Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



Jul 11, 2021
This week’s theme
Words used metaphorically

This week’s words

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives

Next week’s theme
Words coined after buildings and venues

Send a gift that
keeps on giving,
all year long:
A gift subscription of A.Word.A.Day or the gift of books
Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share

AWADmail Issue 993

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

Sponsor’s Message: JUST DO WIT? 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 recalcitrance, Shakespeare, history, how-tos, sports, wisdom and ice cream. There are also principles (Pareto, Peter), poetry, popcorn and trivia: What is Sleeping Beauty’s real name? Who was the last man on the moon? We’re offering a clarion call to intellectual adventure, to 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

Zaila Avant-garde Makes Spelling History
The New York Times

Six Types of Language that Are Hurting Your Company Culture

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Mixed Metaphor Contest

Thanks to everyone who took part in the mixed metaphor contest. Before I announce the prizes, an important safety announcement. The limited-time literary license has expired so please stop mixing metaphors -- results can be explosive and blow up on your page. Take the advice from Ron Davis of Deep River, Canada (ronaldsdavis gmail.com) who wrote:
Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

Here are the winning entries, in no particular order:

A rolling stone gathers no wool.
-Kevin Horne, New Orleans, Louisiana (kevin.kphorne gmail.com)
-Ralph Silberman, Arlington, Virginia (ralph.silberman gmail.com)

We always knew when she knitted her brows that she was deep into her woolgathering.
-Kathryn Freeman, Miami, Florida (kfreeman861 gmail.com)

Don’t just papier-mache over the problem!
-Jayanth Raman, Mountain View, California (raman.jayanth gmail.com)

They will receive their choice of a copy of any of my books or a copy of the word game One Up!.

Read on for honorary mentions:


The city plan had no more strength than papier-mache in a rainstorm of development.
-Richard Farley, Denver, Colorado (brokenbow41 hotmail.com)

They ignored the papier-mache elephant in the room.
-Kathryn Freeman, Miami, Florida (kfreeman861 gmail.com)

Our country was circling the drain with Trump’s papier-mache leadership.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Her rationale was a papier-mache fortress.”
-Kerry L. Bryan, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (kerrylll verizon.net)

The 45th president was a papier-mache made from the almighty buck and delusions of grandeur.
-Kate Cook, Yorkville, California (kborst mcn.org)

The art professor sat stone-faced and then said to the student, “You want to change your focus from marble sculpture to papier-mache? Let me chew on this for a bit and I’ll get back to you.”
-Mary Treder, Grand Junction, Colorado (mct919 hotmail.com)


She soughed at the thought of him sowing his wild oats.
-Kathryn Freeman, Miami, Florida (kfreeman861 gmail.com)

“This time it’s not just a sough, it’s the real 411!” said the boy who cried wolf.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

What’s sough with that windbag today?
-Michael Bucher, San Mateo, California (zoologuy gmail.com)


A bird in the hand makes my wits go a-woolgathering.
-Terry Stone, Goldendale, Washington (cgs7952 bellsouth.net)

Daisy Luxor produced her society column via her nightly rounds of soughgathering.
-Nedra Hecker, Johns Island, South Carolina (nedrahecker mac.com)

He caught me wool-gathering, my thoughts soughing in the wind like a papier-mache piñata.
-Lise Peterson, Aptos, California (lise.g.peterson gmail.com)

A wolf in sheep’s clothing has no time for idle woolgathering.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Well,” he soughed, “while you are woolgathering about space travel, and making papier-mache rockets, the Soviets are the first to put a man in orbit!”
-Perry Ekurtz, Oxford, Connecticut (perry ekurtz.com)


I have an itch to give that scabby scab a drubbing for crossing the picket line.
-Kathryn Freeman, Miami, Florida (kfreeman861 gmail.com)


She admired him, maybe loved him, and saw him as the flagship of the group, the one would always catch the worm.
-Jeanne Brudvig, Sioux Falls, South Dakota (jeanne.brudvig myyellow.com)

The holdings of the flagship bank ran dry after the ransomware fiasco.
-Kathryn Freeman, Miami, Florida (kfreeman861 gmail.com)

