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AWADmail Issue 996

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

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From: Lisa Nazarenko (lisanazarenko.101 gmail.com)
Subject: misericord

When I was a child, my family lived in the Bronx, NY, near a hospital called Misericordia Hospital. I thought that the name had something to do with “miserable” because of the suffering of the patients there. Later, I studied Latin in school and learned what it meant!

Lisa Nazarenko, Vienna, Austria

From: Christopher Scholz (scholz ldeo.columbia.edu)
Subject: misericord

Considering the emphasis on abnegation during worship by the Christian church, shouldn’t misericords be called cheat-seats.

Christopher H. Scholz, Palisades, New York

From: Linda Kraus (cineprof aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--misericord

A book by a family member: The Hidden World of the Misericords by Dorothy and Henry Kraus.

Linda Kraus, Mt Dora, Florida

From: Christine Caroppo (cc-other bell.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--misericord

Well, that was uplifting!

Christine Caroppo, Toronto, Canada

From: Cindy Lamb (cooldoula gmail.com)
Subject: “The Mercy Seat” by Nick Cave

Thanks as always for all your wonderful words! I first came across The Mercy Seat (video, 5 min.) as a music journalist in Los Angeles.

Cindy Lamb, Louisville, Kentucky

From: Ron Rifkin (riffkid earthlink.net)
Subject: Misericord

The municipal ambulance service in Italy is the Misericordia.

Photo: Roberto Ferrari

Ron Rifkin, Oakland, California

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

Related to the Eucharistic prayer Sursum Corda (i.e., Lift up your hearts), misericordia shows the Latin origin of many of the words appearing in medieval church services.

An amusing illustration of the need for “underlying” support is Mr. Bean’s suffering (video, 34 min.) through a long and boring sermon during a service.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Dave Shelles (writesdave gmail.com)
Subject: misericord

I would wager that the administrators at Misericordia University in northern Pennsylvania would prefer their students embrace the first definition (and metaphorically the second) rather than the third. And I wonder if any students in trouble for their behavior have ever tried to ascribe that third definition to the school’s mission in their defense.

Dave Shelles, Acworth, Georgia

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

It’s that string around one’s swimming trunks which is so difficult to tie after months and months of lockdown.

Jonathan Sims, St Teath, UK

From: Dave Campbell (museumofdave gmail.com)
Subject: Misericord

In the Puccini opera Tosca, the malicious Baron Scarpia is searching the local church for a spy and throws his suspicions on the Sacristan, telling him that the criminal might be lurking in the recesses of the building, to which the old monk exclaims: “Misericordia!,” translated in my libretto as “Heaven help us!” What a delight, after decades of just uncritically accepting that curious expression of unease, to nail down the origin.

Dave Campbell, Red Bluff, California

Email of the Week -- Brought to you by One Up! -- Steal Two Today.

From: Steve Worshtil (s.worshtil gmail.com)
Subject: contrafactum

In the jazz world, the contrafact (you don’t hear contrafactum) is a composition consisting of a new melody using the chord structure of a preexisting tune, lyrics not usually involved. This was done initially as a device to avoid having to pay royalties on the use of the original, as the chord structure can’t be copyrighted. Saxophonist Charlie Parker’s “Ornithology” is a good example. It’s a tune (“head” in the vernacular) based on the chord structure of “How High the Moon.” Many of what are today’s jazz standards are, in fact, contrafacts.

Steve Worshtil, Plano, Texas

From: John Robert Kovalchik (jkt6tuba aol.com)
Subject: contrafactum

I immediately thought of Tom Walker’s explanation. His count of 111 songs written on the chord progression of Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” doesn’t surprise me. I learned a very long time ago that jazz musicians used the words “rhythm changes” as jazz speak for “play the chord changes that Gershwin wrote for ‘I Got Rhythm’”.

Another example of two tunes on the same progression happened to me and thinking of the story always makes me happy. Many years ago I was playing in a jazz quartet when the sax player requested “Donna Lee”. When I told him that I didn’t know it, he told me to follow the changes to “Back Home Again in Indiana”. No problem. A decade or two later a saxophone student of mine was invited to sit in with the traditional jazz band with whom I was performing. Our leader asked him if he knew “Back Home Again in Indiana”. When he said that he did not, I told him to play the changes to “Donna Lee”. He was an excellent student and I knew that he would be able to play along.

John R. Kovalchik, Petersburg, Pennsylvania

From: Trish Arndt (misstrish64 gmail.com)
Subject: Contrafactum

It is a source of amusement to many Australians that our national anthem, Advance Australia Fair (video, 2 min.), is easily sung to the Gilligan’s Island theme song.

Trish Arndt, Perth, Australia

From: Bob Freeman (hendon zol.co.zw)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--contrafactum

This takes me back to the 1950s, when, as a Royal Air Force apprentice, among other teenagers with acrobatic hormones, we would, in the mess of NAAFI (Navy, Army, Air Force institute), sing songs of varying levels of bawdiness and ribaldry.

