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AWADmail Issue 343

Jan 25, 2009

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


From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Oaf of Office
The New York Times

"With the right words everything could change"
The New York Times

There's a word for it: Snarge
National Public Radio

No Snickering: That Road Sign Means Something Else
The New York Times (see scuttlebutt)


From: Lester Carver (lester.carver am.jll.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cohere
Def: To be united; to work or hold together.

As I read the definition in your email of the word Cohere I was reminded of my freshmen college environmental science class. Our instructor, John Donnelly, went into great detail to make a distinction between adhere and cohere. Adhere being the ability of one substance to stick to another, and cohere being the ability of a substance to stick to itself. The example he gave was water beading on a clean, freshly waxed car versus a dirty, unwaxed car. The cohesion of the water on a clean waxed car exceeds the adhesion to the wax, so, the water clings tightly to itself in large beads and the opposite is true for the dirty, unwaxed car.

As I thought all this through in just a few moments I felt compelled to share with you that there was a significant difference between cohere and adhere. I thought that President Obama is facing the daunting task of pulling many disparate positions, groups, beliefs, cultures, and peoples together such that cohere should be replaced with another word. Then it struck me...the "substance" that should be "sticking" to itself is people. No matter what the multitude of differences are between the different peoples of the world are, we are all still the same in more ways than we are different.


From: Alan Wheals (bssaew bath.ac.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cohere

The root of this word also provided the source for a new scientific word in 1997 - cohesin.

One of the oldest unsolved problems in biology was how chromatids (the identical copies of the genetic material in a replicated chromosome) were held together (cohesion) until their sudden and synchronous segregation which occurs during mitosis (and meiosis). Cohesins are the multi-subunit protein complexes that act like D-locks (as used by cyclists) around both chromatids of every chromosome, and which are "unlocked" by molecular keys simultaneously allowing all chromatids to be pulled apart at the same time. Mistakes in chromosome segregation are important in cancers and other genetic diseases.

It is such a significant breakthrough that the discovery is widely tipped to feature in a future Nobel Prize.


From: Benoît Van Hecke (benoit.vanhecke arcelormittal.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--endemic
Def: 1. Natural to a particular people or place; always present in a particular area. 2. Confined to a geographic region.

Despite my five years of high school Greek, I never linked endemic to dèmos, silly me... Endemic brings back the warmest of memories of long business trips (by car) through the US during which an eager young Belgian forever tried to improve his English with the help from language loving Americans. On one of these "free car classes", my use of the word "inherent" was corrected into "endemic" and I've never forgotten about it.

Learning (ancient and) new languages is endemic to Belgians, I suppose...

Benoit, Hasselt, Belgium


From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--abrogate
Def: To put aside or treat as nonexistent, especially by an authoritative act.

Re: the usage quotation, we can say, however, that Congress has not abrogated its "oversight responsibilities" if the word 'oversight' is used in the traditional sense of 'overlook.' In that case though the oxymoron of associating 'overlook' with 'discharging of responsibility' becomes a problem.


From: Ronald Newburgh (rgnew verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sui generis
Def: Of its own kind; unique.

Many years ago sui generis inspired a bad pun. A Chinese restaurant served large portions at a reasonable price. Needless to say, it was called Chop Suey Generous.


From: John Foyston (johnfoyston news.oregonian.com)
Subject: sui generis

There's a semi-famous correction somewhere that illustrates the peril of telephone interviews, in which the reporter had to write a correction saying that his/her interviewee did NOT say that Rush Limbaugh was "sweet and generous" as reported in a previous article, but was sui generis.

Corrections are never fun but that one must've been especially difficult.


From: Jesús Fernández (jesus.fernandez.b juntadeandalucia.es)
Subject: Obama words

You said, "Unlike most politicians, who hire ghostwriters, Obama writes his own books."

It is funny that the Spanish for a ghostwriter is [escritor] negro, that is, a black writer.


From: Rob Schellhaas (rs therica.net)
Subject: progress

"Real progress will be when any capable person can have a fair chance at winning the highest office, even someone who happens to be, say, a black gay vegan atheist woman."

I thought of the same thing the other day (with a slight chuckle). You forgot "handicapped". lol. I missed "vegan" on my version ;-)


From: Ross Blocher (ross rossblocher.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cohere

I've been reading my word a day for a while now, and can't tell you how much I appreciate the regular newsletter. I was particularly happy to read your words today on Obama in regard to how far we've come as a nation. And you're right, we still have a long way to go. Polls have consistently shown that an atheist is the least likely candidate (who is otherwise as qualified as her opponent) to receive votes, followed by a gay candidate (source). I will look forward to that day when I have the option to cast my vote for the first black gay vegan atheist woman candidate.

This topic reminds me of a song titled Is America Ready? by the satirist and wordsmith-in-his-own-right Roy Zimmerman.


From: David Fitzpatrick, PhD (grandpafitz verizon.net)
Subject: Monday message

First let me say that I truly enjoy AWAD and wish that I had discovered it long ago.

Having said that, permit me a slight disagreement with your statement leading the Monday issue of AWAD about Mr. Obama and his accomplishments. I will turn 69 this year and I have been looking back at things that happened in those years. Many things have happened that I thought could not happen. All of them happened against the odds. We landed on the moon, several times. The Berlin Wall fell. The troubles in Ireland have been bridged, and now a black man has been elected to the White House. Perhaps "a black gay vegan atheist woman" will be elected president next. I hope you will forgive me if I hold my breath ... just a little. Too many improbable things have happened in my life for me to give up on it all now.


From: Jennifer Stewart (jennifer write101.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cohere

We've watched your presidential elections with great interest from Down Under in Australia and were delighted to see everyone finally got it right :)

It's wonderful to have a man who inspires respect. Seeing film footage of nearly-President Obama walking among people and seeing how they respond to him restores our faith in our 'Murkin cousins!

I hope he's given every chance to sort out the mess left behind and to make our Big Cousin the country we all love to love.


From: David Brooks (brooksdr sympatico.ca)
Subject: Obama

An excellent topic this week. But as gifted a writer and skilled an orator as Barack Obama is, he still uses the word enormity improperly on a regular basis. Well, at least he can pronounce "nuclear".


From: Karen Lopez (karenlopez infoadvisors.com)
Subject: There ya go again

Black gay vegan atheist woman... You gotta know that you're going to get swamped with hate mail.

Talk about being swamped ... hundreds of messages and subscription cancellations, but it's a free world and everyone has a right to her opinion (but not her facts). Read on.
-Anu Garg


From: Laurie Lovell (hp.cruzin gmail.com)
Subject: subscription cancellation

Why I unsubscribed: The Obama worship is quite disgusting. You will regret your adoration when our civilization turns Socialist and you are taxed beyond your ability to pay. Apply some of your research abilities to check into the President-Elect's past history and associates. Of course, if you think that each should give according to his ability and take according to his need, than maybe Mr. Obama is your boy. And here you seemed like such a rational person!


A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers. -Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948)

This week's theme
Words from Obama

This week's words
cohere
syncretic
endemic
abrogate
sui generis

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Latin terms in English

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