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AWADmail Issue 401

March 7, 2010

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

This week's Email of the Week is from Harry Organek (see below), who receives an "incorrigible" Uppityshirt, tailor-made to fit recalcitrants to a Tee.


From: Rachel Komlo (thecorpsownsme gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--goulash
Def: 1. A mixture of disparate elements; 2. A stew of meat and vegetables, seasoned with paprika; 3. In the game of bridge, a round played with hands produced by a rearrangement of previously dealt cards.

I was delighted to see "goulash" as the word of the day. My dad's family is, well, very Hungarian and I'm always a little proud of my culture when I see it recognized somewhere. :) Now I'm off to make some Hungarian goulash.


From: Dr. Thomas Baitz (dr.baitz bellnet.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--goulash

The herd in Hungary was in the open on the prairie -- thus the herdsmen slept with the herd and cooked outdoors. The soup was cooked in a large cauldron over open fire and everything was thrown into it - potatoes, onions, pepper, vegetables, meat - whatever was available. That is why gulyasleves is a hodge-podge of various ingredients - thus leading to your first definition of the word (again showing the interesting transition from a secondary to a primary meaning of the word in contemporary language).


From: Diana Jank (dianajank yahoo.co.uk)
Subject: goulash

The English term "goulash" does indeed refer to a kind of "Hungarian-style" stew, but the original Hungarian dish is actually a spicy, meaty soup, with plenty of liquid. It is eaten with a spoon and comes under the name "gulyásleves" ("leves" meaning "soup"). In a Hungarian restaurant no one would ever ask for a "gulyás" or even "gulyáshús". Always "gulyásleves".


From: Tonia Ward (toniaward hotmail.com)
Subject: goulash

Goulash is also the name of a hand in the traditional game of Mahjong. If the hand played has not been won by anyone, the next hand is called goulash!


From: Doug Greener (ddwgreen netvision.net.il)
Subject: Masks for today

Whether by design or coincidence, your Thought for Today (We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin. -Andre Berthiaume, novelist) arrived in Jerusalem during the Purim holiday, when wearing masks is a required part of the festivities!


From: Sol Salbe (ssalbe westnet.com.au)
Subject: Cabal/Kabbalah
Def: 1. A small, secret group of plotters or intriguers. 2. The plots of such a group.

While in English Kabbalah leads to a cabal with a connotation of something secret as a cabal, in Modern Hebrew the word moved in the opposite direction. It literally means a receipt. But in the modern parlance it indicates something very public or in a big way. Thus a "Meshuga [crazy person] im Kabalot" indicates "a madman with receipt" i.e. someone who is a big time crazy with a track record or other proof that he is really that way.


From: kah454 (via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Subject: potlatch
Def: 1. A ceremonial festival among North American Indians of the Pacific Northwest; 2. A party or get-together.

While travelling in Southeast Alaska last year I was able to study a large number of Totem poles. Some poles will have a series of rings. Each ring represented a Potlatch that family had hosted. If your Totem had several rings, it was a sign of wealth and prosperity. (I have photos.)


From: Tom Priestly (tpriestl shaw.ca)
Subject: potlatch

It is worth mentioning that the Canadian federal government banned the potlatch from 1884 to 1951, ostensibly because of native treatment of property, but probably because Europeans could not bear the thought of extreme generosity -- such uncivilized behavior. "By the time the ban was repealed, serious damage had been caused to tribal identities and social stratification. Potlatches are again held today, but they are not the large affairs they were in the past." (in part, from the Canadian Encyclopedia)


From: Michael Rodgers (rodgers dccnet.com)
Subject: potlatch

I live in a suburb of Vancouver, BC, very near Point Roberts, WA. I love your column normally, but was pretty disappointed in the entry on the word potlatch. It was at least dated, and some of my First Nations friends would be a bit offended (not majorly, but more than "miffed"). Do folks in the US still refer to their aboriginal peoples as "American Indians"? Very, very rare now in Canada. One could argue that both words in that title are etymologically erroneous (okay, that was fun).

According to the results of 1995 census and from personally knowing some American Indians/Native Americans/First Nations, I can tell you that they prefer the term "American Indians" here in the US. See pdf (pp. 17-18). For a detailed discussion of the issue, see this article. We have now amended the entry on potlatch to read "North American Indian" instead of "American Indian" to be inclusive of Canadian Indians/First Nations.
-Anu Garg


From: Michiel Heyns (micheyns gmail.com)
Subject: Laager
Def: 1. A camp, especially one protected by a circle of wagons or armored vehicles. 2. An entrenched policy or viewpoint.

Can't resist commenting on this word as I live in South Africa and speak Afrikaans. As you point out "lager" is indeed an Afrikaans word originating from Dutch. However, many of the words borrowed from Dutch were "softened" with the passing of time. Therefore "regen" (rain) became "reën", "seggen" (say) became "sê", etc. In the same way "lager" became "laer" with the hard "g" sound falling away.


