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AWADmail Issue 594

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language

Sponsor's message:
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From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

The Evolving Role of the Oxford English Dictionary
The Financial Times

Do Different Languages Confer Different Personalities?
The Economist

You Can't Write Proper English Under Pressure

From: Ken Kirste (kkkirste sbcglobal.net)
Subject: josh

You mentioned that new parents go to great lengths to pick a name for their newborn. However, the word josh made me reflect on how sometimes it is adults who pick a name for themselves. Specifically, the splendid 19th century American humorist Henry Wheeler Shaw wrote newspaper columns and books under the apt pseudonym Josh Billings.

Ken Kirste, Sunnyvale, California

From: Lawrence N Crumb (lcrumb uoregon.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--josh

I grew up with old 78-rpm records and still have most of them. One is a talkie called "Uncle Josh invites city folks to visit him on the farm." On the other side is "Two rubes in an eating house."

Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon

from: Lesley Jennings (rmcmjennings gmail.com)
Subject: josh
There was a time I thought josh meant good luck. My sailor Papa said my Mom brought him "josh" or good luck. I realized later it was a child hearing something they recognized (Josh) vice what Dad said "joss".

Lesley Jennings, Norfolk, Virginia

From: Matthew Kunz (mattykunz live.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--josh

I love your emails, however, I feel like perhaps, for the first time ever, you didn't do your research. The name Josh comes from Joshua which is an Anglicization of the Hebrew name "Yeshua", meaning "The Lord saves."

Yes, the name Josh is short for the Joshua, but there's no evidence that the word josh was coined from the name Josh. As I said in this week's introduction: "This week we've picked five words that are also names (though these words are not necessarily derived from names)."
-Anu Garg

From: Peirce Hammond (peirce_hammond ed.gov)
Subject: Biddy

At schools we had a teacher named Elizabeth Smith, known to her contemporaries as Betty Smith. We students were well aware that we were not contemporary with this rather stern, formidable, and forbidding woman. To her face, we called her Miss Smith. Behind it, the wiseacres among us called her Biddy Smith.

Peirce Hammond, Bethesda, Maryland

From: Thomas Koehler (tvkoehler mediacombb.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--biddy

It is amusing in a way, that a young chicken and an older woman seem to have this same appellation. My dear aunt, who raised chickens for their eggs considered a biddy to be a chicken who was acting like a broody hen when she was in fact not hatching a brood of chicks but was in fact just being difficult and possessive of her newly-laid infertile eggs.

Thomas Koehler, Two Harbors, Minnesota

From: Will Brown (willbrown verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--biddy

The word biddy reminds me of several 19th century stereo slides in my collection which feature Biddy, the not-so-bright domestic, involved in various antics in the household. One that I remember is that she refuses to strip no further than her shift when ordered to serve the tomatoes undressed.

Will Brown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From: Dave Zobel (dzobel alumni.caltech.edu)
Subject: The geniuses behind Cissie and Ada

British biddies Cissie and Ada, with their roots in the drag style known as pantomime dame, were played on Les Dawson's 1970s sketch-comedy TV show by (respectively) Roy Barraclough and Dawson. The stage show "Cissie and Ada: An Hysterical Rectomy", presently on tour throughout the UK, recounts the development of the characters by Dawson, Barraclough, and writer Terry Ravenscroft, who recently published a collection of many of his original "Cissie and Ada" scripts.

Dave Zobel, Los Angeles, California

From: Mark Vender (markvender yahoo.com.au)
Subject: To do the harry...

In the Australian vernacular, "to do the harry" means to run away or make oneself scarce. It's rhyming slang, derived from "do the bolt" and Harold Holt, the Australian Prime Minister who, during his term of office, disappeared while swimming at Cheviot Beach in Victoria. He is presumed to have drowned, though his body was never recovered.

