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AWADmail Issue 748A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language
Sponsor’s Message: What memories does “old school” evoke in you? “Thank you” instead of “No problem”? Saddle shoes. White handkerchiefs and white gloves. A hand-written note. Hitchhiking. Let us know -- we’re offering this week’s Email of the Week winner, Susan Bues (see below), as well as all you traditionistas out there a yuge chance to tell us what you miss most about the world we are losing or have already lost. You may even win some of our authentic ludic loot, to boot. ENTER The Old’s Cool Contest NOW.
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
From: Susan Bues (susanwbues yahoo.com)
I humbly object to your use of a Persian cat to illustrate the word ornery. Having been the staff person to six Persians (dogs have owners; cats have staff) over the last thirty-five years, I consider myself an expert, if anyone can be such a thing with such a unique animal. I can tell you that is their very normal, contented expression. They are all sweetness and light, despite appearances. And, when did you snatch Miss Molly to have her portrait taken? I don’t recall her being missing!
Susan Bues, New Lebanon, New York
From: David Ornick (david.ornick ymail.com)
Relating to unpleasantness, we have a colloquial expression, “As ornery as cat dirt”, with dirt as a euphemism for excrement. The expression can also apply to mischievousness, especially as with a child.
Dave Ornick, Morgantown, West Virginia
From: Tom Lund (tlund oppenheimer.com)
One of my favorite Christmas songs, “I Wonder as I Wander”, was written by John Jacob Niles, based on an Appalachian song. I have always been puzzled why the line, “For poor on’ry people like you and like I,” would cast us all as curmudgeons. Now, having been enlightened by A.Word.A.Day, I can humbly join the ranks of the ordinary.
Tom Lund, Minneapolis, Minnesota
From: Bill Raiford (br2002 rose.net)
My Father operated a grocery and market during the Depression and WWII. One Saturday in 1939, a farmer dressed in overalls came into the store with a huge number of children. My Father said,
“You’ve got a passel of kids.”
Bill Raiford, Thomasville, Georgia
From: Gene Heller (eugenepheller yahoo.com)
This took me back to the early career of the great pop-jazz singer Sarah Vaughan who, before she was known as The Divine One, was referred to as Sassy.
Gene Heller, Silver Spring, Maryland
From: David Palmer (palmer_dave yahoo.com)
Yosemite Sam uses the phrase, “What in tarnation?!”
I always assumed it was the slurring of the phrase, “What in the entire nation?!”
David Palmer, Gorham, Maine
From: LeRoy Beabout (leroylecoq gmail.com)
I was stuck by your etymology of “tarnal” (10.27.16), and it brought to mind an expression I recall hearing on early 60s television and in some movies of that time. The word is “tarnation” as in “What in tarnation are you doing?” Is that term a kind of portmanteau of eternal damnation? It appears to have been built upon tarnal.
LeRoy Beabout, Wisconsin
“Tarnation” is a euphemism for “darnation” which is a euphemism for “damnation”, just as “darn” is a euphemism for “damn”. “Tarnal” did have some influence on the formation of “tarnation”.
From: Doris Waggoner (waggonerdoris gmail.com)
What creed promises the paradise which is torturing this beautiful marmalade cat with such dreadful raiment? The expression on the cat’s face says he’s going to scratch out the eyes of the person who did this to him. I presume he’s being held down by someone who’s been erased from the picture by a software program whose name I won’t mention.
Doris Waggoner, Cat lover, Seattle, Washington
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
“I wear this raiment while working at my desk.”
Tom Wolfe; My Favorite Thing; Esquire (New York); Sep 2016.
I’m guessing that in our “raiment” USAGE quotation from the novelist Tom Wolfe he was referencing his now-signature tailored three-piece white suits that he often sports, projecting the stylish persona of the uptown, urbane literary dandy. So happened that Mark Twain had a penchant for often wearing white suits, as well.
So in captioning this week’s little cartoon ditty “The White Stuff”, I’m spoofing the title of Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, his chronicling the heroic exploits of our courageous NASA astronauts, here reflecting on authors Wolfe, Twain, and my little jumpin’ tuxedoed froggy character... all sartorially decked out in pure white raiments.
My jaunty cartoon frog has assumed the guise of Twain’s famous jumping frog of Calaveras County, who has borrowed a portion of Apollo-11 astronaut Neil Armstrong’s memorable moon-landing declaration... with an obvious reptilian twist.
