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AWADmail Issue 215

June 25, 2006

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

1 & 5 Across:
San Francisco Chronicle

Surname Profiler:
Spatial-literacy.org

Analyzing Eggcorns and Snowclones, and Challenging Strunk and White:
New York Times


From: Bob Miller (bmillerATnatspin.com)
Subject: Surnames

In Salman Rushdie's marvelous book, The Moor's Last Sigh, there is a character named James Cashondelivri, son of a merchant who refused to extend credit.


From: Edie Bonferraro (ediebATmailbug.com)
Subject: My Name

Bonferraro: Good blacksmith.


From: Dennis Chapman (dennis.chapmanATdet.nsw.edu.au)
Subkect: chapman

I was pleased to see my surname come up as the word of the day. My grandfather, Harold Chapman was indeed a merchant who travelled around selling goods, and later started a store. I am a potter by trade, should I change my name from Dennis Chapman to Dennis Potter?


From: Kirk Hansen (kirk.hansenATsympatico.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--chapman

Your note on names was especially interesting. I had noticed that we never meet a Fred Programmer, or Mary Filmstar, or Bob Machinegunner. All the profession-based names are from some less technologically advanced time, though I couldn't tell just when. Then I read in "Is Thy Name Wart", by James Pennethorne Hughes, that surnames became universal in English when Henry VIII ordered records kept in 1538. (Hughes, incidentally, cites Camden in 1674 as noting that besides professions, the other three sources of surnames are where people are from, who their parents are, and nicknames.)


From: Sue Levy (slevyATjalcomputer.com.au)
Subject: Chapmen

The chapmen were the peddlers of small cheap books, chapbooks that grew in popularity as people learned to read. They were originally used for stories and religious tracts and later for nursery rhymes. See their history.


From: Matthew C. Clarke (clarke-familyATbigpond.com)
Subject: Re: Chapman

I had a teacher surnamed "Chapman" back in the 1980s. In consideration of moves towards non-sexist language at the time, he insisted that we should address him as "Mr Personperson".


From: Bill Reynolds (bill_reynATyahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--baxter

I work for Baxter International. I work in the Renal division which, by coincidence, is located in Baxter county, AR. One of my co-workers has a last name of Becker. We aren't bakers, but we do extrude plastic tubing at 325 degrees F.


From: Peter Smalley (pksmalleyATcomcast.net)
Subject: Comments on June 18th and 19th

In your opening paragraph on June 18th you said the name Sawyer denotes a lumberjack. Don't think so. It's the "feller" who cuts down the lumber in the form of a tree and jacks it down to the sawmill for the sawyer to turn it into boards with his saw.

On June 19th you gave us Baxter without mentioning the interesting suffix -ster as denoting, in the past, the female practitioner of most any trade, (webster, spinster, etc.). These days it seems to be added to a word without regard to gender, and usually leaning toward the male, (hipster, gangster etc.)


From: Lisa Pekar (lisannepekarATmsn.com)
Subject: baker

My last name is Pekar, which means Baker in Russian.


From: Helen Slade (helensladeATtelus.net)
Subject: Professions and surnames

As a child with the surname Cox, I fended off the constant teasing with a romantic notion that my name derived from Coxswain, a belief that was reinforced by the fact my father was a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Canadian Navy. This week's theme suggests my notion was indeed a fact.


From: Tom Mookken (tomATpcssaudi.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mercer

I was pleasantly surprised to see the name of my home town (Calicut - Kozhikode) in today's AWAD. Calicut is on the Malabar Coast of India in what is now the tiny State of Kerala. This area had extensive trade relations with ancient Rome, the Middle East, and even China. The oldest church and the oldest mosque in India are situated in Kerala. In fact Christianity became an accepted and respected religion (with royal patronage) in Kerala long before it became one in Europe. The Kerala churches were in communion with the Arab or the "Eastern Churches".

For a long time, the sea route to India (i.e. the Malabar Coast) was a closely guarded secret of the Arab traders who made massive profits selling spices, timber, fine cloth, etc. to the Europeans at huge mark-ups. It was no wonder then, that various European Kings and Queens were eager to invest large amounts of funds on adventurers who were willing to risk their lives to find a sea route to the "Indies". The history of Modern India (and the British Empire) starts in 1498 with arrival of the Portuguese seafarer Vasco da Gama who dropped anchor at Kappad a few kilometres north of Calicut.

Malayalam is the language of Kerala spoken by the 36 million Malayalees (or Keralites), a sizeable number of whom are spread all over the world especially in the Middle East, North America and Europe. Words such as "copra", "coir", "betel" (as in betel-nut) and "teak" have their roots in Malayalam.


A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket. -Charles Peguy, poet and essayist (1873-1914)

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