A whirlwind of publicity didn’t stop their flagship product from hitting the rocks, circling the drain, and going down in flames.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I’m I lost in woolgathering? Is my dream a papier-mache? I hope not, as I beaver away daily to build a flagship product.
-Emmanuel Efe, Aba, Nigeria (efe.emma gmail.com)


I was going to devise a text with mixed metaphors but came across this, a comment by ex-Trumper Cohen: “... they are starting at the bottom of the tree, and working their way up, by getting the smaller fish to flip with pressure on people like Weisselberg to rat on their former boss of bosses!”
I cannot do better than that.
-Tom Priestly, Edmonton, Canada (tpriestl telus.net)

One of my favourite mixed metaphors which I increasingly hear is: “Does the pope shit in the woods?” This is a mixture of “Does a bear shit in the woods” and “Is the pope catholic?” and is used for a question to which the obvious answer is yes.
-Joe Bates, Didcot, UK (joe.bates05 gmail.com)

Not exactly a mixed metaphor but my grandmother, who lived to 103, would say things like, “It was raining harder than you could fly.” Or this geometrical gem: “Him and me sat behind each other in church last Sunday.”
-Cynthia Costell, Palo Alto, California (flossyrabbit earthlink.net)

From: Gerry Foley (gerryfoley123 gmail.com)
Subject: woolgathering

Loved the woolgathering pictures. Reminded me of my childhood in the Australian outback where we kids could make a few shillings collecting wool, just as depicted above. Barbed wire fence was a great source (although at the time, I think we referred to it as “barb wire”).

Gerry Foley, Turramurra, Australia

From: David Franks (david.franks cox.net)
Subject: Woolgathering

I spent much of the summer of 1987 doing architecture study in England and Scotland. On the way up to Edinburgh, a group of us stopped to see a bit of Hadrian’s Wall. As much of England was at the time still a sheepscape, I found and collected several clumps of wool caught on shrubs and bits of fence. I still have a small bag full of the wool, which I nostalgically refer to as Hadrian’s Wool.

(I also have a small tessera from the ruins of Hadrian’s Villa, outside of Rome. Apparently an emperor could leave stuff all over the place.)

David Franks, Fayetteville, Arkansas

From: Marian Showalter (marianshowalter me.com)
Subject: Woolgathering

Reading today’s word, reminded me of something I had written in 1999. I used the word but maybe in a different way?

I would like to be
a shepherd of words
with a flock of thousands
spending leisurely days
in rolling hills
wool-gathering words
into clumps of poetry
that with sheer power
will overwhelm
marauding wolves
who, disguised
in sheep’s clothing,
lead words astray.

Marian Showalter, Novato, California

From: Elizabeth Boyle (elizbo elizabethboyle.com)
Subject: Woolgathering

Thank you so much for citing my book, Confessions of a Little Black Gown, for yesterday’s word, Woolgathering. I was stunned and delighted to see it there. I’ve shared your post widely, and will be sharing it with my newsletter subscribers tomorrow. Again, thank you so much for making this writer grin.

Elizabeth Boyle, Seattle, Washington

From: Richard R. Palmer (palmerpsy gmail.com)
Subject: scab, fink, and ...

Today’s word scabby and the associated discussion of scab and fink reminds me of sixty years ago when someone posed to me and I learned to pose to other innocents One of The Great Questions: “What is the difference between a fink, a scab, and a goon?” (As they relate to the labor union movement.)

In the exegesis I learned a fink is a member of the union who crosses the picket lines to work, a scab is someone brought in by management to work, and a goon is a hired thug to beat on strikers (may also be a Pinkerton-type or a cop). These tidy distinctions worked for me for years, though I now see that thee of AWAD hath fuzzed the boundaries.

Richard R. Palmer, Washington, DC

From: Jonathan Sims (profitpie aol.com)
Subject: Scabby

An expression that originated in the north of England is to be “hungry enough to eat a scabby donkey”. This does not reflect well on English cuisine.

