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AWADmail Issue 5

Mar 21, 1997

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


From: Father Mick Burns (ibm.net)
Subject: Thanks

Thank you so very much for this service!

I am a fully disabled priest stuck out in the swamps about 35 miles north of Savannah, GA. A horrible radiation accident many years ago started taking its toll in the early '80's. Of the two curses; pain and boredom the latter is the heavier cross. Services such as yours are invaluable to me.

Mind challenged, I am sometimes able to go to a nursing home and do services for the residents. You will help in this effort. A mind fallow becomes overgrown with the weeds of confusion and forgetfulness.

Peace be unto you.

Fr. Mick+

    Thanks for writing. It's touching to read your message. It is one of those letters that makes the whole effort worthwhile. -Anu


From: Sandra Ringener (aol.com)
Subject: Defenestration

I checked out your word for today, defenestration, it sounded vaguely familiar. When I read the meaning I almost laughed out loud.

Tonight on the news (I live in the San Francisco bay area), they had a news article about a new art exhibit in the city.

It is basically a building with furniture (a grandfather clock, couch, refrigerator, etc) hanging out of the windows of this old building. I wasn't paying really close attention, but I swear they said the name of the exhibit is "Defenestration"!

How timely this was!

    The coincidence with the exhibit was also noted by Anna Jarrard (ucsf.edu), and J. Christopher Bell (apple.com). -Anu


From: Ian Woofenden (pacificrim.net)
Subject: Defenestration coincidence

I work part time for a building contractor, and last week I was scraping stickers off some windows we'd installed. One was from the National Fenestration Rating Council Incorporated. I commented to my boss that I didn't know what fenestration was. He asked if I'd never heard of defenestration. I had not. The subject came up at dinner that evening, and my mother-in-law mentioned church councils who defenestrated heretical members. We all scratched our heads about the two words, since fenestration means putting windows in, so one would expect defenestration to mean taking them out.

Anyway, after all this fenestration talk, Monday morning comes, and defenestration is the word you choose for the day! I printed it and took it in to the boss, and he enjoyed it.


From: Sue Kadet (aol.com)
Subject: More on the defenestration of Prague

In the time of the reformation, more particularly during the Bohemian Revolution of 1415-36, the followers of Huss formulated the "Four Articles of Prague" as as their basic demands. King Wenceslaus, began to fear the movement. Will Durant describes what followed:

"In the 'New Town' that he had added to Prague he appointed only anti-Hussites to the council and these men issued punitive regulations designed to suppress the heresy. On July 30, 1419, a Hussite crowd paraded into New Town, forced its way into the council chamber, and threw the councillors out of the windows into the street, where another crowd finished them off."
-the Reformation, by Will Durant, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1957. pg 168


From: Anu Garg (wordsmith.org)
Subject: Defenestration

Here is another definition for defenestration, taken from The New Hacker's Dictionary:

defenestration /n./
[from the traditional Czechoslovakian method of assassinating prime ministers, via SF fandom] 1. Proper karmic retribution for an incorrigible punster. "Oh, ghod, that was awful!" "Quick! Defenestrate him!" 2. The act of exiting a window system in order to get better response time from a full-screen program. This comes from the dictionary meaning of `defenestrate', which is to throw something out a window. 3. The act of discarding something under the assumption that it will improve matters. "I don't have any disk space left." "Well, why don't you defenestrate that 100 megs worth of old core dumps?" 4. Under a GUI, the act of dragging something out of a window (onto the screen). "Next, defenestrate the MugWump icon." 5. [proposed] The requirement to support a command-line interface. "It has to run on a VT100." "Curses! I've been defenestrated!"


From: S. Rajeev (rahul.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--omphaloskepsis

Omphalos is a most interesting word. Although Indians are supposed to be navel-contemplators, the first time I encountered this word was in an examination of the British Raj, "The Raj Syndrome", by Suhash Chakravarthy, where a chapter is titled "The Imperial Omphalos", and describes the extreme pre-occupation the imperialists had with their own self-importance.


From: Ken Laws (sri.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--omphaloskepsis

om.pha.lo.skep.sis seems to be a blunder, perpetuated by the lexicographers. As I understand it, the spot contemplated is generally two or three inches below the navel. It may also be inside the body rather than on the surface; I know that martial artists tend toward that version, as the body's center of gravity is an important constant. Others may favor the surface version, which is one of the most important accupuncture/accupressure or chi points. "Contemplation" may also be incorrect, as the usual training is to "breathe" through this point.


From: Barry Parks (doe.gov)
Subject: omphaloskepsis

On omphaloskepsis; I first heard of this word back in the 70s. I heard or read that folks at NASA posted an 'Omphaloskepsis' sign prominently after the Apollo fire when the three astronauts were killed; they went through a period of self-examination that went a little overboard; hence the sign.


From: Joe Rosenfeld (compuserve.com)
Subject: omphaloskepsis

In Swedish, there is a word for "omphaloskepsis" that is used quite often: navelskaderi (the 'a' is a long vowel with the circle over it.)


From: Martin Putnam (netcom.com)
Subject: cwm

It's been one of my favorite words since I learned that it is part of a sentence exactly twenty-six letters long that contains each letter of the alphabet once. That sentence is "Cwm fjord bank glyphs vex't quiz."

Oddly, some of my school friends refused to believe that this sentence is English. A rough translation into commoner terms would be, "The hieroglyphics on the walls of the fjord and the cwm puzzled (or annoyed) the eccentric." But the translation is not as crisp.

    This is an example of pangram, a sentence containing all the letters of the alphabet. A more decipherable pangram, though not as perfect, is the familiar "Quick brown fox, jump over the lazy dogs." which covers the alphabet in 32 letters. -Anu


From: Nathan Enger (ford.com)
Subject: a (rhetorical) question on today's word

Is it just me, or do the 1a and 2 definitions of today's word mean nearly opposite things? The 1a definition, a trifling point, seems to indicate that a quiddity is a trivial thing with no definitive property. The 2 definition, ESSENCE, is certainly not trivial! It is what defines a thing. So this word can either mean a minor, trifling detail or it can mean the essence of a thing. It seems to me that use of this word requires more explaining in the context of its use than would be the case with other, less ambiguous, words. I suppose that words like this are a quiddity of human language (but do I mean trifling detail or essential feature?). :)

    It is one of the words in the category I call fence-sitters. We have had a week of fence-sitters in AWAD. Check out the archives for Dec '94. -Anu


From: Joan C. Christman (reyrey.com)
Subject: decalcomania

I was interested in the Web site for this word, and the word itself, because I remember it from my childhood, in the late '40's, early '50's. My grandmother used decals to decorate some of her furniture; I was fascinated to watch the pictures, after being soaked and placed upside down on her glass cabinet windows, transfer themselves to the glass when the backing was carefully removed. She would have been a little young to have participated in the original "mania" in the 1860's, but I'm sure she learned in that century.

And I would have SWORN the word was decalomania--I've even used it, because she did, though I see now I was wrong. I just hate it when I learn I've used a word incorrectly for 50 years!

    Also, there is a club for DX enthusiasts who like to collect radio station decals, pennants, and other radio ephemera. It is called -- you guessed it -- DecalcoMania. -Anu


From: Fred Avery (netcom.com)
Subject: Inquiring Minds

What is the masculine equivalent of nymphomania?

    It is satyriasis. -Anu


From: Parol Radhakrishnan (strath.ac.uk)
Subject: Coinage of the Week

industerilisation (noun) : stifling of industries by over regulation.


A closed mind is like a closed book: just a block of wood. -Chinese Proverb

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