The Word's the Word                       Issue 2


  • From the editor
  • What's in a word? Could be a name....
  • One thing leads to another
  • Web Sites of Note... for social activists
  • In the Writer's Corner... "Good Grief!"
  • Feedback... and Word Trivia Contest
  • The Necessary Fine Print
From the editor...

Welcome. This e-zine is devoted to those of us who are passionate about words, their correct usage, and the art of old-fashioned communication (even when it uses new technology). Drop us a line at - your feedback is always welcome.

What's in a Word? Could be a name....

An eponym is a descriptive word derived from a character, real or fictional. We're all likely familiar with "Big Brother is watching you." "Big Brother," of course, comes from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and is now commonly used as a euphemism for a government that's perceived to be authoritarian.

"Mickey Mouse" is used to describe a trivial, irritatingly petty sort of thing - though Walt Disney's little mouse is now worth millions. And did you know that "Dolly Varden" (today known as a fish of eastern China and northwest North America) comes from a colourfully-dressed character in Charles Dickens' Barnaby Rudge?

Less commonly heard today is "pulling a brodie" which means to flop or blunder, or take a wild chance. Steve Brodie, a young New York newsboy who won a $200 dare to leap off the Brooklyn Bridge in 1886, not only survived the leap; he was offered $100 a week to exhibit himself at a Brooklyn museum as the world's most courageous man. He also was arrested the day after his leap for attempted suicide, an illegal act in the US. But the real Brodie parlayed that leap into long-lasting fame; he was played by George Raft in the movie The Bowery.

Then there's "boycott" derived from Charles Cunningham Boycott (1832-1897), an English farmer and land agent in 19th century Ireland. After two years of poor potato harvests, in 1880 he attempted to evict three of his farmers who had demanded rent reductions. The tenants and reformers launched a campaign against Boycott, who claims his crops were carried away, his servants intimidated and his livestock driven off. Even local merchants refused to sell his goods, and mail delivery was denied him as well. He harvested his last crop under armed guard, and was eventually driven out of Ireland. Allegedly, the word itself came into being in 1880 when American journalist James Redpath attempted to find a descriptive word better than "social excommunication" to describe the Irish situation. The priest he was talking with suggested "Boycott," and within six years it was appearing (sans the capital B) in print.

Do you have a favourite eponym? Send your submission to and we'll include it in the next issue.

Thinking of boycotts...

Did you participate in the gas-out? You likely heard of this on the news, but back in late February Laura Lasby (principal of Vancouver-based excellent graphic design company, VisualEyes Communications) sent The Wordsmith a forwarded message from an activist who talked about high gas prices in Columbus, OH and proposed a "gas-out" April 7 to 9 inclusive. I was one of thousands who purchased NO gasoline, and was surprised to see the price had dropped to about 63 cents per liter. It was my small way of helping persuade the oil-producing nations to release more supply into the world market, but they anticipated that move and announced earlier that restrictions would ease somewhat. While I don't advocate wasteful use of gasoline, when it hit more than 75 cents per liter in London, ON for regular unleaded (and allegedly could hit 85 cents/liter by summer), it was time to stand up and be counted.

In 1981 en route to Inuvik, NWT on the Dempster Highway (the Arctic Circle is at km 403), we bought gasoline at Eagle Plains for 65 cents per liter, and thought that was outrageous. The isolated rest stop had a near-monopoly, being the only non-Reserve gas between Dawson City and Inuvik, some 740 kms northeast of Dawson. Today, it's obvious that the oil-producing nations are finally realizing that both markets and reserves are finite, and that new technology (like combined gas/electric engines on the very cute new Honda) will erode their profits. So they decreased production, using the old supply-and-demand dynamic to increase their profits, making hay while the sun shines - at the expense of truckers and drivers everywhere.

Another email on March 11, forwarded with a gazillion names, suggested not buying gas at Esso for at least four months, in an attempt to pressure that one big company to lower its prices. Once Esso's price of gasoline dropped to less than 60 cents, then the plan was to buy only from Esso, forcing the other big companies to follow suit in dropping prices. The big problem here is that the smaller independent stations will long be out of business, because the price is being driven not by competition at the gas station but by the limited supply of production - and that's the big boys, folks! So it may actually do more harm than good in terms of our independent, small stations. Interestingly enough, the price of a barrel is now almost the same as 1980, so perhaps the federal government can explain to us why the price at the pump is almost double? We could all ask our Members of Parliament this interesting question.

