Sunday, December 4, 2016

Excerpt from Wordplay:Arranged & Deranged Wit by Howard Richler

(Appeared in the December 2016 edition of Arts & Opinion)
Wordplay:Arranged and Deranged Wit
Notwithstanding the millions of dog and cat owners, like me, robotically scooping poop and changing litter, some misguided souls regard our species as the dominant one on the planet. I suppose this delusion is based on our ability to employ language that allows us to communicate far more efficiently than other animals. We thus control the planet, and perhaps will eventually destroy it. Language, however, also performs a far less “serious” purpose.
          I'm referring to the propensity of homo sapiens for language play. Most people cavort with their mother tongues and revel in the sounds. Language serves a recreational purpose and many people also often “re-create” words for their amusement.  The proclivity to pun is hardly an elitist process. Walter Redfern, in his book Puns tells us that “Punning is a free-for-all available to everyone... It is the stock-in-trade of the low comedian and the most sophisticated wordsmith,” and Redfern informs us that it appeals particularly to people of a “certain temperament.” It is my hypothesis that the inability to play with language, in one form or another, may augur some form of pathology, (or, at the very least, a proclivity to believe students should be allowed to bear arms in schools).                                           
          Pronouncing definitively on what constitutes true wit is a subjective endeavour. Complicating matters even more is the fact that the commission
of language wit occurs not only wittingly, but also unwittingly and sometimes even half-wittedly. When we manipulate language for the purpose of wit, I designate this process arranged humour.  At times, however, humour comes from mistakes that one has made when it appears that we are dealing more with a twit or a nitwit than with a wit. This form I designate as deranged humour. Ergo, I am making the case that what is not arranged is thus deranged.
          The arrangement and “derangment” of words in the English language is facilitated by the multiplicity of meanings many words enjoy, and much wordplay treats homonyms as if they were synonyms. The flexibility of English aids greatly in this process.  For example. Over twenty per cent of verbs started out their lives as nouns. If you take a gander at your body, for example, you will find that virtually every part has been verbified so that, from head to toe, you can head a committee, face the music, knuckle under, foot the bill, and toe the line. Also, starting in the twelfth century, the English language underwent a process that eliminated so many declensions, conjugations and precise syntax that sometimes it seems that virtually any word can be interpreted in many ways, and often lewdly. For example, the verbs, “come,”  “do,” “fix,” “have,”  “know,” “make” and  “put” are all replete with sexual innuendo. These factors contribute to a greater propensity for puns in English than in many other languages that are more highly inflected.
Schadenfreude aside, even the kind-hearted enjoy hearing people mangle language; we even revel when they pretend to commit some language screw-up. In fact, the difference between a pun and a fabricated screw-up is not always apparent.  Hence, the distinction between arranged and deranged is often murky. Sometimes one pretends that language has been mangled when the reality is that the process of the “mistake” is rather deliberate, and quite cleverly constructed.  Also, many a pun is without wit either because it has been used ad nauseam or is not inherently funny, but here again subjectivity raises its ugly head. There are some patterns as to which people like a particular joke, but to a large extent the process is an individual one that transcends a host of factors such as education, gender and class level.  
.To pun or not to pun?
          If you are a reticent punster, steel your courage and silence not your tongue, for according to linguist David Crystal in Language Play almost “two-thirds of the jokes in a typical language collection rely on puns.” The humour in language is often deliberate but many have posed this ludic question: To pun or not to pun?  Puns have been much maligned by a host of commentators. Freud described puns as “cheap,” and Oliver Wendell Holmes assailed them as “verbicide.” Many writers in seventeenth-and eighteenth-century England, such as John Dryden, Daniel Defoe and Joseph Addison believed that the English language approached perfection and that the inherent ambiguity in puns created confusion and impoliteness. In an article in the Tatler in 1710, however, Jonathan Swift mocked this “affectation of politeness,” because he realized, as Shakespeare did, that individual words possess multiple interpretative possibilities.  Puns have had other defenders. Three hundred years ago, Henry Erskine countered the statement that “a pun is the lowest form of wit” by adding that “it is therefore the foundation of all wit,” and Oscar Levant opined that it is the “lowest form of humor  – when you didn't think of it first.”
