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May 2, 2021
This week’s theme
Words made with animal parts

This week’s words

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Relative usage over time

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Well-traveled words

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AWADmail Issue 983

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

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

How the N-Word Became Unsayable
The New York Times

Archaeologists Think They’ve Found Missing Link in Origin of the Alphabet
Daily Beast

From: Ben Riddell (ben.riddell gmail.com)
Subject: Rostrum

“Rostrum” (neuter, nominative, singular) was never used in Latin to mean speaking platform. That would always refer to a single ship’s beak.

“Rostra” (neuter, nominative, plural) was the term used for the platform, because there were multiple ship beaks underneath the speaking platform.

“Rostrum” as a platform is a falsely singularized back-formation from an instance of metonymy.

Ben Riddell, Oakland, California

Olympias, a modern reconstruction of an ancient Athenian trireme
Image: Templar52 / Wikimedia
From: Chris Coutinho (coutinho.chris yahoo.co.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--rostrum

The rostrum on the ramming boat is better demonstrated in this example than the one illustrated on AWAD. Also see the rostrum is at the water level.

Chris Coutinho, Preston, UK

From: Martha Stimpson (stellaoctangula70 gmail.com)
Subject: Plant-based diet

My husband and I came to plant-based eating by another route -- quite by random chance we stumbled across Dr. Michael Greger and his wonderful work on *health*. We had been omnivores for seventy years and were feeling the effects of aging, so we dove in to Dr. Greger’s “Daily Dozen” (available as a wonderful free app) and started feeling much better. We are now five years into a whole-food-plant-based way of eating, we love it, and our health has improved to a remarkable degree. It’s a lovely side effect that no animals are harmed, too, and we feel super about that. Dr. Greger’s work is available for free at NutritionFacts.org. He is a brilliant, kind, and amazing man.
Martha Stimpson, Saginaw, Michigan

From: Patti Koning (koning sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Meatless meat

Patti Koning, Dallas, Texas

From: Richard Martin (school tellatale.eu)
Subject: Carapace

Delighted to see you include carapace in this week’s selection. There are many pourquoi folk tales explaining how the tortoise or turtle got the “cracked” shell he has today. Here is a lesser-known one from Nigeria: “Tortoise called All of You”.

Richard Martin, Darmstadt, Germany

From: Jordynne Lobo (piafredux yahoo.com)
Subject: hackle

A hackle is a feather in a military headdress.

Jordynne Lobo, St. Louis, Missouri

From: Rasu Velu (rasuvel yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--hackle

Today’s word reminds me of our adopted dog named Starlet who used to get hair raised on her back and barked whenever she observed strangers from our balcony. Good to know there’s a word for it.

Rasu Velu, Doha, Qatar

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

Boy's certificate of appreciation from the US War Department
From: Robert Carleton (Enchanted128 outlook.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--hackle

My first encounter with hackles was when sitting on the front steps of our home with our dog, Boy, who was just returned from military service in 1945. My father came to the door, and I turned and asked him why the dog’s neck hairs stood up every time Mr. Kawauchi walked by. I was 3 and my father explained that Boy had been trained in the army to alert at the presence of an Asian person, such as our neighbor. I knew Mr. Kawauchi’s name because we were very formal, and I knew his daughter who was 2 years older than me.

We still have Boy’s discharge certificate. I’m quite sure he served in one of the infamous internment camps. The certificate was addressed to my father, Charles. Lots of memories of those days, the rationing, and the new neighbors from all over the world (India, China, Eastern Europe, Middle East, and Africa) who I learned were “displaced persons”. They gravitated to our neighborhood as we lived near the University of Minnesota. The consequences of war cannot be overstated.

Robert Carleton, Albuquerque, New Mexico

From: David Micklethwait (micklethwait hotmail.com)
Subject: pinnacle

The picture of pinnacles on King’s College chapel reminded me of the night in June 1965 when intrepid climbers went up the two highest pinnacles, on the West end of the chapel, and slung a banner between them.

David Micklethwait, London, UK

From: Angela Scheuerle (ascheuerle swbell.net)
Subject: Pinnacle

I was once at a conference held in the Pinnacle Room of the conference hotel. It was in the basement.