Web Sites of Note ... for the Social Activist

Now that we're all socially active, let's segue (interesting word, pronounced SEG-way) straight into which is an interesting little site to keep track of the best gas prices in your neighbourhood, no matter where in the world you live. Check it out. You have to "subscribe" but that subscription is free, and it helps keep track of where the lowest or highest gas prices may be found.

That's mere money missing from our pockets. But is a Canadian site for locating missing children. This charitable organization's website is an award-winner, with prestigious kudos under its belt for design for usefulness. There's a searchable database and a wealth of information and links. It's the first site in the world to place an entire nation's missing children resources in one central location.

This site may also be bringing new word usage into being. Its pamphlet lists the following definitions for classifications of Canadian missing children.

Parental abduction: The child is abducted by a family member (parent, guardian, or grandparent). Accounts for the highest number of incidents after runaways.

Stranger abduction: Considered "extremely dangerous for the child," this is used to describe an event where the child is taken by a person they do not know.

Runaways: More than 78% of Canada's reported missing children, these youngsters are usually running from situations or problems. Most end up living on the streets in Canada's larger cities.

Throwaways: This term is used to describe children who have been asked to leave, have been abandoned, or are not allowed to return home, by their parents or guardians. Sad says it all.

One hopes that a new, fast-growing category, that of returnables, can be established here.

Thinking of returnables, there's a new scam afoot in Canada and the US. The very reliable can be helpful, whether or not you're a member of the Better Business Bureau. Although it doesn't fit neatly into the social activist definition, the BBB does give excellent warnings to business about current frauds. This one was published in The Costco Connection (March/April 2000):

Con artists using the names of minor British celebs (like Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac's first guitarist) have been ripping off Canadian and US businesses through credit card fraud. Target businesses deal in furniture, office supplies and computers that routinely ship orders in 24-48 hours. The calls originate in the UK. The scammer orders the product, using a fraudulent credit card from London, UK's Midland Bank for payment. Then he/she places a couple more orders, sometimes requesting that payment be equally divided among several credit cards. The orders are later cancelled or disputed, but they've already been shipped. So the scammer gets the goods, and the business doesn't get paid. Midland Bank and Scotland Yard are investigating. Businesses likely to be targeted in this fashion may contact their local Better Business Bureau to learn how to guard against credit card fraud.

Last, but definitely not least, we've all heard media reports lately about the changes proposed in The Young Offenders Act, soon to be renamed yet again (from "The Young Pretenders Act?"). Check out, read carefully, and then please sign the petition, to see what we can do to help this young victim and others to reclaim at least a sense of justice in their lives. The biggest difficulty with the changes proposed in the Act is the arbitrary redefinition of "serious crime" by the government. It's important that those young offenders capable of rehabilitation be given a fair chance, but it's equally important that 13-year-old thugs (who usually do know the difference between right and wrong, folks!) learn they can't hide behind "the protection of the law."

Found an unusual or interesting web site, or is there a favourite bookmarked on your computer? You're welcome to share URLs (universal resource locators), and we'll share them with our subscribers. For instance, here's a useful little site for those of us who need more work.

The Talent Gallery is a joint initiative between Industry Canada and the Cultural Human Resources Council, an online recruitment network that helps artists, creators, producers, technicians and administrators find jobs and recruit employees. Go to where you can post your resumé online, search for career opportunities, view profiles of various arts and culture employers and organizations. You can retrieve the Talent Gallery image at as well. Send your email to Giselle Jean Baptiste, project assistant, at but check out the website first. This is a REAL job opportunity site.

In the Writer's Corner...

Barbara Lowery is a writer/editor/proofreader, Internet-based in London, Ontario, with clients across Canada and internationally. This piece is included in Lowery's forthcoming "52 Pick-Up." Lowery explains: Saturday night, I did something I usually don't. I got myself all warm and settled in bed and, sleep evading, picked up that day's newspaper and giggled at the comics, until I turned the page and found Charles Schultz's poignant farewell. Saddened and sleepy, I set my radio on "snooze" and my alarm on "wake" and drifted off, to dream of Pigpen and Schroeder, loud-mouthed Lucy, and all the gang.

Dreaming just before waking, the hiss of blades as Woodstock and Snoopy skated on the birdbath eventually reassembled itself into a Sunday morning voice on the radio, and so it finally registered. The lead item on the news was the death of Charles Schultz.

