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AWADmail Issue 153

February 6, 2005

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages


From: Robert Flagg (vinoz5or2vf8he0ATspamcop.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tribology

Now there's a word I can get a grip on! I'm a lawyer and I often hire experts for trials. I learned this word in the 1990s from an engineer with a degree in tribology from the University of Leeds, UK, whom I hired as my expert in a slip and fall case involving an (allegedly) slippery staircase.


From: Richard Garbutt (camradptATca.inter.net)
Subject: politician words

Your comment about this week's theme was more than a little wry. And considering the article below appeared in yesterday's local paper, I thought you might appreciate the timing.

    Reprinted from the Calgary Herald, Sunday, January 30, 2005

    Breaking election promise OK: judge
    It's official: Politicians can break campaign promises with impunity. An Ontario Superior Court judge has absolved Ontario premier Dalton McGinty of breaking an elaborately signed contract that promised not to raise or create new taxes.
    Justice Paul Rouleau said anyone who believes a campaign promise is naive about the democratic system.


From: Debbie Hillman (dlhillmanATsbcglobal.net)
Subject: misleading/politician words

I'm a professional gardener so enjoy language from the botanical Latin and Greek perspective, especially as scientific names of plants frequently change.

When I first came across the name for a particular sunflower -- Helianthus grosseserratus -- I read that as "Big Mistake Sunflower", H. grosses-erratus. In the botanical world this is not so silly as it might sound. There are numerous plants whose common names are "false" this or that -- false spirea, false astilbe, false aralia. Likewise the scientific appellation of "pseudo-" is not uncommon. And scientific names are often given for totally unbotanical reasons. I was sure there was some dramatic plant story behind that name -- perhaps a plant explorer mistaking it for some other plant and dying an agonizing death as a result.

But sunflowers are not poisonous and in fact, the correct reading of that sunflower's name is H. grosse-serratus, the Big Tooth Sunflower. In my mind now, the Big Tooth has become my big mistake.


From: James Dignan (grutnessATslingshot.co.nz)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pedology

Actually, most people outside the US will probably have initially thought of a foot-related science. That's because the prefix for child-related studies in the international-English speaking world is paedo-, not pedo-. For us, the latter relates to feet (e.g. pedal, pedestrian, pedicure).


From: Dan Elderkamp (danATtropex.co.nz)
Subject: Diglot

Why is diglot not biglot? Can you throw some light on some of these apparent idiosyncrasies, such as dichotomy (bichotomy?), or why a bicycle is not a dicycle, bilingual not dilingual, and biennial not diennial, etc?

    Di- is the Greek prefix for two or twice. It appears in words of Greek origin. Bi- is the Latin equivalent, it's another form of bis (two). An example: biscuit, which is, literally speaking, twice baked (or used to be).
    Though hybrid words are not uncommon. Such a word is known as macaronic (yes, the term has its origin in food). One such example is television, from Greek tele- + Latin vision.
    -Anu Garg


From: Dave Zobel (zobeldaveATaol.com)
Subject: feme covert a la Russe

In Russian, the predicate adjective "married", when applied to a gentleman, is /zhenat/ (literally, "wifed"). His lady, on the other hand, is /zamuzhem/ (literally, "behind [her] husband"). This asymmetry carries over from the two distinct verbs meaning "to marry" -- one for each gender.

My Russian wife assures me that the wife is behind the husband in the same way that the driver is behind the mule.


From: Ralph Earle (ralpheATus.ibm.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--airy-fairy

Your theme for the week reminds me of a New Yorker cartoon a few years back in which Yo Yo Ma and Butros Butros Ghali are having lunch together. Butros says, "I'll have the cous cous." Yo Yo asks the waiter, "How's the mahi mahi?", to which the waiter of course replies, "So so."


From: Steve Benko Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--airy-fairy

I must protest. This week's theme sounds like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo to me!


From: Ann Kranis (bklyngrammyAToptonline.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--airy-fairy

When I was a child, my parents sent my sister and me to a girls' camp in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Maryland - Pennsylvania border named Camp Louise. There was a boys' camp about 12 miles away named Camp Airy. Naturally, the girls referred to the boys as "Airy Fairies," but had no notion of a literary reference. Today's word brought a flood a memories and a Google search to see if the camps still exist. They do! No doubt the Camp Louise tag for the Airy boys is still used.


From: Margaret Maxfield (mmaxf2ATyahoo.com)
Subject: Pago Pago

On Jan 6, Garrison Kiellor read on NPR's Writer's Almanac the poem By the Shores of Pago Pago, by Eve Merriam, from Rainbow Writing, Atheneum. Based on reduplicatives, it is great fun.


From: Tracy Prebish (tracyprebishATmac.com)
Subject: Re: Reduplicatives

My favorite children's book is, Double Trouble in Walla-Walla, by Andrew Clements. It is a story about the reduplicative Lulu and the day her normally humdrum life goes cuckoo. Bet you and your daughter would go gaga over this book.


From: Jeremy Darling (darlingATociw.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--hubble-bubble

Thought you might be interested to know that a Hubble bubble is also a term in astronomy/cosmology. It refers to a region of the universe that has a different density than the average and so the galaxies in this Hubble bubble show larger or smaller velocities than average. The "Hubble" in the phrase refers to Edwin Hubble, the discoverer of the expanding Universe (and hence the Big Bang). I'm sure you can guess who the famous Hubble Space Telescope is named after as well.

Incidentally, this email is sent to you from Carnegie Observatories, where Hubble made his universe-changing discoveries.


From: Jef Persson (jeff.perssonATamhealthways.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--riprap

I guess this means you can build a ha-ha with a riprap!


From: Azlina Shahrim (azlinaATseccom.com.my)
Subject: Reduplicatives

In Malay, a word repeatedly exactly denotes plurality: meja = table, therefore tables = meja-meja. Its quite cute, however, complications can arise - in some instances, where a word repeated exactly is a word in its own right. e.g. butterfly (rama rama) and needs to be pluralise. e.g. butterflies = rama rama rama rama. As you can imagine, it does sound funny to foreign ears when all you hear is a repetition of the word 4x!


From: Thomas W. Thatcher (twthatchATfrontiernet.net)
Subject: Repeated Words

For many years our family lived in Fair Haven, New Jersey, which is on the east side of the city of Red Bank, NJ which has commuter-train service to New York City. Your repeated-word week reminded me of a locally-based story of uncertain origin. A Red Bank financial service institution purchased another such facility in the fairly nearby community of Long Branch, NJ. Thereby, the latter became the Long Branch Branch of that Red Bank Bank!


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

Spam-scam is the latest reduplicative. Contemptible scammers pretending to be tsunami victims are reefing millions of dollars from kindhearted but gullible folk who respond to their spam appeals.

A clever English "scambaiter" has turned the tables on some of those obnoxious scammers, by conning them in the same way that the conmen trick their victims. Their strings of messages, posted on the Internet, are hilarious. In a classic case of man bites dog, the scambaiter, Mike from Manchester, shows how he tricked six different Nigerian "419" email scammers into paying out amounts totalling more than $US1200. You can read about it in my free e-book.


A different language is a different vision of life. -Federico Fellini, film director and writer (1920-1993)

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