Angela Scheuerle, Dallas, Texas

From: Joe Frey (bardwellj comcast.net)
Subject: Pinnacle

As an architecture nerd (and longtime docent for the Chicago Architecture Center [nee Foundation] and contributor to the AIA Guide to Chicago), I think it’s important to distinguish between a pinnacle and a finial, and the given definition of the former confuses, almost conflates the two terms. The Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture (edited by Cyril M. Harris, Dover Publications, New York, 1977) defines a pinnacle as “1. An apex. 2. In Gothic architecture [the style of the building in the photograph] and derivatives, a small, largely ornamental body or shaft terminated by a pyramid or spire. 3. A turret, or part of a building elevated above the main building.” A finial is defined as “ An ornament which terminates the point of a spire pinnacle, etc.” See also here and here. From the first link: “A pinnacle is distinguished from a finial by its greater size and complexity and from a tower or spire by its smaller size and subordinate architectural role. A tower may be decorated with pinnacles, each one capped by a finial.”

Joe Frey, Chicago, Illinois

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

Apparently, this animal habit is also known as flagging, especially when applied to deer. When a deer senses the presence of hunters, it raises its tail, and even moves it from side to side, to warn the rest of the herd of danger and to enable any stray colleague to locate and join the group for collective action.

Unfortunately, the same instinct is not present in the hunters. It would alert them to run away if the herd decided that humans are even more cowardly than themselves and gave chase to the chasers. That would teach deer hunters a moral lesson about the commonality of all creatures.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

G-ASGC Vickers Super VC10 Srs1151 (cn 853) BOAC
Photo: Andrew Thomas
From: Jonathan Danilowitz (jonathan.danilowitz gmail.com)
Subject: Hightail

In the 1960s, British Airways (then still BOAC) used the VC10, (with the aircraft’s distinctive high tail) on flights from Johannesburg to London. Their advertising, “Hightail it to Europe” was very effective.

Jonathan Danilowitz, Shoresh, Israel

Hackles Raised
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: hackle and hightail

Hyenas, not unlike vultures, are often labelled the African savannah’s leftover-carrion consumers. But these wily feliforms, whose “laughing” is highly overrated... Ha!, do, on occasion, stalk and kill prey. Here, post-kill, an agitated hyena with its hackles clearly raised, attempts to ward off an approaching lioness. If she were so inclined, she could shoo off the threatening hyena fairly easily, essentially calling its bluff.

Hightailing It
In the course of my frequent birding forays into the wilds of SoCal, and more specifically, my local haunts... Sepulveda Basin Wildlife Reserve and adjacent Woodley Park in the Los Angeles region, I’ve closely observed the behavioral quirks of our resident ground squirrels, who, as their name implies, spend much of their lives underground. Like their distant African cousins, meerkats, they are constantly vigilant. I’ve often noticed as they dash for cover that these guys keep their bushy tails totally erect, perchance a signal that danger is afoot.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Pangraph (contains all words from this week)

At the pinnacle of his brief political career, the hate speech he delivered from the official rostrum raised the hackles of the audience to such an extent that his carapace of bravado couldn’t protect him and he had to hightail it to oblivion.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Incompetent aspirants who wish to appear on the presidential rostrum must develop a strong carapace against criticism and avoid getting even one hackle up, and once they have reached this so-called pinnacle they must hightail it when they fail to get re-elected.
-Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz)

1. rostrum
2. carapace
3. hackle
4. pinnacle
5. hightail
= 1. rhino-
2. nacre
3. chic plumage, hair
4. tall peak
5. scat
     1. rostrum
2. carapace
3. hackle
4. pinnacle
5. hightail
= 1. pulpit
2. shell
3. hack; hair arc
4. acme
5. go in a canter
-Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


As he mounted the rostrum to speak,
Someone shouted, “My word -- what a beak!”
So much laughter ensued,
On reflection, quite rude,
But in fairness, we’d had a dull week.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

“If it don’t seem to work like it should,”
declared the old quack, as he stood
at an improvised rostrum
extolling his nostrum,
“at least the stuff tastes purty good!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

If I was on a rostrum one day,
I honestly don’t know what I’d say.
Wish that wars would cease,
That we’d live in peace,
And unjust prejudice fade away.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

She stood at the rostrum to speak,
But had such a tiny physique.
That Swede wasn’t seen,
And so for that teen,
A step stool the stagehands would seek.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Said Donald from up on the rostrum,
“When immigrants come, we’ll accost ‘em!”
To cure all our woes
He invented new foes;
Keeping brown people out was his nostrum.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Dad’s ferocity, worn on his face,
Is defensive, a mere carapace,
There to ward off the blows,
And those stones that life throws,
Till restored with our loving embrace.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

