Tag Archives: Word of the Day Haiku

Turncoat – Friday’s Word of the Day


Today’s timely word of the day from Dictionary.com is Turncoat. A turncoat is “a person who changes to the opposite party or faction, reverses principles, etc.; renegade.” I do believe we have witnessed a recent surge of turncoats. It’s been entertaining to say the least.

According to Dictionary.com: There are several possibilities for the origin of turncoat. One is that two English barons in
the early 13th century changed fealty to King John (c1167-1216), literally changing their coats of arms from one lord to another. Another is that during the siege of Corfe Castle (1645) during the English Civil Wars (1642-51), Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers turned their coats inside out to match the colors of the Royalist army. A similar expression “to wear the King’s coat”, dating from the mid-19th century, means “serve in the King’s army”. The now obsolete idiom “to be in someone else’s coat” dating from the mid-16th century, meant the modern “to be in someone else’s shoes”. Turncoat entered English in the 16th century. 

Wikipedia provided a nice list of turncoat events. It is interesting to note that being a turncoat is not necessarily seen as a bad thing, which distinguishes a turncoat from being a traitor. The following lists a few circumstances that would be considered the actions of a “turncoat”:

  • In groups, often driven by one or more leaders, such as a mass shift by a population taking place during a military occupation, revolution, social upheaval, etc .
  • When the goal that formerly motivated and benefited the person becomes (or is perceived as having become) either no longer feasible or too costly even if success is achieved.

And as mentioned, here are a few notable events that fit that description:

  • The English Civil War during the 17th century. The siege of Corfe Castle was won by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers when they turned their coats inside out to match the colours of the Royal army.
  • During the revolution of the British American colonies when U.S. Continental Army Major General Benedict Arnold defected to the side of the British in May 1779.
  • Canada during the War of 1812. Some Canadians felt republican democracy was a better system of government than the British Monarchy and fought on the side of the invading Americans. Conversely the United Empire Loyalists left what was to be the United States and moved North to remain under British rule.
  • Germany and Austria after World War II when many former enthusiastic members of the Nazi Party embraced the newly created nations of West Germany or East Germany and sought to erase or at least minimize their former role as Nazis. During the decades that followed many former Nazis regained prestige and held high posts in the new republics. Kurt Waldheim, an Austrian Nazi, even held the highest post at the UN for a while.
  • France after the downfall of the Vichy Regime, when many collaborationists, whether home-grown fascists or Nazi sympathizers, played down their role in the former government and its institutions.
  • Iran after the overthrow of the last Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi’s regime. At that time many persons who had formerly led a life based on secular and liberal values and who had fervently supported the Iranian monarchy suddenly embraced the stern religious values imposed by Ayatollah Khomeini’s regime with unbridled fervor.
  • Russia and the former Communist Eastern European countries after the fall of the USSR, where many former communists suddenly became fervent supporters of capitalism. As a result, many former apparatchiks abandoned the Communist Party in favor of positions in the new government structures.
  • In Spain after the Spanish Civil War(1936–1939), and again during the Spanish transition to democracy (1975 onwards).

It is also interesting to note that in the aftermath of the actions of a turncoat, there may be an attempt to rewrite history, burying the past by concealing evidence, or by whitewashing the deeds of the renegade’s activity.  Alternative facts, fake news, deep/dark states, loyalty pledges, gas lighting? My oh my, but this is a timely little word!  I chose to write an “Alphabet Haiku” for you. (Meaning each word starts with the same letter). Have a great weekend!

tick tock turncoats talk
trumping terrible tweets through
titillating truths


Dundrearies – Friday’s Word of the Day


Today’s dictionary.com word of the day is dundrearies. It originated around 1860-65, thanks to “Lord Dundreary, a character in the play, “Our American Cousin”. Officially, it is defined as “long, full sideburns or muttonchop whiskers”.

We create all sorts of words based on the quirks or memorable attributes of the certain people. There is a word for it.  They are called Eponyms, ‘words based on a person’s name’. The cool thing about Eponyms is the history behind the word. Some eponyms you might recognize are: boycott, guillotine, sandwich, hooligan, gerrymander, adonis, braille, dunce, jacuzzi, judas, casanova, paparazzi, ritz, and trumpster. Scientists, doctors and inventors are known to use eponyms regularly in ascribing ownership of their handiwork.

