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Aug 28, 2022
This week’s theme
Movies that became words

This week’s words
groundhog day
King Kong
Mad Max

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

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Metaphors & idioms
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AWADmail Issue 1052

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

Sponsor’s Message: “Devilish.” Wise Up! has 100 wicked smart Question Cards -- What can go up the chimney down but not down the chimney up? What’s Sleeping Beauty’s real name? But wait! There are also fifty nifty Challenge Cards -- Throw this card on the floor and pick it up without using your hands, or Swap shirts with the player to your left. Way Fun Summer Special: Twofer $29.99. Shop-a-rooney!

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

The AI Startup Erasing Call Center Worker Accents: Is It Fighting Bias -- or Perpetuating It?
The Guardian

Whom Can Tell One’s Social Class Based on Grammar?
The New York Times

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Movie titles as metaphors

What movie titles do you use as metaphors? I asked readers this week and responses poured in. Here’s a selection.

My friends and I say “Let’s Godfather him/her,” make them an offer they can’t refuse.
-Carmelo J. Corica, Denver, Colorado (oldehippy ymail.com) My two kids, inspired by television shows rather than movies, call my house Animal Planet or Wild Kingdom. I have two dogs and three cats, and lots of backyard birds (safe from the indoor cats.)
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

While I don’t actually use it, I think On The Beach could be an apt reference to the time remaining when there is nothing left to do to avoid a catastrophe (particularly one man-made like global warming). It comes of course from the 1959 Stanley Kramer filmname.
As to possible usage, “Concerning the fate of the glaciers, I think we’re already on the beach.” Not exactly the feel-good movie of that (or any) summer, it remains one of my favorites for its depiction of humanity at its best and worst.
-Reade Whitwell, Seattle, Washington (yestertek gmail.com)

Totoro, from Hayao Miyazaki’s delightful animated film My Neighbor Totoro (1988), in which large blue creatures who don’t look or behave at all like humans nonetheless prove to be imaginative, gentle, caring neighbors, and everybody gets along wonderfully well. This would serve as a counterpoint to the imagery in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), equally brilliant (in a completely different way), in which “the other” is seen as a source of unremitting terror and death. As it happens, “alien” is already widely applied to people coming to America from outside our borders, but it would be better, I think, to visualize our new neighbors as “totoros”.
-Richard S. Russell, Madison, Wisconsin (RichardSRussell tds.net)

Star Wars. Referring to the bar scene full of weirdos, as in, “That party was totally Star Wars.”
-Mary Kaye Bates, West Palm Beach, Florida (wordlady1 comcast.net)

I use the 1939 David O. Selznik epic Gone With The Wind as an allusion to events or conditions that no longer exist, such as a ball team’s auspicious beginning fades as the season continues, the closing of a once-popular store or other business, or -- ruefully -- the death of a friend, relative, or pet. The film title was taken from the poem “Non sum qualis eram bonae sub regno Cynarae” by the British poet Earnest Dowson, a lament for a lost love: “I have forgot much, Cynara! gone with the wind, Flung roses, roses riotously with the throng ...”
-Steven D. Price, New York, New York (sdprice510 mac.com)

Casablanca: To sacrifice something for love. I hate Pittsburgh but he casablanca’d me. That’s why I’m here.
-Michele Richards, Sedona, Arizona (michelelamar gmail.com)

Sooo many! How ‘bout this to start: A Bridge Too Far, 1977.
-Chuck McConnell, Portland, Oregon (bestofpdx gmail.com)

I like to describe my life with my partner, my girlfriend, my Love... “Well, we have a When Harry Met Sally kind of relationship.”
-David Ippolito, “That Guitar Man from Central Park”, New York, New York (david thatguitarman.com)

We have two movie titles that have become shorthand for other movies. If a movie has been impossible to watch, being dark and indecipherable it’s “totally Eraserhead”.
If a movie is inexplicably popular for reasons we can’t fathom: it’s “Lost in Translation”.
-D’cady Sarahchild, Santa Rosa, California (dcsarah comcast.net)

