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AWADmail Issue 138

October 2, 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)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Black Vernacular:
nytimes.com

Engineering Expressiveness:
IEEE Spectrum


From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: FAQ: the two most requested words

Many readers often ask me to send them two words featured in AWAD in the past. Here they are:

The belief that machines are out to get us:
resistentialism.

Fresh scent of earth after the first rains:
petrichor.


From: Kevin Finneran (kfinneraATnas.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--wonk

I remember learning in 1966 that it was popular at Harvard to describe "grinds". At MIT they were called "tools".

Superwonks have recently been called "propeller heads", a term that dates back to the late 1970s, when solar energy advocates descended on Congress. The solar enthusiasts sometimes wore hard hats that had a propeller on top. A small photovoltaic cell powered the propeller, demonstrating that solar power works. Propeller heads began as experts on energy policy, but it seems to have shifted to include a wide range of wonks.


From: Richard W. Lipp (rwlippATlist-clark.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--wonk

If, as Winston Churchill observed "a fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject," a wonk can change his mind but still won't change the subject.


From: Clark Stacey (clarkATbeyondgames.com)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--frag

As a designer of video games, I am compelled to supplement your definition for the word, "frag".

While "frag" certainly issued from the roots you documented, it is most commonly used today by players of networked first-person shooter video games. It's used to signify any kill scored over another player - whether by grenade or through any other means. This usage originated with the PC game "Quake", released by id Software in 1996. In the post-game tally of results showing players of multiplayer "deathmatches" their score ranking, points earned for kills were termed Frags. The term has since become the standard noun or transitive verb for point-scoring in this type of game.


From: Ellen Spear (ellen.spearAThbsr.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--boffin

There was Mr. Boffin, a character in Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend. Mr. Boffin was not exactly a scientist. He was a naturally wise, kind, and generous old man who came into money by chance and gave it back when it turned out that the valid heir to the fortune had not died.


From: Lorelei Kelly (hazelbunnyATspamcop.net)
Subject: learning words

I recently became a college freshman, but I've been enjoying AWAD mailings for several years. The problem has been that I don't remember most of the words well enough to use them again - I'll be writing an assignment and know the word I want exists because I saw it on AWAD, but I won't remember the word itself.

Well, now I have found a way to help me learn the words better. As part of my matutinal ritual, I write each day's word and definition on the white board outside my room. Not only do I learn the words more thoroughly, the obscure words have been useful conversation starters with my new classmates.


From: Kathy (babydoll61099ATaol.com)
Subject: Praise for A-Word-A Day

Thank you so much! Because of A.Word.A.Day I have received from you for the past few months, I got a 1250 on my GRE's last week! You guys are awesome!


From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Subject: boffo

The Bouncing Bears must be a triple boffo, since they meet your three definitions: 1. A great success. 2. A hearty laugh. and 3. A gag or punch-line that elicits uproarious laughter. They and their clever designer are featured in the October edition of my free e-book.


You can never understand one language until you understand at least two. -Ronald Searle, artist (1920- )

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