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AWADmail Issue 517A 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 Monroe Thomas Clewis (see below), who will get to choose an Uppityshirt, and there's a heck of a selection.
From: Luis Navarro-Alcaraz (luisnavarroalcaraz430 gmail.com)
We Spaniards have a name for this kind of writing: letra inglesa. When a child, at school we used pen and ink and tried to perfect our penmanship: we use letra inglesa, letra gótica (German way of writing: Gothic) and letra redondilla (round-shaped type).
Luis Navarro-Alcaraz, Alicante, Spain
From: Prunella Barlow (prunella shaw.ca)
I grew up when we were taught copperplate writing in school. The strokes were not just 'varying widths' -- the upstrokes were fine and light, and the downstrokes were heavier and therefore wider. This was not easy to achieve, but we had exercise books (called 'copy books') with special lines on them to give us the height and depth of the upstrokes and downstrokes, and we spent many hours doing 'writing practice' in my childhood.
Prunella Barlow, Vancouver, Canada
From: Joe Fleischman (jfleischman wbcm.com)
Being a much better sailor than caligrapher, this word instead conjured thoughts of sailing vessels. Copperplate was affixed to the hulls of wooden vessels as early as the late 1750s to lessen the effects of marine growth and deterioration from worms. Immersed in water, copper produces a toxic film that deters these organisms.
While more expensive that other methods of sheathing, the use of copperplate allowed ships to stay at sea longer between cleanings and maintenance.
Ships' captains may well have made their log entries in copperplate hand while sailing on their copperplate hulls.
Joe Fleischman, Baltimore, Maryland
From: Michael Sitton (sittonmr potsdam.edu)
One of my favorite artistic uses of "tin god" occurs during a dramatic
moment in Leonard Bernstein's Kaddish Symphony.
The narrator, in disappointment and anger, quotes the Biblical promise
of God to humankind after the Flood, then uses the expression:
Michael Sitton, Potsdam, New York
From: Peirce Hammond (peirce_hammond ed.gov)
This progression, taught to me by my dad when I was a youngster, shows the superiority of tin.
I once had a wooden whistle, but it wooden whistle.
Peirce Hammond, Bethesda, Maryland
From: Michael Tremberth (michaelt4two googlemail.com)
From a reference to tin as a base metal compared to precious metals; in other words, petty or worthless.
This is a good example of the wide misuse and misunderstanding of a word. Tin is a valuable metal, used extensively from antiquity onwards as a component of bronze, an alloy of tin and copper, which gave its name to the Bronze age. The tin of Cornwall was exported to Europe from Roman times. The next important use of tin was to form a protective layer on mild steel; steel treated in this manner is known as tinplate: the presence of the protective layer of tin makes tinplate resistant to the atmospheric corrosion to which untreated mild steel would be susceptible as well as to corrosion within tinplate cans used to preserve food. It is tinplate, or rather goods fabricated from it, that are said to be "cheap and worthless". "Tin roofs" (the play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof comes to mind) were similarly inexpensive constructions made from tin plate, though latterly the term has referred to galvanized (ie, zinc-coated) mild steel. Tin foil used to be made of tin: now foil fabricated from aluminium has supplanted it, but is still popularly referred to as tin foil. It is the misfortune of tin to be associated with the products mentioned, of which it may not even be a component, and for its important inherent qualities to be largely forgotten.
Michael Tremberth, St Erth, Cornwall, UK
From: Marvant Duhon (mduhon bluemarble.net)
In my younger days, in Marine Corps training we would often climb a rope. You did not get credit for having reached the top unless you obviously touched the brass ring attaching it to the ceiling or apparatus. Since this was strenuous work, and since climbing a rope was the last station on both the Obstacle Course and the Confidence Course, it was not unusual to see someone nearly to the top, desperately reaching for the brass ring. This was a common part of our language, "reaching the brass ring".
Marvant Duhon, Bloomington, Indiana
From: Mike Knapp (michael.lawson.knapp gmail.com)
The carousel on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, California has a brass ring dispenser of the type you describe. Riders attempt to grab a ring from the dispenser as the ride is in progress, but the fun doesn't end there. In order to win a free ride, they must be able to toss the ring from their position on the (still moving) ride through the mouth of a clown that is painted on the wall!
