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AWADmail Issue 500A 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 Arthur Silverstein (see below), who will get to choose an Uppityshirt, and there's a heck of a selection.
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
This is the 500th issue of AWADmail.
Readers who have 10 or more comments appear in AWADmail:
Keep sending your comments and keep sharing your stories of words, language, and beyond. Thank you!
From: Carol Newman (carolmkwnewman verizon.net)
Argosy literally carried me back to one of my favorite haunts of my youth. Argosy Bookshop on 59th St., NYC, was a treasure trove not only of books but also a rich source of cards and old maps.
Carol Newman, Columbia, Maryland
From: Ri Weal (poetri yakpost.net)
For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be;
Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,
Pilots of the purple twilight dropping down with costly bales;
Ri Weal, Palmerston North, New Zealand
From: Janet Rizvi (janetrizvi gmail.com)
Well, well, every day we learn something new. I always thought that argosy had something to do with Jason and his ship the Argo which, Wikipedia tells me, was named after its builder, Argus. Nothing to do with the Greek town Argos, either. I'm sure Wordsmith's careful research has given the correct derivation for argosy; but might there not also be a bit of conflation?
Janet Rizvi, Gurgaon, India
Jason and his band of adventurers have given a word to the English language, argonaut, but there's no evidence that they are connected with the word argosy.
There was, however, an error in Monday's entry. The word founder would be more precise instead of flounder in the sentence "Planes crash, ships founder, and trains collide." (The word flounder might work better in "Planes experience turbulence, ships flounder, and trains run late.").
The word founder derives from Latin fundus (bottom) and among its cousins are verbs 'to found' and 'to fund'. The word flounder itself may be an alteration of founder (etymologists are not certain). Language is a messy thing.
And while we are amending errors, the thought included with the
word sybarite was from
Samuel Butler the novelist, not Samuel Butler the poet. There
oughta be a law that no two authors can have the same name.
From: Vincent Andrunas (vincent znet.com)
Ah, yes; "paladin"... A word I first heard during my early youth, when a TV series called Have Gun, Will Travel was popular on TV (1957-1963). The protagonist was a gentleman gunfighter who was a consummate fighter, but would rather settle problems without violence, if possible. His business card read:
Have Gun -- Will Travel
I never knew what the name of the main character (played by the well-known Richard Boone) meant, until now.
Vincent Andrunas, San Diego, California
From: Sue Lloyd-Williams (Sue_Lloyd-Williams kastanet.org)
Paladin is an everyday word for many people living in UK apartment blocks -- it refers to the large (1000 litre capacity) round, wheeled, steel bins which receive the rubbish from the chutes.
Sue Lloyd-Williams, London, UK
From: Warren McLean (wmclean pnc.com.au)
In my late 20s I grew a thick moustache and dressed in what I felt was "snappy" gear. Among my outfits a black open neck shirt, black flairs and white shoes. Dressed thus, and walking down the street to a luncheon meeting, I heard a passing truckie scream out "Hey, Paladin, draw!" I whipped around, pointed a cocked finger at the truck and the driver roared with laughter as he drove off. Ah, memories of Richard Boone and "Have Gun, Will Travel" (video).
Warren McLean, Leura, NSW, Australia
From: James Sanders (james.sanders lloydstsb.co.uk)
I note that you used Damascene on 25th January. I congratulate you on using it on a most appropriate day as 25th January is the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul, which, or course, occurred on the Damascene Road.
James Sanders, London, UK
From: Chitralekha Yadav (chitralekha marketsandmarkets.com)
This reminded me of a dear pet that I lost a few months back... a spotted white pigeon.
I spent some time in Dubai, where someone told me it was a damascene pigeon. Though that didn't turn out to be true (damascene pigeons are very rare and have striking black patterns), the word stuck.
Chitralekha Yadav, Pune, India
From: Paul A. Foerster (foerster idworld.net)
The late Fr. Stanley Besuska, Professor of Mathematics at Boston College, used to say that there is a patron saint of computers -- St. John Damascene. Of course you have to use an alternate pronunciation, putting an "h" sound in the last syllable to get the full pun value.
Paul A. Foerster, San Antonio, Texas
Teacher Emeritus of Mathematics, Alamo Heights High School
From: Alex Novak (agn2 psu.edu)
This is one of my favorite words and has a wonderful (though likely apocryphal) story. One elder Sybarite guest allegedly complained to his host that he couldn't sleep at night because there was a rose petal under his body (a la The Princess and the Pea). An alternative version has the same Sybarite sleeping on a bed of rose petals, but with a single petal folded over, leading to a restless night. Many thanks for another fun week.
Alex Novak, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
Author, Tawdry Knickers and Other Unfortunate Ways to Be Remembered
From: Christopher St Clair (chrsstclair verizon.net)
The use of "gascon" to signify "braggart" may predate 1771, but the word was never quite as popular as after one specific son of Gascony came to public attention: d'Artagnan, the fourth of The Three Musketeers (1844).
Christopher St Clair, New York, New York
From: P.C. Chi (chi4pc gmail.com)
I found the word "gascon" extremely funny because in Taiwan "gascon" is generally known as a synonym of a widely used medicine Simethicone. It is used to reduce bloating and discomfort caused by excess gas in the stomach or intestines. "Gascon" seems to apply well to a puffed-up stomach and a puffed-up person, too.
P.C. Chi, Taipei, Taiwan
From: Jenna Godwin (jasportsman gmail.com)
Disney's Beauty and the Beast came out when I was a little girl and I, like everyone else, was enchanted with it. The only character I didn't love was boastful, obnoxious Gaston whose name I thought was Gascon until I was about ten years old. I guess my childhood mind knew I was linguist before I did!
Jenna Godwin, Littleton, Colorado
From: Arthur Silverstein (arts jhmi.edu)
It should be pointed out that gascon is not really a Mediterranean word, since Gascony is more an Atlantic or Biscayan area of southwest France. The word is related to Basque, since that was the language spoken by their ancestors during Roman times, the Aquitani. Gasconade was given currency by the escapades of Cyrano de Bergerac.
Better would be Frank (from the Germanic tribe after whom France is named. In the Eastern Mediterranean during Crusader times, Frank was the term used for all Europeans, and it remains today as farangi to describe strangers or foreigners.
Arthur Silverstein, Falmouth, Massachusetts
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:Language is a city to the building of which every human being brought a stone. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)
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