Thursday, December 1, 2022

Political Correctness in Word Games


When does word sensitivity become word oversensitivity?


                               Howard Richler

“Thou will O wall, O sweet and lovely wall

Show me the chink to blink through with mine eyne.” (Midsummer’s Night Dream)

“A city swallowed up by a wide chinke and  opening of the earth.” (Philemon Holland’s  Pliny’s History of the  World, 1601)


My titled question has become a pressing issue even in word games. For example, the New York Times features a daily puzzle called Spelling Bee and one day in September it featured this puzzle format:







 In this puzzle you have to thinks of words of four letters or more that contain the center letter which in this case was N. Letters can appear more than once and  therefore the word “hiking” is acceptable as well as the word “chunk.” The problematic issue occurred because the word “chink” (that has meant a fissure or rift) for over 700 years was not accepted because it is also a racial slur.

I was curious what people felt about the word’s exclusion and posted this question on Facebook and not surprisingly opinions varied dramatically. Many people felt that the word is virulently racist and even though it also has another innocuos, that it was proper for the puzzle’s creator to have it excluded. On the other hand, many people felt that is was wrong not to include a genuine word and pointed out that it there are several words that could offend people such as “faggot” (it has a sense as a bundle of sticks), “frog” (a derogatory word for someone French), “spade” (a derogatory word for Blacks) and “cracker” (a racist epithet aimed at poor rural Whites. Should all these words be nixed? What about the word “oreo”? It often appears as the answer in crossword puzzles but it is also a term used mockingly to refer to black people who have adopted white middle class values. Should “oreo” therefore be expunged, notwithstanding that this cookie is beloved to many people?

A Chinese-American stated that he had been slandeed by the epithet in the past and found it highly offensive but someone else countered that when it is clearly being used in its original sense that no offense should be taken.

Another person averred that by pretending that a word that goes back to the Middle Ages doesn’t exist amounts to pandering to racists and granting them power they don’t deserve to wield.

This is not the first time that what is sometimes called politically-correct language has caused a furor in word games. For in the inaugural 2019  New York Times crossword puzzle of Jan 1st, the clue for 2 Down “Pitch to the head” ( 6 letters) elicited the answer “beaner.”   The word “beaner,” albeit more commonly called “beanball” refers to a pitch where the intention of the pitcher it to hit the head (known colloquially as “bean”) of the hitter.  However, the term “beaner” is used  more often as a derogatory term for Mexicans or those of Mexican descent (supposedly because of their propensity for eating beans), and as a result crossword  puzzle editor Will Shortz received many  complaints that he had allowed a racist term to appear.  As a result of the kerfuffle, Shortz quickly issued this apology on the newspaper’s website:   “I’m very sorry for the distraction about BEANER (2D) in today’s fine puzzle by Gary Cee.” He added that neither he nor digital puzzle editor Joel Fagliano had ever heard the slur before. Shortz lives in New York and I believe that the slur is used more often in the southwest of the USA near the Mexican border.

Let me be clear. I am in favour of being sensitive when we speak.  After all, it wasn’t that long ago that words like “cretin” and even “moron” were used in polite society without compunction.  Given a choice I’d rather be oversensitive than not sensitive enough.  Increasingly, “ethnic” verbs such as “to welsh” (to avoid payment); “to gyp”(to cheat) and “to jew” (to bargain) are also avoided and rightfully so. And in the aforementioned word “chink” I am aware that the word is probably used around 99% in its pejorative sense as opposed to its meaning as a fissure but I’d like to believe that people who are playing this word game are aware that it also has the latter sense.

And where does it end? I would never use the word niggardly even though it means miserly and bears no etymological connection to the N-word. There are several other synonyms I could employ. However, if I disagree vehemently with someone’s opinion, should I avoid stating that I find their argument  “fatuous,”  if they happen to be even moderately overweight?

The mind boggles.





Friday, May 6, 2022



                              Why mama and papa?


                                      Howard Richler

Around the globe, May and June represents the most common months that honour mothers and fathers respectively. Surprisingly, the near universality of recognition for parents is almost matched by the similarity that many languages have for these two words.

