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Mar 8, 2020
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Tosspot words

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AWADmail Issue 923

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

Sponsor’s Message: What are Sleeping Beauty’s two other names? “GED” is an abbreviation for a high school equivalency diploma -- what does it actually stand for? What’s unique about the word “facetiously”? WISE UP! -- The Wicked/Smart Party Card Game asks tons of devilishly difficult questions that’ll give you know-it-alls plenty of life lessons in humility, history, sports, science, literature, and geography. And wit. Here’s another: Everyone knows the First and Second Amendments -- what’s the Third? But beware, there’s also a slew of “challenge” cards that chuck Darwinian physical and mental wrenches into the works. For example: Throw this card on the floor and pick it up without using your hands. So much humbling fun for everyone, including this week’s Email of the Week Winner, Richard Green (see below). WISE UP! NOW.

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

No More “Nagging Wives”: How Oxford Dictionaries Is Cleaning up Sexist Language
The Guardian

Everyone’s a Curator Now
The New York Times

On Dit What? Bilinguals Who Borrow English Words Follow the Language Rules, Says Linguist
Ottawa Citizen

Stages of Language Learning
The New Yorker

From: Walter Levy (wlevy comcast.net)
Subject: Tosspot words

I was reading a science fiction anthology (The Fifth Galaxy Reader) from the 1960s and came across a short story (“Take Wooden Indians” by Avram Davidson) that involved traveling back in time to the 1800s. One of the characters suggested finding one of the lowlifes they knew, referring to them as shunsoaps:

“Charley, Larry and Hennery came in, followed by a furtive-looking cabman with a great red hooked nose -- Snow Furguson, presumably, or Blinky Poole, or one of those shunsoaps.”

Walter Levy, Pikesville, Maryland

From: Laura Burns (laurab12 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Tosspot words

Today you quoted Shakespeare for your canker-blossom example, but isn’t his name a tosspot word in itself?

Laura Burns, Galveston, Texas

From: Steven G. Kellman (kellman1 gmail.com)
Subject: Cure-all

The tosspot word cure-all sounds similar to heal-all, though the latter is a botanical term, the common name for the plant Prunella vulgaris. It achieved literary immortality in Robert Frost’s poem “Design”, which begins: “I found a dimpled spider, fat and white/ On a white heal-all.”

Steven G. Kellman, San Antonio, Texas

From: Jack Colldeweih (jcoll6 yahoo.com)
Subject: wantwit

How does wantwit differ from George R.R. Martin’s favorite word used in his Dragon novels, lackwit?

Jack Colldeweih, Spring Lake, Michigan

Email of the Week (Brought to you by the wicked wonderful world of WISE UP! - Yes, you can BUY SMARTS.

From: Richard Green (rtpwreleases protonmail.com)
Subject: wantwit parallel meanings?

WAN twit: synonymous with Trump (Wide Area Network twit(ter))
wan twit: also synonymous with Trump (wan -wearisome twit)
wantwit: synonymous with Trump - lacking good sense

Richard Green, Victoria, Canada

From: Richard Miller Brown (richardmbrown6 gmail.com)
Subject: wantwit

We use Halfwit here in the UK. Same meaning. Leads to an expression. “You cannot take two halfwits to make a whole wit.”

Richard Miller Brown, Bromley, UK

From: P. Larry Nelson (lnelson illinois.edu)
Subject: Ashes and diamonds

In reference to the 3/3/20 AWAD’s ATFT by Julia Cameron, her line: “The past has brought us both ashes and diamonds.”

I suspect anyone who followed, listened to, got immersed in, was inspired by, etc., the folk and folk/rock music of the 70s can’t help but recall one of the most melancholy laments and pointed public retorts to a former lover whose identity was no mystery to anyone (Hint: the first musician to win a Nobel Prize), to wit: Joan Baez’s 1975 song “Diamonds & Rust”.

Twice in the lyrics, the first about midway:
“We both know what memories can bring
They bring diamonds and rust”

And the last two lines:
“And if you’re offering me diamonds and rust
I’ve already paid”

One can’t help but wonder whose words came first or whether one inspired the other to use such an exquisite metaphor, regardless whether “ash” or “rust”. In the end, it doesn’t really matter as long as the words inspire us somehow in some way. Perhaps Baez’s overall song was even inspired by Carly Simon’s 1972 song “You’re So Vain”.

Larry Nelson, Champaign, Illinois

From: Bhuvaneswari Sundaram (bhu.sundaram gmail.com)
Subject: know-it-all vs Maugham’s Mr Know All

“He shakes his head smiling. ‘Still an insufferable know-it-all.’ She gives him a taut, bitter grin. ‘And you’re still so smugly, blithely ignorant.’”
Robert Jackson Bennett; City of Stairs; Crown; 2014

Reminded me of Somerset Maugham’s short story “Mr. Know All” where the much despised know-it-all character turns out to be a very decent human being, after all. As in your usage example, sometimes (very often actually), we are tempted to label another as a know-it-all, merely to assuage our ignorant pride.