Pregnant with my first child and impoverished, in 1968 I made a homemade birthday card for my graduate student-husband, and it featured Charlie Brown and his infamous baseball bat. The animated Peanuts specials had introduced me to Rod McKuen's music and poetry, and so I discovered Listen to the Warm. Charles Schultz was the only reason I ever wanted to visit California. Now I'll close my eyes, hear the piano music, and watch Snoopy dance his happy dance, while Lucy (in her usual disapproving manner) pronounces, "Good grief!"

Yes, good grief for a good man. You're a good man, Charlie Brown. Look after Sparky. He's special. Written Sunday, February 13, 2000 in sadness for a life that's done too soon - and yet somehow with a sense of joy because it's so fitting that the whole Peanuts gang moved on together in the same moment in time.

Good Grief!

Woodstock "semaphores" no more
And piano keys are still
A tattered blanket hugs the floor
No pitcher's on the hill
The little red-haired girl has left
And Pigpen's cloud of dust
The First War's flying ace has flown
His mission's over - just.
The birdbath pond is melted ice
Tear-filled water overflows
Life's whimsied end a roll of dice
That's often how it goes
The gang is all together now
Playing baseball in the sky
And Sparky keeps them company
He's playing - I won't cry
I'll just miss all my old friends
Who've been with me all these years
We met when I was only three
Now I'll try to hold my tears
Though the world seems so much smaller
And the humour's not quite right
The firmament is taller
They can't put out the light
Of genius known as Sparky
The Peanuts gang's forever young
They'll always be my heroes
Though the last doorbell has rung
The last cartoon is drawn now
Fifty years flew by so fast
Blessings on a man called Charlie Schultz!
He gave a gift to last.

All poetry packets are welcome.

Do you have an original offering you'd like to share? Submit it via e-mail and we'll share with our readers. Offerings of 500 words or less are welcome. Please DO NOT submit by attaching a file; include your offering right inside your e-mail (and nothing fancy in the fonts department, please) and send it to along with how you'd like your contribution acknowledged. While we can't pay you cold, hard cash for your submission, we do promise you a moment of glory in print.

Feedback ... from the mailbag

Barbara, thanks for your playful new newsletter. best, arthur @}-+-+-
arthur hanks
AHEM - arthur hanks editing and media services
HCFR - The Hemp Commerce and Farming Report
909 windermere st., vancouver, bc, canada,v5k 4j6
(604)255-4332, fax (810)314-2138
READ the HCFR online at:,,,

You're welcome, arthur. Nice to hear from you again.

From: Don Graham (
Organization: Craftools
Hey, Barbara: Good to hear from you, and to know you're alive and well in London. And glad to see that you're still wordsmithing away.

As always (or at least often), I have a minor contribution, namely third and fourth homonyms for "censor" and "censure," namely "censer" (a container in which incense is burned), and "sensor" (a device to detect, measure, or record physical phenomena).

Another point. (Actually I think I've made this one before, and as I recall, your response was that it was a somewhat technical word, so would seldom find a use in ordinary speech.) I'm referring to the noun usage of "affect," with the emphasis on the first syllable, and meaning emotional state.

Finally, one of my pet peeves. I know it's regarded as marginally acceptable, but it bothers me nonetheless. I'm referring to the phrase "is comprised of," instead of "comprises" or "is composed of."

Thanks, Don, for these welcome additions to the homonyms list and for sharing one of your pet peeves. Those familiar with Burnaby, BC-based Craftools will know that it manufactures an all-in-one tool for rug hooking.

From: Isabeau Iqbal
Hello Barbara. thanks for your e-newsletter! fun and interesting. your info about EVE-rest is especially timely as i just finished reading "the climb" and appreciate the historical info you provide.
lots of hugs,Isabeau
Rio Crazy! Very Mobile DJ Service
Why Just Party When You Can Rio Crazy!
Tel: 604.255.5133 Fax: 604.255.5193

BC's Lower Mainland is lucky to have Rio Crazy in its midst. You haven't lived until you have seen Isabeau and Raul on the dance floor! They're an excellent DJ service with a twist - or a lambada. Check them out.

From: C and S Pitchford (
Hi There Friend! Glad to see the "wordsmith" is alive and well and proficient as ever! Good stuff and needless to say we will pass this on to appropriate parties.

"Hi" right back, Susan and Charlie Pitchford. Anyone who's traveling may want to contact Charlie and Susan for some of the very best travel fares going. It's personal service par excellence! They also have an excellent little e-zine, "The Informed Traveller," available for us jet-setters-wanna-bees.

And via snailmail came the following excerpts from The Vancouver Sun's February 5, 2000 edition - kindly sent by West Vancouver-based organizer extraordinaire Linda Wiles of L.R. Wiles & Associates. Anyone needing their paper burden organized or their business administration better focused should contact Linda at - you have my word that the service provided will be exceptional and affordable.