My favorite in this category is gaslight. What I find most interesting is that this term seems to have gained currency in recent years with the millennial generation, many who have never seen the classic 1944 Ingrid Bergman film or even have any idea of the origin of the term.
-Russell Lott, Hattiesburg, Mississippi (russellwlott comcast.net)

From: Milton Bogoch (milton bogoch.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--groundhog day

Thank you so much for your tricky wit. Your story of Total Attrition has me chuckling in my morning office chair ride. The story also tells me that you are not too old, because when you get old, between ageing eyesight and ageing brain, you don’t need a tree to create wonderful name confusions. The events are fleeting. Can’t think of any right now, but when they happen, it’s just too funny. I amuse myself, and you amuse me.

Milton Bogoch, Calgary, Canada

From: Jo Grimwade (jolyongrimwade gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--groundhog day

As a practising clinical psychologist, my patients will mention groundhog day from time to time to describe their frustrations with an unchanging set of circumstances. I comment that the story is one of change through repetition. Even though each day begins with the radio, each day is a challenge for Phil: eventually after attempting suicide several times, he decides to avoid the puddle and his annoying former classmate, catch the kid falling from the tree, and learns how to play the piano and to ice sculpt. Through the repetition, insight and subtle change emerges until, suddenly, he is able to love and the relationship of meaning is born.

The story is an in vivo version of therapy. The patients go off and watch the film again and return with a different feeling about repetition. The loop is an illusion; change happens.

Jo Grimwade, Essendon, Australia

From: Mary Ellen Rimsza MD FAAP (mary.rimsza gmail.com)
Subject: Groundhog day

The most remarkable usage of the word was by Zelensky who compared the daily threats on his life by the Russians to groundhog day. Since he is a comedian, I can understand his use of the term, but it still shocked me that he was able to make this comparison so nonchalantly when he was a target of assassination.

Mary Ellen Rimsza, Tucson, Arizona

From: Barbara Fix (baafix earthlink.net)
Subject: groundhog day

Years ago Danny Rubin, writer of the movie Groundhog Day, joined the audience on Zoom in an event. He was asked whether he had ever contemplated a sequel to the movie. After a pause, he said sure, the question had come to him, but the decision would be to call it Groundhog Day #2 and just show the original movie.

Barbara Fix, Santa Fe, New Mexico

From: Michael Schlesinger (mikey riobraverman.com)
Subject: Groundhog Day

Let the record show that Groundhog Day was a rip-off of 12:01 PM, in which a man was forced to relive the same hour over and over again. It began life as a 1973 short story by Richard Lupoff, which was then filmed and aired on Showtime in 1990. As is so often the case, the original gets forgotten when the imitator becomes famous. In fact, Lupoff and the film’s producers wanted to file a plagiarism suit, but their lawyers told them that suing a major studio costs a fortune (which they did not have) and almost always ends in a loss.

Michael Schlesinger, Sherman Oaks, California

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: groundhog day

In Ontario, Canada, the animal used for prediction of an early or late spring is Wiarton Willie. (The nickname is probably due to the alliteration.) Wiarton is a small town on the Bruce peninsula of Georgian Bay in Lake Huron. Sometimes the festival dedicated to Willie lasts as long as five days.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Tobias Baskin (baskin umass.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--rashomon

The rashomon stories recounting the death of Jhondie Maglinte Helis are typical of the Philippines’ war on drugs under President Rodrigo Duterte. ... The officers say they shot and killed the pair after both of them drew guns in an attempt to resist arrest. Civilian witnesses tell a different, if depressingly familiar, story: that the officers captured and summarily executed [them].” Silenced Witness; The Economist (London, UK); Jun 26, 2021.

I think that Economist quotation is unfortunate. Surely in the situation described one of the parties is flat-out lying. I expect the word rashomon to be applied to situations where the differing stories result from something more subtle and psychological. I think it is a loss if the word comes to mean any contradictory account. So it goes.

