, Vidella...) would share this Hollywood vision of the US of A.

Pascal Pagnoux, Saint Gaudens, France

From: Robert Jay Schuman (via website comments)
Subject: mensch

Appropriate for today. Finally a mensch in the White House after four years of a schmegeggy.

Robert Jay Schuman

From: Bruce Saal (brucesaal aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mensch

Having been brought up in New York in a religious Jewish family, I heard the term used generally for young men, who after their Bar Mitzvahs (age 13) generally “did the right thing”, which most often meant following somewhat stricter rules, sometimes to one’s own detriment, but was “the right thing to do”. Sort of like “good little boy, now go run along”. Sometimes used as a form of interpersonal reference about others’ children, as references to “he’s a real mensch” (worthy of admiration).

Bruce Saal, Los Gatos, California

From: Elizabeth Block (via website comments)
Subject: mensch

There’s someone in Toronto with a licence plate that says MENSCH. I hope it was a gift! You don’t call yourself a mensch. If you do, you’re a schmuck.

Elizabeth Block, Toronto, Canada

From: Laura Berton (l.n.berton gmail.com)
Subject: mensch

I love the word “mensch”! I’m reminded of the hilarious book, “Yiddish with Dick and Jane” by Barbara Davilman and Ellis Weiner.

It opens with the line, “See Jane. Jane is married to Bob. Jane loves Bob very much. Bob is a real mensch.”

It’s a hilarious parody of the classic Dick and Jane books. I wanted to share the title because it’s brought me much joy and laughter!

Laura Berton, Toronto, Canada

From: Agnes Stieda (agnesvstieda gmail.com)
Subject: Mensch

As an ex-German, I am very familiar with the German language and would say that Mensch is the word for any human being, good or bad. Reminds me of the story of my Danish cousin who addressed anybody he liked with Mensch. We had to inform him that was no way to address people and he felt very sad, also thinking Mensch was the best compliment for a GOOD human being. But in an old poem it said: “Boese Menschen habe keine Lieder” (bad men have no songs), so there are also boese Menschen.

Agnes Stieda, Victoria, Canada

From: Bob Richmond (rsrichmond gmail.com)
Subject: Mensch

German distinguishes der Mann (male human being) from der Mensch (human being), and Yiddish adds its additional meaning to Mensch. The word has no feminine form; there is no “die Menschin”.

Latin does similarly with vir and homo, Greek with anēr and anthropos. The biblical “Son of Man” is huios tou anthropou in the original Greek.

Bob Richmond, Maryville, Tennessee

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

From: Kathleen Cain (kc caincreative.com)
Subject: Mensch

Mensch is such a useful word, especially if you have chosen your friends wisely and you are lucky enough to have been chosen by them. Since womensch is not a word, I have waged a private campaign for years to emphasize the fact that it’s gender neutral, using it to describe both men and women whenever appropriate. For example, Kamala Harris is a mensch. During her first official act as VPOTUS, she laughed out loud when she realized that she was presiding over the acceptance of her own resignation as US Senator. Another example is Pramila Jayapal. She is fearless, smart, principled, tireless, and good-humored; what a mensch!

Kathleen Cain, Seattle, Washington

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

In Bock and Harnick’s 1971 musical Fiddler on the Roof (based on a story by Sholom Aleichem), the hero Tevye, the dairyman, would like to be a mensch, a respected member of the community, sitting in the front row of the synagogue, greeted with respect by all, one whose opinion on sundry subjects is sought by everyone, instead of being a schlimazel, schlepping cans of milk from door to door and never getting his act together.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Brian Tetreault (ipuppy ipuppy.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--circumspect

As soon as I read the etymology of this word I was immediately reminded of Michigan, where I lived for a few years and still have fondness for. Its state motto is “Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam, Circumspice” (“If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.”).

I always thought this was a wonderful motto that can be interpreted as “Stop and smell the roses” or “Make the best of what you have been given” and evokes one of my personal beliefs as articulated by Alex Haley, “Find the good, and praise it.”

Brian Tetreault, Baltimore, Maryland

From: William G Casselman (lutrine rogers.com)
Subject: Addition to circumspect

The discussion of circumspect might have been an occasion to quote as an example the root’s most famous use in history. As part of architect Christopher Wren’s epitaph.

Si Monumentum Requiris, Circumspice “If you seek my monument, look around you.”

It took 35 years to complete London’s magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral. When its architect, Sir Christopher Wren, died twelve years later in 1723 CE, he was entombed inside, under a simple slab of black marble bearing this famous quotation, inviting awed visitors to St. Paul’s to indeed give the joint a quick glance!

Latin monumentum could mean gravestone, although it gives English monument with its broader modern semantics.

Bill Casselman, Montreal, Canada

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

The BBC used the same phrase in its series The World at War, in connection with the Reichstag Fire of 1933 that gave Hitler extraordinary powers, as well as describing the order of RAF Marshal “Bomber” Harris to destroy the city of Dresden by the time the Second World War was nearly over “Just to teach them a lesson.”