From: Ann Moore (amoore guttmacher.org)
Subject: Afrikaans is not an obsolete language

I was tickled to see an Afrikaans word as the Word of the Day but I was curious why you called Afrikaans an obsolete language. It seems to still be widely spoken and very much in use in South Africa. I am almost positive it is still being taught as well.

The etymology read "From obsolete Afrikaans lager (camp) ..." and it was not meant to imply that the language is obsolete, rather the root word, which is now "laer" instead of "lager". The confusion arose from the missing article. We've now added it to the web page, to read: "From the obsolete Afrikaans word lager (camp) ..." Thanks.
-Anu Garg


From: Doug Greener (ddwgreen netvision.net.il)
Subject: Lager is beer

As a diplomaed MBA (Master of Beer Appreciation), I would define "lager" as a popular type of beer fermented at lower temperatures than ale and, optimally, stored for several months before use. I'm told that the origin of the word itself is from Germany (where the beer was first brewed) and means "storehouse", although an additional meaning is certainly "camp".


From: Alexei Svensson (ml exppii.net)
Subject: Re. Lager

It is also "camp" in Russian, and is the root of the word Gulag. (G. U. Lag., or Main Administration of Camps)


From: Olga Verro (Orrevaglo northstate.net)
Subject: lager

I am writing family memoirs which include our two-and-half years of forced labor in Ostarbeiter lager (camp) during World War II in Germany. It was difficult to translate such German words as Lagerfuhrer, which I wrote in Italics rather then translating it as Camp Leader. The same was true with the use of "concentration camp", which does not convey the same meaning as "concentration lager" in the Soviet Union, until Solzhenitsin had introduced to Western readers the word "gulag".


Email of the Week
(Brought to you by incorrigible -- Try one on for size.)

From: Harry Organek (harryorg aol.com)
Subject: a specific meaning of laager

As the child of Holocaust survivors, "laager" will forever have a far more ominous tone in my mind than the emotionally neutral definitions provided. From an early age I heard my mother use the term laager to refer to the concentration camp in Germany where she was imprisoned for two years and where her mother died in a gas chamber. Although I am not fluent in German, I would find it hard to imagine that the term laager could still be used in Germany today without conjuring up the horrific memories associated with the Third Reich.


From: Arnold Talentino (talentino cortland.edu)
Subject: laager

My grandmother, an immigrant from Bavaria, always referred to a small, rundown house as a "laager stadt". I have since wondered how "lager", as in beer, fitted the image. Now I understand.


From: Allan John Murray Stevenson (allan hopeterrace.com)
Subject: Bakshish
Def: A payment, such as a tip or bribe.

In British slang something you get for nothing is "buckshee". I suspect the origin is British Army slang from bakshish.


From: Pete Jones (pete jones.to)
Subject: British vs American English

Of course, your test sentence was purely British! :-) All five spellings can be found in the OED. I would guess that the words spelt the 'American way' by the test participants were 'gray' and 'realized'. I think that 'realized/realised' has almost equal status in England, and the OED gives 'realize' as its first spelling.

Yes, the two words spelled the American way were gray and realize. And the Oxford don did defend his 'ize' spelling by citing the OED.
See this article on Oxford spelling.
-Anu Garg


From: David Fielker (fielker waitrose.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day

With regard to the influence of other languages on British English, there's a difference between the importation of words, and the effect of alternative spellings. American influences give us words or phrases like 'train station' when we would say just 'station', and 'gas' for 'petrol' which we understand and sometimes use. American spellings are recognised by those of us who have spent time in the US, and I can tell which of our newspaper columnists have done that by their occasional lapse, such as 'practice' (verb) when we would use 'practise'.


From: Griselda Mussett (mussetts btinternet.com)
Subject: 'Corruption' of English

I have just finished reading a truly remarkable book called Bloody Foreigners by Robert Winder, describing the experience of immigrants to the British Isles/UK for the last few centuries. Language is a bit peripheral to his main theme, but he describes the immense wealth of culture -- food, music, science, philanthropy, architecture, politics, industry, comedy, etc. -- contributed by the successive waves of newcomers, as well as the ambivalent and sometimes horrible treatment of immigrants arriving here. A fascinating book which I recommend to your readers.


From: Johnnie Godwin (johnniegodwin aol.com)
Subject: About English: UK/USA/English not dying

Once in Stockholm, Sweden, we were eating in a buffet breakfast area and I was able to make out enough of a conversation to know that another couple several tables over were speaking English. I told my wife that I was going to find out where they were from. When I got to their table, the man was eating and his wife was getting coffee. Being from Texas, I naturally asked, "Where you folks from?" The man looked up shocked and said, "Ahhhmmm sawrrry; I speak only English." I replied, "That's the only language I speak too. What country are you from?" - "Austrrrralia."


