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AWADmail Issue 7

Apr 6, 1997

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages


From: Devjyoti Mookerjee (giascla.vsnl.net.in)
Subject: "Where the head is held high...."

Where the mind is without fear... is one of my favourite poems of all time. Thanks for letting so many know about it. I have always looked at the poem to amplify the philosophy of the Internet, where the country becomes the world, "where knowledge is free..."


From: Kirsten F (fourgen.com)
Subject: evanescent

Today's word reminded me of how "evanescent" is cleverly used in a twisted fairy tale (a revised version of "Little Red Riding Hood," where every word is replaced by a word or words with different meanings but similar sounds). Here's an excerpt:

"Wail, wail, wail!" set disk wicket woof. "Evanescent Ladle Rat Rotten Hut! Wares are putty ladle gull goring wizard ladle basking?"

    See the next article for the full text of this delightful story. -Anu


From: Terry Moritz (sablaw.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--evanescent

I have an ancient copy of the article which appeared in Language in America (1970, World Publishing Company) by Charlton Laird (which I've never been able to find. I would love to find more examples of such fun. I hope you enjoy:

Wants pawn term, dare worsted ladel gull how lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage honor itch offer lodge dock florist. Disc ladle gull orphan worry ladle rat cluck wetter putty ladle rat hut, end fur disc raison, pimple cauldron ladle rat rotten hut.

Wan moaning, rat rotten hut's murder colder inset. "Ladle rat rotten hut, heresy ladle basking winsome burden barter end shirker cockles. Tick disc ladle basking tudor cordage off year groin murder hoe lifts honor udder site other florist. Shaker lake, dun stopper laundry wrote, end yonder no sorghum stenches dun stopper torque wet strainers."

"Hoe cake, murder," resplendent ladle rat rotten hut, end ticker lickle basking and stuttered oft.

Honor wrote tudor cordage off year groin murder, ladle rat rotten hut mitten anomalous woof. "Wail, wail, wail," set disc wicket woof, "evanescent ladle rat rotten hut! Wares putty ladle gull goring wizard ladle basking?"

"Aroma goring tumor groin murder's," reprisal ladle gull. "Grammar's seeking bet. Armor ticking air burden barter end shirker cockles."

"Oh hoe! Heifer blessing woke," setter wicket woof butter taught tomb shelf, "Oil tickle shirt court tudor cordage off ear groin murder -- oil ketchup wetter letter, end den, oh bore!"

Soda wicket woof tucker shirt court, end whinney retched a cordage off ear groin murder, picket inner window an sore debtor pore oil worming worse line inner bet. Inner flesh disc abdominal woof lipped honor betting adder rope. Zany pool dawn a groin murder's nut cup end gnat gun, any curdle dope inner bet.

Inner ladle wile, ladle rat rotten hut a raft adder cordage an ranker dough ball.

"Comb ink, sweat hard," setter wicket woof disgracing is verse. Ladle rat rotten hut entity bet rum end stud buyer groin murder's bet.

"Oh grammar!" crater ladle gull, "wart bag icer gut! A nervous sausage bag ice!"

"Butter do lucky chew whiff, doll ink," whisker disc ratchet woof whither wickert small.

"Oh grammar, water bag noisy got! A nervous suture anomalous prognosis!"

"Butter do small your whiff," inserter woof, ants mouse worse waddling.

"Oh grammar, water bag mousey got! A nervous suture bag mouse!"

Daze worry on forget nut gull's lest warts. Oil off ear sudden, trolling offer carvers an sprinkling otter bet, disc curl an bloat Thursday woof ceased pore ladle rat rotten hut an garbled erupt.

Mural: Yonder no sorghum stenches shut ladle gulls stopper torque wet strainers.

    Also sent by Vimala Rodgers (iihs.com). If you don't get this at first, try reading it aloud as, "Once upon a time..." -Anu


From: Zack Kline (bvsd.k12.co.us)
Subject: Clamorous

This word reminds me of a quotation from King Lear:

Kent: A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a lily-livered, action-taking knave, super-serviceable finical rogue; one whom I will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest the least syllable of thy addition.


From: S Watts (aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--penury

In the definition for penury, the term "niggardly frugality" is used. I believe other terms could impart the same intended meaning with out the "nigger" reference.

    Also sent by Rick Hamilton (cpcug.org), and Tiffini Jones (hbs.edu). "Niggard" of which "niggardly" is the adverb form, has no relation with the offensive word "nigger". "Niggard" is of Scandinavian origin and has an entirely different etymology than "nigger". The only thing the two words have in common is a few letters. Following citations from recent issues of Time, Economist, and Harper's will illustrate currency of this word. -Anu

    Martha Duffy, World: Endgame: Take My Wife's Royal Designation, Please, Time, 07-22-1996, pp 46+.
    "The royals cannot give the mother of the future King a settlement that would appear to be niggardly or vengeful."

    Marshall, Kimball, Basquing in future glories, Economist, 09-18-1993, pp 95.
    "Its scope makes the collective extravagances of Seville, Madrid and Barcelona seem niggardly by contrast."

    Powell, Padgett, Trick or treat, Harper's Magazine, 11-01-1993, pp 70.
    "He was arguably a little visionary, if you took the long, charitable view of him. If you took the short, niggardly view, he was a young dog with a blue steel."