But back to our word today, dundrearies, and it’s most interesting history. As already established, the word is attributed to one ‘Lord Dundreary’ from the three-act play, “Our American Cousin”.  The play was written by English playwright, Tom Taylor in 1858 and premiered at the Laura Keene’s Theatre in New York City on October 15, 1858. It was fairly popular for several years, but it was its fateful run at the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC, and specifically its showing on April 14, 1865 that etched it into American history. “Our American Cousin”, you see, was the play that President Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth.

According to Wikipedia, the cast modified a line of the play in honor of Abraham Lincoln: when the heroine asked for a seat protected from the draft, the reply – scripted as, “Well, you’re not the only one that wants to escape the draft” – was delivered instead as, “The draft has already been stopped by order of the President!”

Halfway through Act III, Scene 2, when the character of Asa Trenchard, played that night by Harry Hawk, uttered this line, considered one of the play’s funniest, to Mrs. Mountchessington: “Don’t know the manners of good society, eh? Well, I guess I know enough to turn you inside out, old gal — you sockdologizing old man-trap.”

It was during the ensuing laughter that President Lincoln laughed his last and the play ended abruptly. While Wilkes Booth was not a cast member of the play, he used the chose this moment when the laughter was at its height to muffle the sound of his gun.


Edward Sothern as Lord Dundreary, sporting “Dundrearies”

I don’t believe that the word, dundrearies has anything to do with this interesting sidebar. It has more to do with the popularity of the play and the first actor Edward Sothern who brilliantly played the part of ‘Lord Dundreary’.  I do find it fascinating though, how history and words and our experiences are all seem to be an intricate and interconnected web. We are all interconnected for that matter, I believe, by 6 degrees or less.

Have a great weekend. Here’s a haiku.

sporting dundrearies
once touted as all the rage
are now thought unkempt





Bellyacher – Friday’s Word of the Day Haiku


Today’s word of the day on Dictionary.com is Bellyache. It has been a part of the English language since the mid-16th century. It means literally, “pain in the bowels, stomachache”, but morphed into an Americanism in the late 19th century. This new application, which most of us are familiar with, means “to complain; grumble”.

This is one of those slang words that really took off and continues in popularity; used in literature, poetry and newsprint. It’s former, more basic meaning also gets much wide usage especially in medical circles.

Many of us may remember being chided for bellyaching about this or that as children, unless of course our bellies did actually ache. Then we were indulged by our caregivers with love and tender attention. Makes my wonder if that is why we revert to the latter application of the word when we are feeling ignored, left out or left behind. If belly aches gain us comfort and attention…bellyaching ought to reward us similarly. In many cases it does. I’m reminded of the squeaky wheel. Yep. Suffering in silence rarely gets us the attention we feel we deserve, but it’s all about balance. One should avoid becoming a chronic bellyacher. It is true that bellyaching is quite contagious and terminal if not kept in check.

I suppose could bellyache about the weather, current events, life in general…but I won’t bore you. Instead here are a few haiku. Have a great weekend wherever you are! 🙂

worrisome snivelers,
bellyaching nitpickers
see empty glasses

a true bellyache
is when your belly aches;
grumbling optional

all bellyachers
share a common attribute…
rude bursts of hot air

~ kat

Stravage – Friday’s Word of the Day Haiku


Happy Friday. Today’s Dictionary.com Word of the Day is Stravage.

Originally entering the English language in the late 18th century this Scottish/Irish word is derived from an aphetic contraction, which means that it is a word formed by combining two words as well as by aphesis (the loss of an unstressed vowel at the beginning of a word (e.g., of a from around to form round ).

From Medieval Latin we have ‘extravigari’ which means to wander out of bounds, digress or ramble. ‘Vagare’ is an Italian intransitive verb that means: to wander aroundroam around, to roam. I particularly like this Italian phrase: “vagare con la fantasia” which means to give free rein to one’s imaginationlet one’s imagination run away with one.

And to round out the etymology of this most interesting word, the Italian verb ‘vagare’ or ‘vargari’ is derived from the adjective ‘vagus’ which means strolling or unsettled and is thought to be a precursor of the English word ‘vagrant’. Back to our word, stravage. To get to its current form, the “ex” from the original Latin ‘extravigari’ was dropped by the Scots who converted the word to ‘stravaig’. It was later embraced by the English, dropping the ‘i’and adding an ‘e’.

