Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



Aug 15, 2021
This week’s theme
Words that look one part of speech but are other

This week’s words

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives

Next week’s theme

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 998

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

Sponsor’s Message: “This is a great game. I love it. It’s awesome.” Are you ready to ruin the rest of your summer? Wise Up! -- The Wicked/Smart Party Card Game has 100 Question Cards that are “way harder than Harvard” -- What’s Sleeping Beauty’s real name?, or, What does GED stand for? But wait! There are also 50 devilish Challenge Cards, e.g., Throw this card on the floor and pick it up without using your hands, or Swap shirts with the player to your left. AWAD exclusive Buy Two for Only $30 Summer Special. Ends at midnight. A fabulous gift.

From: Tim Buchowski (timbuchowski hotmail.com)
Subject: Multisyllabic replacements

Anu asks: What other words can you coin like this?

I ask: Why “coin” a word when you can “numismatic” one?

Tim Buchowski, Austin, Texas

From: Glenn Glazer (glenn.glazer gmail.com)
Subject: Perambulating the canine

Along the lines of using larger words when smaller ones might do, I occasionally say for humorous effect that I am going to “perambulate the canine” rather than “walk the dog”.

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California

From: Mike Boddington (mbodd laotel.la)
Subject: adjectives as nouns

I am fighting a losing battle to stop people talking about a prosthetic (adjective) when they mean a prosthesis (noun). Once these things have been absorbed into general usage, the fight is over.

Michael A.B. Boddington, Vientiane, Laos

From: Serge Marelli (serge.marelli gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--constitutional

I’m not much of a (Johnny) walker... But I do take an occasional stroll, and not being a troll, when I stroll, I do not glance, nor sing nor shout... nor do I push a stroller. I might amble with or without preamble... I like to take sauntering promenades (probably my French-speaking origins). All these are done leisurely and certainly not carrying 5 kgs in each hand... Unless I went shopping, which might be leisure, or not.

It all depends on how many syllables I want to spend describing my afternoon :)

Serge Marelli, Luxembourg

From: Alden Prouty (alden.prouty gmail.com)
Subject: Constitutional

In the 1950s, it was regularly reported that post-presidency, Harry Truman took his daily constitutional where he lived in Independence, Missouri. As a child, it was reassuring to know he did that every day.

Alden Prouty, New York, New York

Email of the Week -- Brought to you by Wise Up! -- Challenge yourself!

From: Johanna Meyer-Mitchell (johannamm aol.com)
Subject: Constitutional

Harry S. Truman was famous for his daily constitutionals, during which the press often interviewed him. Back in those days, he left the White House grounds.

When I was a child (in HST’s time), it seemed I learned that a constitutional was a walk specifically for the benefit to one’s health, often to stimulate the bowels. In that way, I suppose it is like taking the dog for a walk.

Johanna Meyer-Mitchell, Martinez, California

From: Norman Rabek (nrabek gmail.com)
Subject: constitutional

For my grandfather, his morning constitutional involved a trip to the bathroom. No further walking was required.

Norman Rabek, Burnsville, North Carolina

From: Victor A Poleshuck (vpoleshuck gmail.com)
Subject: End in -al or not?

Today’s email made me think that there are words which may have an -al added with no change in meaning (but maybe they’re fancier that way?). I’m an obstetrician/gynecologist. A prominent journal in my field is Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey which could very well do without the double -al.

Victor A Poleshuck, MD, Rochester, New York

From: Steven Price (sdprice510 me.com)
Subject: Five syllables for one syllable

Paronomasia for pun.

Steven D. Price, New York, New York

From: Henry-Lewis Blount (hlb.write-angle hotmail.fr)
Subject: single syllable vs. multi-syllable

How about car/automobile and lift/elevator?

Henry Blount, La Grande Paroisse, France

From: Paul Rescino (paul.rescino gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--constitutional

Instead of fart you can flatulate.

Paul Rescino, Baltimore, Maryland

From: Richard Politowski (richpolitowski earthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--commensurate

Love this word, but apparently it gets confused (easily?) with something else. On San Francisco’s (at least) CraigsList JOBS postings a search for the the word “commiserate” will always come up with at least a few jobs postings (this morning 15) with the phrase “Salary commiserate with experience” or something close to that. Maybe more truthful than commensurate!

