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Apr 18, 2021
This week’s theme
Miscellaneous words

This week’s words

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Relative usage over time

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Next week’s theme
Nouning verbs and verbing nouns

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AWADmail Issue 981

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

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From: Bruce Adgate (rossgate gmail.com)
Subject: Soporific

Years ago, when my son was in preschool I would read him bedtime stories. Beatrix Potter and the Peter Rabbit stories among them. I never expected in reading them that I would come across a word I didn’t know. That is, until I came across the word ‘soporific’ in her The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies (1909). The line was:

It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is soporific.

My son immediately asked: “What does that mean?”
And I had to admit I didn’t know.
Luckily, it was explained, in the next lines, both to him and to me, what it meant.

I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit. They certainly had a very soporific effect upon the Flopsy Bunnies!

Every time I encounter, or use, that word I think of that night’s bedtime story.

Bruce Adgate, Spoleto, Italy

"Homestuck" by Trevor Birenbaum
From: Trevor Birenbaum (trevor.birenbaum gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--soporific

I first read the webcomic Homestuck in 2011 in the back of my middle school Chinese class. The online comic was thousands of pages long and had a devout, cult-like following on sites like Tumblr, and at comic-conventions many people could be seen running amok in gray skin paint, yellow-and-red horns, and various astrological symbols printed on their shirts. Much later in the comic, it was revealed that soporific slime was the only thing keeping one of the characters from going on a murderous rampage by... that character getting “sober” and killing off some of the most beloved characters in the comic.

Numerology and hidden messages featured throughout Homestuck and since the comic came out on Apr 13, 2009 (exactly 12 years ago today), I always enjoy thinking back on how much fun experiencing Homestuck was and going through my closet to find the horns, capes, shirts, and props I made to dress up for conventions. Seeing a word that was so important to the plot of the final acts of Homestuck in this word series I read every day makes this anniversary just a bit more special.

Here’s an old photo from around 2014.

Trevor Birenbaum, Hollywood, Florida

From: Richard Gilbert (richardinlinwood gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mummery

Citizens of Newfoundland, Canada, disguise themselves/dress-up, often as women, and go door to door as mummers, cadging drinks and snacks from home owners on New Year’s Eve. Mummering is an old tradition.

Richard Gilbert, Halifax, Canada

From: William J. Levant (WLevant kaplaw.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mummery

Philadelphia’s New Year’s parade is called the Mummers Parade, and the participants are called mummers.

William J. Levant, Blue Bell, Pennsylvania

From: Bruce Floyd (brucefloyd bellsouth.net)
Subject: A thought for today

The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play. -Arnold J. Toynbee, historian (14 Apr 1889-1975)

Robert Frost (see below) pretty much says the same thing that Toynbee does: that a goal in the living of a life is “to unite” avocation and vocation. Some might say that a great demarcation between one’s work or vocation and one’s other time is a hindrance to a harmonious life. One is blessed if able to live a seamless life, no boundary between one’s life and one’s work. I suppose some would say that the supreme example of one able to unite work and play is the artist. I’m sure Frost endured the same vicissitudes and vexations that life hurls at all of us, but it’s hard to find a gap in his life. The word “poet” sums up his entire life. In any case, anyone who enjoys his or her work finds fulfillment in work, finds a wholeness in life, is, I think most would agree, fortunate. I understand how circumstances often control our lives, but it takes no deep thinking to know (and most of us know, having been there) that a bad job can rob life of joy.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For heaven and the future’s sakes.
-Robert Frost, the last stanza of the poem “Two Tramps in Mud Time”

Bruce Floyd, Florence, South Carolina

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

From: Bryan Todd (boyanlj gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--diffidence

This word’s adjectival form shows up somewhat comically in a 1959 automobile ad:

“People who feel diffident about driving a Rolls-Royce can buy a Bentley.”

Bryan Todd, Lincoln, Nebraska

Washington Politics As Usual
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: intransigence and miscellaneous words

For years, Mitch McConnell has been the poster boy (poster geezer?) for intransigence in the Senate. From the first days of Obama’s presidency, McConnell vowed that his mission was to block all Democratic initiatives. These days, as Senate minority leader, he’s been a thorn in President Biden’s side, keeping his fellow Republicans in lockstep, all voting “nay” on any Biden initiative that comes down the pike. Just call him “Stick-in-the-Mud” Mitch.

