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May 16, 2021
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AWADmail Issue 985

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.

A warm welcome to students and teachers from St Michael’s School and a big thank-you to the Director Rajat Behl for sending them A.Word.A.Day helping spread the joy of words.
If you’d like to send A.Word.A.Day to students in your school or people in your organization in bulk, drop us a line at words@wordsmith.org. It’s free.

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

The Real Reasons Some Languages Are Harder to Learn
The Economist

Woolaroo: A New Tool for Exploring Indigenous Languages
Google Blog

From: David Warnick (dlwarnick1 gmail.com)
Subject: unshirted

Long, long ago, in the South, when someone was truly excoriated, it was often referred to as “giving them unshirted hell”.

David Warnick, DuPont, Washington

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

The softer you sing, the louder you’re heard. -Donovan, musician (b. 10 May 1946)

Today’s thought for the day reminded me of the story of the great Afro-American tenor Roland Hayes, and how at the beginning of his career he conquered a hostile racist German audience. He simply stood, gestured at the accompanist to begin Du bist die Ruh, a beautiful, subtle, and very quiet lied by Franz Schubert and the audience shut up. You can hear him on YouTube, much later in his long and illustrious career, sing that lovely, limpid melody.

Judith Judson, Pittsford, New York

From: Margaret Condy (condy nexicom.net)
Subject: Arrow-Collar

Maybe the Arrow-Collar Man was supposed to look attractive and suave, but to me he looks absolutely miserable wearing that collar.

Margaret Condy, Peterborough, Canada

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

From: Joseph Brown (jrb1953 yahoo.com)
Subject: Button-down

Worth mentioning is that Brooks Brothers is credited with creating button-down collars on casual shirts. A customer who played polo found regular collars flying back as he rode annoying. Later an employee named Ralph Lauren decided that he could make these Polo shirts more widely popular.

Joseph Brown, Edgewater, Florida

From: David Franks (david.franks cox.net)
Subject: button-down

Regarding the synonyms for button-down (conservative, unimaginative, conventional, staid, repressed, etc.), it is worth noting that Bob Newhart, famous for his stifled persona for sixty years now, launched his career in comedy in 1960 with monologues that sprang from his “button-down mind”. (The phrase was created by Warner Bros. executives.) The monologues were issued on four LPs.

Listen to Ben Franklin in Analysis (7 min.).

David Franks, Fayetteville, Arkansas

From: Caroline Bodoczky (cbodoczky gmail.com)
Subject: Button-down

In British English it is a verb meaning to get down to doing something!

Caroline Bodoczky, Budapest, Hungary

From: Harry Roach (1066etc gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--button-down

My wife is from North Carolina, where males not of the white-collar class sometimes wear a “button up” shirt instead of the usual T-shirt. The no-collar class.

Being in the professional class, I frequently wear a button-up button-down.

Harry Roach, Greensboro, North Carolina

From: Simon Etherington (simon.etherington legalaid.nsw.gov.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--button-down

I think any discussion of this expression has to note that in Australia (and, I imagine, in other places which use predominantly British, rather than American, English) we say button-up not button-down. This applies both to the more concrete use of the word (def. 3) and also, perhaps less commonly, to the more figurative extension (def. 1), e.g., “He’s a bit of a buttoned-up personality.”

Simon Etherington, Sydney, Australia

From: Chana Neumann (chana mindspring.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sleeveless

So then, wearing one’s heart on one’s sleeve? Connected to our knight? He would seem to be wearing one’s sleeve on his heart! And the heart and the sleeve are from two different people, whereas in the expression it is one person wearing his own heart on his own sleeve, an open display of emotion. A puzzlement.

Chana Neumann, New York, New York

From: Dominique Mellinger (dominiquemellinger yahoo.co.uk)
Subject: sleeveless

About sleeveless and manches, in French we have a phrase dating from the time sleeves were detachable: (Ça,) c’est une autre paire de manches (that/it is another pair of sleeves) meaning a solution/something one wants to obtain/a work/is more difficult than one would have thought. For example:

I’m happy grandma gave me some old silverware, but I would really love it if she gave me her small Gallé vase.
Ça, c’est une autre paire de manches!

When the orchard is ok, do you think it would be possible to clean the wild abandoned part behind the old dry stone wall?
Ah ça, c’est une autre paire de manches!