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Bill Ledbetter (ledbetterau gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--circumspect

I am so convinced of the advantages of looking at mankind instead of reading about them, and of the bitter effects of staying at home with all the narrow prejudices of an islander, that I think there should be a law amongst us to set our young men abroad for a term among the few allies our wars have left us. -Lord Byron, poet (22 Jan 1788-1824)

After my two years in the Army, ending as I turned twenty-one, I was strongly of the opinion that all males should take a two-year tour of duty somewhere--military, civilian, or wherever. I would now certainly include females as well. It allows all an opportunity to broaden their view of the world and its people. I agree with Lord Byron.

Bill Ledbetter, Hampton Cove, Alabama

From: Alan Olson (olsoncna earthlink.net)
Subject: Lord Byron

Wow! The Thought For Today: a precursor for the US Peace Corps. Except that we send young women as well.

Alan Olson, Cornwall, Pennsylvania

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

Ah, I was all for Byron’s idea until I remember a couple of countrymen (just as bad when young) I wouldn’t want to send to any other region on the off chance foreigners would assume we’re all like these nasties and be allies no more!

Marge Simon, Ocala, Florida

From: Robert H Sadowsky (rsadowskydmd gmail.com)
Subject: This week’s words

There he was, the unflappable, circumspect mensch standing at the podium of his inaugural, as his predecessor, a diversivolent smatchet flew off to the opprobrium of all.

Robert H Sadowsky, DMD, New York, New York

From: Stanley W. Brown (Stanley.W.Brown dartmouth.edu)
Subject: Awad the Arab

Lest we AWAD aficionados imagine we have any unique claim to that initialism we should know of Awad, a Sherari camel boy in the Arab Revolt of World War One. T.E. Lawrence (“of Arabia”) writes of him in his Seven Pillars of Wisdom, “Awad was a ragged, brown-skinned lad of perhaps eighteen, splendidly built, with the muscles and sinews of an athlete, active as a cat, alive in the saddle (he rode magnificently), and not ill-looking ... and in his savage eye an air of constant and rather suspicious expectancy, as though he looked any moment for something new from life, and that not of his seeking or ordering, nor wholly grateful.”

Stan Brown, West Lebanon, New Hampshire

Nowhere Man
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: smatchet & mensch

Inspired by the Scottish root of our word “smatchet”, I arrived at this neighborhood pub scenario, with two Highland Scot town gossips passing judgement upon one of their local yokels, who’s nursing a pint of ale at the bar. Truth be told, he could well fit the profile of a no-count, contemptible bloke. Bye-the-bye, a “wee bairn” is Old Scots for “a small child”, and “coo”... you guessed it, “cow” spoken in a Scottish brogue.

The Host with the Most
In musing over the word “mensch”, I felt an homage to a much-celebrated good-guy extraordinaire, the recently deceased, longtime (37 years!) Jeopardy! host, Alex Trebek, was in order. Here, echoing the league of bona fide brainiacs known as The Mensa Society, I’ve concocted a tribe of salt-of-the-earth folks... namely, The Menscha Society (groan). A younger mustachioed Trebek hoists the trophy as “Mensch of the Year”. Alex appeared to be universally liked and respected, and is already sorely missed.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Anagrams of This Week’s Words
1. diversivolent
2. smatchet
3. mensch
4. unflappable
5. circumspect
= 1. Trump craves putsch
2. snitch
3. calm Biden
4. to feel calm
5. pensive
     1. diversivolent
2. smatchet
3. mensch
4. unflappable
5. circumspect
= 1. drives conflicts
2. scant pest
3. humble human
4. calm
5. perceptive
-Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


He’s prone to be quite diversivolent.
She’s known to be very belligerent.
This husband and wife
live a life filled with strife,
but luckily, both are resilient.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Using small words is something I dread
When there’s big ones available instead.
About paying more rent
I’m diversivolent.
What is it that I have just said?
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Diversivolent folks want to fight,
For in argument they take delight.
I’d strongly advise
Avoiding these guys,
Who will tell you you’re wrong and they’re right.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

In his usual mood diversivolent,
Said Donald, “Come be a participant!
With our riots today,
We will keep holding sway!”
Now he’s out, though, and facing imprisonment.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

There was no one alive who could match it --
That man whom we all name a smatchet --
But we know on that date
That the polls caused new fate;
The vote sure applied the right hatchet.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

“Till good fortune arrived, and I snatched it,”
says he, “people called me a smatchet.
You, too, can succeed.
Just follow my lead:
get a lottery ticket and scratch it!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Because he has been such a smatchet
The country just gave him the hatchet.
Now Biden is in
Much to the chagrin
Of the right-wing status quo racket.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