Tobias Baskin, Amherst, Massachusetts

From: Henry M. Willis (hmw ssdslaw.com)
Subject: Rashomon

My anthropology professor, who came from the still-extant Yugoslavia, told us that his circle of friends and fellow students used this term in just that way back in Belgrade in the 1960s. Anthropology was one of the first academic fields to take this problem of observer bias seriously as we not only confront the new, but are tempted to fit it into familiar categories with which we are most comfortable.

If you want an even better illustration of this, read Laura Bohannon’s account of the time when she agreed to tell a story during a rainy day in which she and many of the villagers she was studying/living with were confined to their huts. She chose Hamlet, only to be told by the village elders that she had it all wrong and who helpfully corrected those parts of the story that did not make sense, at least not to her audience.

Henry M. Willis, Los Angeles, California

From: Ellen Tepper (ellen.tepper gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--rashomon

Six blind elephants went to discover what people are, and they all came back with the same answer: People are flat.

Ellen Formanek Tepper, Glenside, Pennsylvania

From: John H (thecrawh gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--rashomon

The film was remade as a Western with Paul Newman: The Outrage.

John Craw, Glenford, Ohio

From: Michael Rohr (rohr.michael gmail.com)
Subject: King Kong

I like to quote Stephen Booth on Shakespeare:

Shakespeare is our most underrated poet. It should not be necessary to say that, but it is. We generally acknowledge Shakespeare’s poetic superiority to other candidates for greatest poet in English, but doing that is comparable to saying that King Kong is bigger than other monkeys.

Michael D. Rohr, Montclair, New Jersey

From: Maria Scurrah (scurrah gmail.com)
Subject: King Kong

In Peru, it’s a (very sweet) dessert prepared and sold in the northern coastal region, so, for example, if you travel to Trujillo (a northern city) you bring a King Kong for your children, which comes in 1 kg boxes, and they love you.

Maria Scurrah, Lima, Peru

From: Peter Baker (petersbaker outlook.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Mad Max

Highly respected scientist Robert Costanza labelled one of his scenarios Mad Max along with Star Trek for another. The Mad Max option has proved the most accurate.

Peter Baker, Ascot, UK

From: Mohammed Cader (drmcader icloud.com)
Subject: Mad max

Fits Liz Truss re her promise to use nuclear bombs if she becomes UK’s PM.

Mohammed Cader, Prescott, Arizona

From: Laura Peebles (lhpeebles aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Mad Max

Max Scherzer, a very intense baseball pitcher (currently with the New York Mets) is called Mad Max. His heterochromia (one bright blue eye, one brown eye) adds to the image. I’d give you a quote or two, but most of them would trip the censors!

Laura Peebles, Arlington, Virginia

From: John Ayer (john_ayer comcast.net)(br)
Subject: Enemy

We have met the enemy and he is us. -Walt Kelly, cartoonist (25 Aug 1913-1973)

After the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry reported to General (later President) William Henry Harrison, “We have met enemy and they are ours...” usually quoted as “We have met the enemy and he is ours...” After the magnificent triumph in WWII, America seemed to grow confused and lost its way.

The Vietnam War generated so much domestic opposition that Walt Kelly published his famous remark, which has often come back to me in the many years since. Lately, we have been informed that gunshot wounds have surpassed disease and motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death among our young.

John Ayer, Norwich, Connecticut

From: Philip Gottling (gottlingbsn usa.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Godzilla

Godzilla (gojira in Japanese) is a combination of gorira (gorilla) and kujira (whale).

Philip Gottling, Honolulu, Hawaii

Email of the Week -- Brought to you buy WISE UP! -- Yeehaw, donkey!

From: James S. Webster (jsibleywebster mindspring.com)
Subject: Godzilla

Unlike King Kong, Godzilla’s main theme was the danger of nuclear power, which Japan had experienced full force at the end of WWII. Blue Öyster Cult references this in their song “Godzilla” video, 3 min.) “History shows again and again how Nature points up the folly of men.” (lyrics). This theme is much more emphasized in the original Japanese version, which was subsequently altered to make it more palatable for Americans. While the numerous Godzilla remakes gave it a cheesy patina, the original still packs a punch.

Jim S. Webster, Berkeley, California

From: Dave Campbell (museumofdave gmail.com)
Subject: Movie titles

The most commonly used movie reference to place must be “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” as most of us in this crazy world recalling a time more like Dorothy’s farm and less like Dr. Strangelove’s War Room. For this inveterate moviegoer since the 1940s, film titles as places reflect states of mind, i.e., Sunset Boulevard, as slightly mad folks live in illusion, oblivious to contemporary reality -- or one of my favorites, Tobacco Road, a rustic oblivion that manages to face human poverty by creating and existing on dreams.

Citizen Kane, the man who creates Xanadu, a giant dwarfed by his dreams is not so far from Mar-A-Lago (though breakfast would likely be more palatable sitting across from Charles Foster Kane), Welles’ brilliant film depicting a lavish lifestyle without substance, without humanity. And how many viewers have lost their hearts at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca and pictured themselves grieving with chivalric nobility as they amble off into the darkness with a friend, “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Dave Campbell, Red Bluff, California

From: Karen Folsom (kgfols yahoo.com)
Subject: Trumpzilla and Mad Max

Trumpzilla: King of the Monsters
Trumpzilla: King of the Monsters
Mad Max
Mad Max

Karen Folsom, Santa Barbara, California

King Cooper
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: King Kong and Godzilla

Inspired by the iconic scene from King Kong where an enraged Kong is mounted atop the Empire State Building with actress Fay Wray in his grasp, I’ve arrived at this kinder/gentler scenario of King Cooper (aka Anderson Cooper) embracing Times Square’s giant drop-ball. For years, Cooper has co-hosted the CNN New Year’s Eve telecast, as the waning minutes of the old year tick off, harkening the arrival of the new one.

Manhattan Monster
Whenever I conjure up images of the filmic Godzilla, I picture him going berserk, stomping through cityscapes, skyscrapers leveled in his wake, the populace running amok. Here, I’ve put Trump in the guise of the gargantuan reptile, while appealing more to his softer side. (If, indeed, that’s even possible? Ha!) We know that Trump’s eponymously-named highrise tower in the heart of Manhattan is his pride and joy. Trumpzilla gushes over his gleaming edifice of glass and steel, while Froggy is slightly gobsmacked in witnessing a more docile behemoth.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme’s ‘Movies that became words’
1. Groundhog day
2. Rashomon
3. King Kong
4. Mad Max
5. Godzilla
= 1. Oh, the exact same goings-on!
2. Bods at odds regarding views amazedly - he knows OK!
3. Hulk
4. Grim
5. Mammoth
     This week’s theme: Movies that became words
1. Groundhog Day
2. Rashomon
3. King Kong
4. Mad Max
5. Godzilla
= 1. Did retakes
2. Kyoto gate
3. Huge
4. Wacko (shh!) Mel Gibson’s dogged Max
5. Shrewd varmint, hmm.... no zoo animal
-Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com) -Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz)
This week’s rosy theme: Movies that became words
1. Groundhog day
2. Rashomon
3. King Kong
4. Mad Max
5. Godzilla
= 1. He took recurrent exams
2. Versions at odds
3. Oh! So big manly! Amazed!
4. Wild kinky show
5. Mammoth hog gagged
     This week’s theme: Movies that became words
1. Groundhog Day
2. Rashomon
3. King Kong
4. Mad Max
5. Godzilla
= 1. Guest redo; long shadow
2. Examined event
3. Who might climb sky-high?
4. Amok drama
5. Gadzooks, a monster!
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com) -Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.


Groundhog’s Day

Says he, “The repetitive way
of our lifestyle is like groundhog day.
But I’ve some good news:
We’re booked on a cruise.
Let’s leave without further delay!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The life that I lead is quite tame --
Like groundhog day, always the same.
Whatever I do,
It’s all deja vu.
Routines give one comfort I’d claim!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Commuting was like groundhog day;
My boss? Held that hellhound at bay.
My Feast of Ascension
Was getting a pension;
‘Twas providence! Hope found a ray!
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


As viewers of Rashomon know
Perspectives can vary, and so
Hear witnesses out,
But harbor some doubt --
With DNA proof I would go!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Some blind men encountered a pachyderm--
“Like a wall,” said the first, his opinion firm.
In a rashomon take,
Though, the second said, “Snake!”
And the third declared, “Rope’s the right term.”
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

The place where male bodies make androgen
Is six inches or so ‘neath the abdomen.
Doctors, sculptors, and wives
All take different test-drives,
And react, one might say, in ways rashomon.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

King Kong

When Stormy removed her sarong,
Said Donald, “Just look at my schlong!”
In its glory he basked
Till “Where is it?” she asked,
For he wasn’t exactly King Kong.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Mad Max

If you’ll picture the world you adore,
Hold the image and label ‘Before’.
Now for ‘After’. Vote Trump --
See! That world’s now a dump --
A Mad Max world -- one you’d abhor!
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

My mood is decidedly noir.
Our wild party is done. Au revoir.
You wrecked my whole place
And now I must face
The remains of my Mad Max boudoir.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

“This house is too full of knick-knacks,”
says her mate. “There’s no place to relax.”
He sneers, “’Twould behoove
you, my dear, to remove
them. I fear we’re becoming Mad Max!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The world’s a dystopian mess,
Which causes me no end of stress!
Life’s gone all Mad Max,
So I can’t relax;
I’ll go see a movie, I guess.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“Women’s rights must be stopped in their tracks!
They speak out, get abortions, wear slacks!
Being gay is now ‘in’;
So is black or brown skin!”
Say Repubs. “The whole country’s Mad Max!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


A real man might stand up to my bride.
I prefer option two where I hide.
When in Godzilla phase
She sets objects ablaze --
But a sweetheart once tantrums subside.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

Muhammad Ali in Manila
Had a match that was truly a “Thrilla”.
Joe Frazier, his foe,
Did cause him much woe.
‘Twas like Kong in a fight with Godzilla.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Says he to the clerk at the dairy,
“My favorite brand, Ben & Jerry!
I’d like a Godzilla:
three scoops of vanilla.
My son wants just one scoop of cherry.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

As soon as he entered the room,
“Godzilla” they nicknamed the groom.
You’d call him that too
If this fellow you knew --
But not to his face, I assume.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The zoo said their baby gorilla
Had got loose and was lost in our villa
With rifles and ammo
(Some even donned camo!),
You’d think they were tracking Godzilla!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

An albino ape found in Manila
Was nicknamed Vanilla Gorilla.
And due to its size,
It was not a surprise
When the media said, “A godzilla!”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“We’ll be coats,” said the frightened chinchilla,
“For humans are worse than Godzilla.
Did the thought once occur
That it’s cruel to wear fur?
They’ve no mercy, no, not a scintilla!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“And den de groundhog day make into sausages,” explained the tour guide at the Jamaican pork processing plant.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Dis is de worst rashomon could get,” moaned the Jamaican monkeypox victim.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“At all six weddings for the King Kong-a lines were fun for the whole royal family,” wrote Henry VIII’s biographer.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The Martin Luther King Kong-regation prayed at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“By helping ze Von Trapps to escape, you haf made us Mad Max,” said the Nazi colonel to Herr Detweiler.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Don’t be Mad Max-well Smart.” Siegfried cackled. “We will meet again very soon.”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Of course I need an understudy,” said the leading man in Broadway’s Jesus Christ Superstar. “Even Godzilla-ccasionally.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

M.T. Green: The Law & Order Hypocrite
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Marjorie Taylor Greene: The Law & Order Hypocrite

Can we say hypocrite? Georgia House Republican legislator Marjorie Taylor Greene has supposedly steadfastly believed in law-and-order like others in the GOP ranks. Yet after the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Greene and many other MAGA/Big Lie promoters have suddenly turned on law-enforcement. They’ve incited their supporters who call for the slaying of FBI agents and their families. Here, Greene is drawing attention to her latest money-maker, an anti-FBI t-shirt pitched on her online site for $30 a piece. It really is all about the benjamins.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do just the same with their time. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher (28 Aug 1749-1832)

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