In the 1950s, the American anthropologist George Murdoch studied the words for mother and father on 470 languages scattered throughout the planet. His analysis showed that the word for mother contained a syllable similar to ma in 52% of cases whereas the word for father contained this syllable in only 15% of his languages. Conversely, the word for father has a syllable akin to pa or ta in 55% of his language sample, while these syllables occurred in the word for mother in only 7% of cases.

What accounts for these staggering proclivities?

One theory proposed is called the “Proto-World Hypothesis” which posits that the similarity of words in various languages for mother and father  can be explained by these words being present in the ancestral language of mankind  and that these words have simply survived on hundreds of languages in a similar form and with the exact same meaning.

But before, we examine the veracity of this theory, let’s look at some of parental words in various languages. Since Mother’s Day celebrations usually precede ones for Father’s Day and we have the entrenched expression “ladies first,” we will start with mother words. Most languages seem to have a word for mother that is either “mama” or has a nasal sound similar to mama, such as “nana.” Observe, Arabic ahm, Basque ama, Dutch, moeder, Greek, mana and Welsh, mam to name but a few.

On the paternal side of the equation we have Albanian, Mandarin & Turkish baba, Greek babbas, Hindi & Russian, papa, Italian, padre, Welsh, tad  and Xhosa tata.

Although what I previously referred to as the Proto-World Hypothesis sounds logical, it is wrong and doesn’t accord with scientific evidence which was first elucidated by pioneering linguist Roman Jakobson in 1959 in his article Why “mama” and papa”?  Jakobson explained that babies everywhere acquire language in a very orderly fashion. At first the vocalizations of a baby are done by crying or shrieking. After this, the infant moves to a cooing stage characterized by those distinct baby noises. In this period the young child is not making any recognizable speech sounds and is still in the pre-speak period. But it is the next phase – the babbling stage that something significant occurs. Here we begin to hear recognizable speech sounds in the form of vowels and consonants. The easiest vowel sound for babies to utter is ah because it can be made without doing anything or with the tongue lips.  And when the baby closes her lips as is done in transforms the ah sounds into mahs

             Very often these speech sound are repeated and the mah sound turns into  mahmah. Of course the baby isn’t really speaking, it is babbling, but is sounds like speaking to adults and as if the baby is addressing someone who most likely is the mother. Naturally, mom takes mama as meaning her, and when speaking to her baby refers to herself as mama.

               As anyone learning English as a second language knows, certain consonants are very difficult to learn such as the th sound in the beginning of words such as the and at the end of words like south, Even a three- year old child whose first language is English might have a problem with this sound and their think might emerge as fink. On the other hand, some consonants are quite easy to produce. These are the sounds that are made entirely with the lips such as m, p, or b. These are easier because they require no tongue work, all that is required for their production is placing the two lips together to release them. The m sound is the easiest and this explains why mama invariably precedes papa.

Papa is virtually ubiquitous for a similar reason. After a baby begins making the m sound with her lips, she is likely to make a sound that that involves slightly more than just the putting of her lips together which involves not only the putting the lips together, holding them in that position for a second or two and then blowing out a puff of air. This invariably produces a p or a b sound. Another possibility involves the a slightly more complicated procedure in which the baby plays  with their mouth a little further back from the lips and this elicits  a  t or d sound. The order in which babies acquire these sounds explains why the second- in-command caretaker to mama is usually called papa, baba, tata, or dada.

A happy mother’s day and father’s day to all  – even if your first languages features  words for parental figures that  diverge from this pattern.




Richler’s latest book is Wordplay:Arranged and Deranged Wit




Thursday, February 10, 2022

Valentines-Falling in Love


                     The rise and fall of love




                                 Howard Richler


                                 Wise men say

                                 only fools rush in

                                 but I can’t help

                                 falling in love with you

(Lyrics from Can’t Help Falling in Love written by Weiss, Peretti and Creatore)



Falling in Love, Falling in Love Again, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, When I Fall in Love, ‘Til I Fell in Love with You,…. The song titles featuring  the act of ‘falling in love” are seemingly endless. But hold on a second, lovers. Isn’t  “falling” a bad thing to do?”


My friend David posed  this dilemma to me   recently and  he inquired whence came  the expression “falling in love.”