My sympathy goes to Bob Cratchit,
Who was thought unimportant, a smatchet,
By his boss, Ebenezer
(Contemptible geezer).
If Scrooge came to my door I would latch it.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Deceived and dispatched by the smatchet,
The mob used a flag like a hatchet.
Destruction ensued
That’s easily viewed --
On Instagram posts you can catch it.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

His self-regard -- nothing could match it.
Total power -- his aim was to snatch it,
but he’ll harm us no more.
Voters showed him the door.
In our rear-view we see a mere smatchet.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

She said to him, “Please wear a mask.”
And, begged, “It’s not too much to ask.”
But, Covid, she’d catch it,
From that thoughtless smatchet.
So then, she did take him to task.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Now the door has been closed on a smatchet,
And it’s up to the Senate to latch it.
On the face of old Mitch
I can see there’s an itch;
We’ll see dominoes fall should he scratch it.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

She practiced so long from the bench.
She fought hard and voted to quench
The flames of injustice
To make the world trust us.
Our Ruth was a singular mensch.
-Sondra Landin, New York, New York (sunnytravel att.net)

In baseball the great Johnny Bench,
Our thirst for home runs he did quench.
At every at bat
He would tip his hat,
Which proves he was also a mensch.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

“Aha! I have finally spied
the right man. Is my ma satisfied?
Gonna marry the mensch
if she don’t throw a wrench
in my plans!” cries the wannabe bride.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Said the man to most-famed Judi Dench,
“May we please share a spot on the bench?”
While the Dame looked askance,
As away she did prance,
She ignored he was just a sweet mensch.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

The era of Trump leaves a stench,
But here comes Joe Biden, a mensch.
Say “Hail to the Chief!”
It’s such a relief --
At last now my jaw can unclench.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Jewish people, on Friday, might bensch,
Which means “bless” -- for if you are a mensch,
You light candles that glow
‘Til they burn down -- don’t blow!
At which point, the wicks you can clench.
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Eccentric, but always a mensch,
With kisses his wife he would drench.
He found her so stunning,
He’d always come running,
Declaring, “Morticia, that’s French!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

On finding the kegs all untappable,
says bartender, ever unflappable,
“Fresh out of beer,
but I’ll persevere.
Free gin should keep regulars affable!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The unflappable eagle now flies
Through all of America’s skies,
With no damaged feather.
We’re in this together
With hope and without any lies.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

As Donald campaigned, he was cruel
And willing to break every rule.
Now all of us know,
When faced with this foe,
Unflappable Joe kept his cool.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

He inherited a terrible mess.
His responses can’t fail to impress.
Unflappable Joe
knows just which way to go
and with whom. They will meet with success.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

On Flat Earth Theory she’d hold court,
though many would taunt, jeer, and snort;
They found her views laughable,
But she was unflappable,
banking on social network support.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

My boss Lester’s persona’s impalpable,
His face is just stoic -- unmappable!
His nature is too,
I defy all of you
To find anyone else so unflappable!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

At the Capitol looking unflappable,
Said Joe, “Towards you all I’ll be affable.
Even QAnon folks
Off the ledge I shall coax
With Tom Hanks, though they claim he’s a cannibal.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

A strong case for circumspection
can be made by introspection.
Perspective takes two eyes
at least, but you are wise
to prepare for contraception!
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

Says the teacher, “Before I correct
these papers, I must disinfect
each one with great care,
kill the germs lurking there.
It’s essential to be circumspect!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Rising up from four years of neglect,
Comes a man with ideas circumspect.
We got rid of the schmo,
And replaced him with Joe.
We’ve a President we can respect.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

A circumspect leader’s ideal
And really refreshing, I feel.
Whatever Joe Biden
Is busy decidin’,
I hope that he’ll help us to heal.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

As market maven, new heights he scaled,
But at home his wife’s views prevailed.
Many called him henpecked,
he was merely circumspect,
and had in-house peace and quiet nailed.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

“On my planet we’re all circumspect,
But I must with this James Kirk connect,”
Thought the Vulcan girl. “Spock
Believes lust is a crock,
But by logic I won’t be henpecked.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The scuba class had mixed feelings about jumping into the water -- they were diversivolent.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said the karate master, “See that brick on the table? I will smatchet with my bare hand.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Did I mensch-ion that I’m a decent and upright person?
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“If you’re such a decent person, why can’t we discuss your picking the lice out of my hair?” asked Oliver. “I won’t mensch a nit,” answered Fagin.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“I truly mensch what I said, I care only for you,” said her inebriated lover.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

She was trying to cook pancakes for breakfast, but the overly thick batter made them unflappable.
-Gordon Tully, Charlottesville, Virginia (gordon.tully gmail.com)

Said the penguin to the eagle, “You use yours to fly? Mine are unflappable.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The owner said to the home inspector, “Circumspect my house.”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

After the bris, the new parents brought the baby to their pediatrician for a circumspection.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

As the pain that can be told is but half a pain, so the pity that questions has little healing in its touch. -Edith Wharton, novelist (24 Jan 1862-1937)

We need your help

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


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

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith