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Jun 13, 2021
This week’s theme
Nursery rhymes

This week’s words
Humpty Dumpty
Mother Hubbard
Simple Simon

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

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AWADmail Issue 989

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

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

A Random Walk through the English Language
Scientific American

Knowledge of Medicinal Plants at Risk as Languages Die Out
The Guardian

The Struggle to Save a South African Language with 45 Click Sounds
The Economist

Where Is Our spotify for Books?

From: Anstress Farwell (anstress urbandesignleague.org)
Subject: Humpty Dumpty’s widow goes to the Met

A friend, John Reddick, took this photo of Ms. Dumpty, clearly still in a state of shock, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC, in Mar 2020.

Ms. Dumpty, still in a state of shock
Ms. Dumpty, still in a state of shock

Anstress Farwell, New Haven, Connecticut

From: Doris McInnes (javathehutt.java gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Humpty Dumpty

One of my earliest memories is of a story hour at the library where my grandmother worked. I sat on the floor listening with rapt attention as the storyteller read nursery rhymes. But these were not quite the ones I was familiar with. They started out fine, but ended with an unexpected twist.

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Had scrambled eggs for breakfast.

It was the funniest thing I had ever heard in all of my four long years of life. Then there were those clock-climbing mice:

Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mice ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
The rest escaped with minor injuries.

Obviously a formative experience in my life. I have since enjoyed sharing the fun with many of the young people I have had the pleasure to know.

Doris McInnes, Greenwood, South Carolina

From: Mary Boy (mary.miller.boy googlemail.com)
Subject: Humpty Dumpty

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde, an amusing novel filled with glorious satire and wit. It is based on many nursery rhymes, fables, and the like. The main character Jack Spratt is based on Jack Sprat, and the secondary character is Mary Mary, both from nursery rhymes. They investigate events such as the Three Little Pigs and Humpty Dumpty. People from such sources are known in the book as PDRs, “persons of dubious reality”.

Mary Boy, Falkensee, Germany

From: Nigel Brown (nigel.brown57 ntlworld.com)
Subject: Humpty Dumpty

It is a joy to see this entry because it gives me the excuse to tell the tale of the great cannon mounted on a church here in Colchester, England, called St. Mary’s By-the-Walls. It was put there to defend the town against Cromwell’s forces during the civil wars. The cannon was said to be egg-shaped and was given the nickname, Humpty Dumpty. It was a natural target for the enemy, who allegedly blew the top off the church tower and brought down the cannon, hence Humpty Dumpty had a great fall and was beyond repair.

The tale is disputed by historians, but it’s great fun to think the story might be true!

Nigel Brown, Colchester, UK

From: Sam Long (gunputty comcast.net)
Subject: Humpty Dumpty

There is a hilarious book, Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames (1967), by Luis d’Antin van Rooten (1906-1973), a Mexican-born American actor, that purports to be a scholarly book of French poetry. One of the 40 verses in it begins:

Un petit d’un petit
S’étonne aux Halles
Un petit d’un petit
Ah! degrés te fallent.

Say the verse in French, and it sounds like “Humpty Dumpty”...which of course it is. And of course the French is nonsense-French:

A child of a child
Is surprised at the Market [i.e., Les Halles market in Paris]
A child of a child
Oh, degrees you needed!

It’s a very chuckleworthy book indeed.

Sam Long, Springfield, Illinois

From: Ginny Hulse (gin.hulse gmail.com)
Subject: Humpty Dumpty!

Saw a wonderful Gary Larson cartoon this weekend! Soldiers trying to put Humpty-Dumpty back together with the horses queuing behind. The caption:

OK, OK,you guys have had your chance -- the horses want another shot at it.

Ginny Hulse, Cape Town, South Africa

From: Pascal Pagnoux (pascal.pagnoux gmail.com)
Subject: I’d never allow myself to think such a thing (I’m competing in a hypocrisy contest)

Promiscuity could be described as “hump thee dump thee”.

Pascal Pagnoux, Saint Gaudens, France

From: David Cattin (unclefun.dc gmail.com)
Subject: Cole Porter

Live and let live, be and let be, / Hear and let hear, see and let see, / Sing and let sing, dance and let dance. ... Live and let live and remember this line: / “Your bus’ness is your bus’ness and my bus’ness is mine.” -Cole Porter, composer and songwriter (9 Jun 1893-1964)

Nice to have a quotation from our local celebrity, Cole Porter, on his birthday today. The boy certainly had a way with words! We’ll be pulling out all the stops and celebrating all weekend long here in Peru, Indiana. Anything Goes!

David Cattin, Peru, Indiana

From: Ben Lever (ben.andrew.lever gmail.com)
Subject: Mother Hubbard

When I was a ravenous teenager who quickly ate anything in sight, my family and I would use this for the “cupboard was bare” analogy, as in, “I wanted to grab some snacks earlier, but it’s looking a bit Mother Hubbard today.”