Some clever, some clumsy, some just obscene, each adapted to tunes from folk songs, classics, opera or hymns, no melody was safe.

I do wonder if the WAAFs (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) and WRENS (Women’s Royal Navy) ever had similar sessions.

Years later, I came across the rugby songs of the Jock Strapp ensemble on LP discs (heavily censored). I believe that many of these songs have since been published in book form (uncensored).

It might be fun to invite your neighbours round for tea and biscuits and a sing along.

Bob Freeman, Kadoma, Zimbabwe

From: Jay Florey (jfflorey integra.net)
Subject: Contrafactum

“Weird Al” Yankovic made practically an entire career out of contrafactum. As did other lesser known artists like Spike Jones and Allan Sherman.

Jay Florey, Olympia, Washington

From: Anjani Milkert (minnie.milkert state.mn.us)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--contrafactum

What a fun and interesting word! I can think of another contrafactum: The ABC song; Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star; and Baa Baa Black sheep!

Anjani Milkert, St. Paul, Minnesota

From: Brian Feit (brianfeit msn.com)
Subject: Contrafactum

And if adding lyrics to classics is a contrafactum, US advertising is a contrafactum factory.

Brian Feit, Silver Spring, Maryland

From: Lynn Mancini (mancini dtcc.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--contrafactum

People who participate in science fiction or fantasy communities refer to a contrafactum as a filk. This word originated from a typo in what was supposed to be the phrase “folk songs”.

Lynn Mancini, Newark, Delaware

From: Michela Steele (signsteele gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--akrasia

The Marshmallow experiment was redone with a much larger sample showing results that have more to do with socioeconomics. See here.

Michela Steele, Prairie Grove, Arkansas

From: Ariannah Justinen Armstrong (shumiknit gmail.com)
Subject: akrasia

My husband and I have recently been watching the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (1995, Colin Firth, Jennifer Ehle) and reading the novel. This morning he said to me that Mr. Darcy’s first proposal to Elizabeth Bennet was because of akrasia :)

Ariannah Justinen Armstrong, Halifax, Canada

From: David Boehm (dboeh me.com)
Subject: Thanks

I used to love having, knowing, and retrieving wonderful words to articulate a thought “buried in my back pocket” so-to-speak. But, then, I left them buried too long and their forms began to decay. They no longer pop out on command, and sometimes the wrong words (or made-up ones entirely) fill their place. I signed up for a few AWAD emails to counteract this decline and, boy, have I been delighted with yours.

Learning has always been a pleasure for me. But even still, it would take me lots of everyday meals to come across so many desserts on my own. Browsing your curations is like sitting down at the chef’s table for a six-hour display of all-you-can-eat dessert with no risk of diabetes. A truly fantastic joyful exercise to exhibit my ingenuous lack of willpower.

I will continue to encourage nearly everyone I know to sign up.

David Boehm, Tempe, Arizona

Bottoms Up!
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: misericord and eidolon

Trust occasional provocateur, yours truly, to take the naughty route, choosing to illustrate the pew seat definition of the word misericord. Young Angus had heard rumors that some pews at St. Andrew’s kirk had rather bawdy misericords. Here, he’s found one of them, his mum unaware of Angus’s racy discovery.


Considering the word eidolon, meaning “an idealized form”, I thought of ancient Greek artists who portrayed their pantheon of gods and goddesses as paradigms of beauty and physical perfection. On the other hand, later Roman sculptors no longer cleaved to the Greek ideal, depicting their subjects warts-and-all. Bear in mind, Roman sculptors did make scores of faithful copies, mostly in marble, of classical Greek bronzes, most sadly having been melted down for cannon fodder. Here, I’ve tried to demonstrate the contrast between classical Roman and classical Greek sculpture, with a bust of Roman statesman Lucius Caecilius Iucundus and the Greek goddess Aphrodite.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: There’s a word for it
1. misericord
2. contrafactum
3. akrasia
4. aquabib
5. eidolon
= 1. quarter
2. a second set of words, similar air
3. weak oafish Briton
4. committed Rechabite
5. kehua
     1. misericord
2. contrafactum
3. akrasia
4. aquabib
5. eidolon
= 1. an aid, brace
2. music’s reboot
3. a lack
4. not a daiquiri!
5. form
     This week’s theme: There’s a word for it
1. misericord
2. contrafactum
3. akrasia
4. aquabib
5. eidolon
= 1. behind a choir seat
2. same music - track differs tho
3. no brake, liar too
4. quite a wowser
5. dream it
-Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com) -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


