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AWADmail Issue 64January 6, 2002
A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages
From: Walter Bitner (wbmdhdbATearthlink.net)
Today's word (epistrophe) was used by the great jazz composer Thelonious Monk for the title of one of his greatest tunes: Epistrophy (same pronunciation). The "head" or melody of the tune displays a similarity to the definition of epistrophe, as the same melodic material is repeated at different pitches, generating an increasing tension. The emphatic mood generated by this device usually explodes into wild, vehement expression when a good jazz soloist reaches the part of the piece where he (or she) is expected to improvise over the changes.
From: Jeff Goris (jeff.gorisATvodafone.com.au)
Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings' provides a good example of anaphora.
One ring to rule them all,
From: Mike (miklATbtopenworld.com)
Re: Fitz- ( as in Fitzgerald, son of Gerald). You might add that the prefix Fitz- was frequently used for illegitimate children of aristocrats (e.g. Fitzclarence = son of the Duke of Clarence) and royalty (Fitzroy = son of the king). So Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Grafton, was the bastard son of Charles II and Barbara Villiers, the Duchess of Cleveland. Fitz is the Norman form of the modern French fils = son.
From: Serhiy Grabarchuk (serhiy-gATkarpaty.uzhgorod.ua)
In Russian and Ukrainian (and in some other languages and cultures as well) the patronymic system is more complex - it uses both meanings you give for the "patronym" (1. and 2.) simultaneously. Your example - Anton Pavlovich Chekhov - is a good example of this.
1. A name derived from the name of father.
2. A surname or family name.
From: J Ramanand (ramanand_jATpersistent.co.in)
A singular occurrence of patronyms is found among Icelanders who are named after their fathers. Magnus Ragnarsson's father's first name would be Ragnar. If Ragnar also had a daughter, her last name would be Ragnarsdottir. Ragnar himself would be named after his father, something like Ragnar Gunnarsson. So people tend to identify each other by first name and even entries in telephone directories would typically be based on first names rather than last names.
From: Dieudonne Dang (dangdATtdprs.state.tx.us)
In Cameroon (Central Africa), among the Bafia in the south western part of the country, we do things a little differently. "a" signifies: belonging to, as in Mougnol a Dang (mougnol son of Dang). The same for women.
From: Bob Lee (rsl69ATcadvision.com)
> Welsh ap or p (Pritchard from ap Richard, son of Richard).
It's interesting to note that the common Welsh name Pugh is derived from ap Hugh.
From: Susan Schumacher (susan.schumacherAThoneywell.com)
Unless the name starts with a vowel, then it is ab or b (Bowen from ab Owen, son of Owen).
From: Geoff West (gwest12ATearthlink.net)
While reading today's assemblage of patronyms, I was reminded of a doctor in Sun City who helped care for my father in the last two years that he was out here in AZ. His name was Moshrefzadeh. I'm a bit fuzzy on the lineage (Iranian, perhaps?) but was intrigued to learn that -zadeh was a suffix meaning "son of Moshref".
From: Nickos Apostolakis (nikosATudel.edu)
Patronyms from various regions of Greece:
Peloponese "poulos"- Petropoulos (son of Petros)
From: Aine Spiff (ainespiffATyahoo.com)
My sister is named after both patrilineal grandparents, which makes quite a mouthful: Danimarybau, meaning daughter of Dan and Mary. Tribe and language are Nembe, of the town of Twon in Brass, which is on the Nigerian coast. Traditionally my tribesmen would be unable to pronounce Dan without the affixed 'i'.
She dislikes its awkwardness and uses it as Danmary, eliminating all offending letters, which unfortunately include `bau' or daughter, which is what gives the peculiar combination its meaning.
From: Lynn Thornton (lynn.thorntonAThome.com)
2002 is not only a palindrome, but when using some digital fonts, (such as found on a football scoreboard), it also reads the same upside down.
From: Bob Leedom (rclATjagunet.com)
A happy 2002 to you, as well. The other day, I overheard the comment, "Finally, a palindromic year!"
Hm-m-m, I thought...didn't we have one fairly recently? Yes, 1991. Is that so long a gap to warrant that "Finally" crack?
After a little reflection and a moment or two with with a spreadsheet, I realized that this is the first time in a millennium that all but a tiny fraction of humanity has been able to experience more than a single palindromic year in one lifetime: since the year 1001, palindromic years have been spaced by 110 years with the single exception of 1991 and 2002.
