Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


A.Word.A.Day

About Us | What's New | Search | Site Map | Contact Us  


Home

Today's Word

Yesterday's Word

Archives

FAQ


AWADmail Issue 764

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

Sponsor’s Message: The Old’s Cool Tour -- Rally Around The Ivy League is the only vintage automobile event in the world that visits the eight most prestigious colleges on the planet, with tons of witty twists and tests along the 1,000-mile way. Diploma not required, so we’re inviting any and all gearheads, smart alecks, and bons vivants to come along for this ludic and lovely wind-in-your-hair ride. Oh yeah, and before we forget: congrats to the Email of the Week winner, Jamie Diamandopoulos (see below), who’ll receive our acclaimed One Up! -- The Wicked/Smart Word Game. Vroom!


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

Swearing, Italian Style
The New York Times
Permalink
(It’s more fun to swear in another language -- try it some time)

Trump is a Master of Language
Permalink
(A more precise title: Trump is a Master of Language Manipulation)


From: Bruce Reaves (reavesb earthlink.net)
Subject: OK (Re: bork)

You mention “OK” as an Americanism explained as “an abbreviation of oll korrect, jocular respelling of ‘all correct’”. I’ve heard that, and other, etymologies for the term. But the most convincing (to me) is that it’s of Scottish origin -- an Americanized spelling of the expression “och, aye” indicating consent or agreement.

Bruce Reaves, Gibsonville, North Carolina

Lots of readers sent lots of other suggestions. There are dozens of theories about the origin of OK. In fact, a 240-page book has been written on this two-letter word. OK: The Improbable Story of America’s Greatest Word. So, let’s just say there is a fact and there are alternative facts.
-Anu Garg


From: Richard Baumgarten (rkbaumgarten comcast.net)
Subject: bork

After Robert Bork (1927-2012), whose nomination for the US Supreme Court was rejected in 1987 after extensive publicity by various groups exposed his extreme views (such as, his support for a poll tax). Earliest documented use: 1987.

A more balanced etymology (such as his support for a $1.50 poll tax). Even in 1987, $1.50 was less than a pack of cigarettes.

Richard Baumgarten, MD, Grosse Pointe, Michigan

How about a poll tax of $150? Would that make you think twice? If not, go higher, until you reach a number at which you have to rethink whether this whole voting thing is worth it. Now we both can agree that asking people to pay for the right to vote is a bad idea, it’s just we disagree on the amount.

Empathy is being able to put yourself in another person’s shoes and realizing that what may not pinch you may pinch the other. An amount that to you looks like worth a pack of cigarettes may be a day’s meals for someone else.

It’s astounding that in 2017 someone would defend poll tax. There’s no justification for a poll tax, unless your intention is to disenfranchise the less-privileged. See also, the 24th Amendment.

Also, you don’t really want to live in a world in which Robert Bork makes decisions as a Supreme Court justice. For example, he believed that government should be able to fine or arrest you for using birth control. See more here.

In any case, thanks for taking the time to write. As long as we talk and listen to each other, I believe there’s hope.
-Anu Garg


From: Glenn Glazer (gglazer ucla.edu)
Subject: bork

In software engineering, we use bork in a different way. Borken is the broken spelling of “broken” and gets conjugated like a verb. To say that a server is borked is to say that it is beyond fixing. See also.

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California


From: Marni Hancock (mrh330 gmail.com)
Subject: John Hancock

My oldest son was born in 1976 -- our last name is Hancock. A nurse from the newborn nursery got quite offended when I laughed at her when she suggested I name him “John” in honor of the bicenntenial. Talk about grounds for justifiable matricide!

Marni Hancock, Springfield, Oregon


From: Alexandra Halsey (alexandra.s.halsey gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--John Hancock

Since moving to Seattle almost ten years ago, I’ve been a devoted listener and aficionado of its jazz and NPR station, KNKX 88.5 FM. The station often inserts marvelous little tidbit quotations from shows, talks, what-have-you into its ongoing musical lineup. One of my favorites is a clip that goes like this:

“Here are those papers for your John Hancock, sir.”
“John Hancock? That’s Herbie Hancock.”