Jonathan Sims, St. Teath, UK

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

Traditionally, the capture of the flagship signalled victory in naval battles, as during the defeat of the Spanish Armada by Queen Elizabeth I’s “sea dogs” Hawkins and Drake in the sixteenth century, and the victory of Admiral Nelson’s flagship in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

The latter engagement actually cost Nelson his life. Having been hit by a stray bullet, the British Admiral’s last words supposedly were “Kismet, Hardy” (Thomas Hardy being the Victory’s captain), though naughty schoolboys have paraphrased this saying into something presumably salacious.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

My Brain has a Mind of its Own: A Celibration of Creative Orthinologies
From: David Tuggy (davidtuggy gmail.com)
Subject: Mixed metaphors

My book My Brain has a Mind of its Own: A Celibration of Creative Orthinologies is built out of a collection of bloopers collected over 40 years and more. Many are mexed mitaphors, which are of course the theme of your page this week, but many are of other types as well.

A general name for my hobby is Orthinology, which is based on the report of a friend that “We spent the whole summer in Florida word-botching.” I think the drawings (mostly done by my son Christopher) are one of the best things in the book.

David Tuggy, Irmo, South Carolina

Paper Dragon
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: papier-mache and woolgathering

Quelle coincidence! The Google doodle for Jun 29 was a papier-mache sculpture (“alebrijes” en Español) mimicking the style of Mexican sculptor Pedro Linares Lopez, celebrating his 115th birthday. He passed away in 1992. By happenstance, one of this week’s metaphorical words is papier-mache. Linares Lopez often sculpted his signature bizarro animal pieces for Frida Kahlo and hubby Diego Rivera. Here, Pedro applies papier-mache to a work-in-progress, as Kahlo looks on, approvingly, accompanied by her pet monkey and Mexican hairless pooch.

Net Dreams
Considering our word “woolgathering”, I arrived at this scenario, where a Canadian high schooler is rapt in reverie, imagining himself scoring a game-winning goal for his favorite team, the Montreal Canadiens in this year’s Stanley Cup finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. But alas, it wasn’t to be... a Canadiens’ victory. The Lightning trounced Montreal in five games, winning the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night. Perhaps the Canadiens could have used a few timely goals from our high school dreamer. Ha!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


The sough is that he’s a scabby, papier-mache tiger who spends all his time at his flagship resort woolgathering about a return to power.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


1. papier-mache
2. sough
3. woolgathering
4. scabby
5. flagship
= 1. false basis
2. gurgle
3. weigh, comparing
4. patchy
5. pooh-bah
     This week’s theme:
1. papier-mache
2. sough
3. woolgathering
4. scabby
5. flagship
= 1. weak, pulp
2. moan, whisper, sigh
3. foggy
4. eschar, gobshite
5. hail the best, acme
     This week’s theme: Words used metaphorically
1. papier-mache
2. sough
3. woolgathering
4. scabby
5. flagship
= 1. a British rag (The Sun) pulped with gooey paste
2. high mewl
3. dream
4. flaky (oh gross!)
5. impeccable; showcase
-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.


“Your new line?” “Yes.” “In papier-mache?
Lingerie! Are you sure?” “I should say!
P-M bras give great lift
And the contents don’t shift
Though the briefs make it hard to sashay.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Young fellow gets carried away
by the sight of a baker’s display
of cookies and pies.
‘Twill be quite a surprise
to bite into papier-mache!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The books were in great disarray.
All pages chewed up as they lay.
Everything puppy-mauled,
And the owner, appalled,
Said “My dog has made papier-mache.”
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Though her outward appearance seemed gay,
Her facade was a true give-away.
She was flirty and smart,
Broke so many a heart,
But beneath that, just papier-mache.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

His beach house of papier-mache
A hurricane just blew away!
And now he’ll discover
Insurance won’t cover
The damages done on that day.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Papier-mache dolls in our showcase
had complacent looks on their face.
Mom would lavish them with care
(to other toys’ despair),
bearing in mind their frail carapace.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

What a weird way to open the day!
Find a lim’rick for “papier-mache”!
My brain is betwixt
Other metaphors mixed.
Oh! It’s time for some coffee, I say!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“Around eet I theenk I’ll sashay,
As America ‘as such cachet,”
Said Tocqueville. He came,
And foresaw Donald’s game:
“Zeir democracy’s papier-mache.”*
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
*from Wikipedia: “Tocqueville warned that modern democracy may be adept at inventing new forms of tyranny because radical equality could lead to...the selfishness of individualism. ‘In such conditions, we might...lose interest in the future of our descendants...and meekly allow ourselves to be led in ignorance by a despotic force all the more powerful because it does not resemble one’, wrote The New Yorker’s James Wood.”

