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AWADmail Issue 623A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language
Sponsor's message: It's Officially Huge. This week's Email of the Week winner, William Melgaard (see below) -- as well as all AWADers worldwide -- can now make their own terrific fun word-nerd party for nothing. Introducing our best-selling One Up! -- The Wicked/Smart Word Game as a free PDF download, absolutely gratis. Hurree y'up.
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Which English? A Game/Survey.
From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
I wonder if the alteration of the spelling from the Latin f to the Greek ph was meant to indicate the acidity of the word's hydrogen Potenz or the lexicographer's pro-Hellenic sympathy.
Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada
From: Diane Campbell (diane.campbell internode.on.net)
I immediately think "rotten eggs" or H2S -- sulphurous is a smell at least as much as a colour. It is the smell that has earned Rotorua its sobriquet of Sulphur City.
Diane Campbell, Adelaide, Australia
From: William Melgaard (piobair mindspring.com)
The way "catalyst" was taught to me:
A father had 19 horses. His will left 1/2 to the eldest son, 1/4 to the second son, and 1/5 to the youngest son. They were in a quandary as to how to divide the horses. A knight rode up, and added his horse to the herd, adding up to 20 horses. 10 went to the the first son, 5 went to the second son, and 4 went to the third son. The knight then rode off on the remaining horse whose name was Catalyst.
William Melgaard, Hampton, Virginia
From: Alan Etherington (alan-e ntlworld.com)
A more accurate definition of "catalyst" is a substance that changes the rate of a chemical reaction, itself being chemically unchanged at the end of the reaction. The main points here are that there are negative catalysts as well as positive, for example a small quantity of ethanol added to chloroform will slow the decomposition of the chloroform to the unwanted phosgene if used in anaesthesia and also that the catalyst is chemically unchanged at the end, this doesn't mean that it is physically unchanged.
Alan Etherington, Billingham, UK
From: Alexis Melteff (aapm52 yahoo.com)
When my junior high school teacher explained this word as "something that causes a reaction without taking part in the reaction", a number of students must have looked mystified, because he added, "Think of a mouse in the girls' gym."
Alexis Melteff, Santa Rosa, California
From: Sara Scurani (sara.scurani studio.unibo.it)
A.Word.A.Day is a precious source of false friends! In Italian, "fulminare" has retained the Latin meaning as a transitive verb (to strike with lightning); if you use it while referring to a person, it may also mean that you gave them a very piercing look ("l'ho fulminato con lo sguardo"). You can, however, also use it as an adjective to mean that a light bulb is gone ("una lampadina fulminata").
Sara Scurani, Bologna, Italy
From: Joe Baldwin (jbald76246 optimum.net)
Remembering the scene (video, 4 min.) in Mister Roberts when Ensign Pulver (Jack Lemmon) blows up the USS Reluctant's laundry with fulminate of mercury, always brings a smile to my face. Great movie.
Joe Baldwin, New York, New York
From: Gary Muldoon (gmuldoon muldoongetz.com)
Chemical terms sometimes played a role in the plots of Breaking Bad, which involved a rogue chemistry teacher, Walter White. One was fulminated mercury, which was part of an (overly) explosive plot device (video, 1.5 min.) with a drug dealer.
Gary Muldoon, Fairport, New York
From: Peter V. Weston, MD (pviw att.net)
The adjective form, fulminating, is, unfortunately, used often in medicine to denote a rapidly progressing severe condition such as a hemorrhage or an infection. For example a fulminating osteomyelitis.
Peter V. Weston, Houston, Texas
From: Evan Hazard (eehazard paulbunyan.net)
Interesting that acidic is used to refer to a bitter remark. In JHS science and HS chemistry, we learned that acids were sour, bases bitter (at appropriately safe concentrations, of course).
Evan Hazard, Bemidji, Minnesota
From: Ben Sansum (ben.sansum gmail.com)
Acidic is also now commonly used to describe music -- specifically music that uses the squelchy Roland 303 sound. Originating in Chicago in the late '80s the 'acid house' sound exploded into the rave culture that now, in a debased commercialised form, rules the world!
Ben Sansum, Bristol, UK
From: J. Michael Keating (jmk2009 free.fr)
Interesting that the German word meaning burn(ing) stone is Bernstein, which is their word for amber.
Michael Keating, Villereau, France
From: Gerry Cotter (g.cotter lancaster.ac.uk)
Brimstone is also a species of butterfly, Gonepteryx rhamni, found in Europe, north Africa, and across Asia as far as Mongolia. Here in the UK it is one of the first species to emerge in spring.
Gerry Cotter, Lancaster, UK
From: Michele Gallant (mgallan2 dal.ca)
The introduction to this week's theme includes:
Michele Gallant, Halifax, Canada
From: Irving N. Webster-Berlin (awadreviewsongs gmail.com)
Here are this week's AWAD Review Songs (words and recordings) for your listening and viewing pleasure.
Irving N. Webster-Berlin, Sacramento, California
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:Language is fossil poetry. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)