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AWADmail Issue 426

August 29, 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 David Gingold (see below), who'll look smart, smarter, sm(art)ist in his winning Uppityshirt.


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

Does Your Language Shape How You Think?
The New York Times

Ebonics Translators Needed by DEA
The Daily Telegraph


From: Michael Har-Even (MHar-Even nds.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fluvial
Def: Of or relating to a river or stream.

Perfect word to start a week of random words -- just go with the flow!


From: Trish Kaspar (trishka1 earthlink.net)
Subject: fluvial

. . . and other fluid, fluent derivations that you present nonstop each day. Thank you! I too am a fan of serendipity and have always loved looking up words in an actual hardcover dictionary, including my grandfather's 6-inch thick 1930 Webster's. I start in one place and cruise to yet another, growing with pleasure as other words unfold with meanings. Today's "flu" words (an epidemic indeed) were all over the place. Who'da thunk?! Thanks for thinking . . .
I'll never be affluent, I remember to flush, my toothpaste has fluoride, I sometimes suffer from acid reflux, and now I'm getting superfluous. Keep on flooding us with words and their wonders! It's how we stay young and involved.


From: Mark Chartrand (mrc mrchartrand.com)
Subject: Sidereal
Def: 1. Relating to the stars. 2. Measured with reference to the apparent motion of the stars.

Anent sidereal: this word appears within two more common words that show our historical interest in the stars. "Desire" literally means "of a star" in the sense of wishing upon a star, while "consider" means "together with a star" and is connected to an older meaning of "observe". Also, a sidereal day is only 23 hours 56 minutes 04 seconds of "normal" solar time, so there are 366 sidereal days in a (solar) calendar. "The Astronomer's Drinking Song", written about 200 years ago, urges drinking a bottle of wine a day, and to "dine by the sidereal clock" for one more bottle year!


Email of the Week - (Brought to you by "Hello, my I.Q. is...")

From: David Gingold (dgingold cfl.rr.com)
Subject: Sidereal

When I was a plebe (freshman) at the US Military Academy (West Point) in 1959, during 'Beast Barracks' (summer training) I had to memorize many responses to many upperclassmen's questions. One was "What time is it, Mister?" My response was "Sir, I am deeply embarrassed and greatly humiliated that, due to circumstances beyond my control, the hidden workings and inner mechanisms of my chronometer are in such inaccord with the great sidereal movement by which time is commonly reckoned that I can not state the exact time. But I will state, without fear of being very far off, that it is 13 ticks (seconds), 46 minutes after 1700 hours." (The actual time was always used.)


From: Lorie Vallejo (loredith_joy yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: orison
Def: A prayer.

Growing up as Roman Catholics in a small town in one of the provinces in the Philippines, my siblings and I were always reminded by our grandmother to observe the "orasyon" when the church bells rang at six o' clock.

"Orasyon" in our language (Filipino) refers to six o' clock prayers. We had to drop what we were doing (which, to our disappointment, usually meant stopping playing with the kids in our street) to pray the Angelus and the rosary with her. Today's word, orison, just reminded me of my happy childhood and my beloved grandmother who passed away this year.


From: Mark Sevier (the_sandman msn.com)
Subject: orisons from Hamlet

The most famous use of this word is of course the "To be or not to be" soliloquy in Hamlet, Act 3, scene 1:

"Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remembered."

I have always interpreted this expression as a sort of apotheosis of Ophelia by Hamlet, in that it very nearly echoes the ending verse of the Ave Maria: "Ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae." Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.


From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr (RRosenbergSr accuratechemical.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--orison

The French spell it oraison, usually oraison funèbre (funeral oration).

Re: "Our Father who wasn't there", are we talking about "The Father"? He is seldom there for anyone; usually occupied with other important matters, like making sure the University of Florida wins its current football games.


From: sheila Moran (sheila.moran valley.net)
Subject: macerate
Def: 1. To soften by soaking or steeping in a liquid. 2. To separate into parts by soaking. 3. To weaken or to become thin; to emaciate.

The word macerate can be used in a slightly different culinary sense. While I have never actually seen this definition spelled out, cookbooks often ask you to "macerate" something, let's say chopped fruit, always with sugar or salt added to leach out juices. One way of making an apple pie, for example, asks the cook to macerate the sliced apples with sugar stirred in. The mixture stands for at least 30 minutes. Then one drains the fruit, boils the drained liquid down to a syrup and mixes it back into the fruit along with thickener such as corn starch. But it is the drawing out of the juices that is the macerating part.


From: David Polk (dpolk3390 rogers.com)
Subject: sward
Def: The grassy surface of land: turf.

I learned the meaning of "sward" about 40 years ago while viewing Monty Python. In their skit on an imbecilic highwayman, the song went: "Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, riding through the sward; Dennis Moore, Dennis Moore, on his horse Concord...."


From: Peirce Hammond (peirce_hammond ed.gov)
Subject: At random

The words were, by your description, not truly picked "at random". They were picked in a haphazard fashion. Curiously, to be considered "at random", some structure is required that generates randomness (e.g., a table of random numbers or rolling dice). This eliminates unconscious bias or other forms of selection that are difficult to detect. It is quite the technical enterprise.


From: Arthur Lewis (artlewis00 gmail.com)
Subject: randomness

Sometimes there's no substitute for walking into a random aisle in a library and perusing what books one might bump into.

I did this during doctoral exam preparation. It made the difference for one of the five questions.


From: Bucky Timothy Miller (buckymiller gmail.com)
Subject: epeolatry

Next week, a gallery exhibition I am curating opens at Arizona State University's Step Gallery. The exhibition, titled Epeolatry: The Worship of Words, will feature works of art that utilize text in some significant fashion. I just wanted to thank A.Word.A.Day for the inspiration, as this is where I originally discovered the word epeolatry.

If you are curious, you can read more about the exhibition here.

Thanks for years of good words!


A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey. -Roman Jakobson, linguist (1896-1982)
This week's theme
Random words

This week's words
fluvial
sidereal
orison
macerate
sward

Next week's theme
Terms from French

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