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AWADmail Issue 486A 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 Varun Narasimhachar (see below), who receives the ultimate wordlover's Valentine "One Up! -- Are you game?"
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
From: Cliff Gilbert (cliffg pcug.org.au)
In Australia and perhaps in the UK the more common usage is a different back-formation, "euthanase".
In fact the ill-fated humpback whale which gave rise to the AP citation for "euthanize" also gave rise to several news items in Australia using "euthanase", such as this ABC report.
Cliff Gilbert, Canberra, Australia
From: Varun Narasimhachar (varun.achar gmail.com)
I've never encountered a back-formation more delightful than Ogden Nash's "glimp":
A shrimp who sought his lady shrimp
Could catch no glimpse
Not even a glimp.
At times, translucence
Is rather a nuisance.
Varun Narasimhachar, Waterloo, Canada
From: George Cowgill (cowgill asu.edu)
It's nice to see a quotation from George Polya. He was a brilliant mathematician, but also a wonderful teacher, and I enjoyed a course on complex variables that he taught at Stanford around 1950.
George Cowgill, Tempe, Arizona
From: Jeff King (jkingeca gmail.com)
There is also a noun form of admix that is used in the construction trades to refer to various additives used to modify the characteristics, such as setting time of concrete.
Jeff King, Portland, Oregon
From: David Danzig (david danzig.com)
This week's theme, back-formations, made me think of one of my favorite linguistic concepts: retronyms. A retronym is a word that renames an existing object in order to distinguish it from a newer version of the object that has since come into being.
Some examples of retronyms are 2-D movie, analog clock, black-and-white television, brick-and-mortar store, conventional oven, face-to-face meeting, handwritten, landline, live performance, manual typewriter, pre-war architecture, rotary telephone, silent film, snail-mail, and vinyl record.
A more thorough (but by no means complete) list of examples is available in Wikipedia.
David Danzig, New York, New York
From: Alfred Jonas (fredjonasmd hotmail.com)
I'm a psychiatrist. It frankly drives me nuts that people in or near my business invent verbs like "suicide" (to commit suicide) and "obsess" (to have obsessive thoughts). I have a cousin who talks about "incenting" (creating incentives to encourage) preferred behavior. All back-formations.
Fred Jonas, Miami, Florida
From: Jackie (via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Isn't this just the most -- well, romantic word? It just fires the imagination! Maybe because it sounds old-fashioned, I don't know. But you can picture it as everything from delightful to threatening.
Jackie, Louisville, Kentucky
Sounds like something out of a fantasy/sci-fi novel. An anti sparkle.
Olly, Auckland, New Zealand
From: Hope Bucher (hopebucher gmail.com)
Psychologists think that the human brain has the Bayesian capacity to draw strong inferences from sparse data. My husband an analytical, logical physicist, accuses me of "Bayesian-leaps" when, from very little data, I generate a hypothesis using something as untenable as feminine intuition. Bayesian Statistics. Thomas Bayes (1702-1761)
Hope Bucher, Naperville, Illinois
From: Andi Montador (andi.montador iris.co.uk)
In Britain we often refer to vacuum cleaners as 'hoovers' (after the manufacturer William Henry Hoover) and to vacuuming as 'hoovering'. I once knew a man who argued that if the device was a hoover then the action should properly be called 'hooving'. It never caught on.
Andi Montador, North Yorkshire, UK
From: Karim Durzi (kdurzi hotmail.com)
A favourite back formation of mine is the verb to ablute. I am sure many others must have hit upon this back formation when announcing, jocularly, that they are going to wash their hands before a meal or some such thing.
Karim Durzi, Toronto, Canada
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:Language is the armoury of the human mind; and at once contains the trophies of its past, and the weapons of its future conquests. -Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet, critic, and philosopher (1772-1834)