          Punning has been a language fixture through the ages. In Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus introduces himself to the Cyclops, as Outis, which means “no man” in Greek.  He then attacks the giant, who calls for reinforcement from his fellow monsters with the plea “No man is killing me!”  Naturally, no one rushes to his aid, proving that the pun is indeed, mightier than the sword. Cicero was another habitual grave punster. When a man plowed up the burial ground of his father, Cicero couldn't resist interjecting, “This is truly to cultivate a father`s memory.”
In the Bible there are many puns on names. In Hebrew, adamah means ground and edom means red. The name Adam may derive from the red earth whence he came. The name Jacob is derived from the Hebrew word for heel (ah'kev), because he held onto the heel of his older twin brother Esau at birth.  However, award Jesus the prize for best Biblical pun. We read in Matthew 16:18: “Thou art Peter ( Greek Petros), and upon this rock (Greek petra), I will build my Church.” Pope Gregory, one-time guardian of the Rock, punned when he stated that English slaves were Non Angli, sed angeli; “not Angles, but angels.”
Shakespeare’s Puns
'Tis said that in the art of punning, Shakespeare was great shakes and without peer. Not everyone, however, appreciated the bard’s puns. Lexicographer Samuel Johnson said that “a quibble was to Shakespeare his fatal Cleopatra for which he lost the world and was content to do so.”  In his A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Johnson defines “quibble” as “a low conceit depending on the sound of words; a pun” and “punster” is rendered as “a low wit who endeavours at reputation by double meaning.” Hardly high praise. Twentieth-century literary critic William Empson was even harsher.  He felt Shakespeare’s punnery showed “lack of decision and will power, a feminine pleasure in yielding to the mesmerism of language, in getting one’s way, if at all, by deceit and flattery, for a poet to be so fearfully susceptible to puns. Many of us could wish the Bard had been more manly in his literary habits.” Empson was reiterating a point made by eighteenth-century writer Joseph Addison who believed that puns had to be strictly differentiated from the more “manly Strokes” of wit and satire.  Samuel Coleridge, on the other hand, was much more understanding of Shakespeare's penchant to pun and stated that “a pun, if congruous with the feeling of a scene is not only allowable...but oftentimes the most effective intensive of passions.”
One study uncovered 3000 puns in the Bard's works, with an average of 78 puns per play. Many of these occur at climactic moments. In Macbeth, after Macbeth has killed the King, Lady Macbeth displays a lucid dispassion when she avers, “I'll gild the faces of the grooms withal. For it must seem their guilt.” At the beginning of Julius Caesar, the cobbler says he is a “saver of lost soles,” and if they are in danger, here-covers them.” In Romeo and Juliet, the dying Mercutio exits stage left with this vaudevillian pun: “Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man.”  This is but one of the estimated 175 puns in Romeo and Juliet.  Even the great Dane himself, Hamlet, doggedly can't forgo expiring without the pun “the rest is silence,” proving the maxim that “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.”  Nowadays, we look at puns as merely exercises in jocularity but we must bear in mind that in Shakespeare’s era, there were few unsuitable moments for puns. Even religious puns were acceptable. We find in Shakespeare's  contemporary John Donne’s Hymn to God The Father the line “The Son will shine as he shines now.”
Most of the witty wordplay in Shakespeare is wanton and somewhat aggressive. The liveliest exchanges are between lovers who fight their way to the altar where the wordplay is usually both seductive and initially hostile. Shakespeare's puns can also be quite lewd. Some of the bawdiness occurs in seemingly innocuous phrases like “too much of a good thing,” spoken by Rosalind to Orlando in As You Like It. In Shakespeare's day, “thing” was a common euphemism for genitalia. 
Some scholars see sexual allusions everywhere. Frankie Rubinstein in Dictionary  of Shakespeare's Sexual Puns and their Significance claims that the following words all have sexual connotations: “abhor,” “abominable,” “about,” “absolute,” “abuse,” “access,” “accommodate,” “acorn,” “acquaint,” “adventure,” “advocate” and “affection” and we're not even halfway through the letter A!  Rubinstein tells us that in Elizabethan vernacular, the word “surgeon” refers to the treatment of venereal disease, and thus it was not shoes that were being mended, but the bottoms of whores. In Cymbeline we have this line: “Will force him think I have picked the lock, and taken the treasure of her honour.” Here “pick the lock” refers to the act of deflowering. In Hamlet, the Prince refers to Polonius as a “fishmonger,” and is angry because he believes Polonius is responsible for Ophelia rejecting him. The term “fish” was used in the sixteenth century as an off-colour allusion to a woman. Hence, Hamlet is essentially calling Polonius a pimp.
Many of Shakespeare’s puns would nowadays be considered groaners. On the other hand, the fact that so many people enjoy bad puns shows that they serve a purpose and even contribute to a sense of community, for they transcend class distinctions. One should remember that Shakespeare is also employing them as a device to release tension in an audience.
Puns by Other Literary Greats
