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AWADmail Issue 71

March 11, 2002

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


From: Jack D. Doyle (jack.d.doyleATstate.or.us)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--philomath

Today's word is interesting, as I live in Philomath, Oregon. Local myth claims the town was named for one of the first colleges in Oregon, i.e., the College of Philosophy and Math.


From: Emily Townsend (emilyATphysics.orst.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--philomath

I lived for a couple of years in Philomath, Oregon, and attended Philomath High School. I was told the town got its name from Philomath College that was once located there. However, we pronounce it differently! Oregonians are always looking for ways to distinguish outsiders, and often they can be told by their mispronunciation of Philomath (correctly said fil-OH-math), Eugene (you-JEAN not YOU-jean) and the Willamette river (wil-LAM-it). I called the Benton County Historical Society who told me that Philomath College existed from 1865 until 1929, and the scholars there would have known Latin, and would have pronounced it correctly. However all local people still alive have always known it to be pronounced fil-OH-math, and there are lots of examples around Oregon where the correct local pronunciation is not the same as the correct pronunciation in the language of the word's origin.

Here is the Web site of City of Philomath.


From: Bob Wilson (wilsonATmath.wisc.edu)
Subject: Sleeping in lectures...(Re: philomath)

As a math prof I think maybe you have it wrong when you describe sleeping as a symptom of your `inability to endure any "dull" lectures'. It may be exactly the mechanism that lets you endure them, not an inability. We rank insomnia in increasing severity:

  • Acute insomnia: unable to fall asleep in a seminar
  • Chronic insomnia: unable to fall asleep in a colloquium
  • Terminal insomnia: unable to fall asleep in a department meeting

Few are so badly off as the terminal level.


From: Michele Berg (mrb6p5ATadmiral.umsl.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--philomath

I wonder if you know why the philo- precedes the -math in this word? When I think of any word with 'philo' attached to it, it's usually as a suffix. You know, linguaphile, hydrophilic, etc.

    The combining form philo- or phil- is equally agreeable to lead or be led. There are numerous everyday words with this form at the lead: philosophy, philately, philander, philanthropy, etc. Some not-so-everyday words: philogyny (love of women), phillumenist (a collector of matchboxes), philharmonic (fond of music). -Anu


From: Matt Snyder (snydemjATshands.ufl.edu)
Subject: Robert Frost (Re: iracund

You quoted Robert Frost in today's word. If two roads diverged in a wood, wouldn't that makes four choices? I've always wondered about that.


From: Jain Fletcher (jfletchrATlibrary.ucla.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--iracund

Hey, that wasn't too hard--I just had to clear away the "noise" from the first word that came to my mind with that suffix (fecund). The answer to your question is jocund, of course. I cannot think of any others ending with "-cund". Are there others?

You may be sorry you asked that question because all the "good students" in the audience will want to rise to the challenge and respond to you. A busy e-mail day! (Or will I be the only one? ;-)

Thank you for your wonderful service. It's the best way to start my day (and this from a person who catalogs rare books [imprints from the mid-1400s to the present] every day). To me, it is a toss-up whether the words defined or the quote chosen is the most satisfying.

    Yes, I had this cousin of "jocular" and "jocose" in mind: "jocund", when I asked for an antonym of "iracund" with the same suffix. I did get a number of email responses on this, mostly correct, but a few with rather offbeat suggestions, such as, moribund, rubicund, fecund, rotund, irenic, and irascible.

    The word "jocund" doesn't get around as much these days but it's often found in the poetry of Oscar Wilde, William Wordsworth, Walt Whitman, William Shakespeare, John Donne, and many others. "A poet could not but be gay, In such a jocund company" (Wordsworth). A rare -cund: "verecund" (modest). BTW, librarians are my favorite kind of people. -Anu


From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: On the horizon...

It was on March 14, eight years ago, that A.Word.A.Day sent its first word. While we observe our octennial next week, it's time for new developments. We're considering launching an ad-free, paid subscription service, in addition to continuing the existing free service. Details to follow.


Dictionaries are like watches: the worst is better than none, and the best cannot be expected to go quite true. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)

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