AWADmail Issue 393
January 10, 2010
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
The Decade's Top 10 Quotations
Listening to Braille
The New York Times
There Oughta Be a Law
This week's Email of the Week is from BranShea (see below), who receives
a year's supply of "Smart Pills" courtesy Uppityshirts.
From: Michael Sivertz (sivertz bnl.gov)
Def: Of or related to tragedy or tragic acting.
It is mind-boggling that the twenty-first century language should contain
a word that derives its meaning from a boot worn by tragic actors of
Athens twenty-four centuries ago. I am bewildered enough by terms like
"dial the phone" when dials disappeared less than a generation ago. How
is it that language can act like an archive of human history, storing
meaning for centuries, long after any living memory of the original object
From: Clara Garcia Amaral Fernandes (ahqueluz hotmail.com)
Subject: About cothurnal
The Portuguese dictionary Aurélio confirms the etymology of the word
"cothurnal". We have, here, in Brazil, the colloquial expressions "low
cothurn" (baixo coturno) and "high cothurn" (alto coturno) indicating
the social position of someone. We also use "cothurn" (coturno) to mean
military shoes. But there is no use of the word as an adjective.
From: Bob Singleton (rmsing45 earthlink.net)
Being a secondary theatre teacher, I had long known about kothornoi as
the high boots that tragic actors wore to give themselves more height on
stage. When I took private Greek lessons from a native Greek speaker who
was also an ancient Greek history professor, I asked him what he knew about
kothornoi. After a moment he said they were oversized boots that would fit
the left or right foot interchangeably kept by Spartan soldiers beside their
beds so that they could slip them on quickly in case the battle alarm was
sounded in the middle of a dark night. I was left with greater admiration for
the creativity of theatre people to find inventive uses for quotidian things.
From: BranShea (via Wordsmith Talk)
I did a bit of looking into the history of this word and found that
the shoes worn by tragedians fitted both the left and right foot. There
was a Theramenes (455-404 BCE), who was nicknamed kóthornos, because his
politics were lacking principles (wanting to save both cabbage and goat).
From: kah454 (via Wordsmith Talk)
There was a very impressive production of Agamemnon at Stratford years ago
(late 70s) where the cothurni were close to a six-inch lift and the mask
with a headpiece or ankus extended height close to a foot. There were arm
extensions as well. This gave the actors the appearance of being like statues
close to eight feet in height; certainly larger than life. Those ancient
theatres were quite large and this helped those seated in the last rows.
From: Jeff Cebulski (bullski hotmail.com)
Def: 1. A long thick glove worn as part of medieval armor. 2. An attack from all sides; a severe trial or ordeal.
Every time this word comes up, I am reminded of a "gauntlet" drill we
ran during my high school football days. Those of us who were 'backs' or
receivers had to carry the ball through a line of teammates, whose sole
intention was to poke at the ball or beat the daylights out of the runner's
arms in order to cause a fumble. It was often quite a challenge, but it
could also be a lot of fun, especially at the end when fellow players held
you up with all sorts of shenanigans. I sometimes wonder if such drills
would help certain NFL players carry the ball in a more protective way.
From: Margie Duncan (mmduncan princeton.edu)
When my best friend got married in 1981, she wore gauntlets as part of her
wedding ensemble. That's what the bridal industry at the time called those
lacy, fingerless gloves with sleeves up to the elbow. Very elegant, and
quite different from the knight's version, but also a form of armor, I guess.
From: Cécile Hessels (v.hessels versatel.nl)
We Dutch call a gant/glove "hand shoe" (handschoen).
From: Elizabeth McAllister (fiberbuff earthlink.net)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--gauntlet
This word has always been one of my pet peeves. I have always understood
that "gauntlet" was the glove, and "gantlet" was the military (or other)
punishment. Am I wrong? Thanks.
A number of readers raised this question. Gantlet is simply a variant
spelling (in American English) of the word gauntlet when used in the
sense "to run the gauntlet".
From: Raphael Barousse (raphbar catholic.org)
Def: 1. A thick-soled laced boot. 2. A tragic drama.
Prior to the Liturgical Reform of the 1960s, buskins were loose boots
of cloth or soft leather worn by prelates (bishops, cardinals, abbots,
etc.) over their shoes and lower legs when vested for "pontifical"
(especially solemn) Masses or other services. Their color was of the
liturgical color of the day. In my monastery their use was generally
an object of snickers.
From: Dean Barmard (dsbarnard comcast.net)
Subject: quantum (Re: AWADmail 392)
And think of the thousands (millions?) of people who make quantum leaps on
a daily basis because they work/reside in a building that makes them move
from the 12th to the 14th floor, or vice versa, because the 13th floor is
not numbered! ;-)
From: Arif M. Ozdogan (arif.ozdogan izmir.af.mil)
Subject: palindromic number
The second palindromic date of the century is coming. The first one was
10/02/2001 (DD/MM/YYYY), and the second one that will be 01/02/2010.
From: Tania Kumar (taniakumar hotmail.com)
Just a thought, the acronym for A Word A Day, "AWAD" is actually a name
in Arabic which means "Reward, compensation" which is very true in a way
because when I wake up in the morning and check my email, it's rewarding
to come across these nice words and thoughts.
Thank you for AWAD!
From: Nikkole Buczek (nbuczek hotmail.com)
Subject: You helped my New Year's Resolution
I wanted to do something new this year when it came to my New Year's
Resolutions. One of them included learn a new word [almost] every day. I
felt that this would help with my writing skills and continue to give me
a tiny bit of education every day. I love the fact that Wordsmith emails
you a word everyday. Sometimes I forget to check these things, but
I have no excuse when I see the word in my inbox when I check my email
every morning. It's such a simple thing, but if everyone would do it,
we'd have a lot fewer dumb individuals.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
It is with words as with sunbeams, the more they are condensed, the deeper
they burn. -Robert Southey (1774-1843)