So I checked the OED to see if it could provide an  adequate lexicographic answer to David’s query.  The phrase “falling  in love” is first cited in 1423 .  At first, though,  one didn’t merely  tumble “in love” but rather into “love’s dance.”  The citation comes from James 1-The King’s Quire and states, “So fare I falling into love’s dance.” It took  at least one hundred more years for the phrase to be shortened to “”falling in love.” This phrase has endured ever since as the quintessential  expression  of the dizzy loss of control of the lovestruck.


The OED has many definitions of the word “fall”, but two in particular are instructive of the sense implied in “falling in love.”  Fall(noun) is defined as “a succumbing to temptation, a lapse into sin or folly. It is first used in this sense in 1225.  Fall (verb) is defined as “to yield to temptation, to sin.”


By the way, the  concept of a fall into love is hardly restricted to English. In French  and many other languages  love causes a fall  and in the case of Icelandic it captures you.


Legend has it that  the romance associated with Valentine’s  Day  descends  from a custom in ancient Rome. On the eve of the Feast of Lupercalia,  which began on February 15th,  the names of maidens were written on pieces of paper and placed in  a jar. These slips were then plucked by  young men who would partner with their selection for the duration of the festival.  Valentine’s Day owes its name to Saint Valentine who was beheaded  in the  second century A.D for marrying couples counter to the orders of Emperor Claudius 11.


Etymologically speaking  when a young lover is imbued with romance, the debt isn’t to love, but to Rome. The word “romance” comes from the Old French term Romans, a derivation of Romanus, “Roman.” The term was used to refer to the local dialects of Latin(which  later became the Romance languages) and was used to differentiate them from official Latin. The practice arose in France of writing  entertaining stories in the more popular spoken language and the term romans was used to refer to these adventurous tales.  It was in this sense that the word was borrowed into Middle  English. Because  many of these stories in  both English and French dealt with courtly love, ”romance” came to mean simply a “love story” and eventually developed the sense of a ‘love affair.”


Seeing that William Shakespeare  is the greatest word progenitor in the history of the English language, it is not surprising that several love words are associated with the Bard.  Shakespeare seems to have coined the term  “love affair” in Three Gentlemen of Verona in 1591 where Valentine  says “I part with thee, confer at large of all that may concern thy love affairs.”  There is an obscure reference  to “love letters” in the OED in 1240 but Shakespeare  popularized the term in Merry Wives of Windsor when Mrs. Page asks “I ‘scaped love-letters in the holiday-time of  my beauty, and  am I now a subject for them?”


Shakespeare’s contemporary Christopher Marlowe is credited with the first usage of “love at first sight” In Hero and Leander in 1593: “ Where both deliberate the love is slight; who ever loved,  that loved not at  first sight?”


The 16th and 17th centuries featured some  language of love that has vanished from our lexicon. The word muskin  was a term of endearment for a woman,  to halch was to clasp in ones arms, and  an amoret was a term that could refer to a sweetheart, a love sonnet or a love glance .The 17th century was not noted as an age of gender neutralization as seen in the term mistress-piece which denoted a “masterpiece of female beauty.” A synonym for kiss was the term smick as is noted in the Bagford Ballad of 1685:  You smack, you smick, you wash, you lick, you smirk, you swear, you grin.”


And whence comes the word “kiss?”  “Kiss” is  a widespread Germanic  word, represented by the German  k├╝ssen, Dutch kussen, Swedish kyssa, and Danish kysse. It probably goes back to some prehistoric syllable that imitated the sound or action of kissing. There is not sufficient linguistic evidence to state whether our ancient Indo-European ancestors expressed affection to each other through the action of kissing.


Happy, Valentine’s Day, everybody.  Enjoy the dance.




            A kiss is not always just a kiss




                             Howard Richler



            Kissing and bussing differ both in this

We busse our wantons, but our wives we kisse.

(Robert Herrick in his 1648 collection of poetry Hesperides)



Lest you be misguided into thinking from the above ditty that it was 17th century Englishmen who established the pedigree of kisses, be informed that the ancient Romans had formulated a hierarchy millennia before.