I’m blaming the old so-and-so
who examined my tax folio.
If only that auditor ‘d
shown some misericord,
I’d be still wealthy, you know!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Refectory food was quite bland,
But one other choice was at hand --
A misericord fine
Where monastics could dine,
And meat that they loved wasn’t banned.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Following Surgeon General’s finding,
“No Smoking” in office was binding;
Though a misericord
was found for the horde
who (come what may) puffed for unwinding.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Said Lewis, “We’ll soon the Missouri ford,
Then the West is one great big misericord.”
Answered Clark, “Sounds like fun!”
And thought, “Meri’s the one,”
Until under their blanket of fur he snored.
(Note: The book Undaunted Courage, the story of their expedition by historian Stephen Ambrose, convinced me, without coming out and saying so, that Lewis was gay and Clark bi-.)
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Song writing not being controlled,
producers of music grew bold.
New tunes? When they lacked ‘em,
they used contrafactum,
and stole from composers of old.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Feeling starved for a good contrafactum,
Said Trump, “’Tis of thee’s not my maxim.
‘My country’ -- that’s great.
After that, I’m irate;
‘Tis of me,’ it should be”;* and he sacked ‘em.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
*Full stanza:
 My country ‘tis of me
 Sweet land of me me me
 Of me I sing

“Oh, I knew that I shouldn’t.” “But did?”
“Well, when tempted, I do as I’m bid’.
It’s akrasia’s fault.
When it mounts an assault
Superego’s at war with the Id.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

“My judgment is poor, I agree.
I don’t function expediently.
Although it sounds crazy, a
guy with akrasia
simply can’t help it!” says he.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Akrasia is too well known to me.
It is the way I was meant to be.
But I’ve dearly paid
For mistakes I’ve made.
Did it teach me anything? Let’s see.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

She always gives in to temptation.
“Can’t help it -- I love the sensation!”
Her case of akrasia
Is famed throughout Asia --
Word’s traveled from nation to nation.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I spy a small piece of rich cake.
To eat it would be a mistake.
But crazy akrasia
Will often amaze ya.
My diet I leave in the wake.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Said Walt Disney, “My movie Fantasia
Will dazzle, delight and amaze ya.
In an underground room
Watch a sorcerer’s broom
Come to life due to Mickey’s akrasia.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“That I choose to imbibe H2O
Is no other man’s business. Ergo,
Thank you, no, I’ll abstain.
Aquabib I remain --
If that causes offence, then I’ll go.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

She draws a flacon from her blouse,
and winks. “I was once quite a souse.
An avowed aquabib,
now I sip just a drib
when I can, unbeknownst to my spouse!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

“No thank you,” the aquabib said,
When offered a drink with a head.
“I think I will pass
On what’s in that glass --
I’d rather have water instead.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

My dear grandma told grandpa a lie,
That no alcohol she’d ever try.
But, ‘twas a small fib.
She was no aquabib.
Now and then took a nip on the sly.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Though His words sometimes seem to make Allah glib,
We must each of us still be an aquabib,”
Said Mohammed. “With booze,
Paradise we would lose,
And I’m telling the truth. This is not a fib.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

That miserly Eb’nezer Scrooge
Believed: “Après moi, le déluge”.
Some eidolons came fast.
They brought Christmases past
And feelings of guilt that were huge.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Says the prof, “I give commas their due,
and certainly periods, too.
But to me, semicolons
are truly eidolons.
They separate clauses for you!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

On TikTok the girl can be seen,
A stunning eidolon on screen!
Her cheekbones, I feel,
Are really ideal --
A future in film has this teen!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Laughed Stormy, “If this is you swollen,
You aren’t your gender’s eidolon.
But go on, have your way,
For six figures you’ll pay
When I’m done; so c’mon, let’s get rollin’.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming tonight to see Steve Benko as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Please put away your video cameras, as we do not allow you to the misericord.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said Kelliannus, “Though you profess to have seen Caesar cross the Rubicon, we have a contrafactum.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Akrasia comedian than Robin Williams you’ll never find,” said the critic.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“A line of baby clothes would be great!” the promotor shouted at the submerged superhero from his boat. “Aqua T-shirts, Aquabooties, Aquabibs, you name it!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The baby’s favorite color was a greenish blue, so she wouldn’t eat without wearing her aquabib.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“You almost got me killed, yet eidolon-ordinate amounts of lies out for you, Mr. President,” whined Kevin McCarthy.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

McCarthy & Trump: Bushwhacked
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: McCarthy & Trump: Bushwhacked

It didn’t take much, if any, cajoling by House majority leader Nancy Pelosi to persuade Republicans Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney into joining her House fact-finding committee to investigate the Jan 6 Capitol insurrection. Both Kinzinger and Cheney have been vilified by fellow Republicans for not cleaving to Trump’s “Big Lie”. Any GOPer who doesn’t subscribe to Trump’s warped view is labeled a RINO, Republican In Name Only.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

I asked a man in prison once how he happened to be there and he said he had stolen a pair of shoes. I told him if he had stolen a railroad he would be a United States Senator. -Mary Harris Jones (popularly known as Mother Jones), teacher and activist (1 Aug 1837-1930))

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