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AWADmail Issue 447

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

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

Library Clears Its Shelves in Protest at Closure Threat
The Guardian

Anonymous was a Woman
Yale Alumni Magazine

The Government Does Not Control Your Grammar
The Web of Language

What's The Longest Word In The English Language?

From: Dottie Simmons (simmonsville gmail.com)
Subject: intromit
Def: To enter, send, or admit.

The description of intromit brought back a very early memory of neighborhood magic shows in the '50s when I was about eight. My stellar trick was intromitting an uncooked egg into a glass milk bottle, shell and all. What made it possible was soaking the whole egg in vinegar for a day or two (?) until the shell softened slightly. Placing a small bit of burning paper in the bottle, egg on top - the resulting vacuum sucked the egg right down! Heaven knows I'd have been in trouble if a grownup had caught me playing with fire.
Thanks for the memory.

From: Bob Simmons (bsimmons compassnet.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--remonstrate
Def: To reason or plead in protest.

My introduction to this word came in Jr High School when I memorized Patrick Henry's "Liberty or Death" speech for an Interscholastic League declamation competition. The relevant sentence:

"We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament."

From: John Sandor (pretzldog aol.com)
Subject: remonstrate

A monstrance is the gilded vessel used to display the communion wafer at the altar during certain celebrations in the Catholic faith.

Email of the Week - (Sponsored by the One Up! Cup - Are you quick and clever enough to win?)

From: Dan Fullerton (dan.fmpc mail.com)
Subject: Remonstrate

The word brings to mind the Flushing Remonstrance of 1657, when the word "remonstrate" was still fairly young. The Flushing Remonstrance was about religious freedom in the Dutch colony of New Holland, when the authorities in New Amsterdam prohibited the Quakers from residing and worshiping in Flushing. The Flushing town council went on record challenging Gov. Stuyvesant. When the town persisted in its openness to religious tolerance, several council members were tried for violating the law and one or two lost their lives. One who was executed, I believe, was the town clerk.

It is precisely because of such public actions as this that the United States is a country in which religious tolerance is practiced.

From: Mike Newdow (mikenewdow gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--remonstrate

Especially in view of your upcoming freethought appearance, I figure I am sort of compelled to speak once more of James Madison (who wrote of "the great desideratum" in Federalist #10).

Madison also wrote what has been called "the most important document explaining the Founders' conception of religious freedom" and "the most useful source of anti-establishment thinking". It came in response to Patrick Henry's 1784 Bill to Establish a Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion. That bill would have used tax dollars to pay for those teachers. Madison thought that was a lousy idea, and (after getting Virginia's General Assembly to postpone the vote) wrote his Memorial and Remonstrance, explaining why Henry's bill should not be supported. Madison won the majority of the assembly members over to his side, and -- instead of Henry's Bill -- Jefferson's Bill to Establish Religious Freedom (which had previously been voted down) was resurrected and passed.

From: Mark Chartrand (mrc mrchartrand.com)
Subject: Execrate
Def: To detest, denounce, or curse.

There is a (probably apocryphal) tale that a feuding mathematician called his rival's ideas "execrable". The rival riposted that his attacker's ideas were "x+1acrable".

From: Wexler Flynn (peremptor hotmail.com)
Subject: execrate

The word "execration" forever changed how I read books. It was in the last line of the translation of Albert Camus's "The Stranger" that I read in high school:

"For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration."

When the teacher asked us what this last word meant, no one knew, me included. This was much to my shame, as I loved the book but hadn't bothered to look it up. As it turned out, this one word was key to the concept of the entire book. From that day forward, I made a point to run to the dictionary for any words I didn't know. And I certainly never forgot what "execration" meant.

From: Faith Puleston (faith1110 gmx.net)
Subject: betide
Def: To happen.

One of the nicest things about AWAD is the gentle reminders of the past. My mother used to say "woe betide" in a threatening voice if things didn't get done or hadn't got done that needed doing. I never thought about the origin of that word until it rang a bell in my memory archive and I've never heard it separate from the woe that would betide me...

From: Craig Hollingsworth (dadaddyio aol.com)
Subject: Earliest documented use

I was just wondering if sometimes you might be able to provide the earliest documented use along with the current examples. For example, today's word is intromit, with earliest documented use of 1600. I think it might be interesting on occasion to read how the word was first recorded and in what document. Thanks for all your work on AWAD.

Many readers enjoy seeing the year of the earliest documented use of the word and some have suggested that they would like to read that usage example as well. It would indeed be nice to include the first recorded use of the word, but here's the problem. Often it would need to be "translated" into English before we can make sense of it. For example, here's the first recorded use of the word intromit (from 1600) in the OED from "The Historie and Life of King James the Sext":
"Shoe was perswadit be these that were hir keeperis, and vthers intromettit for that purpois..."
Here's its translation in the English language as we know it:
She was persuaded by her officials and others intromitted for that purpose...
Ultimately, it adds too much info and we have to strike a balance to prevent information overload.
-Anu Garg

From: Beth Ullman (bethullman yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: opening quote Jan. 17, 2011

Loved the opening quotation. Linguistically speaking, in Hebrew, "God" is a verb, a point made well in God Is a Verb by Rabbi David A. Cooper. At least the first mention of God in Genesis is; other terms translated into English as "God" vary but are generally nouns (e.g. Elohim, which actually means "gods", plural, and Adonai.)

From: Daryl Brown (daryl.w.brown gmail.com)
Subject: a couple of quotations

Two other interesting quotations related to your introductory paragraph:

When I do good, I feel good, when I do bad, I feel bad, and that's my religion.
-Abraham Lincoln (attributed)

I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good.
-Thomas Paine

From: Shane Galtress (shane galtress.com)
Subject: Re: AWADmail Issue 446

Your correspondent, Jenny Hoops, refers to "German Nazis" as being responsible for the execution of Edith Cavell in World War I.

Cavell was executed in 1915. The German Workers' Party party was founded in 1918 (only adopting the name National Socialist German Workers' Party in 1920).

I agree that the quotation is poignant given the manner of Cavell's death and I am certainly no apologist for the Nazis, but must rail against the all too frequent coupling of the words "German" and "Nazi". Cavell was executed by Germans, nearly 100 years ago. The Nazi party was largely destroyed nearly 70 years ago. It is both lazy and dangerous for anybody (writer and editor) in 2011 to fail to make a distinction between the two.

No man has a prosperity so high or firm, but that two or three words can dishearten it; and there is no calamity which right words will not begin to redress. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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