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AWADmail Issue 120May 1, 2004
A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages
From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Writing Poetry Might be Hazardous to Your Health:
From: Jan Upton (januptonATlouisville.edu)
Having worked for many years in the Thoroughbred industry in the beautiful Bluegrass area of Kentucky, the word distaff practically jumped off the page at me. A horse race limited to fillies and mares is called a distaff race.
From: Linda Owens (lindafowensATnetzero.net)
There are lots of Weavers' and Spinners' Guilds in this country, plus other anachronists. There are even National Conferences of same. I myself am a member of the Rhode Island Weavers Guild. I own three floor looms (which can fold up when not in use; and one holds hats, while another holds stuffed animals) and numerous hand looms.
Although my output has been pretty sparse in the last decade, I have taught weaving to family and friends, at schools and art centers, and at the state prison. Currently most of my weaving goes toward wedding presents. Another feminine symbol is the broom, a topic I researched before making an artist's book of my Nana's old stories, using woodcuts and hand-set type, called Vengeance With a Broom.
From: Barbara Traub (barbgtATyahoo.com)
I never heard of this word before, so I'm glad to have learned something new. But I immediately noticed a similarity to a word that describes part of a Jewish wedding ceremony. The "bedeken" is the "veiling of the bride". Before the actual ceremony, the groom sees his bride and lifts the veil to cover her face. This custom stems from the biblical story of Jacob and his unintended marriage to Leah, rather than her sister Rachel. While the gaudy aspect of bedizen is not involved, the bedeken certainly is a "dressing" of sorts. I don't know the origin of the word bedeken - whether it is Hebrew or Yiddish. If from the Yiddish, it may well stem from the same root as bedizen.
From: Paul Kersey (pkerseyATebi.ac.uk)
I was very disappointed to discover the meaning of this word. I would have thought, thinking of citizen, denizen, netizen, etc. that it should mean "bed-dweller"!
From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Here are a few selections from the responses:
The modern equivalents of distaffs and swords? Everything I thought of
sounded so sexist, but maybe that can't be helped when thinking of
Today it would be the minivan side (female) and the TV side (male).
I suggest that in today's society, the symbols representative of gender
should be those things which make each feel most "in control," hence, for the
male it is the entertainment center remote, and for the female the headache.
A modern equivalent to distaff and spear could be cell phone and remote
Until recently they might have been purses and briefcases.
Lifetime and Spike.
"Venus" and "Mars" (the latter, as captured in its astrological/astronomical
symbol, is in keeping with the spear metaphor) leap to mind.
"A fun question! The division of labor in the workplace is all but gone, and
although American men do more housework than most other societies' males
(even though it's still less than half) there remains one division of labor
which might support a stereotype: Men do most of the messy jobs or the
strong-back jobs, and women do most of the tidying jobs. Men are also often
exclusively called upon for killing pests. So perhaps in contemporary
American society, we might have the 'oil-change' or 'spider killer' side,
versus the 'vacuum cleaner' or 'feather duster' side."
From: Ron Fish (ron.fishAThoneywell.com)
All eponyms I know of are derived from either first or last names, with the exception of Clerihew, after E. Clerihew Bentley.
Do you know of any other eponyms that are not derived from first or last names?
From: Andrew Pressburger (andrew.pressburgerATprimus.ca)
Apropos of Dr. W.F. Clifford's observation: "...we fat all creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for maggots: your fat king and your lean beggar is but variable service. two dishes, but to one table." (Hamlet, Act IV, Scene 3)
From: Diane Schwenninger (schwenni23AThotmail.com)
I was just reading my AWAD email sent on the 26th and about how people want words that they will encounter on their SAT's or GRE's. You used petrichor as your example, and I just wanted to say that this word was my favorite one so far. I love increasing my vocabulary with AWAD and I even used it to help me quit smoking. I know this seems strange, but I'm a strange gal. I did a sort of replacement therapy where I taught myself a new word (with your help of course) every time I wanted a cigarette. And it worked beautifully. I thought you might enjoy all of the diverse ways that you help people. Thanks so much.
From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Lady Bountiful was a character in "The Beaux- Stratagem," a comic play by Irish dramatist George Farquhar (1677-1707).
In the play, innkeeper Will Boniface (another eponym) says "She lays out one-half [of her wealth] in charitable uses for the good of her neighbours. She cures rheumatisms, ruptures, and broken shins in men; green-sickness, obstructions, and fits of the mother, in women; the king's evil, chincough, and chilblains, in children: in short, she has cured more people in and about Lichfield within ten years than the doctors have killed in twenty; and that's a bold word."
Today, former reporter and TV anchor Ruth Ann Leach Harnisch is Nashville's Lady Bountiful. You can read about her, and her association with AWAD, in the May edition of my e-book.
Words, like eyeglasses, obscure everything they do not make clear. -Joseph Joubert, moralist and essayist (1754-1824)