"Weekly Blend" notes: 'The Washington Post recently published a contest for readers in which they were asked to supply alternate meanings for various words. The following were some of the winning entries.

abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
carcinoma (n.), a valley in California, notable for its heavy smog
esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk
flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained
testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam

The Post's Style invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are some recent winners:

reintarnation, coming back to life as a hillbilly
osteopornosis, a degenerate disease
ignoranus, a person who's both stupid and an asshole
National Pot (n), news that's forgettable, but makes you feel good.

Thanks, Linda, for both the clipping and your kind words. I'm still better organized, thanks to L.R. Wiles & Associates!

Last, but not least. It may have been coincidence, but the following arrived from Danilo Jurisich, principal and webmaster extraordinaire of Virtually Vancouver, just days after Issue 1 went to press. It's reproduced here just as it was received. If you wish to send feedback, please send it to both Danilo and The Wordsmith.

From: Danilo Jurisich (
Dear friends, It has come to my attention recently that it is a CRYING SHAME that the word "gay" has become synonymous with "homosexual." Join me in my efforts of re-appropriating of this wonderful word. Possible conversational uses include:

"I am feeling very gay today."
"What a gay day."
"I'm so gay, I could skip!"
"His gayness is an inspiration to us all."
"That woman makes me so gay."

BTW, Mr. Webster agrees with me!

Main Entry: 1gay
Pronunciation: 'gA
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French gai
Date: 14th century
1 a : happily excited : MERRY b : keenly alive and exuberant : having or inducing high spirits (abandoned a sober traditional style for one more timely and gay)
2 a : BRIGHT, LIVELY b : brilliant in color
3 : given to social pleasures; also : LICENTIOUS
4 a : HOMOSEXUAL b : of, relating to, or used by homosexuals (the gay rights movement) (a gay bar)
synonym see LIVELY

"homosexual" is FOURTH down the list! Why WHY WHY can we not ALL be gay?? LET'S BE GAY!!!! LET'S TELL EVERYONE HOW GAY WE ARE!!!!!!! and our language will be immeasurably wealthier. DO IT! Gayly, Danilo Jurisich

Note from the editor: Danilo spells it "gayly" which is, in fact, a variant of the word "gaily" - so that's not a typo. Included in my working library is a wee paperback called "New Words and Their Meanings: From a go-go to zonked - over 2,000 words that have entered the English language since 1960," authored by Jonathon Green and published by Parragon Press, 1993. Green, and others, call these words "neologisms" and the author takes pains to include what he's found as its year of first entry into common usage with the new definition. On p. 106, an abridged entry for "gay" reads:

gay adj. (1969)
homosexual; as a slang term the word dates back to the late eighteenth century, when it meant a promiscuous woman, even a prostitute. The use of gay by homosexuals originates during the Second World War, when it was probably an abbreviation of the old US tramps' slang 'geycat'; the wider use in the heterosexual world began around 1970, with the emergence of the Gay Liberation Front, first in the US and subsequently in the UK.

Word Trivia Contest

What Danilo and I have indulged in above is a treasure hunt for the etymology of a word. In brief, my Concise Oxford Dictionary defines etymology as "an account of, facts relating to, formation & meaning of word; branch of linguistic science concerned with this; part of grammar treating of individual words & their formation & inflexions." The suffix "-ology" is used (mostly in science) to denote "the study of…"

The shortest "-ology" word is oology, pronounced O - ology (with the O being long). What is it? It's the study of eggs. Shifting gears somewhat, there's a very special word, and it's uncopywritable. Can you guess the word, and why it's so special?

Send your answer and explanation to and we'll include your guesses. No prizes, folks. But for those of you who get it right, there's that great sense of satisfaction. And your name in print.

The Necessary Fine Print

"The Word's the Word" is a free and unsolicited offering (all rights reserved) by "The Wordsmith is Barbara Lowery." The information contained herein is for general information purposes only. "Good Grief!" is copyrighted material (Barbara Lowery, 2000) and may be reproduced only with the author's permission. We neither harvest nor sell our mailing list and maintain both proper ethics and privacy. To unsubscribe, send e-mail to with "unsub" in the subject line.

All research, writing and editing done by

Barbara Lowery, 166 Rectory St., London, ON N5Z 2A5

Phone (519) 432-2885; URL

Copyright 2000 - 2011 by The WORDSMITH. All rights reserved.