From: Jay Anema (anemafamATaol.com)
Dutch (Friesian) - ma, son of Ane as in Anema or son of Jelle as in Jellema, etc.
From: T. Kaori Kitao (tkitao1ATswarthmore.edu)
You might add to the list of patronyms the variants of -son in Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian in the form -sen: e.g. Jacobsen, Jansen ,Hansen, etc. (sometimes -son), and the German form as in Mendelssohn. Then, the Dutch variant -szoon, which is always abbreviated, appears sometimes as the last name but more often as the middle name: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. A woman is sometimes identified by a patronym, e.g. Harmensd. for Harmensdochter. The Greek Papa- must be a patronym as in Papagiorgiou. Italians don't seem to have developed patronyms but there are echoes of the father's name in certain surnames when the son inherits the father's name: Guarino Guarini, Pannino Pannini, Guidetto Guidetti, etc.
To: Barbara A Dow (barbara.a.dowATkp.org)
I was interested to read over the recent holidays that such names as Mankiller, Threekiller, etc. were given to the Cherokees by whites, based on the number of notches on their guns. The Cherokees put notches on their guns, however, signifying the number of children they had. So perhaps your customer had an ancestor who had one child at the time whites decided that everyone should have at least two names. That would not be so scary.
From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Linguaphiles' favorite examples of euphemisms though some of them border on doublespeak:
My favorite use of the word euphemism is from Edward Albee's "Who's
Afraid of Virginia Woolf" where he uses the word "euphemism" to mean
bathroom. I don't have the text in front of me, but the quote is
something like "Show him where we keep the euphemism."
My wonderful college philosophy professor at Oxford College of Emory
University, Dr. Kent Linville, always referred to euphemisms as "linguistic
Working in document production in a management consulting company (or, my
favorite typo, consluting), I see many such absurdities. The latest
invention is "dis-synergies" instead of the clearer "inefficiencies" or
(Mammon forbid) "losses".
Another euphemism being used in stores now is "vintage" for used or old
to give it cachet.
The Portuguese equivalent to "euphemism" also comes from the Greek:
"eufemismo". However, since the party of our current President Cardoso
came to power, their symbol, the toucan (like the elephant and the donkey
symbolize the American Republican and Democratic parties) has given
origin to the very interesting verb "tucanar", or "to toucan", which
means "to speak in euphemism". A good example is to refer to the increase
in the fare of utilities as "price realignment".
From an old and treasured copy of "A Dictionary of Contemporary American
Usage" by Bergen and Cornelia Evans, 1957:
Here is an example I love: Urban outdoorsman for homeless.
In some legal circles, it is said that when a person dies, their estate
One of my all-time favourite euphemisms, supposedly coined in a report
about Three Mile Island, is "unscheduled energetic disassembly" in place
During the Korean War, one of the mount captains on my ship asked me if it
were a "Police Action", as he had read in the paper. I told him that it was,
and advised him to keep his head down lest he be hit by a flying nightstick.
I can't stand it when people use "passed away". My mother died two years
ago. Period. End of story. She's gone and I miss her terribly, but she did
NOT pass away, she DIED! And when I was pregnant at the age of 35, they
wanted to do an amnio, warning however, that it might "interrupt" the
pregnancy. As if it could be resumed at a later date!
Death is probably replaced by more euphemisms than just about any other
term. Among my favorites are join the majority, go off the hooks, and
hop the twig.
A survivor of several layoffs in the 1980's, I think I heard them all--we
were re-organized, re-engineered, downsized, and rightsized. My favorite
euphemism for layoffs was that used by a major oil company which went
through "personnel enhancement!"
I have recently heard on a radio ad "previously new" for used.
Our local luxury car dealership refers to their used cars as "previously
pampered." They make it sound like they would only let you buy the car
only after you showed them that it was going to a good home.
One of my favorite euphemisms of all time can be found in the bakery
downstairs from my apartment. They sell plastic bags of what used to be
known as day-old pastries, which are now labeled "Yesterday's Fresh."
I would like to add to your list of euphemisms the software-related
phrase "It isn't a bug. It's a feature".
Dictionary: The universe in alphabetical order. -Anatole France, novelist and essayist (1844-1924)
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