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AWADmail Issue 538A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language
Sponsor's message: Do you know what attic salt is? This week's Email of the Week winner Perri Klass (see below) does for sure, or will find out putting on any Uppityshirt, even if it's inside out and backwards. Just kidding. FREE SHIPPING.
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
From: Alex Pimentel (the4pimentels comcast.net)
The discussion of positive thinking reminds me of a Bizarro comic by artist Dan Piarro showing this variation on the standard "Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil." I thought that was very clever and very funny, and I'm all about clever and funny!
Alex Pimentel, Richmond, California
From: Ef Deal (GwynnaL aol.com)
A pollyanna is also a gift-giving practice: everyone brings a gift to a party, and then everyone chooses a gift from the pool. I believe it's also practiced as a secret Santa kind of thing where you draw names from a pool of names, and buy just that person a gift anonymously.
Ef Deal, Haddonfield, New Jersey
From: Jean T. Tucker (jet jeanttuckercpa.com)
After reading Pollyanna again, as an adult, I find Pollyanna to be not naive, but filled with hope and faith in the human condition. I now object to anyone who calls her naive. Innocence, true innocence, is more powerful than any tragic thought. And the glad game is so NOT a game, but a practice of continuous gratitude.
Jean T. Tucker, Canterbury, Connecticut
From: Perri Klass (perri.klass nyu.edu)
Just wanted to comment that Pollyanna Whittier, though certainly on the side of optimism, was no fool, and did not by any means go around calling horrid things wonderful, as your quotation would suggest. She assumes that people will behave well, and sometimes they surprise themselves by living up to her expectations, and she searches for realistic ways to smile at disappointments or turn them into opportunities. Here's an article, which discusses the extraordinary impact of Eleanor H. Porter's book when it originally appeared in 1913.
Perri Klass, New York, New York
From: Hope Bucher (hopebucher gmail.com)
It looks like being a Pollyanna may have some scientific validity according to a study in the August 2012 issue of Psychological Science. Participants in three different groups were required to perform stressful tasks (such as plunging their hands into icy water) while smiling, holding chopsticks to force a smile, and not smiling. Heart rates, etc. were taken and participants experienced greater stress when they did not smile and the least stress when their smile was genuine. So perhaps the old adage to "grin and bear it", or better still, the state of being "naively cheerful and optimistic" benefits not only mood but also health.
Hope Bucher, Naperville, Illinois
From: Michael Acquaviva (michaelacq gmail.com)
This week's theme reminds me of the story of a powerful king who asked his wise men to create a ring that helped him get through desperate times and granted him restraint through prosperous times. On the ring, they wrote: "This too shall pass." How's that for perspective?
Michael Acquaviva, State College, Pennsylvania
From: Michael Kohl (mmkohl gmail.com)
Today's intro (which mentions our need for both pick-me-ups and ground-me-when-it's-going-wells) reminds me of something I learned about in high school Latin. Upon his return to the capital after a successful foreign campaign, a Roman army commander ('imperator') might be treated to a Triumph, an elaborate procession through the streets of Rome lauding his spoils and achievements.
During the celebration, the imperator would be accompanied on his chariot by a slave whose job was to repeatedly whisper in his master's ear. While there is some argument among scholars as to the exact words the slaves uttered, a close paraphrase is "Remember you are mortal." This is also where we get the famous Latin phrase memento mori.
Michael Kohl, Los Angeles, California
From: Trudy Stevenson (j.stevenson computer.org)
In the Netherlands, we also have a verb derived from jeremiah: jeremiëren, meaning 'whine, complain, lament'.
Trudy Stevenson, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
From: David Lachmann (david.lachmann mail.house.gov)
Dr Pangloss was Voltaire's parody of the philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who espoused the views articulated (in a satirical form) by Pangloss. The notion that this is the best of all possible worlds was Leibniz's effort to solve the age-old problem of evil, i.e. if G-d is good, omniscient, and omnipotent, why is there evil?
In his "Poem on the Lisbon Disaster, or: An Examination of that Axiom 'All Is Well'" (1755), Voltaire writes
Oh, miserable mortals! Oh wretched earth!
David Lachmann, Silver Spring, Maryland
From: Claudine Voelcker (claudine.voelcker googlemail.com)
Pangloss brings to mind this other French expression used ironically that
stems from a popular song (video) by Ray Ventura:
Madame la Marquise calls home for news during her short absence. James, her devoted butler, can't bring himself to bluntly tell her that the family is ruined, Monsieur le Marquis has committed suicide causing the castle to burn to the ground, Madame's favorite mare perishing in the flames. So instead, he keeps saying: "Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise", everything's perfect, adding "mais cependant, il faut que l'on vous dise..." "though you need to know ...". That's how we learn about the tragedy. However, in the end, the refrain always comes back: "tout va très bien."
Pangloss would probably comment on the current European situation with a "tout est pour le mieux dans le meilleur des mondes" and one could only concur: "tout va très, bien Madame la Marquise".
Claudine Voelcker, Munich, Germany
From: Dannie Walker (huskstang mindspring.com)
I think that it is rather safe to say that Eric Idle plays perhaps the ultimate Pangloss in the final scene from the Monty Python movie, Life of Brian.
Dannie Walker, Charleston, West Virginia
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:Language is not an abstract construction of the learned, or of dictionary makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, affections, tastes, of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground. -Noah Webster, lexicographer (1758-1843)