Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

holiday

 

To a foreigner, a Yankee is an American. To a southerner, a Yankee is a northerner. To a northerner, a Yankee is a New Englander. To a New Englander, a Yankee is from Vermont. And to a Vermonter, a Yankee is someone who eats apple pie for breakfast. But how did the word Yankee get started?

The first verse of “Yankee Doodle,” as often sung today, runs:

Yankee Doodle went to town,
Riding on a pony.
Stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni.

The original Yankees were Dutch settlers who had come to the new world, and Yankee may derive from the Dutch Jan Kaas, “Johnny Cheese.” Yankee migrated from an ethnic insult against the Dutch to New Englanders in general when the song began life as a pre-Revolutionary creation originally sung by British military officers. The intent of “Yankee Doodle” was to mock the ragtag, disorganized New Englanders with whom the British served in the French and Indian War.

Doodle first appeared in the early 17th century and derives from the Low German word dudel, meaning “fool” or “simpleton.” The macaroni wig was in high fashion in the 1770s and became contemporary slang for foppishness. The last two lines of the verse implied that the unsophisticated Yankee bumpkins thought that simply sticking a feather in a cap would make them the height of fashion. The colonists liked the tune of “Yankee Doodle” and adopted it as a robust and proud marching song. What was once a derisive musical ditty became a source of American pride.

In 1904, George M. Cohan’s musical Little Johnny Jones opened on Broadway. One of the memorable songs from that show is Yankee Doodle Boy, in which Cohan wrote:

I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle, do or die;
A real live nephew of my Uncle Sam,
Born on the Fourth of July.
 

Happy Fourth of July! May the Fourth Be with You!

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The recent shuttering of the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey circus brings to mind a story about Phineas Taylor Barnum, the Greatest Showman on Earth,.

Barnum’s American Museum in Lower Manhattan was so popular that it attracted up to 15,00 customers daily, and some would spend the entire day there. This cut into profits, as the museum would be too full to squeeze another person in.

In classic Barnum style, P.T. put up above a cage holding a mother tiger and her cubs a sign that read, TIGRESS.” Then, over a doorway next to that sign, he put up another sign that said, “TO THE EGRESS.” Many customers followed that sign, looking for an exhibit featuring an exotic female bird. But Barnum used EGRESS to mean “This Way Out,” so the patrons found themselves out the door and back on the street. Once they had exited the building, the door would lock behind them, and if they wanted to get back in, they had to pay another admission charge.

One day at Barnum’s circus the man who was shot out of the cannon every day was asked by his wife to quit his high-risk profession, much to P.T.’s distress. Barnum, whose wit was equal to his showmanship, summoned the fellow and said, “I beg you to reconsider. Men of your caliber are hard to find.”

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Simone and I immensely enjoyed watching the series “Genius” on the National Geographic TV channel. Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Flynn portray the stratospherically brilliant Albert Einstein, the quintessential scientific iconoclast. An iconoclast is literally “a breaker of idols,” and Einstein destroyed many of the venerated scientific beliefs of his day. He also smashed the “i before e, except after c” spelling rule, because his last name itself is a double violation, as are the words weird science.

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According to the Harper’s Index, only 24 of our 50 states include cursive handwriting in their educational standards. Soon we senior citizens will be able to use cursive as a secret code!