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AWADmail Issue 256

April 8, 2007

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


From: Lyle Schultz (load357 earthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--catchpole

When I was growing up on the farm, we used a catchpole to actually catch chickens. We just called it a chicken hook. It was commercially made of heavy wire and about 48 inches long. It had a wooden handle not unlike a screwdriver handle. The "catch" end was shaped into a four-inch hook that was rounded at the end and flared out to about two inches, similar to a capital letter "R". It was used by hooking the leg of the targeted Sunday-dinner.


From: Scott Johnson (scott.johnson furman.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--catchpole

There exist today for-profit debt collectors who purchase consumers' debt for pennies on the dollar, then pursue individuals (with varying degrees of rigor and veracity) to collect the monies owed.


From: Donald Johnson (johnsondo cintas.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--napier

This word carried me back to grade school where I was briefly (yet memorably) exposed to Napier's Bones, an advanced form of abacus to assist in multiplication and division of large numbers (among other things). The inventor, John Napier, was a Scottish mathematician of the late 1500s whose legend looms large in mathematical circles as he also was the inventor of logarithms, which were a boon to fellow number crunchers and a bane to generations of students who were required to take advanced math courses.

Presumably somewhere back in Napier's family tree a distant ancestor was waiting tables for a Scottish king.


From: Dorothy Raymond (d.raymond cablelabs.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--zanjero

Zanjeros may no longer be around in California; but here in rural Colorado where irrigation canals are still in use -- and water usage is closely monitored to make sure no farm gets more than its fair share -- this is still an important job and we call the ones who do it "ditch riders". Every morning when water is running in the ditch behind our house, we see the ditch rider go by (in his pickup truck driving on the ditch road), to meet with the farmers on this section of the ditch.


From: Marty Trahan (mtrahan exponent.com)
Subject: Re: zanjero

I live in Phoenix and thought you might want to know that this profession is alive and well in Phoenix. Those of us in the older parts of the city that are lucky enough to have flood irrigation have our irrigation water released from the canals by a zanjero. Here's more info.


From: Althea Godfrey (writealthea charter.net)
Subject: zanjero

Where I live in Southern Oregon we still have an occupation very similar to zanjero, which is appropriate since we also live in a Mediterranean climate (wet winters/dry summers). Here we still have "ditch riders", possibly referring to the original method of monitoring the health of the irrigation ditches that supply many of our rural farms and homes with water. The same ditch supplies many people. Each person is allotted water on a certain day with a specified periodicity. So, depending on your allotment, you could have access to water every other Tuesday or Wednesday. But if your pump is broken on that day, which of course you only discover when you try to start it, you can't get water. In a situation like that, you work with the ditch rider to get your supply. And in the summer when the temperature goes above 95 and 100 degrees regularly, getting water is not optional for your garden or crops. With water so precious, people are sure to develop relationships with their ditch riders, so you'll hear comments like: "My ditch rider is great..." or not so great, as the case may be.

Our water comes quite a distance before it gets to us and much of it comes from a different watershed. Water wars are fought in board rooms now, but it is an economic and environmental issue with hard questions and episodes of passion and drama.


From: Vaughn Hathaway (pastorveh cs.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bowyer

Nearly every sporting goods store that is worth its salt in the USA has a bowyer to this day, although he may not be called that. The compound bows that are sold today can be, even have to be, adjusted so that they fit the buyer.


From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr. (rrosenbergsr accuratechemical.com)
Subject: professions of the past

Ladder-mender (French remailleuse). Person who mends runs on stockings (mostly women's silk or rayon stockings).

Brief period (1940-1945) in Europe during which a large number of women were employed as remailleuses during the German occupation of Europe. There were no more stockings to be had and you made the ones you had last as long as possible by mending the runs first with a manual hook, then with a more sophisticated electric machine (still hand-held).

That profession became obsolete as soon as the stockings returned and with the creation of Nylons.

Women took to painting their legs to make it appear they had stockings on. Some went as far as drawing a "run" to make it look more authentic.


From: Torrey Hoffman (torrey lockdownnetworks.com)
Subject: unusual professions

Anyone interested in unusual professions, as well as the skillful use of the English language, may enjoy reading G.K. Chesterton's work The Club Of Queer Trades.


From: Stan Firth (sfirth69 aol.com)
Subject: This week's words

The Scots surname "Soutar" means "cobbler". I was amused when researching our family histories to find my late wife's father and grandfather had in fact both been cobblers rejoicing in the name "Soutar".


Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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