(Well, you have to hear it to really enjoy it. :)

Alexandra Halsey, Seattle, Washington


From: Joseph Kithinji (njagikithinji gmail.com)
Subject: Today’s thought: Bad officials are elected by those who do not vote.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote. -George Jean Nathan, author and editor (14 Feb 1882-1958)

Considering that yesterday (14th February 2017) was the last day for mass voter registration as Kenya prepares for August 2017 elections, and considering how emotive and at times deadly (literally) elections are in our beloved country, a more relevant thought couldn’t have landed in my inbox. Kudos, AWAD.

Joseph Kithinji, Nanyuki, Kenya


From: Ron Betchley (emef hotmail.com)
Subject: Benedict Arnold

For many years the renowned Auberge (Hotel) Benedict Arnold in Quebec, Canada hosted many a United Empire Loyalist and its fair share of American revolutionary descendants.

Ron Betchley, Yarker, Canada


From: Victoria Reed (vreed mfa.org)
Subject: Benedict Arnold

I first heard of Benedict Arnold through the Brady Bunch episode in which Peter is cast as Arnold in the school play (which was apparently social suicide). Later, in middle school, my history teacher asked me if I’d ever heard of Benedict Arnold, and how; I confessed it was through the Brady Bunch. She said, in exasperation, “You’re the third person today who’s given me that answer!” Unfortunately, you cannot extricate Generation X from the Bradys.

Victoria Reed, Boston, Massachusetts


From: Bill Raiford (br2002 rose.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Benedict ArnoldS

In the Old Cadet Chapel at West Point, the walls are adorned with plaques for every general in the American Revolution, each bearing a name and other data. The plaque for Benedict Arnold is completely bare, nada.

Bill Raiford, West Point Class of 1952, Thomasville, Georgia


From: Wendy Pedersen (antiwendy yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Benedict Arnold

This email appeared directly beneath my daily NYT feed, with the headline, “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence”. Mere coincidence?

Wendy Pedersen, Albuquerque, New Mexico


Email of the Week: Brought to you by THE OLD’S COOL TOUR -- Rally Around The Ivy League.

From: Jamie Diamandopoulos (jdiamandopoulos yahoo.com)
Subject: McCarthyism

Both the word and cartoon of the day deserve special recognition. I was in high school and early college years during the “McCarthy era”. Fortunately, we also had Edward R. Murrow and Herbert Block -- courageous journalists and inimitable critics -- to inform the people and turn the tide.

After college, I worked at the Smithsonian Institution and had direct access (via the Washington Post) to Herblock’s cartoons. I wrote him to express my admiration and appreciation, and HE WROTE ME BACK! I don’t know what happened to his letter, but I wish that I had it now. One of Herblock’s cartoons shows a man (whose name is Hysteria) yelling “Fire” and trying to throw water on the torch that the Statue of Liberty holds -- one example of a picture being worth many words.

Jamie Diamandopoulos, Houston, Texas


From: Marc Chelemer (mc2496 att.com)
Subject: Gerrymander

I have seen the illustration you used for today’s word many times in the context of the word and am always struck by the apparent thinking that it looked like a salamander. I feel certain that early l9th-century men (probably not many women at the time, regrettably) of letters would know that no salamander has wings, a forked tongue, pointy incisors, nor clawed rear feet. What the cartoonist drew is more like a dragon. Perhaps because that word doesn’t lend itself to a combination form as easily (although I like the assonance of “dragogerry”), the word salamander was selected instead. The modern-day gerrymandered districts were quite striking in their shape. Thank you for that link!

Marc Chelemer, Tenafly, New Jersey


From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: McCarthyism & gerrymander

mccarthyism gerrymander
Illustrations: Alex McCrae
I’m confident that Senator McCarthy, in his bordering-on-obsessive, manic mission to ferret out closet Communists and alleged “un-Americans” from the ranks of high-profile Hollywood entertainment personalities, would likely have mercilessly grilled the likes of Mickey, Pluto, Goofy, Porky, and Donald if they’d been actual three-dimensional flesh-and-blood actors rather than famed 3-D “toons”, brought to life on celluloid, 24 frames-per-second, by the creative efforts of talented Disney Studio animators.