Do you think you can edit the whole book now you’ve done the first chapters?
Mmmm... ça, c’est une autre paire de manches...

Dominique Mellinger, Gorze, France

From: Glenn Glazer (glenn.glazer gmail.com)
Subject: shirttail

I’ve also seen shirttails used in place of coattails in the phrase: to ride on someone’s coattails.

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California

From: Lee Entrekin (harpo mindspring.com)
Subject: Squirrels

You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet. -Hal Borland

Borland never saw what the squirrels do to my bird feeders.

Lee Entrekin, Old Fort, North Carolina

From: Stephen Thomson (stephen.thomson hsf.com)
Subject: Shirt words

My favourite shirt-related word became part of my lexicon in 2014. I was living in Australia and the then-Prime-Minister Tony Abbott announced that he was going to “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin over a ballistic missile attack that took down a Malaysian Airlines passenger jet over Ukrainian airspace:

I am going to shirtfront Mr Putin -- you bet I am -- I am going to be saying to Mr Putin Australians were murdered, they were murdered by Russian backed rebels.

In Aussie Rules football, to shirtfront someone means to “charge into an opponent’s chest, typically so as to knock them to the ground”.

Notably, Putin escaped his next meeting with Abbott intact, and before managing to shirtfront the integrity of the American federal electoral system a mere two years later.

Stephen Thomson, UK

Straight Arrow - Joe Biden
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Arrow collar and button-down

In this scenario, I’ve imagined a young Joe Biden, in print, sporting a signature Arrow collar. Widely regarded as a pretty handsome guy going back over his 40-plus years in Washington, here, I’ve offered up a kind of rebuttal to all those detractors who argue he’s too old for the job. I give you the younger, suave, “Straight Arrow”, shoot-from-the hip, Joe Biden. To this very day, one of the spiffier pols on the planet.

Dressing Down
When I worked at Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros. Studios, and Disney TV Animation, there was a stark sartorial division between the so-called suits and us creatives. Speaking for many fellow “wrists” (those doing the hand-drawn artwork, now mostly digital), T-shirts, tank-tops, pullovers, shorts, blue jeans, sneakers, and sandals were pretty much de rigueur at the studio. If a colleague arrived in-studio in a suit and tie, they were either going to a funeral or a job interview, or had a hot date on tap. For us workhorses, every workday was casual Friday.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


The party that thinks of itself as the home of button-down conservatism and arrow-collar manhood continues to be in thrall to an unshirted bigot who will eventually be seen by all as a sleeveless shirttail to our history books.
-Ray Wiss, Vancouver, Canada (portray vianet.ca)

Antigram (anagram that’s opposite of the original)
1. unshirted
2. arrow-collar
3. button-down
4. sleeveless
5. shirttail
= 1. serious
2. the tall club owner
3. stern
4. worthless
5. trivial add-on
     This week’s Shirt theme:
1. unshirted
2. arrow-collar
3. button-down
4. sleeveless
5. shirttail
= 1. terrible
2. attractive, swell
3. staid, oh this underwhelms
4. otiose, worthless
5. shrunken
1. unshirted
2. arrow-collar
3. button-down
4. sleeveless
5. shirttail
= 1. vestless torsos in threads
2. rustic
3. liberal
4. worthwhile
5. an old runt
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


He canvassed my views; I diverted.
He pressed me again, so I skirted,
Until, finally, stirred,
I no longer demurred,
But gave him both barrels -- unshirted!
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Has it ever occurred to you why
Businessmen wear a suit, shirt, and tie?
That’s how they must dress
So they can impress
And sell you their unshirted lie.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

In language quite plain and unshirted
The fellow had simply asserted,
“I’m not having fun;
I think I am done.”
And then his new bride he deserted.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

With both hands in the till so to speak,
(She couldn’t help it flesh being weak),
she stole unshirted,
till cops were alerted;
In court she knew her prospects were bleak.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

It’s just shocking how that woman flirted!
Her intentions were baldly unshirted!
Don’t pass rumors, you say?
Huh! I’m hardly that way.
It’s the horse’s mouth where I have heard it!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“He approached me with ardor unshirted,”
Said Stormy, “but quickly he squirted.
And he’s too small besides
-- Like his dreamed-of landslides --
To be into my Oval inserted.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