At the less lascivious end of the spectrum we find the osculum, (literally, little mouth) which rererred to an affectionate peck on the cheek.  Romantic kissing, however, fell into two categories. The basium was the direct lip-to-lip kiss between lovers and this Latin word is the source of the cognate words in most European languages –  bacio, (Italian); buss, (English); beso, (Spanish) and baiser, (French). The basium was the discussable[User1]  kiss [User2] and the one memorialized in the polite poetry of the time. The other kiss, the suavium, although often literally translated as "little kiss," was really the more passionate labio-lingual kiss that the French inherited from the Romans and that we, therefore, call the French kiss. It was always a prelude and an invitation to further interaction among intimates.


The word “kiss” dates from around the year 1000 and comes from the Old English cyssan which does not appear to have cognates in any other language.  By the time of Chaucer, one could also “ba” as seen  in Canterbury Tales (1386),  “Come ner, my spouse; let me ba thy cheke.”  Both “smack” and “buss” are first recorded in 1570, “smick” in 1572 and the Latinate duo of “suaviate” and “osculate” surface in 1643 and 1656 respectively.


“Smooch” as a noun and as a verb is only recorded in the 20th century; however, in 1611 in his French/English Dictionary, Randle Cotgrave defines a baiseur as “a kisser, smoutcher, smacker.”


In The Lover’s Tongue, Mark Morton informs us that hugging often accompanies kissing, “but hugging was not possible until the mid-16th century, when hug emerged in the English language. Prior to that lovers could only clip, halse {or halch}, lap or embrace.”  The oldest of these “hug” verbs is “clip” and one was able to “clip” at least fifty years before “kiss” entered the language. The word also surfaces in Canterbury Tales: “He kisseth hire and clyipeth hire ful ofte.” Morton could have included “cuddling” as one of the pre-hugging possibilities, as the verb “cuddle” arrives in the language around 1520. The OED describes “cuddle” as “a dialectical or nursery word of uncertain derivation.” Only towards the end of the 17th century could the English “caress,” “snuggle” and “fondle”; the last two of these being adaptations of the adjectives “snug” and “fond.”


 Given that the ineffable f-word [User3] has been taboo for most of its 500-year history, you might wonder how gentrified folk referred to this activity without resorting to protracted euphemistic phraseology such as “go to bed with.”   Surprisingly, the word “conversation” referred to sexual activity in the early part of the 16th century and only took on the sense of “chatting” towards the end of the century. At this juncture, one had to specify “conjugal conversation” if  either hanky or panky  [User4] was occurring.  Conversely, “intercourse” originally referred to communication and commerce in the 15th century and is only used to mean sexual activity from 1798.


There were, however, many terms that preceded the f-word. The oldest of these are “sard”[User5]  and “wifthing” recorded around the year 1000. “Wifthing” is actually a compound of “wife” and “thing” but don’t be deluded into thinking that it is only sanctioning marital relations as the sense at the time of “wife” was merely “woman.”  The 14th century sees two new additional terms to express full carnal embrace – “jape” in 1362 and “swive.oft employed in Canterbury Tales two decades later. For example, in The Reeve’s Tale, a student crows, “As I have thries {thrice} in this shorte nyght swyved the milleres doghter bolt upright.” The verb “occupy” was also used  to imply sexual activity in the late 15th century and the term was only purged of any carnal sense towards the end of the 19th century.


One manner that the English language employs to euphemize bawdy terms is to Latinize them.  Hence the early 14th century is graced by the term “fornication” which is derived from the noun fornix, “arch, vaulted chamber” because Roman brothels were often established in vaults. Surprisingly, it took until the middle of the 16th century for the verb “fornicate” to develop from the noun “fornication.” “Copulation” is first recorded toward the end of the 15th century and the verb “copulate” only follows more than a century later.


Despite a long and varied  history of etymological development, may all lovers be well occupied in deep, romantic conversation this Valentine’s Day.


 [User1] Not sure what you mean, here.

 [User2] Suggest « the kiss that could be spoken »

 [User3] Sudden change in topic – create a link.

 [User4] Which « former sense??? »

 [User5] You don’t explain this word.

Friday, February 4, 2022



                                   Celebrating Black English


                                               Howard Richler

Every February,  in the United States and Canada, we  celebrate Black History Month to honour the achievements of black men and women throughout history. As such, in this month's column, I reflect on the speech patterns of blacks.