Curiously, both Senator McCarthy and Mickey have a defined widow’s peak in common. But no five o’clock shadow for our lovable mouse. Ha! Echoing the originally coined 19th-century “gerrymander” portmanteau word combo uniting Gov. Gerry with the word salamander, I’ve created a scenario of a motley amalgam of imagined electoral districts conjoined in the form of a deceased giant salamander, mimicking a police chalk outline of a human corpse, in situ, on the pavements.

Clearly, I’ve imposed my political bias here, strongly implying that the very fabric of American democracy is at risk of fraying from such an underhanded redistricting ploy -- manipulating the electoral map by one political enterprise to potentially gain a clear unfair advantage over its opposition, come election day. I must admit, I did use major hyperbole here, to make my point.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words

1. bork
2. John Hancock
3. Benedict Arnold
4. McCarthyism
5. gerrymander
= 1. scorn
2. mark “JH” on my check
3. betrayer
4. I’d condemn
5. to grab rich land
= 1. do by attack
2. my born name
3. jerk
4. harsh, condemn
5. re-circling chord
    -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)   -Josiah Winslow, West Allis, Wisconsin (josiah12301 yahoo.com)


From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Limericks

Congress could have exhibited stones
and not OK’ed each one of Trump’s clones.
Their refusal to bork
while enacting more pork
proves they’re nothing but toadying drones.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“Ms. Warren, if Sessions you bork,”
Said McConnell, “Your mouth we will cork.”
Up next: a crusade
Against Roe versus Wade
Because POTUS owns shares in the stork.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The day of their wedding grows near.
“It’s only a pre-nup, my dear,”
explains the young heiress,
“so don’t be embarrassed.
Just place your John Hancock right here.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

I think I may put my John Hancock
On the deed to a rice farm near Bangkok.
The travel ban, Flynn,
And the Donald’s thin skin
Have all left me nostalgic for gridlock.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Steve Bannon could be a czar cold,
Influences on Pres. are bold.
His alt-right leaning views
Are so much in the news.
Maybe a new Benedict Arnold.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

At my steakhouse last night I was startled
That the meat wasn’t properly marbled.
“For the sake of your heart
Lean cuisine’s now my art,”
Said the chef, a true Benedict Arnold.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Are you part of the Communist Party?”
Asked Senator Joseph McCarthy.
And now he’s an “ism”,
But lest we dismiss him,
The Trumps may be Vlad’s Ken and Barbie.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

A case of advanced narcissism,
Evidenced by extreme egotism,
Best describes our new Chief,
Doling out daily grief,
Arbiter of McCarthyism.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

McCarthyism, these days, goes like a breeze,
Fake news can be spread with ultimate ease.
What were once called lies
“Alternative facts” disguise,
“Incomplete information” used as you please.
-Kathy Deutsch, Melbourne, Australia (kathy deutsch.net.au)

“This precinct we must gerrymander,”
The Congressman said in all candor.
“I’m thought a fine fellow
In every bordello,
They love me there when I philander.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: An Ameripun Tragedy

The senators who opposed Reagan’s SCOTUS nominee feared Bork Peril Politics.

The firing-range instructor said, “First, John, han’cock the pistol.”

Trump has Benedict Arnold Schwarzenegger (and a lot of others).

I call my auto’s religious beliefs “McCarthyism”.

It’s ‘Gary’; man, der liberties we take with pronunciations!

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma


A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
It’s not a business with me. ... I’m not a professional of poetry; I’m a farmer of poetry. -Jack Gilbert, poet (18 Feb 1925-2012)

Feb 19, 2017
This week’s theme
American eponyms

This week’s words
bork
John Hancock
Benedict Arnold
McCarthyism
gerrymander

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

AWADmail archives
Index

Next week’s theme
Origin unknown

Like what you see here?
Send a gift subscription

Bookmark and Share Facebook Twitter Digg MySpace Bookmark and Share

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

© 1994-2017 Wordsmith