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AWADmail Issue 451A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language
This week's Email of the Week is from Phil Jans (see below), who will receive the Uppityshirt of his choice - and there's a heck of a selection.
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
From: Ingrid Andersen (i.andersen vodamail.co.za)
I do not like thee, Doctor Fell
Ingrid Andersen, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
From: Susan Kroll (goatfarm olypen.com)
There's another meaning for "fell" that perhaps only a weaver would be familiar with: when a cloth is being woven on a loom, the fell of the cloth or the fell line is that point where the cloth is being made. Up to the fell line is the woven cloth, the next pass of the weft incorporating it into the cloth moves the fell line up one thread, and so on.
Susan Kroll, Sequim, Washington
From: Steven Crane (stauros yahoo.com)
This word appears with two meanings in Clemence Housman's The Were-wolf. White Fell says her name is derived from the fur robe she wears, but in her wolfish form she is fell indeed.
Steven Crane, Louisville, Kentucky
From: Jane Meyerding (mjane u.washington.edu)
Re: the "skin or hide of an animal" meaning of the polysemantic word "fell"
and specifically re: the usage example:
My father's brother died of anthrax contracted from the non-tanned fell straps of a knapsack he bought in Mexico. This would have been in the mid 1930s, I believe. The animal in question had died of anthrax. When Uncle Gus loaded up the pack and headed out into the landscape, the straps of the pack wore through the skin on his shoulders, with fatal effect.
Jane Meyerding, Seattle, Washington
From: Josh Shein (jshein saltshein.com.au)
I'm not sure if the same applies in the US, but in Australia the expression "in one fell swoop" seems to have morphed into "in one foul swoop". I've given up trying to point out the error.
Josh Shein, Sydney, Australia
It's not just in Australia. As the word fell in the sense of fierce or cruel has fallen out of use, people try to make sense of the idiom with other words, words that are familiar to them. You may see one foul swoop or one fowl swoop. These reinterpreted words are also known as eggcorns.
From: Peter Lawless (nostampsrequired hotmail.com)
The expression "one fell swoop" is also a description used for centuries in falconry. It describes the act of a falcon catching prey in only one swoop of a fell -- a plateau or piece of open highland country (as you have described) -- such a falcon would be highly-prized and any chicks bred from that bird would fetch a premium price.
Peter Lawless, Western Australia
From: Cynthia Burrell (cynburrell hotmail.com)
Now I know what my father meant when he said "You give me the pip!"
Cynthia Burrell, Mussoorie, India
From: Meredyth Mackay (meredyth.mackay deewr.gov.au)
The second count on the radio to announce the hour is also known as the pips.
There is a website with details of the BBC Pips.
Meredyth Mackay, Canberra, Australia
From: Roger Trent (rtrent dhs.ca.gov)
Demographers, biologists, and medical clinicians classify women according to their number of live births, with zero being nulliparous, a first birth primiparous, and more than one multiparious. The accent is on the second syllable. Lovely, fascinating words, but they have their place and don't travel well. At a dinner party imagine calling a new mom a primipara. That goes over about as well as asking if she enjoyed her gravidity, during her confinement. Alas, lexical precision is no guarantee of popularity.
Roger Trent, Sacramento, California
From: ericharris76 (Via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Supposedly a true story.
Seymour Cray -- chief designer of the Control Data Corporation CDC 6600 and most related computers of that family -- had for years resisted adding error-detecting parity bits to data values on his computers, saying "Parity is for farmers."
Later he changed his mind, adding SECDED bits (single error correction, double error detection) to memory words in the newer machines. When asked about this change, he quipped that "More farmers have computers now".
Now farmers -- like nearly everyone else -- have computers.
From: Stephen Ross (SRoss unb.ca)
It is a nice coincidence, as I sit here at my computer (I'm visiting a research lab in Japan), to find that today's word is parity. The coincidence is that I am busy programming the "parity" of quantum states in a certain type of molecule!
