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May 9, 2021
This week’s theme
Well-traveled words

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AWADmail Issue 984

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, wit, 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 an original 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

The Hidden Language of Mother’s Day Flowers
The New York Times

In the French Language, Steps Forward and Back for Women
The Washington Post

From: June Cussen (june.cussen gmail.com)
Subject: Zen it

To combine this week’s first word with last week’s theme: I used to harass my more regimented older sister when we were working on a sewing project by saying, when we hit an unclear part of the pattern or its implementation, “Oh, let’s just zen it.” She’d give me a look and get out the tape measure and often also the pins in their red tomato-shaped cushion.

June Cussen, Sarasota, Florida

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

From: Jerr Boschee (boscheejerr gmail.com)
Subject: Zen

I read many books about Zen while serving in the Peace Corps in India in the late 1960s. They led me not to a lifetime of meditation, but to the core value of Mahayana Buddhism: Its practitioners refuse to enter Nirvana until all living beings are able to do so. I embraced the idea and for me it meant dedicating my life to helping others as much as possible, individually and collectively, and I’ve tried my best to do so.

Jerr Boschee, Geneva, Illinois

From: Sandy Schopbach (sandy sandyschopbach.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--zen

Glad you got vaccinated! Makes us ALL safer. I got my two Pfizers over a month ago (age before beauty), but I’m still being safe, with masks and staying out of indoor places with lots of people. And not getting on a plane yet to go back to my other home, France (where I can eat all the aubergine I want).

Sandy Schopbach, Ann Arbor, Michigan

From: Vinay Kashyap (kashyap.vinay gmail.com)
Subject: Zen crossword

Can it even be a legit Zen crossword if the clues weren’t left completely blank? As it is, there is an unambiguous solution: 0!

Vinay Kashyap, Cambridge, Massachusetts

From: Peter Desmond (taxhombre gmail.com)
Subject: You mentioned the aubergine

You mentioned the aubergine and I thought of a poem of mine on the subject which appeared on the blog Language Hat some years ago. Also, extra credit.

Peter H. Desmond, Cambridge, Massachusetts

From: Jean Finley (jean ronfinleystudio.com)
Subject: melanzone

In Italian, an eggplant is melanzone, which, unfortunately has some pejorative meanings in New York City slang. Actually there are a number of food-related insults in Italian.

Jean Finley, Westlake Village, California

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

Another interesting variant of this word is the religious mendicant order known as the Dominicans. Although St. Dominic, the thirteenth-century Spanish priest who founded it to combat the Albigensian heresy in Southern France, did not name it after himself, his later followers made his name into a play on words, Domini cani, meaning “the dogs of God”.

I wonder what specific breed they had in mind.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Robert A. Rushton (reloquent gmail.com)
Subject: canary

A more recent usage is the term warrant canary. This is a digital dead man switch, a message asserting that the person or organization that posted it has not been subject to a search and seizure accompanied by a gag order.

The statement includes a validity date, often enforced cryptographically. If a search occurs, the posted message is allowed to expire, informing others of the intrusion.

The theory of its effectiveness is that a court cannot compel a lie. That is, the court cannot instruct someone to state publicly that no search occurred when one, in fact, has.

Robert A. Rushton, Brookline, New Hampshire

From: Judith Judson (jjudson frontier.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--panache

In order to demonstrate the word “panache” in English it was perhaps quite right to employ the Rostand translation that you used. But for many, many years the translation most employed in English language theater was the first and without doubt most poetic, that of Brian Hooker for the first great American Cyrano, Richard Mansfield. It has been said that it is greater poetry in Hooker’s English than in Rostand’s French.

And tonight, when I enter before God,
My salute shall sweep all the stars away
From the blue threshold! One thing without stain,
Unspotted from the world, in spite of doom
Mine own! ...
... My white plume!

But, oddly enough, to show the white feather is, in English, a way to indicate a coward.

Judith Judson, Pittsford, New York

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

Playwright, poet, swashbuckler, would-be-lover Cyrano de Bergerac was a man-about-town in Paris, a rival of Moliere, a critic of phonies in the court of Louis XIV, more remembered for his well-developed proboscis than for his literary accomplishments, who without Rostand’s unforgettable play would probably be little known today. The play has become a vehicle for some of the greatest actors of recent times, Gerard Depardieu and Jose Ferrer (2 hrs.), among them.