My old granny, she was a big fan
Of the handsome Arrow-Collar man.
His good looks made her swoon,
But she learned pretty soon
He was only a flash in the pan.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

He was wealthy and also a scholar,
Who would give to the poor his last dollar.
Such a man to behold,
Oh, he sure broke the mold,
With good looks described as Arrow-collar.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

“When girls see them looks Arrow-collar,”
Said Granny, “yer trail they will foller.”
“In our new cee-ment pond,”
Answered Jethro, “A blonde
Who goes topless would sho’ make me holler!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Watching TV these days, I’m distressed
When I see men and women undressed.
How I yearn for those days
When our button-down ways --
And good taste -- kept me safely repressed.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

The man wore a button-down shirt,
His wife, a conservative skirt.
They’re both out of date,
But changing they’d hate.
With fashion they simply won’t flirt.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Since one was a bit of a square,
the other quite devil-may-care,
(the guy button-down,
and the lady a clown),
romance had no chance whatsoe’er.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Her husband’s a button-down guy;
They seldom have seen eye to eye.
While he watches Fox,
She thinks Biden rocks --
But somehow this couple gets by.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Who cares that I’m not button-down?
I’m the one who can best run this town,”
Said Donald. “A riot?
Sounds good! Hey, I’ll try it!
Democracy makes Russians frown.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

He was sleeveless and shirtless, bare-chested.
Much time at the gym he’d invested.
His efforts did pay,
For on one fine day
He did find one muscle, and blessed it.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Says convict to judge, “You must know
that my sentence was malapropos.”
“Appealing is sleeveless,”
says judge, “You’re reprieveless.
So back to the big house you go!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Her tops that are sleeveless reveal
The flab that she’d rather conceal.
She notes with alarm
Flesh hangs from her arm,
Confirming that gravity’s real.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“You can nail me up here, but it’s sleeveless;
In three days I’ll wake up,” declared Jesus.
“Mere death’s a nonstarter;
You’ll make me a martyr!
You Romans are no kind of genius.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

In an ad that he read was great news,
An offer he could not refuse.
He tucked in his shirttail,
And hit the dessert sale;
The growth of his waistline he rues.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

If Lorraine wins the lottery, you can bet
with shirttail cousins she will be beset.
But if she’s never known them
she’ll therefore disown ‘em,
for such fair weather friends pose a threat!
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

She hung by his shirttail her whole life.
She thought she was being a good wife.
When he left her she
Was in misery,
Until she realized, no more strife!
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

Do tuck in your shirttail, my dear,
Or else like a slob you’ll appear.
Please dress to impress,
For if you’re a mess,
It’s likely to end your career.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Next to you,” glowered Ernie, “we’re shirttail,
But you’ll never see me and my Bert fail.”
“My feelings you pierce;
You are little, but fierce,”
Answered Big Bird, and let out a curt wail.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The policeman known for walking the proverbial straight and arrow-collar-ed the suspect.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“You’re a little off today, Dad,” said William Tell’s son when the arrow-collar-ed his scalp red.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Shouted the ship’s captain during a storm at sea, “Button-down the hatches!”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“I’ll be button-down this matador in no time,” thought the bull.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The folk musician performed the popular song Green sleeveless the familiar words.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

On the beaches of southern France, girl-sleeveless to the imagination than they do here.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Replied the private detective when asked if he would follow the suspect, “Yes, I will shirttail him.”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Busted; Trump Kool Aid

Two weeks ago, FBI agents conducted a late-night raid on Trump’s former personal attorney, Rudy Guiliani’s NYC apartment, seizing at least seven electronic devices. The Feds were looking for any incriminating evidence on these devices that could implicate Guiliani in trying to ferret out “dirt” on Trump’s then-presidential rival, Joe Biden’s son Hunter, and his (Hunter’s) alleged shady business dealings in Ukraine. Stay tuned, folks!

Big Gulp
The GOP is under the spell of Trump, parroting his Big Lie that he won the election. Wyoming’s Liz Cheney is one of the few Republican exceptions who have said that this Trumpian fiction is a threat to the very foundation of US democracy and will ultimately lead to the ruination of the GOP.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

I have learned, by some experience, that virtue and patriotism, vice and selfishness, are found in all parties, and that they differ less in their motives than in the policies they pursue. -William H. Seward, US Secretary of State, governor, senator (16 May 1801-1872)

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