In physics, parity specifies how a quantity changes if all three spatial dimensions are reversed. If the quantity is unchanged we say it has "+" parity, if the quantity changes sign we say it has "-" parity.
As an example, velocity has negative parity. Imagine that you are heading in a specific direction at velocity v. Now suppose that somebody decides to relabel the directions so that they all point in the opposite direction. Your velocity relative to the new direction would now be -v.
The parity of quantum systems was thought to be a conserved quantity in nature - i.e. something that did not change. Then, in the mid 1950s, Lee and Yang convinced Chien-Shiung Wu to do an experiment to test this. She did and found parity can be violated. This means that the laws of physics in a "mirrored" version of our universe would not be identical to what we have in our universe. I find this rather spooky!
Lee and Yang won the Nobel prize for their theoretical work on this. Wu did not share the Nobel prize but she set a number of milestones and is still honoured by physicists.
Stephen Ross, Professor of Physics, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada
From: Caroline Gavin (clgavin gwi.net)
In Portland, Maine the local minor league baseball team is named the Portland Sea Dogs. Their mascot is a harbor seal with a baseball bat in its mouth.
Caroline Gavin, Portland, Maine
From: Phil Jans (phil.jans co.chelan.wa.us)
Fluke Corporation has grown from a local Pacific Northwest company to a global leader in the manufacture of precision testing instruments. When I was a boy, my dad gleefully suggested a slogan he thought they should adopt: "If it Works, It's a Fluke."
Phil Jans, Chelan, Washington
From: Barbara Ledger (bledger sympatico.ca)
Here in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, there's a trucking firm with a sense of humour, called Fluke Transportation. When sailing down the highway, you'll often see their trucks, with the message emblazoned on the side: "If it's on time. .. it's a Fluke."
Barbara Ledger, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
From: Bill Thieleman (thieleman.w ghc.org)
Fluke brought me back to my boyhood days of boating on Long Island. Even though my father didn't believe that fish oil and teak decks mix well, he showed me the difference between fluke and flounder.
They are both flatfish or teleosts but a fluke's right eye rotates to the fish's left side, its mouth is bigger and full of teeth, and it swims right side down. A flounder's left eye migrates over to its right side (flounder, philander, roving eye), it has a smaller mouth with no visible teeth and it swims left side down.
We frequently had fish on Fridays. They said the secret was to avoid overcooking these fish. My secret is not to cook them at all....ecch!
Bill Thieleman, Seattle, Washington
From: Christine Magnan (july65 gmail.com)
Another example of fluke: fluke ukulele
Christine Magnan, Westwood, Massachusetts
From: Michael Graubart (michael.graubart btinternet.com)
There is a further, quite different, meaning of 'fluke': something accidental or coincidental, as in 'It was a pure fluke that I met so-and-so in the street today' or 'By a fluke the ball bounced off the goal-post and went in'. Or is that only a British idiom?
Michael Graubart, London, UK
Going by the number of emails we've received, many readers didn't scroll down to see the other definitions. It's all there.
From: Goldie Freeman (goldie.freeman comcast.net)
I volunteer at the New England Aquarium and have been asked the difference between fluke and flounder flatfish. Searching brought the answer that the flounder is a right-side up fish and the fluke is a left-side up swimmer. Flukes have larger mouths full of teeth.
The biology of a symmetrical fish becoming flat always amazes the visitors (and me).
One article referenced Darwin's writing on flatfish in evolutionary terms, complete with a wonderful photo of a Picasso fish.
Goldie Freeman, Boston, Massachusetts
From: Michael Strange (michael.strange fmr.com)
This week's theme reminded me and my friend Brady about a dictionary game that we like to play. It began one evening when we were hanging out and I was flipping through an old, gigantic, 100 lb dictionary that I bought for college years ago. I happened upon the word bay, and, impressed by the number and variety of entries it had, I asked Brady if he could name them all. Being the extremely cool guys that we are, we now play this game quite often (with words other than bay, of course). Thanks for validating us!
Michael Strange, Brooklyn, New York
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and the time in which it is used. -Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., jurist (1841-1935)