Richard Politowski, San Francisco, California

From: Jerry Delamater (comjhd hofstra.edu)
Subject: curtal

Thanks for this great new word to add to my vocabulary. My sister and her family had a cat that was born curtal; they named it Minus. Before today I would describe Minus as “born without a tail”. This is much better.

Jerry Delamater, New Haven, Connecticut

From: Shannon Case (smcase mindspring.com)
Subject: curtal

Gerard Manley Hopkins’s self-named “curtal sonnets” come to mind. The marvelous “Pied Beauty” is the most famous. They were experiments in an 11-line (rather than 14-line) sonnet form, where the line groupings were mathematically proportionate to the groupings in an Italian (Petrarchan) sonnet. Hence “curtal”. But whatever -- here’s a link to Pied Beauty. Even folks who already know it should read it again right now! It’s a hymn in praise of difference, weirdness, irregularity, color, “all things counter, original, spare, strange”.

Shannon Case, Maplewood, New Jersey

From: Beth Williams (b-b3 juno.com)
Subject: curtal

So, is a pit bull a curtailed dog? And, if it just had a bath and nail trim, might it be a “detailed” dog as well, now, in both senses of the word?

Beth Williams, Portland, Oregon

From: John George (jgeorge gordonstate.edu)
Subject: Niddering

I have seen related words twice. Once was in Walt Kelly’s Pogo, a poem about “Fiercely Fred, the footpad dread,” who was “niddering and noddering in his bed.” Another time was in the novels of Elizabeth Boyer, notably The Elves and the Otterskin, in which “nithling” is an insult thrown about by the characters.

John C. George, Barnesville, Georgia

From: Suhail Nazir Khan (snkhan1007 gmail.com)
Subject: Mail from a logophile

There’s this Yiddish word nebbish that appears to be an adjective, but is, in fact, a noun.

Suhail Nazir Khan, Kashmir, India

The Bum's Rush?
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Curtal and Mosaic

For most dogs, sniffing each other’s butts is an instinctive meet-and-greet ritual. Here, I’ve introduced a ticked-off doberman pinscher to a Welsh corgi... a kind of Mutt & Jeff pairing. Both breeds could be classified as natural curtals as their ancestors’ tails were docked and over time stumpy tails became a signature trait. And that’s the long and the short of it.

Holy Moses!
Spurred by the dual meanings of the word mosaic, I decided to illustrate the Biblical character Moses as a mosaic. I picked Michelangelo’s “horned” Moses marble sculpture as the inspiration. Those stubby horns on Moses’s head are based on a Biblical mistranslation. Hmm... you have to wonder what else has been mistranslated? But that’s a topic for another day.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


Words that look one part of speech but are other
1. constitutional
2. commensurate
3. dialectic
4. curtal
5. niddering
= 1. a stroll
2. same measure, not eccentric
3. ah, debate the point
4. not protruding like if cut short, dulcian too
5. coward
     1. constitutional
2. commensurate
3. dialectic
4. curtal
5. niddering
= 1. stroll in aid
2. to coincide
3. argument
4. cut tail
5. miscreant, dunce
-Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


“Doc advised daily walk to lose weight”,
confides hubby. “However, my mate,
highly delusional,
nixed constitutional,
said ‘twas already too late!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Constitutional issues arise,
And you need an attorney who’s wise.
Since Rudy’s suspended,
He’s not recommended
Nor any of Trump’s other guys.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Every day take a nice constitutional,
And you’ll lessen your needs pharmaceutical.
That’s for you; for our Earth
To share similar mirth
Let’s all stick with containers reusable.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

She’s one of the women who say,
“Correct this injustice today!
We earn what we can
But less than a man --
Please give us commensurate pay!”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Fauci’s masks and vaccines are degenerate!”
Shout officials in states once Confederate.
With the rate of disease
That results from such sleaze,
Their IQs are inversely commensurate.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Prince Hamlet, his mood apoplectic
And worried by this dialectic:
Of whether to be
Or of troubles be free,
Lived a life that was surely most hectic.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

With food from a mind so eclectic
our wordmeister’s schedule is hectic.
For Monday through Friday
his passion’s his heyday,
preparing each word’s dialectic.
-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

