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AWADmail Issue 171July 30, 2005
A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages
From: Karthik Periagaram (karthik.periagaramATgmail.com)
The word divination is one of the gravest misnomers in use today. The study of the cosmos is referred to as astronomy while the more apposite title of astrology is sadly reserved for what should really be called astromancy, meaning that astronomers are really astrologers and astrologers are, in fact, astromancers!
From: Daniel (iamnotiATearthlink.net)
One of my favorite musical artists wrote a song called Predictions.
From: Christine Fischer Guy (christine.fischer.guyATsympatico.ca)
Though it isn't officially a word, I think neuromancy ought to qualify, after the prescient sci-fi book by nearly the same name--Neuromancer, by William Gibson, the father of such other ubiquitous terms as cyberspace. May I propose the following definition: The practice of divining the future of computing by extrapolating neural networks to machines.
From: Justin Skywatcher (skymanteATyahoo.com)
Multiple acts of interpreting dreams would be oneiromancies. That word violates the old rule, "I before E except after C" twice, two different ways. Cleidomancies (divination by means of a key) is the only other word I know of that does that too.
From: Terran Lane (terranATcs.unm.edu)
I have always been fascinated with magic, divination, and words related to them. My computers tend to carry names like "haruspex" and "sciomancer", and I have occasionally gone by the user name "psephomancer".
And on the humorous side of divination (assuming, for the moment, that it is not _all_ humorous), I do research on machine learning -- a field that sometimes seems uncomfortably close to divination to me. A few years ago, I wrote a highly tongue-in-cheek article on the similarities. It's full of machine learning in-jokes, but the broad gist should be appealing to anybody interested in divination.
From: Ethel Deal (gwynnalATaol.com)
My husband attended seminary for his Masters of Divinity, and the biblical theology professor there often spoke of people who try to divine God's will by flipping randomly through the Bible, letting it fall open, and blindly poking at the page to find a "life verse". Sometimes it would be something like, "so and so begat so and so" or "at the Parbar gate, two at Parbar." The professor referred to this practice as "bibliomancy".
From: Peter Rout (proutATbigpond.net.au)
I've been indulging in Gargomancy for years. If people provide a significant date - birthdays and wedding anniversaries and dates of death are popular - for a modest fee (yup, I'm a lawyer) I can provide them with the AWAD word for that date, even list of around 10 words that fell on that same date over the years since AWAD began. It is so much fun - and sometime quite profound, tying the significances in.
A premium service includes the quotes which adds a further dimension.
Try it. It's quite creepy.
For poindexters with no life it's the ultimate contemporary mantic art.
From: Tushar Apshankar (tusharaATtalentica.com)
Couple of days back I was reading "It Was Five Past Midnight in Bhopal" by Javier Moro and Dominique Lapierre.
This book depicts a real life character, Mr Raajkumar Keswani, who was a journalist with a local daily called Rapat Weekly.
In October 1, 1982 edition of Rapat Weekly, he wrote an article which said:
"Phosgene gas that was used by Hitler in his gas chambers, and that is used for the production of methyl isocyanate, is stored in a tank in this factory and if that leaks or explodes it will take one to one and half hour for the death of the entire population of the city."
No one believed his predictions and people thought that it is just a ploy to gain some cheap publicity.
Almost two years after that article, on December 3rd 1984, his prediction unfortunately became an indispensable reality for world.
I think, he is the best example of modern time Cassandra.
From: William Hunt (wwhunt1917ATsocal.rr.com)
Many years ago, the Boston Herald had a columnist, Bill Cunningham, who believed in dowsing. He reported in his column that a dowser friend of his had located water on Bermuda, by pointing his divining rod at a MAP of Bermuda.
From: Raj Bhrugushastri (rbhrugusATbellsouth.net)
The 'art' of dowsing reminds me of a good friend's story. When he was in the army during WWII, he was on a ship in the Pacific. They spotted about five water spouts in the distance. Immediately, the captain of the ship (who was a native Indian) took out a pocket knife and started gently 'cutting' each spout in space. Sure enough, all five disappeared! As incredible as it sounds, Sam (now 80), still stands by his story.
From: Michael Poole (michaelATcew.melco.co.jp)
Today's word "dowse" is creepy. Dowsing is of course impossible - but I've done it! My father had moved house while I was out of the country, and when I visited, he took me out onto the back lawn, gave me a couple of L-shaped pieces of wire, and told me to walk up and down. Like it or not, at certain points the wires would cross, apparently of their own volition. After I had traced out a curved track, he informed me that it was the route of the power cable to the pump in the pond, that had been laid by a previous owner in an arc around a flower-bed of which there was no longer any trace. I had never been to that house before, so I had no possible prior knowledge of where the cable went. It is, of course, completely impossible for me to have done what I did, and it has (somehow) been proved scientifically that it is indeed impossible. Oh help! Oh bother!
From: Will Downing (wdowningATrcpcarch.com)
Dowsing is indeed still alive and well in the modern construction industry. As an architect working on university projects I have twice had to deal with other professionals who accepted dowsing as a reasonable method of locating underground plumbing. In one case the plumber tore out a twenty foot long trench through a structural slab and dug a 12 foot deep hole because he "knew" the pipe he needed to connect to was right there! When asked how he knew this he said "Why, I used the witching sticks." So then he demonstrated this for us. He took two narrow wires, bent in the middle and, indeed, they crossed when he was over the huge hole he had dug.
Ultimately, he never found the pipe by this method, for $250 we hired a locating service to find the pipe by a modern method. The plumber tried to charge the client $14,000 to fill-in the hole and repair the floor! The kicker is, when I related this story to a group of civil engineers they all nodded and said, "Oh yes, I've seen this work!"
From: Cliff Smith (cliff.smithATae.ge.com)
Sounds like a word that should describe what the Sorting Hat does at Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter books!
From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Going by that definition, notorious graffitists like Washington DC's Borf and London's Banksy could be guilty of sortilege, as although far from divine, they certainly draw lots (on sidewalks and walls of buildings).
At the risk of being called a Cassandra, I'll predict that neither Borf nor Banksy, nor even Sydney's Mr Eternity, will ever achieve the fame of KILROY WAS HERE, found everywhere during World War II. You can read about all four of those graffitists in my free e-book.
From: Jeremy Young (nonpartisan84AThotmail.com)
I subscribed to AWAD about a year ago to help me with vocabulary in my preparation for the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). I am happy to report that I took the test this week and got a 1590 out of a possible score of 1600. AWAD was an excellent source of vocabulary words for this test, and I highly recommend it to anyone studying for this or similar exams. As a side note, I'll be continuing my subscription because I've come to love AWAD for its fascinating words and beautiful quotes -- it's one of the highlights of my day.
His words, like so many nimble and airy servitors, trip about him at command. -John Milton, poet (1608-1674)