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AWADmail Issue 390

December 20, 2009

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


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

Languages of the World
The Economist

The Philomath Speaks: An Interview with Anu Garg
National Association of Scholars


From: Tom Priestly (tpriestl shaw.ca)
Subject: anomie
Def: Social instability and alienation caused by the erosion of norms and values.

Thank you for putting me straight! About 60 years ago a whole class of boys, myself among them, was accused by our teacher of anomie and told that it was a Deadly Sin. Your choosing this word as AWAD set me a-checking and I now know that he was accusing us of acedia ("Spiritual torpor; apathy and inactivity in the practice of virtue"), which we may indeed have been guilty of. (And it is just part of the Sin of Sloth, but that is another matter). We could hardly be faulted for anomie, which is, as I understand it, something imposed on the individual by "the erosion of values", i.e., by society.


From: Janet Rizvi (janetrizvi gmail.com)
Subject: avoirdupois
Def: Heaviness or weight of a person.

The basic meaning of avoirdupois, as all of us of a certain age who were brought up in the UK know well, is the system of measuring weights in which 16 ounces (oz.) = 1 pound (lb.); 14 lb. = 1 stone (st.); 8 st. = 1 hundredweight (cwt.), and 20 cwt. = 1 ton. A cumbersome system, if ever there was one, but sanctified by tradition and in universal use in the UK till around the 1970s when it was superseded by the metric system. (I believe something like it is still the standard system of measuring weight in some relatively backward countries on the western side of the Atlantic). It saddens me to think of all the mental energy expended by millions of children in learning to calculate in this archaic system (as well as in pounds, shillings, and pence; inches, feet, and yards; pints, quarts, and gallons) when our Continental counterparts only had to master the simple and elegant metric system. The current generation in the UK are luckier, but I still weep for those poor American kids...


From: Bob Boisvert (bob.boisvert tc.gc.ca)
Subject: avoirdupois

Canada adopted the metric system a long time ago, but old habits die hard: it is not unusual to hear at the deli counter: please give me five slices of ham, 300 grams of smoked turkey, a pound of bacon, and about six inches of kielbasa coil.


From: Lekha Warrior (lekhawarrior gmail.com)
Subject: Avoir du poids

Here in Belgium, 'avoir du poids' in its French equivalent could also imply a person's status in the social sense -- a person's worth/level of influence in his or her actions or in a discussion. Of course, it also has the same meaning as described by you. I love to see the similarities in these two languages and your insights are pure fun.


From: Jim Kimble (jkimble uab.edu)
Subject: avoirdupois

Since high school I have been meaning to look up the etymology of this word. I assumed it was the name of a French scientist, because it is the name of the system of weights used in Western Europe and its colonies prior to the adoption by most civilized countries of the metric system.


From: Nadine Peterson (homeingv yahoo.com)
Subject: Thank you

I am enjoying this website so much. What fun! I bought one of the books and I am looking forward to reading it.


A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The words of some men are thrown forcibly against you and adhere like burrs. -Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)
This week's theme
Miscellaneous words

This week's words
anomie
simulacrum
avoirdupois
arrogate
pother

Next week's theme
Fear and desire

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