Back in the day, tar-and-feathering was a not uncommon form of corporal punishment for those deemed to have broken the law of the land. The ultimate fate of the tarred-and-feathered “victim” wasn’t necessarily banishment to eternal damnation... tarnal; yet the stigma of enduring such a severe act of public humiliation and physical pain would surely have left its impress.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California
From: Kaitlin Kemp (littlebird.kemp gmail.com)
The shortened spelling of doughnut is not necessarily the standard across the US. Personally, I consider them two different things. Donuts are from Dunkin (or a convenience store), doughnuts are from Krispy Kreme or any cafe that makes them in-house. My first job was as a baker at Revolution Doughnuts in Atlanta and it cursed me with many doughnut opinions, but I still manage to appreciate donuts as well.
Kaitlin Kemp, Decatur, Georgia
From: Paul Franzmann (paulie627 gmail.com)
Somewhere along the path to a degree in education I learned standardized spelling came about due in great part to broadened public education. As this came about well into the 19th century (as far as the United States was concerned), it happened after the Corps of Northwest Discovery’s (aka the Lewis & Clark Expedition, 1804-1806) adventures, and you can see by their writings spelling had not yet reached agreed-upon norms. I don’t recall the actual count, but the journals contain numerous creative variations of “mosquito”, a near-pestilence for them in the days before DEET and netting.
Among the livelier aspects of a preliterate Anglo-American society were the signs identifying taverns. Pictorial images like “The Leaping Stag” and “The Blue Boar” conveyed precisely enough information to entice those who could not read the words. “Meet me at the Green Lantern” was understood by all.
Paul Franzmann, Walla Walla, Washington
From: Jack Salmon (2salmon earthlink.net)
Many spellings should be simplified. They waste space and slow down typing. My favorite example is burocracy, to replace the more complex and longer bureaucracy and more closely accord with the spoken word in English. Words adopted for use in English do not need to replicate the spelling used in the donor language.
Jack Salmon, Port Townsend, Washington
“Bureaucracy” has nothing on “committee”.
From: Dharam Khalsa (dharamkk2 gmail.com)
Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina
From: Robert Jordan (alfiesdad ymail.com)
Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand
From: Steve Benko (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
This week marks a milestone: the submission of my 500th AWAD limerick. I haven’t missed a word since I began doing them in Jan 2015.
That’s when I retired from middle management at a large corporation. Writing them is my joyous (and sometimes lengthy and arduous) mental calisthenic first thing each morning. I wake up, eagerly check my inbox for the day’s word, and set to work over a mug of fresh-brewed coffee.
I doubt I’ll ever come close to the consecutive-games-played streaks achieved by Lou Gehrig or Cal Ripken. It’s too many years away to even contemplate. Further, my job is about to become immensely more difficult as this freakish political year with its target-rich humor environment draws at last to a close. But I intend to keep writing, if perhaps with the occasional interruption, for as long as I can.
The best part about all this has been the friendships that have come about. Readers all over the English-speaking world drop me such appreciative notes, in some cases leading to rewarding correspondences. There are artists and scientists, poets and screenwriters, authors and musicians. Composers, architects, engineers, linguists, doctors, clergymen, office managers, columnists, professors. There’s a nuclear power plant control room operator, a school nurse, at least one Jehovah’s Witness, a retired military intelligence officer, a yoga teacher and food writer, an interfaith charity fundraiser, a Montana fur trader, a retired opera soprano, a psychologist, an environmental activist. Even an astrologer and palm reader to the stars. In many cases, several of the above descriptions all rolled into one remarkable individual.
They are people of such impressive backgrounds and achievements that I’m humbled by their admiration of ME with my skill at this one silly little endeavor. And all are bound together by their love of words.
Had anyone told me a scant two years ago that I was about to sit down, write 500 limericks, and develop a small but devoted global following among the world’s literati, I would have called them crazy. Who ever knows what what’s coming next? Life is beautiful.
Steve Benko, New York, New York
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
If you are foreign born, you see,
Let’s hope the transition is orderly,
We plan to be part of a passel
Said the counselor, “Admission’s no hassle,
Some thought the girl too bold and brassy.
Pretending to be cool and classy,
Two dogs and a kitty named Sassy
Among sins that may merit damnation
You’re on top and then suddenly tarnal
For the finest in live entertainment
Miss Fifi was the very proud claimant
From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
I told little Johnny to quit ‘onking the ornery would get a spanking.
A passel often surprise the defense on 2nd down and one (American football).
When Trump sassy will make Mexico build a wall, I ask, “How?”
Speaking of The Donald, you get the tarnal get the feathers.
“Is your wool suit a Raiment?”
Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense. -Joseph Conrad, novelist (1857-1924)