Ben Lever, Ballarat, Australia

From: Brigitte Cavanagh (bcavanagh.foto gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Mother Hubbard

Mother Hubbard also means a cover-up and is used by John Lennon in his political song Bring On The Lucie (3 min.):

No short-haired, yellow-bellied, son of tricky dicky
Is gonna mother hubbard soft soap me
With just a pocketful of hope

The Old Mother Hubbard rhyme allegedly refers to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and his unsuccessful attempt to get an annulment for King Henry VIII. Old Mother Hubbard is Cardinal Wolsey. The cupboard is the Catholic Church. The doggie is Henry VIII. The bone is the annulment Henry wanted in order to end his marriage to Katherine of Aragon.

Brigitte Cavanagh, Paris, France

Email of the Week -- Brought to you by The Official Old School Field/Log/Road Books -- a hilarious trifecta of adventure and edutainment.

From: Athena PN (via website comments)
Subject: sukey

How did Polly become a pet form of Mary?

In the Middle Ages not that many names combined with rhyming and letter replacing, often the letter R being replaced with two Ls. So if your family or village has multiple Marys, some will be called Molly and rhyming gets to Polly; also Dorothy to Dolly to Polly, Sarah to Sally and on and on.

Athena PN

From: Ruven M. Schwartz (Ruven.M.Schwartz wellsfargo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sukey

Tea party in today’s Arlo and Janis comic strip.

Ruven M. Schwartz, Minneapolis, Minnesota

From: Jim Szpajcher (mudman1 telus.net)
Subject: Thought for Today

[Destroying rainforests for economic gain] is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal. -E.O. Wilson, biologist, naturalist, and author (b. 10 Jun 1929)

This makes no sense at all: unless the first world is going to lift the third world into first world standards of living, it has no right to demand how others behave.

The first world is destroying its own standard of living as it is: no one should emulate what Western Civilization is doing to itself.

Far better one consider the words of Charles Mackay: “Men, it will be seen, think in herds, and they go mad in herds, while only recovering their senses slowly, and one by one.”

Madness has taken over Western Civilization.

Jim Szpajcher, St. Paul, Canada

Humpty Trumpty
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Humpty Trumpty and tuffet

Humpty Trumpty sat on his wall/ Humpty Trumpty had a great fall/ All POTUS-45’s enablers and yes-men/ Couldn’t put poor Trumpty back together again. Here, my animated Twitter bird and Facebook logo have given Humpty Trumpty the heave-ho from atop his precious steel border wall. Barred for life from Twitter, his Facebook ban being extended for the next two years, and his “wall” construction on indefinite hold... alas, how the mighty have fallen!

No Whey!
Playing off the homophonic affinity between our word “tuffet” and Smurfdom’s sole female, Smurfette, I’ve envisioned this scenario of the coquettish Smurf perched atop a giant mushroom, a tuffet of sorts, enjoying an afternoon bite. On a personal note... I did background layouts for the first few seasons of Hanna-Barbera Studio’s The Smurfs TV series back in the early ‘80s. I could draw those funky Smurf mushroom houses practically blindfolded. Well... I peeked occasionally. Ha!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


After four years with a Simple Simon sitting on his golden tuffet in the White House, US democracy is now a Humpty-Dumpty version of itself, and we all need our grannies, wearing a Mother Hubbard, to come in with a sukey, pour us a nice cup of hot tea and fortify us for the hard work of restoring what is best in that still-essential nation.
-Ray Wiss, Vancouver, Canada (portray vianet.ca)

Mary, Mary while running to get the whistling sukey, in a Humpty-Dumpty move, tripped on her Mother Hubbard, fell over the tuffet, and exclaimed, “What a Simple Simon am I!”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)


Antigram (anagram that’s opposite of the original)
1. Humpty Dumpty
2. tuffet
3. Mother Hubbard
4. sukey
5. Simple Simon
= 1. humble rhyme
2. mound
3. mum’s puffy skirt
4. tea by the pot
5. stupid
     The week’s theme:
1. Humpty Dumpty
2. tuffet
3. Mother Hubbard
4. sukey
5. Simple Simon
= 1. hey, (thump!) when hit, the bits broke up
2. pouffe
3. mummy’s dress
4. tea-kettle
5. dummy
     1. Humpty Dumpty
2. tuffet
3. Mother Hubbard
4. sukey
5. Simple Simon
= 1. fleshy kid, he
2. tump
3. pretty shabby muumuu (fits mom)
4. pot
5. nerd
-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.


