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AWADmail Issue 206April 23, 2006
A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages
From: Blake Stacey (blake.staceyATens-lyon.fr)
Those of us who grew up with the comic strip "Calvin and Hobbes" probably remember the time the two main characters were reading a book together, and Calvin said, "It says here that 'Religion is the opiate of the masses.' What do you suppose THAT means?"
In the next panel, the family TV was thinking to itself, "It means Karl Marx hadn't seen anything yet."
From: Gordon Balfour Haynes (lexiconATverbivore.com.au)
Television is a very poor substitute for a life.
Not only is "experience" via TV secondhand (and thereby worthless in terms of life- and character-building), but it's rarely real at all.
Its content is either:
1. undisguised fantasy ("How you, too, can live the lives of the rich and famous [and fictional] instead of your own dreary grey existences"), or is
2. "truth" (a.k.a. "news") so dramatised, sensationalised, filtered, and depersonalised that it better qualifies as gratuitous violence, thinly disguised pornography or, even more today, propaganda in "patriotic" clothing, or is
3. advertising (another form of lies and fantasy: "You, too, will be popular if you use our product").
I'm regarded as a fully functional and well informed person, aware of what's going on around me in both micro- and macro-worlds, yet I evicted the tv from my life in 1977 - about 1450 weeks ago. I don't think I've missed anything essential.
If people can't give up TV for a day - or a week! - then they ought seriously to examine their lives - and go get one (each) of their own. Smoking opium would be far less destructive of lives and brains than the electronic opiate of the masses.
From: Rhana Bazzini (rhanaATatt.net)
It's so easy to criticize TV but like all forms, books included, one must be selective.
I find myself watching C-SPAN quite a bit. There are interviews, forums, lectures that are fascinating and I would never be able to attend. C-SPAN 2 on the weekends is a treasure trove of author/book interviews. I hear of many books that I'd miss if it weren't for their programs.
Also there are many people who are housebound and unable to read for many reasons for whom TV is a wonderful companion.
Now for a confession, I watch "Desperate Housewives". It's a hoot for when one's brain is tired and a brief escape from the real world is in order.
Life is a mix. All things in moderation. Well, o.k., most things.
From: Dave Zobel (zobeldaveATaol.com)
An amazing blender of science and art is Robert Lang (Ph.D. applied physics, Caltech), who has revolutionized origami with his astoundingly complex and beautiful designs.
Most of Lang's creations are folded from uncut sheets of paper, but he's also developed airbag folding patterns, and he's the man who figured out how to squeeze a telescope lens the size of a soccer field into an ordinary rocket.
What would be the word for that -- origarasu, perhaps? (garasu = glass)
From: Elizabeth Creith (hedgehog.ceramicsATsympatico.ca)
I'm a bookmaker and an origami addict. For a couple of years I've been making what I learned to call "flutter books". These are books with a single accordion-folded page that flutters out from between its covers. Hereafter I will call them "orihons". Thanks for the new word!
Regarding television - I have one in my home, but we have no reception, and use it strictly for rented movies. In fact, I have not had a working television in my home since 1989.
From: Pantelis Giamarellos (pantgATotenet.gr)
The word "amphigory" comes from Greek and it derives from the two words "amphi" = both, two ways and "agorevo" = speak, address a speech to public. The meaning is a word or phrase with multiple meanings.
Oracles given by the famous in ancient years Delphi Oracle were notorious for being amphigories. One of the best and most known until now is the oracle given to one Greek king who enquired about his luck before leaving for war. The oracle said "Leave and return not die in war." Depending on the way a comma is placed in the phrase the meaning may change from "Leave and return not, die in war" or "Leave and return, not die in war."
From: Steve Jones (steve.jonesATgalarson.com)
For his Kindergarten talent show my son Isaac recited The Jabbjerwocky by Lewis Carroll:
Now in 3rd grade he'll be able to tell everyone what exactly this tale is. He and his younger brother, Levi, now are staging productions of the tale in the back yard. They truly are my beamish boys!
From: Martin Donell Kohout (makoATuts.cc.utexas.edu)
I knew this word primarily through its adaptation by the late Edward Gorey, an artist and writer of profoundly strange sensibilities, who titled various collections of his works Amphigorey, Amphigorey Too, and Amphigorey Also.
Gorey may be best known to American audiences as the man behind the wonderful animated opening credits of the "Mystery!" series on PBS, but he was a prolific (and truly weird) author and illustrator. Years ago our younger daughter memorized his macabre alphabet rhyme, "The Gashlycrumb Tinies", and proudly recited it before her first-grade class, thereby disconcerting her teacher (and probably a few classmates as well).
From: Jenny Ellsworth (jellsworthATmac.com)
I always thought amphigory was not merely nonsense, but nonsense that appeared to have meaning, so that the listener or reader was drawn in to an attempt to figure it out. It is not just silliness, it is deception.
My favorite use of the word is from Robert Heinlein's book Stranger in a Strange Land:
Jubal Harshaw: "But you know, or should know, that I am a senior philosophunculist on active duty."
Capt. Heinrich: "Repeat?"
Jubal Harshaw: "Haven't you studied amphigory? Gad, what they teach in schools these days!"
Since a philosophunculist pretends to know more than he does in order to impress others, the statement was no more than simple truth.
Words differently arranged have different meanings, and meanings differently arranged have a different effect. -Blaise Pascal, philosopher and mathematician (1623-1662)