In the etiquette stakes meine frau
Has the lead by a nose. This is how:
When in flatulence mode,
She will clench, as per code,
Then discreetly release as a sough.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

“There’s something awry with my puff,
and at times I cannot even huff,”
says the wolf, with a sigh.
“I try and I try,
but all I produce is a sough!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Said the lover, “Enough is enough”,
As she let out a long gentle sough.
“Though for sex I am bent,
Can’t you see that I’m spent?
And you, darling, are just a tad rough.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

I recently heard such a sough,
A rumor that’s juicy, and how!
I’m not s’posed to tell,
But, oh what the hell!
This secret I’ll share with you now.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

There once was an old dairy cow.
When milked, it would hurt her and how.
If one pulled on her udder,
She’d soon start to shudder,
Then let out a terrible sough.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Do I only need wine, bread, and thou?”
Asked Omar Khayyam; “That’s the sough.
The word on the street
Is that each guy you meet
Goes home smiling from under this bough.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Yes, wool-gathering broadens the mind,
Though the ignorant ... Pah! They are blind.
Did not Einstein -- Great Man! --
Have a daydreaming plan?
“It’s the great problem solver, I find.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

At breakfast time, Daddy is blathering.
Mom, half asleep, is woolgathering.
Left to himself,
he grabs from a shelf
some butter and bread, and starts slathering.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The old man, oh he loves his meandering,
Spends his days in bookshops while woolgathering.
He will wander through tomes,
Reading texts as he roams,
And enjoying his life by page-traveling.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

Said Henry to Catherine, “You’re blathering;
Further talk of a son is woolgathering.
Beheading, of course,
Is my way -- or divorce.”
Answered she, “Guess I’ll go for the latter thing.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“The exquisite sensation I feel
Is the itching of wounds as they heal.
I am all-over scabby --
Small wonder I’m crabby.
You can’t think all this scratching’s genteel?”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

He had hailed an old-time New York cabby,
But he got himself one who was crabby.
“I don’t do Central Park
In bright daylight or dark.”
Oh, this rude taxi guy was real scabby.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

He boasted of how he was “grabby
In language most scabrous and scabby.
Despite what they heard,
His base undeterred
Cast votes for this candidate shabby.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“While the Captain at first was quite scabby,”
Said Maria, “he’s now getting grabby.
And I like it; I’m done
With the life of a nun,
Though there’s still two more scenes in the abbey.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

As a person of some consequence,
And thus worthy to spare no expense,
Their “Eternal Repose”
Was the coffin I chose.
“It’s our flagship, so makes perfect sense.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

“Melania’s surely my flagship,
But who wants to watch an old hag strip?”
Said Donald. “With Stormy
Parading before me,
Lake Tahoe’s been one big long shag trip.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Having taken to drink, Donald called The New York Times and told the editor, “Your papier-mache what I want from now on.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

All of your moaning, sighing, and murmuring is becoming in-sough-erable!
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“Pork is murder,” said the sough.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

After vigorously scrubbing the kitchen sink, the lady spent time steel woolgathering.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Woolgathering in large groups spread the virus?
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The little boy hurt his knee even more by scratching his scabby-yond recognition.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“This scabby must think I’m a tourist,” thought the New Yorker as the taxi drove around in circles.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The nursery advertised that “If your plant should flagship it back to us.”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

Said George to Betsy, “When you’re done making the flagship it to my headquarters.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

True Colors?
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: True Colors?

An inconvenient truth? Here, Trump has caught a recent CNN interview with former VP Al Gore and is thoroughly chafed at Gore’s über-orange face. For Trump, he regards his own glowing orangy visage as a kind of badge of honor, rather than an object of ridicule. So, how dare Al Gore one-up Agent Orange. Color Trump green with envy?

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

We grow tyrannical fighting tyranny. The most alarming spectacle today is not the spectacle of the atomic bomb in an unfederated world, it is the spectacle of the Americans beginning to accept the device of loyalty oaths and witchhunts, beginning to call anybody they don’t like a Communist. -E.B. White, writer (11 Jul 1899-1985)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith