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AWADmail Issue 220

August 24, 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 wordsmith.org)
Subject: Obfuscating email addresses

Spammers' automated email address harvesting agents have become smart enough to figure out the earlier encoding: (jane AT smith.com). For that reason, I have omitted AT from the email addresses listed in AWADmail. If you wish to write to any of the readers whose messages appear here, just replace the space in their email address with an @.


From: Kate & Liz (winterbrown earthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--phatic

This word brings to mind the wonderful line in David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross" -- a question from one real estate sales agent to another about whether he is serious about a plan to steal a packet of new-contacts cards from the company safe:
"Are we talking, or are we only speaking?"


From: Art Haykin (theart webtv.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--phatic

The word puts me in mind of the famous patter song by Ira Gershwin (1927) The Babbit Meets the Bromide, where the shallow meets the superficial on the street and they exchange meaningless platitudes. We all do it at one time or another.

Later refrains take place 10 and 20 years later, and finally finds them as angels in heaven, but the words remain essentially the same.


From: Michael Epp (mepp wfrancl.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--phatic

"If two men are working in the kitchen together, one will say to the other 'put this bowl inside the larger bowl which you'll find on the top shelf of the green cupboard.' If a woman and man are working together, the woman will say 'put this in that one over there'. There is hence a phatic hiatus." -McPhee, curmudgeonly bachelor, a character in C.S. Lewis's "That Hideous Strength".


From: Anne LaVin (lavin rochlis.com)
Subject: phatic

How wonderful to find a word for these kinds of utterances! As I discovered when studying Japanese, the literal meanings of such things often don't "map" particularly well between languages. In Japanese, it's common to ask "where are you going?" in many situations where an English speaker would ask "how are you?" (The answer is "oh, just over there..." A specific answer - "Well, I'm going to the post office, and then the supermarket" would be greeted with just as much confusion as a description of your actual health in English).

Another interesting one (and probably my favorite) is that as part of a greeting you routinely apologize for how rude you were the most recent time you were together, even if you weren't rude at all. It sounds very odd if you translate it literally into English, but makes perfect sense in a Japanese social setting.


From: D'n Russler (d_n loryx.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nudiustertian

There is also a Hebrew term for "nudiustertian" -- it's pronounced "shilshom", and appears in a number of places in the Bible. Every place but one it is in conjunction with "Etmol", the word for "yesterday" -- as, for instance, Gen 31:2 , "And Jacob beheld the countenance of Laban, and, behold, it was not toward him as yesterday, or the day before."

That one place is in Proverbs 22:20, where though the word is written as "Shilshom", it's pronounced as (and means) "excellence".


From: Herb Koplowitz (herb tfmc.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nudiustertian

Nepali has in common usage "asti" (the day before yesterday, or more loosely, recently) and "parsi" (the day after tomorrow, or more loosely, in the near future) in addition to "hijo" (yesterday) and "bholi" (tomorrow). Hindi is more economical with words at the cost of ambiguity. "Kal" is yesterday or tomorrow and "parső" is the day before yesterday or the day after tomorrow. (You determine which meaning is intended by the tense of the verb.)


From: James Tolbert (james.tolbert comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dandle

Unfortunately, most people don't realize that dandling a baby is one of the worst means of giving her attention. The brain tends to bounce around inside the skull, and it can cause immeasurable damage.


From: Alberto Setzer (asetzer cptec.inpe.br)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tarantism

The phenomenon is still alive and for those who can read Italian, repubblica.it has the details about the "Festival La Notte della Taranta" being currently performed with 800 musicians! Full details of this Festival are found at lanottedellataranta.net


From: Madeleine St.Michael (madmadeleine comcast.net)
Subject: Re: Tarantism

A performance of the tarantella was central to the plot of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House. What a treat to discover that we have such an appropriate word for Norah's compulsive dancing.

The infamous Lola Montez performed "the spider dance" in gold rush San Francisco as well as in Europe. Her performance was based on the ruse that her movements were prompted by a spider in her dress and the risque gyrations were a result of her attempts to dislodge it. Another example of how a spider provided a pretext to dodge standard conventions and prohibitions against dancing (especially in such a lascivious fashion).


From: Jan Boshoff (idem mweb.co.za)
Subject: Tarantism

How about a new word: Tarantinoism - an uncontrollable urge to make gory movies?


Dictionaries are like watches: the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)

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