Lewis Carroll was another inveterate punster. In Through the Looking Glass we have this passage: “Here the Red Queen began again. ‘Can you answer useful questions?’ she said. ‘How is bread made?’ ‘I know THAT!’ Alice cried eagerly. ‘You take some flour— ' ‘Where do you pick the flower?’ the White Queen asked. ‘In a garden, or in the hedges?’  ‘Well, it isn't PICKED at all,’ Alice explained: ‘it's GROUND—’  ‘How many acres of ground?’ said the White Queen.‘You mustn't leave out so many things.’ ‘Fan her head.’ The Red Queen anxiously interrupted, ‘She’ll be feverish after so much thinking.’ ” The puns that Carroll uses are based on homophones and word ambiguities that are likely to be understood by a sharp ten-year-old.  For example, when Alice tells the Duchess, “The earth takes twenty- four hours to turn around on its axis,” the Duchess retorts: “talking of axes” - off with her head.” When the Mouse tells Alice, “Mine is a long and sad tale,” Alice is confused and asks him why having a long tail makes him sad.
Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is another great source for puns.  Its protagonist Jack Worthing pretends that he has a black sheep brother named Ernest but only Jack is aware that he, in fact, is Ernest. In one passage Jack says, “Aunt Augusta I've now realised for the first time in my life the importance of Being Earnest.” Many of Wilde's puns serve the purpose of highlighting the narrow-mindedness and hypocrisy of Victorian society. This is the intent when Lady Bracknell asks, “Mr. Worthing, is Miss Cardew at all connected with any of the large railway stations in London? ... Until yesterday I had no idea that there were families of persons whose origins was a Terminus.” As a member of the nobility, Lady Bracknell is mocking Jack's lack of knowledge about his family to underscore their different social ranks. For her, the marriage of Gwendolen Fairfax  to Jack would result in a dead end - or a terminus. For pure comic content, however, my favourite pun in the play is this famous quip by Lady Bracknell: “To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, is a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.” This pun plays on the dual senses of “lose” as “misplace”  and “have a loved one die.” 
          Some commentators have found the plethora of puns found in James Joyce's masterpieces Ulysses and Finnegans Wake to be offputting, but Joyce was unapologetic on this matter. He countered, “After all, the Holy Roman Catholic Apostolic Church was built on a pun” referring to the aforementioned quip by Jesus in Matthew 16:18: “Thou art Peter (Greek Petros), and upon this rock (Greek petra) I will build my Church.” When asked whether many of the puns in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake were in essence trivial, nonplussed he retorted, “Yes some of them are trivial and some of them are quadrivial.” In other words, they have at least four sources, not three. (“trivial” literally means  “three roads”). The trivium represented the three parts of classical liberal arts that included rhetoric, grammar, and logic.     
          Many of Joyce's puns were rather naughty and at times he even “out-bawdied” Shakespeare. For example, in Ulysses we find this little poem:
“If you see kay
Tell him he may
See you in tea
Tell him for me.”
          The words of this ditty when spoken phonetically spell out some rather crude swear words that are apparent to the trenchant reader.      
Whether curmudgeons like it or not, more than half of all jokes rely on language play, and the vast majority of these include punnery in some form. But aside from the reality and large presence of puns, a pun often symbolizes a universe of possibility. It reshapes the language we use to describe the world and in that sense can be seen as a political gesture, even a revolutionary one. Shared laughter aimed at a common enemy can be a catalyst to audacity.         
          What constitutes a great pun is largely subjective. Here are two of my favourites:
          A timid husband is unable to buy his wife's preferred anemones for her birthday and fearfully returns home bearing some greenery. To his surprise she gushes “With fronds like these who needs anemones? ” 
          A woman had twins and gave them up for adoption. One of them went to an Egyptian family who named him Amal. The other was adopted by a Spanish family who called him Juan. Years later, Juan sends a picture of himself to his birth mother. She tells her husband that she would also like to have a photograph of Amal. Her husband responds, “But they’re twins! If you’ve seen Juan, you've seen Amal.”
          Here's a brief sampling of puns both sublime and ridiculous from some well-known and not so well-known pundits:
Groucho Marx –  Time wounds all heels.
Edgar Bergen –  Show me where Stalin`s buried and I`ll show you a Communist plot.
Dorothy Parker (asked to give a sentence with the word horticulture) –  You can lead a horticulture but you can`t make her think.
H.L. Mencken –  Television is like a steak: a medium rarely well done.
Peter De Vries – The things my wife buys at auctions are keeping me baroque.
Political Puns
We also see much punnery in the political arena, invariably with a vituperative thrust:
Lloyd George could not see a belt without hitting below it. (Margot Asquith)
I only wish I knew {Bill Vander Zalm} before his lobotomy. (Kim Campbell)