I was able to find a delightful, award-winning Glasgow restaurant called Stravaigin in my stravaging across the internet. True to its name, their website’s “About” page links us back to this 18th century word: “‘Stravaig’ meaning ‘to wander’ encompasses our ‘Think Global, Eat Local’ ethos perfectly. So wander off the beaten path into either the street level cafe bar or the downstairs restaurant where you’ll find menus showcasing Scottish produce that isn’t tethered to its roots. Awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand every year since 2012.” Stravaigin is quite modern however, offering local fare with an exotic flare. Click on the link of their name above to check them out. If ever you’re in Glasgow…;)

The Scots, I have learned, are very proud of their native language and heritage. There is an entire website devoted to all thing Scots…but I suppose I am digressing…or stravaging you might say. Since I am descended from Scottish ancestors, this will be on my to-do list for future study. 🙂

I am quite fond of stravaging. I admit that I do it often! Those who know me are able to recognize my stravaging ways immediately. I am told my eyes glaze over and I may start humming a tune to myself, which drives people batty. But in my mind, I am having a jolly good time taking it all in. The scenery that is. I am not so worried about the destinations in life that I do not pay good mind to the journey. The journey after all is where it’s at. (whatever “it” may be) I have a tin plaque in my room that says, “I never worry when I get lost, I just change where I want to go.” A friend got it for me. Stravage is a good word of the day for me. Fits me to a “t”. Have a great Friday!

to those who stravage
some may think you’re a lost fool
 but you are seeking 

to be an artist
it helps to be an odd bird
with stravaging wit

delicate ivy
stravages up walls, clinging
destruction’s embrace

~kat – 10 March 2017

Scapegrace – Friday’s Word of the Day Haiku


Happy Friday! Today’s Word of the Day from Dictionary.com is “Scapegrace”. When I first saw it, I thought of the common term scapegoat, but this word has very little to do with scapegrace, unless of course you are talking about the poor sap who finds himself in the company of a scapegrace; blamed for the unscrupulous deeds of their grace-less scoundrel of a friend! Then the two fit together, albeit uncomfortably, like two peas in a pod.

Scapegrace is defined by various online dictionaries as a complete rogue or rascal; a habitually unscrupulous person; scamp; a reckless and unprincipled reprobate; or a kinder definition states, “A man or boy of reckless and disorderly habits; an incorrigible scamp. Often used playfully.” A common synonym for the word is “black sheep”. You get the picture. You likely have a picture in your mind right now of a particular scapegrace you might know. (not going to mention any names here 😉 )

The word entered the English language in the mid 18th to early 19th century, over 200 years after the word “scapegoat” came into play, which is rather ironic in retrospect. It took two centuries for scapegrace to become a word, leaving poor old scapegoat to face the music alone. One wonders if it was just hiding all those years.

Scapegrace is made up of the verb “scape” which is a variant of “escape” and the noun “grace”, which literally means “one who escapes or flees the grace of God.”

Oh, and there is one other obscure meaning associated with the word. Scapegrace, in ornithological (the branch of zoology that deals with birds) circles, can also refer to a red-throated loon or diver. Like other loons scapegrace loons are primarily fish eaters and monogamous. Their red throat comes into play during mating rituals. They are not particularly graceful on land due to the positioning of their legs toward their back ends. In fact, the word loon is thought to be derived from the Swedish “lom” which means “lame” or “clumsy”, but this is said to give them great mobility and thrust in and under water. They are excellent swimmers taking to the water only days after hatching.

They are also associated with the creation mythology of indigenous peoples, given the name “earth-diver” in one such story. As legend goes, the Red-Throated Diver was asked by a great shaman to bring up the earth from the bottom of the sea. This is how the world’s dry land was formed.

Through the years the loon was also used as a weather predictor. Move over Mr. Ground Hog! Depending on the location, some people believed it would be fair or rainy based on the direction of the scapegrace’s flight (inland – nice weather or out to sea – not so nice). Other communities relied on its various calls to determine the weather; a gaa-gaa-gaa or turkatrae-turkatrae meant nice weather, whereas meowing like a cat was a sure prediction of rain. With few predators the oldest known Red-Throated Loon, found in Sweden, lived to be about 23 years.

So there you have it, a glimpse into another odd word that we rarely use these days with an avian link associated with its meaning. I’m beginning to see a trend here! What to do, what to do with this week’s Haiku…scapegoats, but not scapegoats and scapegraces and loons…

If you’re a scapegoat
you likely know a scapegrace
who is a bad egg!

~kat – 24 February 2017

Have a great weekend!

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