Every Saturday Cyrano reports the weekly gossip to the cloistered Roxanne, widow of Cyrano’s one-time protege Christian, until he is mortally wounded by the follower of a rival and dies just as Roxanne learns of his unrequited lifelong love for her. The last word he utters is panache, a metaphor for pride and honour, but in this instance also for his undying love.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Charles Koppelman (koppelm well.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--panache

Also a drink in France: beer and lemonade. (I know, right?)

Charles Koppelman, Berkeley, California

From: Ted McNamara (tedmcn22 gmail.com)
Subject: Well-travelled words

I would like to nominate as the world’s most traveled word, chai, which is Chinese in origin. It has arrived in English and means speciality teas such as spice teas (e.g., with cardamom), smoked teas, or other flavored teas. The word, with different spellings (cha, chai, shai, Çay, tsa, caa, choy, etc.) and pronunciations, is used in most major languages to mean the same drink from the same “tea” leaves, however processed. Tea, also Chinese in origin, is my nominee for the second most traveled word. It seems to be used in most Western European languages and to have traveled the colonial routes to many (but fewer) other languages.

Ted McNamara, Washington, DC

From: Werner J. Hälg (werner.haelg tecan.com)
Subject: Re: Thank you for being with us for 25 years (a quadranscentennial)!

I wasn’t aware that I’ve subscribed 25 years ago. I knew it was a long time ago but not yet 25 years.

A nice coincidence: I joined the 1st of April the company as a young scientist and celebrated this month my work jubilee.

It is still the first mail I read in the morning.

I like the concept of having a theme of the week, mostly eponyms and words borrowed from other languages.

I also like the etymology of the words, fascinating travels of words and their meanings.

To the next 25 years, cheers!

Werner J. Hälg, Männedorf, Switzerland

Finders Keepers
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: butterfingered and canary

Because I’m a type-2 diabetic with a residual sweet tooth, our word “butterfingered” conjured up fond memories of a certain scrumptious chocolate-coated confection with that hard-caramel crispy crunch, namely the Butterfinger bar. Yum! Voila!... butterfingered kid drops his ready-to-chomp Butterfinger bar, as an opportunistic kid takes full advantage of butterfinger’s fumble.

Going to the Dogs
I’m surmising most folks assume that in days of yore the Canary Islands must have abounded with those bright yellow birds... canaries, and hence the isles’ eventual appellation. But it turns out that indigenous canines, not wild yellow tweety birds were the inspiration for The Canaries moniker. Who knew? Here, doubting canary still holds onto the belief that his distant kinfolk gave their name to these isles. Our pooch begs to differ.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Pangraph (contains all words from this week)

After eight years with the ultimate Zen president, a man who defined panache, we were saddled with a butterfingered buffoon with fake canary hair and orange skin who defined himself by his alterity to his predecessor.
-Ray Wiss, Vancouver, Canada (portray vianet.ca)

1. zen
2. butterfingered
3. canary
4. panache
5. alterity
= 1. ≠ zany
2. can’t get tea in cup
3. feathery bird
4. élan
5. err
     This week’s theme: Well-traveled words
1. zen
2. butterfingered
3. canary
4. panache
5. alterity
= 1. nirvana, deep coherent ether
2. clumsy teen, be daftly awkward
3. artist
4. glitz
5. elsewhere
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


“Meditation? Ah, yes, changed my life.
I gained insight that cut like a knife.
Chaos ruled until zen,
But today, and since then,
I see clearly: the cause was my wife.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

A Buddhist I knew now and then
was reborn to zen yoga again.
She came back as a cat
and it seemed that was that
‘til that puma returned as a wren!
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

“While I sit on my eggs,” says the hen,
“I feel very peaceful and zen.
But once the chicks hatch,
and I’m through with that batch,
I vow ne’er to do it again!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Each year at this time it is when
I find I owe taxes again
To the Feds and the State.
I’ve left everything late.
This is when I try practicing zen.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

I sat in the garden again
In search of a moment of zen.
I emptied my mind,
But later I’d find
Mosquitoes had bitten me then.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Since his life was hurtling out of hand,
a slowdown and a break he planned.
But a timeout to learn zen
made him wistful and yen
for the old lifestyle’s wicked quicksand.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Do you know how I start every day?
It’s rather zen-like, I would say ...
I check AWAD’s word
And -- it may sound absurd --
Just stare into space til -- hooray!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

When I pick up my paper and pen,
Then my state of mind is one of zen.
Writing lim’ricks, for me
Is my lodestone, you see.
For I have that yen, now and again.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