Clement Attlee is a modest man, who has a good deal to be modest about. (Winston Churchill)
{Stafford Cripps} has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.
(Winston Churchill)

{William Gladstone }is  a sophisticated rhetorician, inebriated with the exuberance of his verbosity. (Benjamin Disraeli)
His {Ronald Reagan}ignorance is encyclopedic.  (Abba Eban)  
In a disastrous fire in President Reagan’s library both books were burned. And the tragedy is he hadn’t finished coloring one. (Jonathan Hunt)
{Gerald Ford } is so dumb he can’t fart and chew gum at the same time. (Lyndon Baines Johnson)
He compresses the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know. (Abraham Lincoln)   (Perhaps, Lincoln's target was his political opponent Stephen Douglas.)

When they circumcized Herbert Samuel they threw away the wrong bit. (David Lloyd George)

          Since in politics, it takes at least two to tangle, we have the following verbal sparring:
Labour MP Bessie Braddock:   Winston, you’re drunk.
Winston Churchill:  Bessie, you’re ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober.

Nancy Astor: If I were your wife I would put poison in your coffee.
            Winston Churchill:  And if I were your husband I would drink it.

William Gladstone:  You sir, shall either die of hanging, or from a social disease.
Benjamin Disraeli:  That all depends, sir, whether I embrace your politics or your mistress.*
*Some sources show that the participants in this exchange were the Earl of Sandwich and John Wilkes.
Australian PM Paul Keating: John Hewson is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.
Keating’s political foe John Hewson: I decided the worst thing you can call Paul Keating, quite frankly, is Paul Keating.

(Excerpted from Wordplay:Arranged and Deranged Wit by Howard Richler, published in 2016 by Ronsdale Press. The book is available at many bookstores and online at Amazon)