Dialectics philosophers use
As a method of sharing their views.
And that’s how Karl Marx
Sure set off some sparks --
For the Russians he served as a muse.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The renowned chicken/egg dialectic
at start was polite and eclectic.
But soon tempers frayed,
and to curse words they strayed,
Which made the two sides apoplectic.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

When in a discourse dialectic,
Some scholars use logic eclectic.
Oft times it gets heated,
Then things are repeated,
And ends in a shouting match hectic.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“What mob? We’ll have no dialectic,”
Said Mitch, “as the truth’s too dyspeptic.
As Minority Leader,
A true bottom-feeder
Is needed, or things might get hectic.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

There once was a turtle named Myrtle.
She was born with no tail, the poor curtal.
No cloaca had she,
And she never could pee;
But somehow, she did remain fertile.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

“To keep overeating at bay,
I’ve invented a special soufflé,”
he declares. “This dessert’ll
transform to a curtal
your craving for food straightaway!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

On the curtal, an early bassoon,
He squeaked out a weird-sounding tune.
The neighbors, in pain,
All wished he’d refrain --
“He’s played that thing all afternoon!”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

I once owned a lovely Manx cat.
The breed has no tail. Think of that.
Though my pet was a curtal,
She was called fertile Myrtle,
Would have litters in nothing flat.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Though the Garden of Eden was fertile,
Humanity’s stay there was curtal.
“I tricked ‘em and how,
So there’s more for us now
That they’re gone,” said the snake to the turtle.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Yes, I scarpered -- I’m feeling no shame.
I’m a niddering. You’d be the same,
At the sight of your wife
Wielding whopping great knife,
Bearing down on you screaming your name.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Support for our Donald was withering.
His tweeting, his lying, his dithering
Deserved our derision;
And thus, our decision
To oust from his office this niddering.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

We asked the poor wretch if he knew
how to better himself, what to do.
“Well,” said the niddering,
“I’ve been considering
robbing a rich guy like you!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

I’m having some problems at work:
With Joseph, my just-hired clerk
I’ve started considering
That Joseph’s a niddering
Instead of just merely a jerk!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

Said Ophelia, “With all of your dithering,
Away all your chances you’re frittering.”
Answered Hamlet, “The bomb
That was dropped by my mom
Has at love made me into a niddering.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


Comic book aficionados walked around at numerous conventions and got their Comic-constitutional.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“The USS Constitutional blow those British ships right out of the water,” said the admiral.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Anu, in selecting submissions for publication, on what kind of scale do reader commensurate?
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said the Cockney telemarketer to his boss, “Don’t tell me I’m lazy, guv, I dialectic-ally all day long.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The terrified woman let out a blood-curtal-ing scream.
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

When she saw the curtal wagging, she couldn’t resist petting him.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

“As played by the incomparable Meryl Streep, Mrs. Jenkins has a voice that could curtal milk,” wrote the critic.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The frustrated mother yelled to her young son in the backyard, “Quit arach-niddering around with those spiders!”
-Jim Ertner, Greensboro, North Carolina (jde31459 gmail.com)

“This week we’ll make ugly Christmas sweaters which everyone hates but feels obligated to wear,” announced the evil head of the niddering.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Vote at Your Own Risk!
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Vote at Your Own Risk; Passing the Buck

Post the 2020 election, most Republicans have embraced and continue to promote Trump’s “Big Lie”, that the election was stolen. Moreover, many red-state GOP legislators are trying to fast-track bills that would make voting far more difficult for folks of color, the disabled, and other marginalized Americans.

Passing the Buck
No major US city is immune to the problem of homelessness. As a longtime Los Angeleno, I’ve witnessed a steep rise in homeless numbers in recent years, as our mayor Eric Garcetti claims the city is addressing the problem. Yet the issue appears to have become a political football with more and more displaced Angelenos ending up languishing in our streets and parks. If the current federal eviction moratorium for renters isn’t extended beyond the latest two-month reprieve, our city’s homeless population will likely swell to staggering heights. Mercy!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Solitude, though it may be silent as light, is like light, the mightiest of agencies; for solitude is essential to man. All men come into this world alone; all leave it alone. -Thomas De Quincey, writer (15 Aug 1785-1859)

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