Mike Knapp, San Rafael, California
From: Claudine Voelcker (claudine.voelcker googlemail.com)
In France, instead of a brass ring, they used to have a "pompon", a sort of cheerball attached to a ring with a clip. The ring in turn would be attached to a string that the carousel man would pull up and let down over the children's heads to entice them to catch it.
I remember that our carousel man would let the cheerball down into the faces of the more awkward or slow children to allow them to catch it. And of course, with the ball you got a free ride. Such bliss and pride!
So décrocher le pompon" means to hit the jackpot, or get the prize, the brass ring.
Claudine Voelcker, Munich, Germany
From: Jim Campbell (james.n.campbell gmail.com)
I think it interesting that the brass ring is a holdover from when the carousel was a device for training mounted men for combat. For lance training, they would try to spear rings hung just outside the circular path of their wooden horses.
Jim Campbell, Aloha, Oregon
From: Dave Campbell (museumofdave gmail.com)
The brass ring was generally threaded into a much larger batch of iron rings, the latter grabbed and tossed into a hamper or at a target; I was a regular rider of San Diego's Balboa Park Carousel, and during World War II, there were little sewn effigies of Axis Enemies at the side of the carousel -- Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo -- and we could fiendishly take aim from our horse -- the dolls on hinges would flop over if hit. It was always best to get the brass ring and a free ride, but taking it out on the Axis wasn't bad either -- talk about youthful conditioning!
Dave Campbell, Chico, California
From: Ken Kirste (kkkirste sbcglobal.net)
I'm reminded by today's word that in our quest for the brass ring, we sometimes make the mistake of ignoring the many steel ring delights in life. As a child, I only grabbed the brass ring once in all the times I rode the merry-go-round. Still it was quite joyous to catch one of the steel rings queued in the channel of the arm that inched the brass reward toward the outstretched fingers of those astride the perimeter horses. I never want to forget that not getting the brass ring in no way diminished the fun of tossing my "runner-up" prize at the open mouth of the clown painted on the far wall of the carrousel.
Ken Kirste, Sunnyvale, California
From: Craig Kurumada (kurumada humboldt.edu)
While studying in Germany, I learned that the Churchill speech actually took the term as a direct translation of a Goebbels speech, describing the Third Reich as an Eisener Vorhang (iron curtain) against Communism. An iron curtain translates as "safety curtain" in British English and "fire curtain" in North American English.
Craig Kurumada, Arcata, California
From: Joe Presley (presley89 comcast.net)
Would the man who lends silver coins be the Loan Arranger?
Joe Presley, Warren, New Jersey
From: David Cantrell (david cantrell.org.uk)
The word metal evokes different images based on who or where you are. To an investor it may be precious metals, to a music enthusiast it may mean heavy metal. Again, the term heavy metal has an entirely different meaning to a scientist.
And to an astronomer, things like oxygen and nitrogen are metals. "Metals" are all the elements produced in stars and supernovas, non-metals (hydrogen and helium) are those produced (mostly, in the case of helium) before the stars were formed.
David Cantrell, London, UK
From: Lori Kohler (kohlert2 gmail.com)
A few weeks ago, my son, who works as a welder for a sculptor, had a visitor walk into their workshop. This visitor asked, "What is that you are working on?" My son replied, giving him the motto of the school where he learned to weld, "It's all metal, baby!" The visitor stopped and just looked at him, and then at the sculpture in progress. "That's stainless steel," he replied. Judas Priest is metal!" Made my son's day...
Lori Kohler, Tallahassee, Florida
From: Monroe Thomas Clewis (mtc265 yahoo.com)
Subject: Golden words
Monroe Thomas Clewis, Los Angeles, California
From: Judy Epstein (jepstein mail.com)
Dare I say it -- this week's theme was the gold standard by which all other A.W.A.D. weeks can be judged! History, geography, philosophy -- you achieved it all.
Judy Epstein, Port Washington, New York
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire. -Roland Barthes, literary critic and philosopher (1915-1980)