Friday, November 25, 2016


                                          Paint it Black on Friday

                                               Howard Richler

This year Thanksgiving in the United States will be celebrated on November 24th and will be followed the next day by perhaps the most mercantile day on the calendar – Black Friday. For shoppers this marks the beginning of the orgy of sale hunting that culminates at Christmas. Black Friday gets its designation from the fact that as of this day many stores and companies that previously were “in the red” are able to undergo a virtual transubstantiation where they morph “in the black.” These colour designations come from the world of accounting where red ink is used in a ledger to designate a loss and black ink is used to register a profit.  One would think that these two terms would have received lexicographic recognition concurrently, however “in the red” is first cited in the OED in 1907 while “In the black” makes its debut only in 1923.
To my knowledge, from a linguistic perspective, Black Friday marks the only instance of a positive connotation of the adjectival use of “black” in the English language. Obviously, most uses are neutral and refer only to the colour of various objects. However, in its many descriptions of the word black as an adjective the OED displays the following meanings: “gloomy,” “dirty,” “burned,” “evil” and “hateful.”  To “look black” means “to frown” and black is used as an intensifier in several expressions that carry a sense of severity, such as the terms “black afraid” or “black angry.”
The first OED citation of Black Friday with a commercial sense dates from 1961 when we read in the Dec 18th edition of Publication News in New York, “For downtown merchants throughout the nation, the biggest shopping days normally are the two following Thanksgiving Day… In Philadelphia, it beca[H1] me customary for officers to refer to the post-Thanksgiving days as Black Friday and Black Saturday.” The OED’s next citation is from the New York Times on November 21, 1975: “Philadelphia police and bus drivers call it ‘Black Friday’  –   that day each year between Thanksgiving Day and the Army-Navy game. It is the busiest shopping and traffic day of the year in the Bicentennial city.”
So as we can see from the two citations, there is a clear Philadelphia provenance to the expression and also one that relates to the traffic in that city caused by the multitudinous shoppers. It also seems that for some people the blackness attached to Friday represented a humorous reference to the congestion caused in downtown Philadelphia.
The OED does show an even earlier citation for Black Friday that ties it to the Thanksgiving season; it has nothing to do with shopping but rather the sense of blackness refers to the great degree of absenteeism found in factories following Thanksgiving.  The November 1951 edition of Factory Management & Maintenance reported “’Friday-after-Thanksgiving-itis’ is a disease second only to the bubonic plague in its effects…When you decide you want to sweeten up the holiday kitty, pick Black Friday to add to the list…Friday after Thanksgiving is the company’s seventh paid holiday.”
The OED shows several other examples of non-Thanksgiving-related Black Fridays and unsurprisingly none of them are particularly profitable. The first time the designation was used was in 1610 and it didn’t refer to a specific Friday but was used in English schools to refer to any Friday in which a general examination was administered. From this, we know that students have been “testaphobic” for over 400 years. The next time the designation was used was to mark December 6, 1745, when the landing of Charles Edward Stuart, a.k.a  “the Young Pretender” was announced in London.  This date is marked in infamy as it signifies the Young Pretender’s leading an insurrection to restore his family to the throne of Great Britain. History is undecided whether this rebellion caused any great panic but this didn’t prevent this particular Black Friday from receiving extensive lexicographic recognition. The other designation of Black Friday comes from the world of finance and occurs almost concurrently in Great Britain and the USA and at a date much earlier than one would suppose. The first one occurred on May 11, 1866 when a commercial panic followed the collapse of the London banking house Overend, Gurney & Co. Then on Sept 24, 1869 the term was used to refer to the financial panic on Wall Street that was precipitated by the introduction of a large amount of governmental gold into the financial market, with the aim of making it harder for anyone to corner the gold market.
I suspect other Black Fridays will achieve lexicographic recognition in the future. In fact, following the Brexit vote on Thursday, June 23rd, I espied these two headlines: The Independent-  Brexit: Black Friday For Financial Markets Sparked By EU Vote  and CNN MoneyBritain’s Black Friday Is Here. Now What?
Richler’s latest book Wordplay:Arranged and Deranged Wit was published  by Ronsdale Press in May 2016