As he plummeted after his fall,
Humpty Dumpty had time to recall
Mama D’s parting word.
“You’re an egg, not a bird.
If you’re sozzled, don’t sit on that wall!”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

He will not acknowledge at all
His loss, which we all can recall.
How could Donald Trump be --
Unlike Humpty-Dumpty --
Still functioning after his fall?
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

On the floor broken pieces lay prone,
Once too often he’d dropped the iPhone.
At the smashed Humpty Dumpty,
He felt hugely grumpy,
For friends had supplied it on loan.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

It’s a dump, but I like it, it’s comfy;
I’m not leaving,” said Donald abruptly.
“I can’t be indicted;
By that I’m delighted!
Out there, I’m the next Humpty Dumpty.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

On the coast, where the winds howl and buffet,
You can usually find a damp tuffet
In the lee of the cliff,
There to sit with your spliff,
While you joyfully grin, share and puff it.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Yes, even the rich Warren Buffett
At times in his life had to rough it.
It wasn’t quite fair,
But possessing no chair,
He had to sit down on a tuffet.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

“My house! Wolf will huff it and puff it,”
cries Pig, “till it’s naught but a tuffet
of rubble and junk.
Then where will I bunk?
Alas, I will just have to rough it!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

We sit on the beach in the sand
And enjoy the fine summertime band.
If you don’t like to rough it,
You sit on a tuffet;
Whatever that is, it sounds grand.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

While she sat on her very old tuffet,
A small cushion she had come to covet.
She complained to her maid:
“My mound looks so frayed,
You must sew it back up and then buff it.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

“Why is it,” I questioned Miss Muffet,
“You always must sit on that tuffet?”
She then rolled her eyes
And to my surprise
That sweetheart just told me to stuff it.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

When making your own special tuffet,
Be careful on how you will stuff it.
If covered in leather,
You must decide whether
To leave it no shine, or to buff it.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Miss Muffet one day fled her tuffet,
And vowed, “Nevermore will I rough it.
No more whey, no more curds,
Forget spiders and nerds;
I’ll head west and seduce Warren Buffett.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Ah, my wife! Yes, she’s beautifully made --
A Rolls Royce among women. Top grade!
Look, see! Assets covered
In plain Mother Hubbard,
And she still puts Raquel in the shade.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

She’d put on too many a pound,
so no clothing that fit could be found.
When at last she discovered
a vast Mother Hubbard,
she felt herself fairly well-gowned.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

“I won’t wear that old Mother Hubbard!”
The teenager pouted and blubbered.
“What boys would come near
If I should appear
In clothes meant for cleaning the cupboard?”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Said Marilyn, “Wear Mother Hubbard?
In Playboy I’m fully uncovered!”
When the issue came out,
There was nary a shout;
All the men in the world simply blubbered.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

Quarantined with no way to be succored,
She dressed in an old Mother Hubbard.
But once she got jabbed,
To a bar grandma cabbed,
And back home to her bed a young stud lured.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

So, I’m slightly eccentric. Who cares?
Well, at least, I’m not putting on airs.
My kettle’s named Sukey --
So, sue me, I’m kooky.
It’s expected of us millionaires.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

She puts on the kettle for tea.
“I’ve a better idea,” says he.
“We don’t need a sukey
for my kind of brewski.
Relax! Have a cold one with me!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

That whistle so spooky you hear
Is merely the sukey, my dear.
I welcome that sound
Since often I’ve found
Some tea helps my sinuses clear.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I do love a good cup of tea.
When bad thoughts are bothering me.
I’ll put up the sukey,
And I’ll have a cookie,
Then right as rain the world will be.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

An Englishman puts on a sukey
To cure any ill -- yes, it’s kooky.
If you’re getting short shrift,
Drop a pill -- catch my drift? --
In his tea to make stiff what is droopy.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I assure you I’m no Simple Simon,
Or how could I do all this rhymin’?
Though you think me inane,
Anu’s words are arcane;
As they say in Jamaica, “He’s wry, mon!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


After clearing out his garage, Humpty Dumpty’d all his trash in the dumpster.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“When I forget the lyrics, I humpty-dumpty-dum-te-dum,” said the elderly singer.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said the trainer to the guy sweating at the gym, “You’re just going to have to tuffet out!”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

His habit was to tuffet out and not take the easy path.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

“My mother hubbard ober me like some kind ub helicopter,” blubbered the patient to his psychiatrist.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

She wanted to sukey people in her office for harassment.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

“Starting a publishing house won’t be so simple, Simon,” said Schuster.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I told the mechanic I just wanted my car to have a Simple Simon-ize job.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Immoral Equivalency
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com) Subject: Immoral Equivalency San Diego, California, federal district court judge, Roger Benitez, overturned a 32-year state ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons. Benitez opined that AK-47s, AR-15s, and the like, are “fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles ... good for both home and battle.”

The real mind-boggler was his equating the “versatility” of these high-powered weapons to that of a Swiss Army Knife. Mercy! There are bound to be appeals to this judge’s absurdist ruling.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry. -William Butler Yeats, writer, Nobel laureate (13 Jun 1865-1939)

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