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AWADmail Issue 731A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language
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From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Foul-Mouthed Parrot May Be Used as Evidence in Murder Trial
Is This the Right Moment to Correct Someone’s Language?
From: Peter H. Desmond (taxhombre gmail.com)
The berry-shaped organic product kermes was used as a dye by medieval vintners to make red wine redder. As I wrote in Harvard Magazine, “Some Harvardians may want to raise a toast when they learn that the word is the source of our word ‘crimson’. A possible caveat: kermes consisted of the swollen abdomens of female insects that infested the scarlet oaks of southern Europe. Another round, anyone?”
Peter H. Desmond, Cambridge, Massachusetts
From: Bert Porter (via website comments)
This seems to be a case of etymology coinciding with entomology.
Bert Porter, Portland, Oregon
From: Kimberly Battista (kim battistaillustration.com)
I also wanted to add that vermilion has an anatomical reference.
Kimberly Battista, Baltimore, Maryland
From: Dave Hatfield (ddhatfi verizon.net)
“Teal Blue” was the official color of my organization in the Army, the old Army Security Agency, which went out of existence in 1976. There were more arguments among members over which shade of blue was teal blue than any argument over the work we did (which was highly classified). Maybe it was because color was something we could talk about in the open, while we couldn’t talk about our work.
Dave Hatfield, Severn, Maryland
From: William Stanley (valcouns earthlink.net)
My new car company called it teal, but the DMV didn’t have that in their computer, so my car was blue. I didn’t care.
William Stanley, Issaquah, Washington
From: Ellen Blackstone (ellenblackstone gmail.com)
I can never think of teal -- the ducks -- without recalling the collective noun for a group of teal. It is “spring” and it suggests both the sound and the action of several teal taking flight -- a spring of teal! More such collective nouns can be found here.
Ellen Blackstone, Seattle, Washington
From: Serge Astieres (serge.astieres gmail.com)
Ponceau brought me back to my childhood: I used to do model kits and tried to paint figures of Napoleon army soldiers. The uniforms have vivid colors and I remember a dragoon having a jacket with ponceau flaps. It was difficult to reach the exact color until I found an obscure (and now deceased) small paint company offering such color. I had to pester my parents so they could send a check and I could receive the “right” color. I still have the small Ponceau bottle with the dried remains somewhere in my attic... Thanks for the memories.
Serge Astieres, Annecy, France
From: David Calder (dvdcalder gmail.com)
It is interesting to note that coquelicot, the more common word for the poppy, Papaver rhoeas, also means a bright red. Famously painted by Monet in Les Coquelicots, it is also called the Flanders poppy, the first living plant to flower after a Great War battle left behind a devastated area. As such, it became a symbol of life defeating death. It became the Anzac poppy, worn on April 25th every year at commemorations in Australia and New Zealand.
David Calder, New Plymouth, New Zealand
From: Nicholas Clifford (clifford middlebury.edu)
For what it’s worth, the Prompter (a tenor role) in Richard Strauss’s marvelous opera Capriccio, is identified as Monsieur Taupe, and at least in the DVD version that I own, is portrayed by a small man who spends much of his time blinking -- like a mole, of course.
Nicholas Clifford, Middlebury, Vermont
From: Juliet Ezeilo (juliet242 gmail.com)
Thanks for today’s word, sepia! Always reminds me of Wole Soyinka’s Telephone Conversation!
Juliet Ezeilo, San Antonio, Texas
From: Dennis Lynch (dlynch1 nyc.rr.com)
Ah yes, the cuttlefish. “A ten-armed marine mollusk differing from a squid in that it has an internal calcified shell.” Fifty years ago in high school Latin we had to memorize that definition. We were reading some of Pliny’s letters and the teacher went to the topic of the ink the Romans used when writing on papyrus. Whenever I read the word cuttlefish, this definition immediately and automatically comes to mind. And, yes, it did show up on a quiz.
Dennis Lynch, Queens Village, New York
From: Bob Wilson (wilson math.wisc.edu)
Sepia in connection with photography has additional meaning beyond just being a color. In traditional monochrome photography the “print” image consists of metallic silver (where there is a dark region, finely divided silver appears black) suspended in a coating on paper.
But, although silver is much more stable than the dyes making up a color image, it can fade as it is affected by chemicals in the air, on fingerprints, etc., such as sulfur compounds.
Sepia is used not as a dye but as a chemical that converts part or all of the silver chemically to silver sulfide, which has the color we associate with sepia toned prints. That is even longer lasting than plain silver, so many of the very old photographs we still can enjoy are ones that were sepia toned.
Bob Wilson, Oregon, Wisconsin
From: M Henri Day (mhenriday gmail.com)
“Natural is good. Usually. Arsenic can be natural too.” Indeed, and everything we do, including that which is most “artificial”, is done according to natural laws -- there are no others. We cannot allow ourselves to be deceived by the curious notion that all that is “natural” is good for us; rather we have to examine the matter in detail.
M Henri Day, Stockholm, Sweden
From: Dharam Khalsa (dharamkk2 gmail.com)
Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
You might have emissions nocturnal
The color vermeil is bright red.
The soirée held boundless appeal,
She wore a brief dress of ponceau
In the old days a Borgia was Pope
The actress from Ethiopia
From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Look for a blood moon on the vermeil equinox.
During duck season, I hunt teal I bag my limit.
He put his Rolex in ponceau he could make his house payment.
My lot in life is twish and taupe.
“I’ll be sepia in all the old familiar places.”
Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment, and education -- sometimes it’s sheer luck, like getting across the street. -E.B. White, writer (1899-1985)