Wednesday, November 16, 2016


1501-What do these words have in common?     moribund-flashing-endearing
1502-Discern the convergent words? right-case-lame     awn-blue-grass     Delhi-yellow-up
1503-Split Definitive Puzzle    deer country    (10)   (s) These “split definitive” are now featured in my recently released book Wordplay:Arrangedand Deranged Wit in the chapter “Word Definitions.”The book is now available in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and online at Amazon
1504-What do these words have in common?       alone-lard-beer   
1505-Discern the convergent words?   pot-string-head     pot-men-cocktail     pot-hole-cottage
1506- Split Definitive Puzzle  he or she glues   (14)  (p) 
1507-Name a 2 word palindromic phrase that describes an account that can be written as of Aug 22  
1508-Discern the convergent words?   up-dinner-see      New York-tennis-toasted    root-soup-stick  
1509- Split Definitive Puzzle  menage a trois  (8)   (f)  
1510-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means abbreviate legion
1511-Discern the convergent words? sweat-en-lymph    spur-yard-ham    prick-lady-butter
1512-Split Definitive Puzzle  Exorcist II       (12)   (p) 
1513-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means a house made out of a certain type of clay
1514-Discern the convergent words?   station-sting-spy      protest-elope-inform   plunged-lonesome-soap-
1515-Split Definitive Puzzle   await speech   (13)   (e)  
1516-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means fibrous storage place
1517-Discern the convergent words.  safety-way-strap     up-sun-ad     bath-dis-ward
1518-Split Definitive Puzzle      fish submission (9)   (p)
1519-What do these words have in common?     aspirin-finale-continent
1520-Discern the convergent words? worker-little-over   wrenching-cat-flora   upset-flat-tolerate
1521-Split Definitive Puzzle   meadow storehouse   (7)   (s)
1522-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means fritter away effort
1523-Discern the convergent words?  leaf-bite-stick    old-boy-on  dies-joke-ding
1524-Split Definitive Puzzle    motto for a metropolis with a broken-down downtown (9)  (m)
1525-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means merciless money 
1526-Discern the convergent words? corner-country-cut   crew-flower-framework    scold-letting-kin
1527-Split Definitive Puzzle     party lass (6)   (f)
1528-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means initial arguments 
1529-Discern the convergent words?    naked-let-ball      locker-big-set      venture-ad-ball
1530-Split Definitive Puzzle   person with a feline addiction   (8)  (h)
1531-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means mustier gluttony    
1532-Discern the convergent words?   dog-head-ma     fish-medal-mountain    wart-heaven-road
1533-Split Definitive Puzzle   spy headquarters   (11)  (m)  
1534-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means spunkier illusion
1535-Discern the convergent words?  allergy-farmer-gallery    poker-board-per   diet-double-cherry
153-Split Definitive Puzzle   university area of a herbivorous mammal      (11)   (c)
153-What do these words have in common?    futon-honcho-emoji
1538-Discern the convergent words?  bag-bubble-break     zest-kitchen-all   art-fly-up
1539-Split Definitive Puzzle    criticize denomination   (7)   (d)
 1540-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means rarely tries on clothes
1541-Discern the convergent words?    off-kick-corner     bolt-patch-dead       bad-cut-lash
1542-Split Definitive Puzzle   Madison Avenuese  (9)   (d)
1543-What do these words have in common?    caucus-tuxedo-squash 
1544-Discern the convergent words? stand-bell-shell     soap-whole-fed    mate-talk-black
1545-Split Definitive Puzzle     automobile friend    (6)  (p)
1546-What do these words have in common?    salon-muse-money
1547-Discern the convergent words?  ball-bowl-cap   sauce-ping-bed    sauce-locker-dead
1548-Split Definitive Puzzle   harvest fruit   (8)  (r)   
1549-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means demonstrates against doubter  
1550-Discern the convergent words? attack-running-dirt    chocolate-dust-slope     oil-corn-pit
1551-Split Definitive Puzzle   caper at a rock concert (8)  (a)
1552-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that could describe potatoes  
1553-Discern the convergent words?  cap-deep-sock       private-shadow-stink         jam-little-hold
1554-Split Definitive Puzzle   first insect  (7)    (a)
1555-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means oscillation controller of mountain guide  
