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AWADmail Issue 190

December 10, 2005

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


From: Carolyn M. Makovi (carolyn.makoviATcfsan.fda.gov)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--prufrockian

Tennyson's lines do not refer to an unrequited romantic love. They come from a very long poem called "In Memoriam", which Tennyson wrote after the death of his friend. The whole stanza is:

I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

Still, "prufrockian" would apply to a person who was afraid to love someone because s/he feared grieving the loved one's loss upon his/her death.


From: Kell Pollard (kpollardATeopa.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--prufrockian

When I saw today's word, I immediately thought of Lemony Snicket's Teen-Noir novel the Austere Academy from the Series of Unfortunate Events (a guilty pleasure of mine which is full of unusual words and literary puns.) The academy in question is named the Prufrock Preparatory School whose motto is "Memento Mori" ("Remember you will Die").


From: Mike Pope (mike.popeATmicrosoft.com)
Subject: Harry Potter (Re: cringeworthy)

You said:
... a bespectacled, hard-working Brit (I thought that was Harry Potter).

Actually, the "hard-working" part is Hermione. Some time ago, Chris Suellentrop wrote an amusing essay in Slate (or perhaps an infuriating one, if one is particularly enamored of Master Potter) in which he casts a critical eye on the success of Harry Potter and concludes that Harry himself has had little to do with it:

Harry Potter is no braver than his best friend, Ron Weasley, just richer and better-connected. Harry's other good friend, Hermione Granger, is smarter and a better student. The one thing Harry excels at is the sport of Quidditch, and his pampered-jock status allows him to slide in his studies, as long as he brings the school glory on the playing field. But as Charles Barkley long ago noted, being a good athlete doesn't make you a role model. [...]

What Harry has achieved on his own, without his mother, stems mostly from luck and, more often, inheritance. He's a trust-fund kid whose success at his school, Hogwarts, is largely attributable to the gifts his friends and relatives lavish upon him. A few examples: an enchanted map (made in part by his father), an invisibility cloak (his father's), and a state-of-the art magical broom (a gift from his godfather) that is the equivalent of a Lexus in a high-school parking lot... In fact, Harry rarely puts hard work or effort into anything. He is a "natural". Time and again, Harry is celebrated for his instinctual gifts. When he learns that he is a Parselmouth, or someone who can speak the language of snakes, Rowling writes, "He wasn't even aware of deciding to do it." (In fact, when Harry tries to speak this language, he can't do it. He can only do it instinctively.) When Harry stabs a basilisk in Chamber of Secrets, Rowling writes that he did it "without thinking, without considering, as though he had meant to do it all along." In Goblet of Fire, during Harry's battle with Voldemort, Rowling writes that "Harry didn't understand why he was doing it, didn't know what it might achieve. ..."

As they say, "when you put it that way ..."


From: Miriam Dapra (miriamdATcatholic.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dryasdust

"Dryasdust" evokes a memory from Narnia. . .

"It is high time we turned to Grammar now," said Doctor Cornelius, in a loud voice. "Will Your Royal Highness be pleased to open Pulverulentus Siccus ["dry as dust"] at the fourth page of his 'Grammatical Garden or the Arbour of Accidence pleasantlie open'd to Tender Wits?'"
(C.S. Lewis, Prince Caspian, Collier Books, 1974, p. 43)


From: Judy Marshall (revjemATsaw.net)
Subject: dryasdust

In an Isaac Asimov mystery novel, the hero was named Darius Dust. Asimov, of course, inserted himself into the novel -- and pronounced Dust's name "Dry as dust".


From: Valerie Gebert (valeriegebertATaol.com)
Subject: Old Dryasdust

In Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music middle-aged leading man Frederik Eggerman says his young wife endearingly refers to him as "Old Dry-as-Dust" in the lyrics to "You Must Meet My Wife":

Fredrik: She gives me funny names--
Desiree: Like?
Fredrik: "Old Dry-as-Dust."
Desiree: Wouldn't she just?
Fredrik: You must meet my wife.
Desiree: Yes, I must, yes, I must.


From: Yanik Cousineau (yanikcATnortel.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--schmendrik

This word reminded me of a character in the novel "The Last Unicorn" by Peter S Beagle. Schmendrick the magician lives up to his name in all respects. It's a wonderful story that explores the nature of truth, beauty, reality, immortality, and the purpose of life.


From: D'n Russler (d_nATloryx.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--schmendrik

In recalling this word and two other, similar Yiddish words, my late father used to quip, "The schlamiel spills the soup on the schlamazzel, while the schmendrik looks on and asks if everything is ok."


Dictionary: The universe in alphabetical order. -Anatole France, novelist, essayist, Nobel laureate (1844-1924)

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