There once was a turtle named Myrtle.
Just walking, for her, was a hurdle.
Embarrassed and pained,
She felt so constrained
By her carapace, tight as a girdle.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

A carapace shaped like a dome
The turtle considered his home.
This sine qua non
He always had on --
He’d wear it wherever he’d roam.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

They won’t get the vaccine, they said,
Ignoring how many are dead.
The Republican base
Has a dumb carapace,
To not care if the virus they spread.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“I’m too slow with this darn carapace,”
Said the tortoise, “to win Aesop’s race.”
But the loitering hare
Took a nap, didn’t care;
In the end, slow and steady’s the pace.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

When Yahweh threw plagues in the Pharaoh’s face,
The monarch showed cracks in his carapace.
Shouted Moses, “Whoopee!”
Then he split the Red Sea,
And his people escaped through the narrow space.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Cried the newt, “I must bid you goodbye,
for I hear that the witches are nigh.
The sound of their cackles
is raising my hackles.
What more might they take than an eye?”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

He stands with each feather in hackle.
His cry is an unpleasant cackle.
Other birds stand ‘round huddled.
They’re fearful and muddled,
And none wish to tackle the grackle.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

How stupid the things he would say!
My hackles he’d raise in that way.
Since I lost my cool
And called him a fool,
We’re not getting married today.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

He raced to his class in a rush.
His hair he had no time to brush.
Said his friend with a cackle,
“Comb your hair with a hackle?”
And all he could do was just blush.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Eye of newt, toe of frog,” did they cackle,
And it raised on Macbeth every hackle.
In their curious wail,
Cried the witches, “All hail!
(See how Shakespeare in lim’ricks I tackle?)
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Forgive me if I might sound cynical
And ignore admonitions rabbinical.
Though Jewish I am,
I’ll still eat my ham
On a bagel with shmaltz. That’s the pinnacle.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

When cops found him toting a gun,
a permit for which he had none,
he hollered goodbye, hailed
a cab, and then hightailed.
Perhaps he is still on the run.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Oh, he was an old hardened criminal,
With persona so scary and cynical.
When he went on a spree,
Folks would so quickly flee;
As gangsters go, he’d reached the pinnacle.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

Adventurers all understand
The view from the pinnacle’s grand!
But those who have been
Say the air there is thin,
So sea-level travel I’ve planned.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

A question: (I promise it’s clinical)
Why are many achievers so cynical?
At the top of their spectrum.
It seems to affect’em
That’s weird when you’re there at the pinnacle!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“Of creation, you two are the pinnacle,”
Said Yahweh, “so don’t be so cynical.”
“But, Lord,” answered Eve,
“I can’t help one pet peeve:
That I’m made from his rib must be fictional.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The shoplifter hightailed away
But soon learned that crime doesn’t pay.
For she’d been surveilled
And later was jailed --
So justice prevailed, you could say.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Peter Rabbit is one of those wry tales;
It shows how a trespassing guy fails.
After being so rude
He winds up in the nude,
Then away from McGregor he hightails.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The British guitar player’s adoring fans shouted, “Hip hip, hoo-rostrum it some more!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said Lance Armstrong, “On these steroids, I can keep with a carapace!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Replied the farmer when asked which horse he wanted to hire, “Any old hackle do!”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Said Putin’s computer geek, “Zis hackle vin ze election for Trump.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The cardsharp defeated all comers at poker, gin rummy, and pinnacle.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Having smoked weed while following a suspect, the hightail was discovered.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“At this hightail, beer, and so on will make you more drunk than usual,” warned the Sherpa.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Walk of Shame
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Walk of Shame

Last week, a collective sigh of relief could be heard across the US as Derek Chauvin, the ex-Minneapolis cop, was found guilty of killing George Floyd on all counts. Yet this verdict is only a small step forward in bringing accountability for law-enforcement’s systemic maltreatment of Black and Brown folk across America. Chauvin will be trading in his police “blues” for penitentiary “orange”.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Man can be the most affectionate and altruistic of creatures, yet he’s potentially more vicious than any other. He is the only one who can be persuaded to hate millions of his own kind whom he has never seen and to kill as many as he can lay his hands on in the name of his tribe or his God. -Benjamin Spock, pediatrician and author (2 May 1903-1998)

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