In light of this week’s “miscellaneous words” theme, I realized that there are many words that describe a mix or miscellany. Here’s an array of applicable terms that came to mind. Curiously, I describe my regular breakfast repast as a “mish-mash”... a pan-fried mix of egg whites, a single egg, diced ham, cheese, veggies, spices, and herbs. Yum! Un mélange délicieux!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Pangraph (contains all words from this week)

President Biden (falsely accused of being soporific) has been a vulnerary for a world devastated by the reign of a buffoon who combined intransigence in his resistance to decency with diffidence towards dictators to create a macabre mummery.
-Ray Wiss, Greater Sudbury, Canada (portray vianet.ca)


This week’s theme:
1. vulnerary
2. soporific
3. mummery
4. intransigence
5. diffidence
= 1. curing sufferer
2. sedative
3. pantomime
4. inclemency
5. shy, I heed norm, few risk it
     1. vulnerary
2. soporific
3. mummery
4. intransigence
5. diffidence
= 1. curing
2. calm voice
3. parody in fun
4. firm (NY referee)
5. timidness
-Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


For times far beyond ordinary,
Joe Biden’s a balm vulnerary.
Past his prime he may be,
But forgive him, say we,
His occasional lapse momentary.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Fancy title, no work -- honorific.
Two-pound steak with four sides -- calorific.
Mix them both with much beer,
Celebrate your good cheer.
All together, a great soporific.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

A party! I’m glad that I went.
And even a tux did I rent.
The wine was terrific,
A great soporific.
I slept through the whole darn event.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

The sound of the snores was terrific.
The lecture, to be quite specific,
Was boring and long
and the premise was wrong
And the effect of it all soporific.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Prof’s lecture was too scientific.
The classroom grew quiet, pacific.
Kids made not a peep.
They’d been lulled into sleep
by his overly-long soporific.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

I’ve been dieting! I feel terrific.
Lost seven pounds, to be specific.
If I overeat now
My bod says “Nohow!”
And scolds me -- I get soporific!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

The professor’s speech was so boring.
His lecture, the class was ignoring.
And, facts scientific,
Became soporific.
It left most of the students snoring.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

My friend said, “The film was terrific,”
But to me it was just soporific.
The plot was so boring
I found myself snoring;
To me, that’s a test scientific.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

“This period Paleolithic,”
Said Oog, “is just too soporific.”
So to nourish his soul
He picked up some charcoal,
And became a cave painter prolific.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“I give you the meeting in summary.
The opening remarks were all flummery.
To disguise the accounts,
And the missing amounts,
They resorted to lies and to mummery.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

I had to endure a rank mummery;
It reeked of, yes, buckets of flummery.
I was trapped where I sat,
And in anger I spat,
“I’d like to escape to a nunnery!”
-Sondra Landin, New York, New York (sunnytravel att.net)

The professor of Greek gave a summary,
It was filled with such nonsense and trumpery.
He expounded in class
With his gestures so crass,
Which can only be said was a mummery.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

Though governing he couldn’t stand,
The mummery Trump thought was grand!
As all can attest
He played his part best
With turkeys to pardon at hand.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The review the critic just gave
Was more of a rant, not a rave.
He offered this summary,
“That this awful mummery
Would make Shakespeare spin in his grave!”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“If my speeches seem too much like mummery,
You can read the SparkNotes for a summary,”
Said Hamlet. “Ophelia,
You’re sad and I feel ya,
But bored? Get thee off to a nunnery!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

We insisted on getting our pay.
Our employer replied right away:
“Desist your intransigence.
Checks are in transit, gents.”
Still we await that fine day.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

The workers demand greater pay.
“We know we deserve it,” they say.
“But thanks to the management’s
stubborn intransigence,
all we’ve achieved is delay!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Says Mitch, “As the king of intransigence,
Ah don’t need to the people en masse convince.
Ah kin progress abort
Without blue-state support,
For the red ones all swoon at mah handsomeness.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said Hamlet to timid Ophelia
“Let’s do it. Now tell me. So will ya?”
His persistent belligerence
Did worsen her diffidence.
She died clutching one white gardenia.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Addressing his many constituents,
the statesman declares, with false diffidence,
“I thank you, my friends.
This tribute transcends
your generous constant munificence!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

What really attracted her to guys
Was the diffidence seen in their eyes.
That meant they could feel,
Were no doubt more real,
And she guessed also probably wise.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

His diffidence kept the boy mum,
And people had thought he was dumb.
They later would find
He had a great mind;
A scientist he would become.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Said Moses, “I’ll be your deliverance,
For Yahweh with plagues showed no diffidence.
So folks, grab your bread,
And to Sinai we’ll head
For some tablets with major significance.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The chef made an aromatic, mint-flavored salad that was delightfully hys-soporific.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“This new biplane is soporific!” said Snoopy.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The Egyptologist was astounded to discover mummery glands beneath the ancient queen’s wrappings.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“We offer the finest in mummery,” said the Egyptian funeral director.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The commuter described his daily routine as intransigence.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“Colonel Hogan, vill ze stocks you recommend pay good diffidence?” asked Colonel Klink.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Gaetz's Gaffes
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Gaetz’s gaffes

Beleaguered House Republican legislator Matt Gaetz, perpetuator of “The Big Lie” claiming Trump won the 2020 election, while seemingly trying to emulate Trump’s exploitation and objectification of women, finds himself in deep doo-do. He allegedly trafficked a 17-year-old girl across state lines for immoral purposes and engaged in other seedy activities. Gaetz vehemently denies it all. A House ethics panel has been set up to further investigate Gaetz extracurricular shenanigans.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free. -Clarence Darrow, lawyer and author (18 Apr 1857-1938)

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