Throughout America history, the language used by blacks has been regarded as second-rate by many observers. For example, H.L. Mencken in his opus The American Language wrote in the 1920s, “The Negro dialect, as we know it today, seems to have been formulated by the song-writers for the minstrel shows; it did not appear in literature until the time of the Civil War…it was a vague and artificial lingo which had little relation to the actual speech of Southern blacks.” In the 1980s, pop grammarian John Simon ordained that “the constructions of black English are the product not of a language with roots in tradition but of ignorance of how language works.”  More recently, political commentator Tucker Carlson said that Black English is “a language where nobody knows how to conjugate verbs.” These opinions  are consistent with what is often called the linguistic inferiority principle  which posits  that the speech patterns of a socially subordinate group will always be interpreted as improper when compared with the socially dominant group.


However, it is now recognized by linguists that Black English is not inferior but merely another of the multitudinous flavours of English available on our planet. In fact, Black English contains some useful refinements not available in standard English. In an article some years ago in the magazine Discover, linguist John B. Rickford outlined some of the versatility of Black English in the verb “to run.”

1)He runnin. (“He is running.”)

2)He be runnin. (“He is usually running.”)

3)He be steady runnin. (“He is usually running in an intensive, sustained manner.”)

4)He bin runnin. (“He has been running.”)

5)He BIN runnin. (“He has been running for a long time and still is.”)


Linguist John McWhorter in his book Talking Back Talking Black  explains that a construction such as “She be passin’ by”  contains “much more than an unconjugated verb” and that the insertion of “be” is “very specific; it means that something happens on a regular basis, rather than something going on right now.”


Mc Whorter points out that arguably Black English is more complex than standard English. For example, in Black English the word “up” plays a special role when paired with a location. So  in  the Black English sentence  “We was sittin’ up at Tony,” we know that Tony is a friend as the usage of “up” is  a marker of intimacy. just as adding ed to a verb is a marker of past action.  Still another nuance of Black English exposed by McWhorter  is the way the word done is used to mark counter-expectation: “Whether it’s used in a sentence about 1973 or last week, a sentence with done is always about something the speaker finds somewhat surprising, contrary to what is expected.”


Most linguists believe that Black English has its roots in the creole language developed as a result of contact between West Coast Africans and European traders. Robert McCrum and Robert MacNeil In The Story of English relate that  “The African element in the English spoken by slaves on the plantation-known as Plantation Creole-was sustained for some time… On each plantation, there would be some esteemed slaves who spoke African languages.”


Not surprisingly, an African heritage resonates through Black English speech patterns. For example, many West African languages don't possess the problematic English “th” sound. The lack of this consonantal combo may thus lead to “them” being rendered as “dem” and “desk” as “des.”


It was once felt that as more blacks entered the mainstream that the dialect would greatly fade. According to linguists, however, the current generation of inner-city youth employs the black vernacular more than ever. The persistence of the dialect reflects an attitude that prizes cultural distinction. Black English endures because it fulfils a cultural need by enhancing black solidarity. On the other hand, the inability of a black person to speak and write in standard English can seriously impede his or her social and economic prospects.


School teachers used to devote themselves to correcting Black English usage under the impression that they were thus imparting proper grammar to the black student. Things are improving somewhat but have a long way to go. The Oxford Companion to the English Language states that “because Black English is devalued…many teachers with excellent intentions continue to denigrate it in favour of standard English. Few such educators…have learned about the history and nature of Afro-American English, and fail to appreciate its diversity and logical integrity as a long-established variety of the language.”


I believe that Black English should not be taught as a distinct language but rather should be used as a tool to improve the student's mastery of standard English.


Richler’s latest book is Wordplay: Arranged and Deranged Wit



Monday, October 4, 2021





Howard Richler is a Montreal-area word nerd and author of these seven books on a variety of language themes: Dead Sea Scroll Palindromes, Take My Words, A Bawdy Language, Global Mother Tongue, Can I Have a Word With You?, Strange Bedfellows and his most recent book Wordplay: Arranged and Deranged Wit ( May 2016, Ronsdale Press, Vancouver).

As I write both books and columns on language and give speeches with language themes to many groups, I am asked many questions; but if I had to single out the question I am asked most often it would be, “How did the major sense of the word ‘gay’ change from 'happy'?” Here’s the explanation.