1556-Discern the convergent words?   tree-boat-top      weed-sour-man      pepper-dog-oil
1557-Split Definitive Puzzle   fog corrosion  (8)    (m)  
1558-What do these words have in common?     coach, goulash, hussar
1559-Discern the convergent words? drum over-honor      snow-tin-mix     vitamin-polo-dry
1560-Split Definitive Puzzle   period between hockey periods    (6)    (o)
1561-Name 2 colors that are anagrams of animals.   
1562-Discern the convergent words? sky-spree-spur   galore-foot-willow    flop-day-talk
1563- Split Definitive Puzzle   star quotient     (11)     (c )    
1564-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that could be described by the names Porky or Nimrod   
1565-Discern the convergent words?  feed-roast-mock   animal-barrel-safe    sac-salad-hunt
1566-Split Definitive Puzzle   heavy-duty toilet paper   (8)    (p)   
1567-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that could describe  Goran Visnjic or Mira Furlan 
1568-Discern the convergent words? job-brown-plug   dropping-glass-gossip   band-empire-line
1569-Split Definitive Puzzle   colorless metaphysician  (14)  (o)
1570-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that could describe a  herd in SE England  
1571-Discern the convergent words?  drop-prickly-reap     mars-man-walk        torture-snake-works
1572- Split Definitive Puzzle   Y chromosome    (10)     (f)   malefactor  
1573-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means squashed gastropod 
1574- Discern the convergent words?  past-west-disc    avoid-wood-down   black-cavil-enter
1575 Split Definitive Puzzle   equally below par   (7)   (a)
1576-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means more cunning armistice
1577-Discern the convergent words? cob-flying-grey    post-stool-clay     blue-hawk-mocking
1578-Split Definitive Puzzle   average number    (9) (a)  
1579-What do these 4 letter animals  have in common? bear-fish-colt-mole-lion-seal
1580-Discern the convergent words? con-spoon-can     bin-ration-sweet     laws-fritter-Indian
1581-Split Definitive Puzzle   cheesy bug (7)  (b)
1582-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means porcine equivalent of mock chicken
1583-Discern the convergent words?    like-lime-love   shrew-trap-bush       monkey-cardinal-man
1584-Split Definitive Puzzle   In the event I will not be able to ink it, take my place  (11)   (i)
1585-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that could describe a dead duck  
1586-Discern the convergent words? nee-fore-cat     pockets-by-my      let-evil-hawk
1587-Split Definitive Puzzle-Place that sells plaice  (11)  (s)  
1588-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that means slight clue
1589-Discern the convergent words a)tongue-tennis-gum   b)betting-up-cow    c)wink-priest-car
1590- Split Definitive Puzzle-Beer with balls   (6)   (h)   These “split definitive” are now featured in my recently released book Wordplay:Arrangedand Deranged Wit in the chapter “Word Definitions.”The book is now available in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and online at Amazon
1591-What do these places have in common?     Attica,NY ,  Nice,France,  Aurora   CO
1592-Discern the convergent words  a)park-leg-bother  b)cool-colony-hem    c)naked-imitate-great
1593- Split Definitive Puzzle    $5 beer  (6)   (f)  These “split definitive” are now featured in my recently released book Wordplay:Arrangedand Deranged Wit in the chapter “Word Definitions.”The book is now available in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and online at Amazon
1594-Name a palindrome that describes these people: Catherine The Great, Elizabeth Ann Seton Bob Marley (thanks to Alan Arbesfeld-NYT Puz oct 20/16)  
1595- Discern the convergent words   a)bald-cream-mud     b)head-ears-seed    c)nut-garlic-up
1596-Split Definitive Puzzle underwriter   (9)  (s)  These “split definitive” are now featured in my recently released book Wordplay:Arrangedand Deranged Wit in the chapter “Word Definitions.”The book is now available in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and online at Amazon
1597-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase  that describes an identical wrinkle
1598- Discern the convergent words  a)mask-forward-bold       b)duster-dragger-down   c) inner-contact-exam
1599-Split Definitive Puzzle –Disallow confeederate   (7)     (a) These “split definitive” are now featured in my recently released book Wordplay:Arrangedand Deranged Wit in the chapter “Word Definitions.”The book is now available in bookstores like Barnes & Noble and online at Amazon