From: Steve Boyer (berkeley.edu)
Subject: RU-486

As a chemist, I'm familiar with drug nomenclature, and it turns out that the insensitivity is unintentional. Most manufacturers number all Investigational New Drugs (INDs) with a letter or two derived from the company's name, and then a number. It happens that this was the 486th new drug to be considered by the French company Russel (hence the RU). most companies distinguish between the different chemical compounds that are made during pharmaceutical research and the actual INDs with different letters. For example, Abbot uses several prefixes for research compounds before giving their INDs an ABT number.

Once a drug clears the regulatory hurdles of the clinic, it typically receives a new (preferably catchier) name that evokes its function in some way. I imagine it would be difficult to name RU-486 in a non-controversial manner, and so the drug was never renamed.

I think the letter writer was reading too much into the drug's name.

    Also noted by Janet Miles (usit.net), Jim Cobb (ptc.com), Kimberly Springer (emory.edu), John L. Pearlman (tiac.net), and Michael R. Schaar (aol.com). -Anu


From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: Words - most favorite and least favorite

In last week's AWADmail, I invited you to send your most favorite and least favorite words. "Sesquipedalian" made the top of the chart as the most favorite word while "defenestration" and "onomatopoeia" followed as the first and second runners up. Interestingly, a large number of words that were nominated as favorites are onomatopoeic such as "ululate", "ooze", and "tintinnabulation".

Among other favorites were tongue-twisters such as "indefatigability" from Ben E. Fulbright (juno.com) who sent this explanation: "One of my favorite words, simply because of the workout which it gives the tongue." In a similar vein, Catherine Russo (li.net) sent "indubitably".

Perhaps not surprisingly, among most disliked words were a high concentration of words most often found in office memos, such as, prerogative, functionality, empowered, basically, priority, touch base. Ginger Stuckey (transquest.com) echoed the voice of many when she said, "I absolutely and without reservation despise `utilize'. It is one of those over-used words that corporate types throw into a report or presentation to use space and make them sound smarter."

Cynthia Edwards (airmail.net) sent dozens of words she is in love with, but for the least favorite category she added, "I cannot list any words I hate; as with ugly babies, though they may exist, it seems cruel to point at them. Words, like babies, all have inherent qualities that override their sound and appearance."

Here is a motley selections of other favorites:

Wayne Goode (ro.com): My favorite word is "floxinoxinifilification" meaning the act or belittling a thing or person. I probably spelled it wrong--it is not in my dictionary. I read it in "1000 Most Challenging Words". It is a made up word (but aren't they all) from five words that mean nothing; their meaning is nothing that is, not that they don't have a meaning.

[It is "floccinaucinihilipilification". -Anu]

Andy Barber (sonnet.co.uk): At the moment my favorite word is "oxymoron". As in the term Internet security.

Cindy Pearson (senate.gov): My most favorite word is "swive". I found it in the dictionary while in grade school, over 30 years ago. Although I've never publicly used it, it's nice to hold it in reserve. I could tell someone to "swive off" -- and be a potty-mouth without most anyone knowing it!

Jse-Che Lam (north-york.on.ca): Smarmy ... dead on way of describing someone who has the personality of a used car salesman. Have used it many times to describe people who think they have charm but are just full of smarm.

Victoria M Blanc (umich.edu) My favorite word of all time is absquatulate. It means, as defined by the online version of American Heritage Dictionary: 1. 1.To depart in a hurry; abscond:``Your horse has absquatulated!'' Robert M.Bird 2.To die. 3.To argue.

Matthew Brian 'Lurch' Winkel (mines.edu): My favorite word? A toss-up between "antidisestablishmentarianism", "pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis", and blandishment. Yes, blandishment. That's the last word that helped make me the 1991 Colorado State Spelling Bee Champion!


From: Duane L McCormick (juno.com)
Subject: Inquiring Minds

I work in the business forms industry and a word that I keep seeing with greater frequency is "verbage" - which means, I assume, wording or type. I've never been able to find this word in any dictionary and using it seems to be an attempt to sound intellectual. Please give me the authority to give these people a good tongue-lashing, or tell me that I've been wrong and must succumb to this plague!! (-:

    `Verbage' is a variant of the more common word `verbiage'. You can find it in OED, tagged as "rare". I made a quick non-scientific survey of the Web using HotBot search engine, and found it listed in 1274 pages compared to 5433 Web pages with `verbiage'. Although it doesn't look as "rare" in the admittedly biased realm of Web (and the business world, as you mention), it would be best to avoid it. After all, you may find as many as 28175 Web pages with the spelling 'definately'. If you need more arsenal in tongue-lashing those people, take this entry from the Hacker's Dictionary. -Anu

    "/ver'b*j/ n. A deliberate misspelling and mispronunciation of verbiage that assimilates it to the word `garbage'. Compare content-free. More pejorative than `verbiage'."


From: Kelly Bryan (aol.com)
Subject: Coinage of the Week

arrognorance (a/ 'rahg/ ner/ *nce)

n. 1) the mistaken presumption of having knowledge of something; 2) superficial or inaccurate information forcefully asserted; as when someone feels necessary to make knowing remarks about a place they have never been because they have seen a four-minute story about it on television.


The quality of our thoughts is bordered on all sides by our facility with language. -J. Michael Straczynski

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