Actually, the first recorded sense, early in the 14th century, was ‘noble, beautiful,’ or ‘excellent,’ and often the term was employed poetically to praise exceptional women. The word surfaces in the late 14th century to refer to something bright or colourful, and before long this sense was extended to people who were considered carefree, lighthearted or cheerful.

But those who are cheerful might be engaging in some form of pleasure and by the 15th century it could also refer to one virtually addicted to social pleasures just a ‘gay dog’ was term reserved for a man given to revelling or self-indulgence. In 1630, William Davenant in The Cruel Brother and Nicholas Rowe later in 1703 in Fair Penitent unveiled libertine characters they dubbed ‘Lothario.’ As a result, in the 18th century the term ‘gay Lothario’ was used to refer to such a character. The same sense of a lack of moral rectitude is seen in the expression ‘gay abandon’ that refers to actions taken that are not considered with the consequences that might ensue. In the 19th century, the word was sometimes applied to a woman deemed to lead an immoral life, such as a prostitute. Also, the term ‘gaycat’ may have influenced the semantic change of the word gay. By the turn of the 20th century, this word gaycat was used by hobos to refer to a tramp’s companion, usually a young boy, and often his catamite.

The word is first used with the homosexual connotation in the 1920s by American expatriates living in Paris. The first OED citation with this sense comes from Gertrude Stein's Miss Furr & Miss Skeens found in Geography & Plays (1922): “Helen Furr and Georgina Keene lived together then. They were together then and traveled to another place and stayed there and were gay there . . . not very gay there, just gay there. They were both gay there.”

There is evidence that the word was used before this date. Hugh Rawson reports in Wicked Words that in 1889 during “the Cleveland Street Scandal (involving post office boys in a male brothel in London's West End), a prostitute named John Saul used gay with reference to both male homosexuals and to female prostitutes when giving evidence to the police and in court.” Gay's first dictionary appearance in its homosexual sense is in Noel Erskine's Underworld& Prison Slang (1935) : “Gaycat . . . a homosexual boy.”

Although the word still possesses the sense of ‘merry,’ the homosexual connotation is the dominant one notwithstanding the acceptability of ‘donning gay apparel’ during Yuletide festivities.

Incidentally, ‘gay’ is still evolving and is used by many teenagers to designate what they regard as socially inappropriate, what is often labelled as ‘lame.’ In 2001, the Washington Post reported, “Today, they [teenagers] often use gay as an adjective meaning ‘stupid.’ A gay movie is a stupid movie or one that makes no sense or one with a lame plot or all of those things. But soon after gay people started to protest this usage and I’m happy to say it is not used as much nowadays.

The journey of ‘faggot’ from sticks to a very derogatory one for a homosexual is a rather peculiar odyssey. The word is found in its original sense in English in the 14th century but by the 16th century it is used to refer to kindling wood used for burning heretics and the expression ‘to fry a faggot’ meant to be burned alive and ‘to carry a faggot’ referred to those who renounced heresy. The bundle sense was not lost altogether and the term by the 16th century could refer to miscellaneous bundles, and in particular, a bundle of iron or steel.

By the late 16th century a sea-change in the meaning of the word occurred and it becomes a term of abuse or contempt for a woman. This probably occurred because a broom could be fashioned from a bundle of sticks and in the process of metonymy whereby a word associated with another word substitutes, for e.g., ‘wheels’ to replace ‘car,’ faggot became a stand-in for woman. As a broom is not a highly-prized object and is associated with domestic chores often saddled on women, the term faggot became a pejorative term for a woman. This usage may also have been influenced by witches being associated with brooms and the burning of witches in the Middle Ages. Interestingly, the word ‘besom’ was used since the eleventh century to refer to a pile of twigs or a broom but the 19th century, it too became a contemptuous, if somewhat jocular, term for a woman Even in the early part of the 20th century we see ‘faggot’ used in this manner. For example, in James Joyce's 1922 Ulysses, the character Molly Bloom refers to “That old faggot Mrs Riordan,” and three years later in D.H. Lawrence's Reflections on the Death of a Porcupine a character is described as “fractious, tiresome and a faggot.” We even see this usage as late as 1961 in Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphin: the young heroine admits to singeing her hair “with a faggot.”