Bhuvaneswari Sundaram, Chennai, India

From: Creede Lambard (creede gmail.com)
Subject: know-it-all

Having experienced my first of many childhoods some 60 years ago, today’s word brought back memories of a recurring skit on Jay Ward’s Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoon shows, where Bullwinkle Moose in the persona of Mr. Know-It-All would dispense dubiously useful advice. Descriptions can’t do the surreal silliness of Ward’s creations justice; go to Youtube, search for “Mr. Know-It-All Bullwinkle” and prepare to laugh.

Had sites like Wikihow and Instructables existed back then, I would have thought Mr. Know-It-All was a parody of them; perhaps Bullwinkle was just being prescient.

Creede Lambard, Shoreline, Washington

From: Tom Walker (tomwalker.jazz gmail.com)
Subject: Misstra Know-It-All

Today’s tosspot word put me in mind of Stevie Wonder’s song “He’s Misstra Know-It-All”, on his 1973 album Innervisions. The song consists of a series of short verses, the last line of each of which is He’s Misstra Know-It-All. My favorite, right up to date 40+ years later: If we had less of him/Don’t you know we’d have a better land/He’s Misstra Know-It-All.

Tom Walker, Phoenix, Arizona

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

This tosspot word appears in the name of nineteenth-century English author William Makepeace Thackeray, creator of the unforgettable Becky Sharp, heroine of his novel Vanity Fair. Miss Sharp uses her charm to take advantage of the false pride and stupidity of the new middle class that was rising on the tide of anti-Bonapartist sentiment, prevailing in Britain after the victory at Waterloo. Of course, the satirical author was anything but a peacemaker.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Gregory Harris (byword gmail.com)
Subject: Tosspots

I have long loved tosspot words and treasure my collection. I have a parallel collection of real words humorously misconstrued as tosspots, like “bootblack” (=racist). A third category is “truly fake” tosspot words: ones that don’t exist but it would be fun if they did, like “tailcheat” (=private investigator specializing in marital cases).

Gregory M. Harris, Middletown, Connecticut

From: Dick Lewis (rlewis.p318 gmail.com)
Subject: pottoss

The company that invented and still manufactures the efficient syrup dispenser that cleanly cuts the flow of syrup and stops dripping is called Dripcut. Could this word be considered a pottoss word?

Dick Lewis, Reading, Pennsylvania

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Canker-blossom and know-it-all

Since that ill-fated day that Trump took office, abetted by his sycophantic GOP allies in Congress, he has been hellbent on overturning former Pres. Obama’s executive-ordered Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), which was enacted by the 111th Congress and signed into law on Mar 23, 2010 (hard to fathom that it’s been in operation for an entire decade). Even as we speak, an earlier oral argument submitted by the Trump administration advocating dismantling/rescinding most of the Obamacare initiative is on the current Supreme Court docket and will likely be litigated and summarily ruled upon after general election day. In this cartoon scenario, I’ve personified Obamacare, somewhat weakened, but not broken, hooked up to IV-drips... dual blood transfusions packets. Trump has managed to sneak into the hospital ICU room, gleefully snipping one of Obamacare’s life-lines, with the next snips, sure to follow. If this isn’t the ultimate in canker-blossoming, I don’t know what is.

In contemplating our tosspot word, know-it-all, my thoughts immediately went to that self-proclaimed “stable genius”, one Donald J. Trump, who incessantly boasts of knowing more than his generals, the top weather prognosticators, his diplomatic corps, his closest advisors, et al. The word know-it-all also jarred my recall from my former poli-sci-major university days*, specifically my curiosity regarding the nascent, grassroots circa 1850s US political party, the Know Nothings. This quirky-named, decidedly nativist, anti-Catholic, xenophobic party/movement was rooted initially in a secret society, where their early devotees, when queried by “strangers”, were obliged to unfailingly reply, “I know nothing.” Hence, the later party appellation. Here, Trump addresses a cast-bronze bust-head of Lincoln. With his typical egoistic bravado, Trump, buoyed by his belief that he’s the prime-mover/savior of the GOP, argues that perhaps a party name-change is in-order. My Froggy character, in the guise of “The Great Emancipator”, gets real, reflecting in his pointed aside, the axiom... “speaking truth to power”.
*(BA/’70, York University, Toronto)

