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Updates from the EWM Team:
Financial updates, tips, and news you can use.

EWM Updates

Bird As A Word Was Once Unheard Thumbnail

Bird As A Word Was Once Unheard

Bird as a word was once unheard. Old timers named flying animals brids. And a horse is a horse of course of course, but once its source was from old Norse, a word they called hrose. In fact, dirt was once drit, third was once thrid, and a curd was called a crud.

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Tiny Little Leprechaun

If someone told you a tiny little leprechaun carried this newsletter through the interwebs to your computer, you would probably say that doesn't sound likely. "But why?" that same someone may reply. "Ockham's razor" is the answer you would give if you went to college and took a course on how to respond to silly questions. But what is Ockham's razor? Well, that is what this section is for.

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A Pumpkin's Dignity

Who will speak on behalf of the pumpkin during this Thanksgiving? Is it not enough that his dignity is squashed every Halloween as he is gutted and carved into buffoonish jack-o'-lanterns? Or that at the start of every autumn, hordes of these noble gourds become grist for the corporate pumpkin spice mills that churn out the ubiquitous orange dust used to fill our lattes and infuse our candles? "The spice must flow," they insist. And now, pumpkin pie is to be the default dessert for our holiday meals. We are asking for too much sacrifice from the pumpkin. In these desperate times, why not try a desperation pie instead?

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Quirky Collective Nouns

A murmuration of starlings, a parliament of owls, a mischief of magpies, and a murder of crows. One reason English has more words than other language is its considerable collection of quirky collective nouns. The origin of this phenomenon is said to be The Book of Saint Albans, a hunting manual for the medieval gentleman of leisure that provided a list of "terms of venery" - collective nouns used to identify groups of specific animals that also conveyed a hint about those animals' essential characteristics. These words were meant to help hunters better understand the behavior of their quarry. (Note to self: stay away from crows).

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The Grammatical Grumblebug Thumbnail

The Grammatical Grumblebug

Every successful franchise has its spinoffs. Happy Days had Joanie Loves Chachi, 21 Jump Street had Booker, and Baywatch had Baywatch Nights. Of course, On A Lighter Note wasn't immune to this trend. In what was possibly an ill-conceived idea, the On A Lighter Note writing staff worked on a short-lived spinoff called "The Grammatical Grumblebug" which was to feature brief, hard-hitting, in-your-face commentary on grammar topics.

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Geese Are Pure Evil

It is a universally agreed upon fact of nature that geese are pure evil, but what about their feathered friends, the ducks? They always seem to be able to waddle away from scrutiny. Sure, in cartoon form, they appear to be perfectly acceptable, but what do we know about the actual birds? Well, clues about their corrupt character can be discovered in the everyday words we use that refer to these waterfowl.

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Mister Mxyzptlk Thumbnail

Mister Mxyzptlk

We can't let September pass without mentioning that it was during this month way back in 1944 that Superman's greatest adversary was introduced: Mister Mxyzptlk. (Although the name might look intimidating at first glance, it is really quite easy to pronounce once you realize that the y is silent, the z is the beginning of a nasal diphthong, and the stress is placed on the penultimate syllable.)

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 Popular Pumpkin Properties Thumbnail

Popular Pumpkin Properties

As a person of prominence and a pillar of the community, this writer feels obligated to help my fellow citizens during this time of need. So I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring and run for political office. And I’m surprised at the feedback I’ve received as I’ve delivered my campaign speeches across this great land. The most common response after hearing me talk has been “that bumpkin must have just fallen off the turnip truck.” (Bumpkin, I believe, is a colloquial mispronunciation of the word pumpkin, a nickname given to me by the voters probably because I possess popular pumpkin properties like pluckiness and persistence.)

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 X, Y, Z, and Ampersand Thumbnail

X, Y, Z, and Ampersand

School sure was tougher in the past. For example, back when I was at university, there were 27 letters in the alphabet. You see the ampersand (&), a noble typographical symbol with roots in ancient times, was listed as the last letter of the alphabet in grammar books during the mid-1800's. But as education entered the 20th century, there was a change in the letter lineup. Seemingly overnight, the new law of the land was to ban the ampersand. There were accusations that the makers of Alphabet Soup had lobbied schools to remove the ampersand because all of its curlicues were difficult to render in noodle form. Many just felt that the last letter should be Z because it was full of pizzazz, and it had influential backers like zebras and zillionaires. No real faction appeared to support the ampersand during the replacement process. Former friends such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Ben & Jerry's, and AT&T all turned their back on the character in its time of need. Of course, not all change is bad. The removal of ampersand did force the ending of "The Alphabet Song" to be rewritten, which originally had quite a different and disconcerting conclusion...

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First Word of The Day Post Thumbnail

First Word of The Day Post

A new study indicates that the vocabulary of the average American adult has declined in recent decades. To counteract this trend, On A Lighter Note is introducing a "Word of the Day" feature to help its readers apply a more expressive and impactful vocabulary to everyday situations. First up - quincunx. A quincunx (pronounced kwin-kunks) is a group of five objects arranged in a 2-1-2 pattern like the five dots on dice. The word originates from a coin of the same name used in ancient Rome that featured five dots in the aforementioned arrangement.

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New School Year

The school year is starting up again, and virtual classrooms will be prominent. This writer is reminded of how he did distance learning in the old days - by watching television sitcoms. In particular, the field of chemistry didn't seem quite so daunting after viewing The Facts of Life episode "Take My Finals Please". When Natalie got frustrated with her inability to remember the chemical symbol for the element gold, Tootie showed her the value of word associations. She had to come up with a sentence that starts with the letters of the chemical symbol and that references the element. Tootie told Natalie to imagine a thief trying to steal her gold watch and then shout "Eh, you, give me back my gold watch!" (Element - Gold, Symbol - Au). Expanding on Tootie's wise idea, I thought I would create some new chemistry word associations for all students now staying at home:

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Ornamental Hermits

As gardens grew more elaborate in late 18th century England, some wealthy landowners splurged on the ultimate in backyard decorations – ornamental hermits. Given food and a very modest shelter (such as a shed or cave), an employee was expected to live alone on the grounds in a tattered cloak for the duration of a 7-year contract. The landowner was then provided with the ultimate rustic diorama that had just a bit of live drama. However, the increasing urbanization and industrialization of Great Britain in the ensuing decades made hermit work look less enticing to employees and eventually the fad faded.

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