Mark Vender, Apartadó, Colombia

From: Hanne Fagerjord Karlsen (hmkarlsen gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--harry

In Norway, the word "harry" has a completely different meaning. It refers to being cheesy, cheap, or low-class while really enjoying it. For example, wearing tracksuits with horrible colour combinations and fanny packs (preferably simultaneously) is considered extremely harry! I think this stems from Harry's being considered a name for an old man, who can often be seen with these things.

Hanne Fagerjord Karlsen, Gjøvik, Norway

From: Sean Flenders (sean.m.flenders gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mulligan

I wonder if the etymology of "mulligan" is actually from the same (unknown) name? After all, mulligan stew is simply giving leftovers a "second chance".

Sean Flenders, Willow, Pennsylvania

Email of the Week (Introducing ONEUPMANSHIP -- Are you a cowboy capitalist?)

From: Jeff Wedge (jeffreywedge juno.com)
Subject: names

I once worked at a camp where counselors were expected to learn the names of campers in the first ten minutes or so. They reminded us a name is the most personal thing a person ever possesses. Personally, my father looked for names (and initials) that could be signed without lifting the pen from the paper. He insisted he'd wasted too much time with the initials of his name which required him to lift the pen between each letter.

Jeff Wedge, Port Orange, Florida

From: David Boyer (dlboyer stcloudstate.edu)
Subject: names

My late wife said that before you settle on a name for a child you should yell it out the kitchen window, as in "___, time for dinner!"

David Boyer, Buffalo, Minnesota

From: Dick Shanahan (dshans aol.com)
Subject: Words that are names

I have the feeling that my name will not make it to your list ...

Dick Shanahan, Minneapolis, Minnesota

From: Derek Noonan (wordaday ntech.ie)
Subject: names

You said: "New parents go to great lengths to pick a name for their newborn. They consider what a name sounds like, what it means, which famous people have or had it, and so on." Some less than others apparently! ;-) (link)

Derek Noonan, Limerick, Ireland

From: Richard Binder (rbinder kaleidahealth.org)
Subject: This week's topic

You say: "New parents go to great lengths to pick a name for their newborn." But unfortunately some do not, or apparently threw their offspring to the wolves. I recall several names. One was a young lady in a marching band when I was in high school whose parents chose 'Peachy' for their daughter. An unfortunate choice for the 'But ts' family.

Richard Binder, Buffalo, New York

From: Karen Ford (potterford hotmail.com)
Subject: word names (Frank)

I enjoyed reading your introduction to this week's theme, regarding how we tend to snap to attention when we hear our own name spoken -- even when it's a little out of context.

Years ago, I was attending an afternoon meeting along with my co-worker, Frank. There were about ten of us sitting around a conference table in a small, stuffy room. I was seated directly across from Frank. As the speaker droned on and on, I noticed that Frank's chin had fallen to his chest, and he had dozed off. Just as I was observing this, the speaker happened to say, "...and frankly..."

Poor Frank! His head jerked back, his eyes flew open, and he all but rocketed straight out of his chair! Amazingly, no one else seemed to have noticed (they were all either paying attention, or asleep themselves!). Frank spent the rest of the meeting with his eyes riveted to the speaker. Meanwhile, I had to focus my entire being on stifling my snorts and guffaws. It was a LONG afternoon.

Karen Ford, Seattle, Washington

From: Frank Green (frankgrn comcast.net)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day

I look forward first thing every day to Anu Wordsmith email.

Frank Green, Jacksonville, Florida

From: Lou Graziano (loumargemichael1 gmail.com)
Subject: See what you have done!

I start my class with the word of the day. My students had to write about who they thought might run for president in 2016. One student wrote: "Lastly, Christie has been publicly mocked for appearing like a fustilarian."

Keep those words coming.

Lou Graziano, Chappaqua, New York

Language is the archives of history. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)
Nov 17, 2013
This week's theme
Words that are names

This week's words

AWADmail archives

Next week's theme
Words coined after flowers

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