The process of the transformation of the major sense of faggot from woman to homosexual occurs in the early part of the 20th century. The first citation in the OED in 1914 makes it clear that the word is hardly mainstream as we see this entry from L.E. Jackson and C.R. Hellyer's A Vocabulary of Criminal Slang: “Drag, Example, All the fagots (sissies) will be dressed in drag at the ball tonight.” The homosexual sense of the word was much more common by the 1930s and in J. Dos Passos' The Big Money, we read, “The first thing Marge thought was how on earth she could ever have liked that faggot.” Faggot, is hardly alone in having its primary meaning shift from a description of a woman to a homosexual. Any derogatory word for a woman, or associated with the distinctive parts of a female, can be applied to homosexuals, or for that manner for any male perceived as effeminate or not ‘man enough.’ Examples abound, such as ‘pussy,’ ‘douchbag,’ ‘pantywaist,’ ‘nancy boy’ and other terms too lurid for print in a family newspaper.

Increasingly today, we see the word faggot being used with no imputation of sexuality as a generalized insult to describe a male regarded as a ‘jerk.’ Although some commentators suggest that an increased use of the word ‘faggot’ will render the word innocuous, (e.g.,’gay’ was once used primarily in an insulting manner, but nowadays is used merely as a descriptive synonym for a homosexual) it seems unlikely. The word ‘faggot’ still has a powerful sting to it and as we still see many gay adolescents have committed suicide being so labelled. In other words, we are not at a point in time when it is likely that this word's sense can be rehabilitated.


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Saturday, November 21, 2020





3201-Commonality       squash-station-dung  

3202-Split Definitive    in favour of oversight (l)  (8)

3203-Convergent   rock-plunged-tail   golden-war-eye    rock-carrier-post

3204-Commonality        innate-scored-sing

3205-Words in a Word      sick trip                                                             (v)    11

3206-Convergent      fly-farming-fry    bracelet-hard-land   spot-cold-pie

3207-Anagram   major league baseball team didn’t have an increase in covid 19 cases  (looking for 3 words that are anagrams to each other)

3208-Split Definitive      prisoner sequence of events   (c)  (9)

3209-Convergent       call-sea-butcher    drum-ale-wood     ices-liver-piece

3210-Anagram   President of Western Asia country uttered a mournful sound  

3211- Words in a Word          stroke with a whip air trip                                     (l)    10

3212-Convergent       clenched-slack-gossip   black-function-aqua      back-backs-out

3213-Commonality      rant-sties-rue

3214-Split Definitive       disregard  atom that gained electrical charge   (m)  (7)

3215-Convergent       winged-well-work  salt-saw-some   beat-it-right

3216-Anagram    Creative work broth   

3217- Words in a Word          outstanding wet dirt                                            (s)    7

3218-Convergent   table-tablet-talks     aha-boiled-candied     up-ante-double

3219-Anagram   Embroidered person who makes reparations for sinning  

3220-Split Definitive     vigor stream  (p)    (7)

3221-Convergent   broken-brace-bow    bump-nudge-pad   noodle-off-office

3222-Anagram   Tricks guardians into doing something bad            

3223-Words in a Word          restaurant bill  electric   terminal                             (t)    7

3224-Convergent   mountain-tape-western    jump-horned-tape    quarter-salt-thief

3225-Anagram     commence life

3226-Split Definitive       rusted womanizer, gambler  and drinker      (r)   10

3227-Convergent   race-pack-train          race-catcher-her           race-box-woman

3228-Commonality       core-envied-lane      

3229-Words in a Word          no longer fashionable evergreen tree                                       (o)    7                                                                                                       

3230-Convergent   beetle-film-horn   weed-wash-heaven  dried-saw-ladder

3231-Anagram    Greek goddess wasted away   

3232-Split Definitive      restrict the availability of a particular songbird   (r)    (9)

3233-Convergent   road-old-away      grass-whole-gold  finger-forward-French

3234-Anagram   French Mississippian chicken    

3235-Words in a Word          make sound of pigeon marauder                       (c)     

3236-Convergent   back-wrong-pad   cavity-protector-deep     joint-check-hop

3237-Anagram  Indian driver 

3238-Split Definitive         janitor headwear   (v)      (10)