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

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

1. canker-blossom
2. cure-all
3. wantwit
4. know-it-all
5. makepeace
1. a taunt
2. wine
3. kook, screwball
4. smart aleck
5. cop (I mean well)
     Tosspot words
1. canker-blossom
2. cure-all
3. wantwit
4. know-it-all
5. makepeace
1. wrecker
2. wellness potion as was
3. wacko; loon; butt
4. smart aleck
5. diplomat
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)

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

Campaigning, he steps to the rostrum
and promises magical nostrum
to cure ev’ry ill.
If we swallow his pill,
Will we find him a sly canker-blossom?
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Seems DC is a strange microcosm
In a world that is filled with such flotsam.
We’ve a Congress so skewed,
With a Senate unglued,
Plus as leader, a dim canker-blossom.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

There are stinkers. We’ve all come across some;
I once worked for a real canker-blossom.
That fellow was vile.
Every day was a trial,
but my next situation was awesome.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“That Ahab’s a real canker-blossom;
I may turn his whole ship into flotsam,”
Said Moby, “The story
Would get a bit gory,
But Melville won’t have me play possum.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Claims inventor, “This neat barricade,
in appropriate place underlaid,
is an excellent cure-all
for equine manure fall.
‘Twill make for a cleaner parade!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Peace and quiet we’d love to enjoy.
Canker-blossoms we’d like to destroy.
But there isn’t a cure-all
So we must endure all
The robo-calls scammers employ.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

Bob’s distaste for work made his Mom fraught,
Though doctors he saw diagnosed naught.
A quack said,”It’s neural;
And here is my cure-all,”
and smacking Bob’s head, hit the sweet spot.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

For Covid-19 we can screen,
But really we need a vaccine.
The doctors assure all
That they’ll find a cure-all,
Though meanwhile they just quarantine.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Came a voice from the blue like a curveball,
“Nice to meet you; I’m Jesus, and you’re Paul.”
The traveler, shocked,
From his feet was then knocked
By the words, “For your sins, I’m the cure-all.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Our President is just a tic’s nit away
from causing more grief and decay.
He bullies, blames, and sues,
and in his wake chaos ensues.
So let’s oust that wantwit without delay!
-Mariana G. Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw6002 gmail.com)

“Keep your nose to the grindstone!” Dad said,
“It’s the best way of getting ahead.”
But his son’s a young wantwit:
“I fear that would blunt it,”
cried he, “or at least turn it red!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The wantwit got fleeced yet again.
He was really the kindest of men.
He gave money away
To good causes each day
But he never knew when to say when.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

The wantwit mistrusts expertise,
Won’t listen to those PhDs.
He thinks that he knows
Much more than the pros --
How risky in times such as these!
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

When your country is run by a wantwit,
a pandemic is no time to flaunt it.
Since the White House can’t cope
I only can hope
all the victims will come back to haunt it.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Here in Paris like some kind of wantwit,
For breakfast they do the croissant bit.
When I finally finagle
Some lox and a bagel,
The waitress has not shaved her armpit.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

She opines, “We can never rely
on that lying TV weather guy!
If the old know-it-all
says snow’s gonna fall,
we can count on a bright, sunny sky!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

A least favorite person, I find
Is certainly the know-it-all kind.
What they love to do
Is to correct you,
As they flaunt a superior mind.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

The old prof entered college in early fall
Slogged his way down the long crowded lecture hall.
He ad libbed every talk
While his students would balk,
A relentless and pompous dull know-it-all.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

Despite what the experts suggest,
The know-it-all’s sure he knows best:
“Ignore those elites!
Just follow my tweets,
For with a big brain I am blessed.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“By following KGB protocol,
Ve vill put into office some know-it-all,”
Said Vlad, “And ze fool
As our unvitting tool
Ze US in our image vill overhaul.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said the girl to the wolf, “‘Twould be good
to behave more like friends, if we could.”
Said he, “Little makepeace,
I’ll take off my fake fleece,
but first you remove your red hood!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Between my nephew and my niece,
Hostilities seldom do cease.
Since they both are headstrong.
“Why can’t we get along?”
I cry as I act as makepeace.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

I wouldn’t try playing the makepeace
In your yard where there waddle irate geese.
They get married for life,
And are thus prone to strife;
“Won’t you husbands,” honk wives, “that dumb gait cease?”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: It’s hard tosspot any homophones below

“I fear my herpes simplex is getting worse. Just watch this canker-blossom!”

Should Catholics with multiple sexual problems try a cure-all liaison? (Kyrie eleison)

“Wantwit or witout?” asked the Philly Cheesesteak purveyor. (See #3 there.)

I’m afraid I don’t know-it-all how to pun this week’s AWADs.

Hot or cold, does anybody still makepeace porridge?

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Men are not against you; they are merely for themselves. -Gene Fowler, journalist and author (8 Mar 1890-1960)

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