1600-Name a 2 word anagrammatic phrase that described an emaciated goddess   

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Let’s Call the Caliphate Wannabes Daesh – Because Names Matter

 (This article first appeared in the legal magazine Lexpert) 

                              Let’s Call the Caliphate Wannabes Daesh Because Names Matter

                                           Howard Richler

“The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman nor an empire.”     Voltaire

I had noticed that BBC News always adds the qualifier “so-called” when describing the Islamic State. As I find this usage clumsy, I decided to investigate why the BBC employs it.  I discovered that back in June 2015 a large number of British Members of Parliament, from all the major parties, accused the BBC of legitimizing the terrorist group by calling it “the Islamic State.” Even Prime Minister David Cameron entered the fray: “I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State. What it is, is an appalling barbarous regime… It’s a perversion of the religion of Islam and many Muslims listening to this programme {BBC Radio 4} will recoil every time they hear the words Islamic State.” Others argued that giving it the designation “state” also adds legitimacy because the self-styled caliphate is no more than an organization that is not recognized as a sovereign state by any country in the world.

Of course there are other designations for this terrorist group such as ISIS and ISIL, the latter being the preferred term of President Obama. This is explained by those trying to establish a caliphate, calling themselves, Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shaam. Al-Shaam translates roughly as the Levant (the areas near the East coast of the Mediterranean), also known as Greater Syria. If you translate al-Shaam as the Levant you get ISIL, if you translate it as Syria or just Shaam you get ISIS.

So as you can see there is no consensus on what to call the group and as a result there is much variance in designations. While I understand the reluctance of people who feel that the words “Islamic” or “state” lend legitimacy to a terrorist organization, I find adding the qualifier “so-called” to be somewhat silly. After all, this qualifier has not been generally added to other similar organizations. I don’t know if I ever heard Hezbollah (Party of Allah) referred to as the “so-called Hezbollah” because it doesn’t represent Muslim values or the IRA referred to as the “so-called Irish Republican Army” because it didn’t really qualify as an army. One could equally argue that because a leader of the former Soviet Union didn’t adhere to Communist principles it should be dubbed as having a “so-called Communist” government or an opponent to the former East German regime could have suggested that the government be labelled the “so-called Democratic Republic.” I remember when Menachem Begin was Prime Minister of Israel 1977-1983, he always referred to the “so-called PLO” because he couldn’t bring himself to suggest it was a liberation movement even in its acronymic form. However, to my recollection, few media outlets conformed to this “so-called” modifier.

Thankfully, there is a simple solution to this naming conundrum. In 2013, Syrian Khaled al-Haj Salih coined the term Daesh (usually pronounced Dash or Da-ish).  It is a transliteration of the Arabic acronym and is formed of the same words that make up ISIS in English, “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” and is rendered in Arabic as al-dawla-al-islamiya fi-al-Iraq wa-ash-shaam. But Daesh also sounds in Arabic very similar to the word daes that means “someone or something that crushes or tramples.” This definition is why the terrorist organization detests the name. In an article in Freeword, February 2015 entitled “Decoding Daesh: Why is the new name for ISIS so hard to understand?,” Arab translator Alice Guthrie says that the term is despised because they {the terrorist group} hear it as a challenge to their legitimacy: a dismissal of their aspirations to define Islamic practice to be ‘a state for all Muslims’ and  –  crucially – as a refusal to acknowledge and address them as such.”  Guthrie adds that the name Daesh “lends itself well to satire, and for the arabophones trying to resist Daesh, humour and satire are essential weapons in their nightmarish struggle.”  In Guthrie’s article, al-Haj Salih asks “If an organisation wants to call itself ‘the light,’ but in fact are ‘the darkness,’ would you comply and call them ‘the light’?”  Al-Haj Salih adds that Daesh is a fictitious name for the nonsensical fictional concept proposed by the terrorist organization and thus serves the purpose of discrediting it.

As of December 2015, UK government ministers started referring to the militant group as Daesh but unfortunately the BBC has not followed suit. A BBC story in July of this year referred to the perpetrators of the siege and murder in Bangladesh as supporters of the “so-called Islamic State.” For me, a qualifier such as “so-called” should be reserved for something morally reprehensible such as honour killings.  Although the name Daesh is widely used in the Arab world and has gained great currency in Europe it is not often employed in Canada or the United States. As far as I am aware, the only major North American political figure who employs the word is US Secretary of State John Kerry.

As language can be a powerful weapon of war, it is time for the anglophone world to join the coalition using the term Daesh. Let’s echo Voltaire and add words to the arsenal when combatting terrorists.

Richler’s latest book Wordplay:Arranged and Deranged Wit was published in May by Ronsdale Press.