3239-Convergent   wooden-up-hamper   camp-jack-up   alligator-Easter-car

3240-Commonality     hover-mate-orgy   

3241-Words in a Word        move composure downward                          (d)    11

3242-Convergent   favor-house-powder   case-chest-job   bran-golden-meal

3243-Commonality      coats-posse-reverse   

3244-Split Definitive     rocky peak guide   (m)     (9)

3245-Convergent   tree-complain-sand   group-hem-elope   blue-duck-lac

3246-Anagram   Lines up indication  

3247-Words in a Word        was jealous of decline                                      (s)    9[HR1] 

3248-Convergent   fog-teaser-bird      life-sugar-test          band-empire-panty

3249-Anagram     Ford flop found in Yorkshire  

3250-Words in a Word                consuming gaseous substance                         (e)   11

3251-Convergent  guard-shower-banger   flask-pie-friends     colts-pad-cubic

3252-Anagram        Tainted arbiter    

3253-Split Definitive         untidy conditions getting older     (m) (9)

3254-Convergent   lace-leg-lick  sweat-wind-hop  safety-rein-in

3255-Commonality    pend-supped-spy   ORT

3256-Words in a Word    tolerate excursion                                            (s)  11

3257-Convergent   pat-lick-mad   stuck-Lain-mental    flying-monkey-red

3258-Commonality   consume-creed -pale  

3259-Split Definitive            exist owning  (h)    (8)

3260-Convergent    ball-jar-sweet    musk-rock-water     tenderizer-thermometer-white

3261-Anagram    Three part very funny happening   

3262-Commonality        mistake egg-shaped                                        (o)   8

3263-Convergent   sitting-shelter-license     busy-ping-keeper    pose-hydraulic-blue

3264-Special Word     Name a word with 3 consecutive letter pairs    

3265-Split Definitive               obvious cutting tool  (o)     (7)

3266-Convergent     long-copper-count       stiff-let-weapon   crew-flower-framework  

3267-Palindrome  Before  getting someone to write an exam for him at Wharton, what palindromic question did DT ask himself?

3268-Words in a Word          in favour of money paid back                     (r)    9

3269-Convergent   man-ion-cinnamon   on-pickled-blue    diet-double-penis   

3270-Commonality        less-lint-predict

3271-Split Definitive                  barer punctuation mark  (b)  (9)

3272-Convergent       sucker-lion-tail      man-may-no    grumble-black-us

3273-Anagram    Refuse to notice area   

3274-Words in a Word                      prepare for publication; had sex                   (m)     9

3275-Convergent   thin-communion-silicon       custard-skin-egg   spot-sour-sweet   

3276Anagram    Initial arguments after honeymoon period ends  

3277-Split Definitive                  each harsh    (s)  (9)

3278-Convergent   lower-ox-pays    alive-art-banana   deep-cut-clearing

3279-Commonality    audited-regally-vacated   

3280-Words in a Word                 no longer fashionable toss                                               (f)      8

3281-Convergent   motel-reap-rep     antelope-for-pin       bush-cow-ears

3282-Commonality    hideous-rabbis-asses 

3283-Words in a Word                           hooter implored                                             (b)      9

3284-Convergent  bar-mushroom-pear    butter-cupcake-not   acorn-racket-winter

3285-Commonality  clog-divest-lag 

3286-Words in a Word                    absolute short affair                                          (f)   10

3287-Convergent    biter-bracelet-deep    band-bar-bone    bet-to-dig

3288-Anagram    August stony stare      

3289-Words in a Word                make holy precipitate                                         (b)       9

3290-Convergent   a-bot-boy    beetle-race-shell    whip-wood-worm

3291-Anagram    Agitate  a young woman actor

3292-Split Definitive                   in favour of seeing something in a trance  (p)    (9)

3293-Convergent   craft-line-back     button-cap-magic     clock-coconut-under

3294-Commonality   reign-sing-page 

3295-Words in a Word                insolence leader  (l)    7

3296-Convergent    bowl-print-lady   en-lymph-sweat     art-ball-be

3297-Commonality   broom-bot-gantry

3298-Words in a Word                       thread or fluff reputation                                (n)   8

3299-Convergent   bag-ball-bar   paper-pancake-cap   beer-lout-phone

3300-Commonality     trial-arched-salary