My father was Jerry; I’m Ben.
We Stillers are all funny men.
And my mom? What a stitch!
So I, too, got the itch,
For to make people laugh is our Zen.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

“Seeing Earth from up here,” said John Glenn,
“Is amazing -- incredibly Zen.
I would write some deep thought
In the notebook I brought,
But it floated away with my pen.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Poor girl, she could not understand
what became of each gold wedding band.
She was so butterfingered
that rings never lingered
for long on her freewheeling hand.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

As a butterfingered young tot,
He tended to drop things a lot.
As he aged he knew
What he had to do.
When asked to carry, he would not.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

The china shop owner required
A new employee, whom he hired.
She was most butterfingered.
Her clumsiness lingered.
So subsequently she was fired.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

There once was a butterfingered bloke;
Whatever he handled he broke.
Though folks would guffaw,
This character flaw
When selling antiques is no joke.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Over candles and coffee they lingered;
He was sweet, but alas, butterfingered.
And crazy he drove her
By knocking things over;
Thank goodness the building was sprinklered.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“So, the bird’s early warning?” “A sign.
It will gasp when there’s gas in the mine.
Conditions contrary?
It’s bye-bye, canary;
As long as it’s singing, we’re fine.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Giuliani’s an unpleasant fellow.
He blusters and sometimes he’ll bellow.
With the trouble he’s in,
To save his own skin,
He’ll sing! That canary is yellow.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

At her concert the critics were wary;
Their reviews of Ms. Jenkins were hairy.
Completely off pitch
Her squawks made them twitch;
They called Florence one scary canary!
-Sondra Landin, New York, New York (sunnytravel att.net)

“Indeed, it is quite customary
to offer my pampered canary
the run of the house,”
she admits, “though my spouse
insists that it’s not sanitary.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The cat wore a grin that was scary,
For she had consumed the canary.
No feather was left,
And I was bereft --
So song birds, take note and be wary!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I once had a friend name of Mary,
Whose singing was like a canary.
But, she’d sing out so strong,
In a place that was wrong.
“No, Mary. Not the library!”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

My daughter, a Broadway canary,
Is finding these times very scary.
The theaters are closed!
But her boyfriend proposed,
So that’s good. Watch right here when they marry!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
(password: finallyhappening)

Upon ent’ring the bar with panache,
with the lasses he made quite a splash.
But they gave him short shrift
when they learned they’d been stiffed
with the tab, for the lad had no cash.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The film star performed with panache.
In silence he made a great splash.
He simply had flair,
Charisma to spare --
Girls swooned when he twirled his mustache.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“The ladies all love my mustache,”
Said Rhett, “for it gives me panache.”
Answered Scarlett, “Though craven,
My Ashley’s clean shaven;
At fuzz, I won’t bat an eyelash.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“I never quite seem to fit in!”
says she to her shrink, with chagrin.
Says he, with sincerity,
“Sounds like alterity.
Treatment must quickly begin!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

If you are a teen who’s unique,
Your middle school outlook is bleak.
I know there are jerks
Who’ll mock all your quirks --
Alterity’s not for the weak.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Republicans hold that alterity
Is a tragic restraint on prosperity.
“On voting we frown
If you’re Black or you’re Brown,”
They assert; “What ungrateful temerity!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Said Buddha, “It’s good to meditate now and Zen.”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Anu’s arcane rules for selecting limericks seem to be fro-zen.
Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Said Putin, “Ve’ll compromise Trump and zen invade ze Ukraine.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

When the farmer asked the goat who knocked over his fence, the butterfingered the horse.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

The doctor said she wanted to do a prostate exam. Next thing I knew, in my butterfingers went!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Asked the teacher, “Canary a person identify what bird this is?”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Oddly enough, Steinbeck’s novel Canary Row is set on a street known for sardine processing plants.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Ma once made him so angry that panache-d his teeth.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

After a few drinks, Steve Benko muttered, “I panache well ash Jim Ertner.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I’ll alterity-shirt so you have one that fits over your swelled head.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

The church mice prayed to Kitty at an alterity-bitty.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Keeping the home pyers burning
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Keeping the home pyers burning

Emperor Nero infamously fiddled while Rome went up in flames. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to have prioritized campaigning over getting serious about the Covid catastrophe. Mere months ago, Modi was touting his deft handling of the pandemic, while pointing out how other nations were wanting in that regard.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves. -James Matthew Barrie, author (9 May 1860-1937)

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