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AWADmail Issue 35

Jun 23, 2001

A 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

Apostrophe Protection Society:
nytimes.com/2001/06/16/world/16ENGL.html


From: Rich Ball (richballATmediaone.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--redd

As a young girl, my wife was often instructed to redd the table after dinner. Her parents came originally from eastern Ohio and western Pennsylvania. My wife and I abandoned the expression "redd" in our family partly because we had no idea of its precise meaning, legitimacy or spelling. Thank you for giving it back to us.


From: Adam Lidvik (adamATlysator.liu.se)
Subject: The word redd

The word 'redd' is very similar to the Swedish word 'reda' with the same meaning of setting in order. The Swedish word 'rede' usually means a birds nest, and the connection to fish does not seem unlikely to me.


From: Chris Reiner (reiner.chrisATepamail.epa.gov)
Subject: Redd

This word suggested to me interesting bit of linguistic convergence - of a sort. Two completely unrelated, almost identical words that both have a connection to fish.

In Spanish, red means net, like you'd catch a fish with (from the same root that gives us reticulate - resembling a net - like the reticulated python, whose markings look like a net over its body). So, one could readily catch a red herring in a redd with a red.


From: William W. Hunt (wwhuntATpacbell.net)
Subject: redd

When fish spawn, the bottom must be clear sand or else the developing ova would not get enough oxygen. The fish spend a considerable amount of time and energy agitating the water in the place they plan to deposit the ova, to "redd up" the layer of dead or living algae. I have seen sunfish do this. All along the edge of the pond there were light colored circles of their nests, outlined by the dark dead algae layer. I have a hunch the males do the work, to attract a roe laden female.So the name "redd" for a cleared place for fish to deposit ova makes sense to me.

(from the bulletin board)


From: Phillip Rowland (phillip.rowlandATza.stemcor.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--redd

I am sure this word has as its root the same word that resulted in the modern Afrikaans (South Africa) and German words for "rescue", which are "red" (pronounced "rett") and "rettung" respectively. I would be interested to know if any Dutch or Flemish readers have the noticed the same.

For me this is one of the beauties of etymology - discovering the similarities between languages, thereby making other languages seem less foreign and more accessible.


From: Ken Maher (ken.maherATtransport.alstom.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mecca

When I lived for half a year in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I learned that many Arabs are offended by the use of the word "mecca" in English to mean "A place regarded as a center of some activity or one that many people visit." Although to native English speakers, this attitude might seem rather puritanical, Arabs very seriously consider this a form of disrespect. Since my time there, I have been very cautious about my use of this term.


From: Carlos Bort (carlos_bortATmillipore.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--plica

The Latin word "plica" is used in Spanish --and maybe in other languages-- referred specifically to arts contests (a literary prize, for instance). Authors identify themselves by an alias or pseudonym and they include a plica, a folded piece of paper where they write their actual name and address. Since papermaking didn't reach Europe until the 12th century, I agree that the original Latin meaning must refer to a skin fold rather than a paper fold. Let's not forget, however, that Roman scribes wrote on vegetable or animal skins that they could roll or fold. Folding Roman flagstones would be another matter.


From: Israel Pickholtz (zach4v6ATactcom.co.il)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--plica

> Every man in the world is better than someone else. And not as good as
> someone else. -William Saroyan, writer (1908-1981)

The uses of one masculine term and one gender-neutral term makes one think that the punch line is "... His wife."


From: Alan White (awhiteATorganic.com)
Subject: newspaper names

During the message thread on newspaper names, it reminded me of the cement industry publication, "Concrete Abstract"!


From: Mary Baker (mcb1003ATemail.msn.com)
Subject: laconic

Seeing the word "laconic" featured on June 6 reminded me of this story I've heard about its origins:
Laconia is a country in Greece of which Sparta was the capital. When Philip of Macedon, father of Alexander the Great, was about to invade Laconia, he sent a message to the Spartans in which he threatened to completely destroy their city if he and his men came to it. To this threat the Laconians replied, "If."


From: Martha Beach (beachmATcadvision.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sextet

In Northern Alberta there is a town called Sexsmith. The local economy got a big boost when a Canola-oil plant was built, but that was when Canola (an oil-seed plant) was called rapeseed, or 'rape' for short among the farmers. Someone produced a T-shirt for the local hotel which read: "Sexsmith Hotel - Land of Rape and Money!"


From: Morris Grodsky (mgrodskyATthebest.net)
Subject: Newspaper error

In AWADmail Issue #34, Lois A. Manninng noted her favorite newspaper blunder regarding "a defective on a police farce." I have my favorite, (newspaper unknown), which ran along these lines: "We apologize to Mr. John Smith for referring to him as the `bottle scarred veteran.' We intended to describe him as `the battle scared veteran'."


It is with words as with sunbeams, the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. -Robert Southey (1774-1843)

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