From: Dan Perlman (dan danperlman.net)
Subject: British vs American spelling

The reverse is apparently also true. I grew up in the Midwest of the U.S. and learned "grey" as the correct spelling rather than "gray" (which we learned as an "acceptable though not preferred alternate", and have always spelled it that way.


From: John Turpi (junction1066 aol.com)
Subject: Gray vs grey

Gray vs grey. For me it depends on how much white is in the color as to how I spell it. Lots of white gets the 'a'.


From: Helen E. Jensen (h.jensen6837 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: spelling

Spelling flows both ways. My favourite authors are British. I usually only realize that I have written colour, flavour, or favourite when someone calls my attention to it. (I use either grey/gray and nobody notices.)


From: Ben Stern (stern.ben gmail.com)
Subject: English and its variations

Concerning your comment about the variations of English and their possible future directions: At a recent conference held by the Israel Translators Association, a lecturer claimed the most widespread version of English in use today is "English as a second language". It is spoken by more people than all the variations of English together. It is bereft of the local terminology found in each of the normal English variations (e.g., baseball terminology and references to American TV shows in US English, soccer terminology in UK English, etc. It has become the English for international usage and is producing speakers with the ability of English mother-tongue speakers, albeit in the more neutral version of English. Its speakers, although not native-born English speakers could have the ability to translate in this variation of English at the same level as a person with a local (US, British, Australian, etc.) variation of English as their mother tongue.


From: Margaret Condy (condy pipcom.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--goulash

In your introduction to this week's words, you pointed out the difference in spelling choices that British and American writers would make in the sentence "Her favorite flavors were in the gray catalog, she realized." Canadians use a melange of British and American spellings, so here in Canada this sentence would follow the British way except for the word "realize". Canadian spelling can leave a lot of people thoroughly confused. For instance, we would use "program" instead of "programme" (the British spelling), but "catalogue" instead of "catalog." We don't seem to be able to make up our minds if we want to appear British or American!

Yes, I also wrote it the same except for realize (which only rarely is spelled realise in Canada). Here in Vancouver program is for software, radio, and TV but programme for cultural events (e.g. music). Canadians have a mix of US and UK with a few distinctly Canadian words.
-Carolanne Reynolds (gg wordsmith.org)


From: Ross Powell (arcadianrwp dccnet.com)
Subject: American/Canadian/English

If you think different spellings between American and British English are confusing, try being a Canadian. Not only are we exposed daily to media from both countries, but our official spellings sometimes include both British and American versions.


From: Roger Patrick (thurmatron98 yahoo.co.uk)
Subject: British vs American English

I very much enjoy A Word A Day. But your introduction to this week's subject made me grind my teeth. To many of us, there is no such thing as British English. You use American English, Australians use Australian English, South Africans use South African English, but I use English!


From: John A Pershing Jr (pershing alum.mit.edu)
Subject: English versus British

Sorry, but (American) English "took over" British English a long time ago. As Mark Twain observed, "The King's English is not the King's. It's a joint stock company, and Americans own most of the shares."


From: Rob Ewen (john_ewen clear.net.nz)
Subject: English English/American English

Here in New Zealand, we noticed after the arrival of 'Sesame Street' on TV, our young ones began saying zee for Z instead of zed as we say in English English. No doubt the massive influence of American movies, TV and printed word will continue to change other Englishes.


From: Bernadette (bernadettemm gmail.com)
Subject: Congratulations or Congratulationem [L]

Congratulations on the 900,000 Milestone. This is the only subscription I gift to my friends and 'enemies.' My friends always love it. My 'enemies' stop sending me junk mail. :-)

Seriously, I just love what you do. And I hope you continue to do so. Thanks a million.... and counting. Thank you!

With words that fail to describe my appreciation,
Bernadette.


From: Kelvin Parrish (kmp612 hotmail.com)
Subject: Congratulations

Thank you so very much for your work over the years. I thoroughly enjoy my daily vocabulary builder!

I confess at times I've had ulterior motives... Your daily distribution has been utterly reliable. I have had customers and friends with general email delivery problems subscribe to AWAD for daily affirmation of proper operation. Interestingly, virtually everyone has continued subscribing long after email issues were resolved. :-) So thank you for that, also.

Your note about 900,000 subscriptions prompted me to write. Congratulations, sir, and may AWAD continue its happy growth.

Thanks for your kind words. The credit for the reliability goes to our system wizard Todd J. Derr.
-Anu Garg


A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The appropriately beautiful or ugly sound of any word is an illusion wrought on us by what the word connotes. -Max Beerbohm, writer, critic, and caricaturist (1872-1956)
This week's theme
Words borrowed from various languages

This week's words
goulash
cabal
potlatch
laager
baksheesh

Next week's theme
Words related to 16

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