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AWADmail Issue 750A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language
Sponsor’s Message: Turn back the hands of time, figuratively. Does “Old’s Cool” sum up your philosophy of life: old school with a little wry, served neat? And where saving a buck or two is in the blood? Same here. So, we’re offering this week’s Email of the Week winner, Doug Hensley (see below), as well as everyone who thinks that frugal ain’t cheap, a YUGE 30% OFF our retro-authentic ludic loot. Jezz use coupon code “wickedexcellent”.
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
From: Dan DeVries (dan.devries rockets.utoledo.edu)
It seems as if you called our incoming President, Donald Trump, a “narcissistic con man running for the president of the United States”, on Oct 3, 2016 (link).
You associated him on your website with narcissism, lien, vitriol, precarious, and demagogue.
Will you be publishing an apology to Mr. Trump (and to your readers)?
Dan DeVries, Columbus, Ohio
Truth doesn’t change with election results. And you should never apologize for telling the truth.
From: Daniel E McAnulty (mcanulty mit.edu)
Only too true. If only a different word had been appropriate tonight.
(Thank you for your nice service, by the way. Your words have brought a lot of joy, comfort, and, in a way, companionship into my life. I don’t think I’ve mailed before, but right now it seems important to reach out and steady one another. Thank you for steadying me so often with your daily thoughtfulness. Don’t despair.)
Daniel E McAnulty, San Francisco, California
From: Craig Gunsul (gunsulcj whitman.edu)
In physics, the symbol for the speed of light is c, from the same Latin root as celerity.
Craig Gunsul, Walla Walla, Washington
From: Tony Augarde (diddlums gmail.com)
You seem to have left out another sense of “celerity”: the condition of being celery. If it doesn’t exist, it should.
Tony Augarde, Oxford, UK
From: Jon Solins (jon_solins comcast.net)
My first -- and most memorable -- exposure to “celerity” was in Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore. In Act II, after discovering his daughter eloping with a common sailor, Captain Corcoran utters a mild expletive. Sir Joseph Porter, Ruler of the Queen’s Navy, is horrified, and decries:
I will hear of no defence,
Attempt none if you’re sensible.
That word of evil sense,
Is wholly indefensible.
Go, ribald, get you hence
To your cabin with celerity.
This is the consequence
Of ill-advised asperity!
Any G&S libretto is a treasure trove for word lovers!
Jon Solins, Amherst, Massachusetts
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro, two exceptionally gifted, much lauded contemporary Canadian authors, with Munro having been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature a few years back, have made their respective marks in “the world of arts & letters” through deftly putting down one word after another... after another... after another. Sounds pretty simple. Yet both these remarkable writers have chosen their words wisely, with precision, evocativeness, and sheer brilliance, giving us consistently compelling fictive narratives that will surely endure the test of time.
Maximum celerity in the animal kingdom rests firmly in the domain of the “fleet-of-paw” feline, the African cheetah... fastest land animal; while the handsome raptor, the peregrine falcon, speed-wise, rules the skies. Classic animated cartoon character “Speedy Gonzales” could claim he’s the fastest dude in the “cartoon kingdom”, but might get some strong argument on that score from two zippy Warner Bros. cartoon stalwarts -- Taz*, the Tasmanian Devil, or the lightning-fast Road Runner... Beep! Beep! *Full disclosure: I designed key backgrounds on Warner Bros. Taz-Mania, back in the early ‘90s.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California
From: Mary Treder (mct919 hotmail.com)
Aha! Now I have a word to describe how my cat Dziki’s leg healed after he snapped his radius and ulna. X-rays show that his foreleg now has one bone, a symphysis of the broken pieces and parts.
Mary Treder, Parker, Colorado
From: Steve Kirkpatrick (stevekirkp comcast.net)
When I took Vertebrate Biology at Stanford, one question on a mid-term was about the anatomy of the human pelvis. It asked us to name these structures on a diagram: sacrum, ilium, ischium, pubic bone, and the pubic symphysis, which completes the circle, anteriorly.
A few days later, Norman Wessels, our Professor and Department Chair, announced the test results and one particularly wrong answer: “pubic symphony”. He drily told us that is an entirely different subject.
Steve Kirkpatrick, Olympia, Washington
From: Doug Hensley (dhensley math.tamu.edu)
This word for me triggers a particular association. There is a medical condition affecting a small but yet large number of children (percentagewise small, in other words) in which the symphysis joining the femur to the smaller bone that in adults is fused to the femur to be the face of the ball joint that goes in the hip socket fails to fuse.
Untreated, the condition grows steadily worse and immobilizes the hip joint.
Treatment consists in surgical intervention to screw or nail the two bones together, supplying mechanically what nature normally supplies biologically. The screw is inserted by separating the skin and muscle over the spot on the femur where the screw needs to go in, driving it through the femur and on into the next bone, getting it to the right depth so it actually fastens the two together but not so far as to project through the face of the ball joint bone, where it would then grind away the lining of the hip socket. If that happens, the joint is ruined and the child suffers the same fate as if there had been no operation.
If, on the other hand, the screw is not driven in far enough, the operation again fails because it has achieved nothing.
The difficulty here is that one cannot pull the bone out of the socket to look and see if the screw is set to the right depth. One must go by x-ray images. Not too many, for the x-rays that would image this joint would then go through the reproductive organs.
How to tell whether the screw is at the right depth? It turns out that it is possible for the tip of the screw to be beyond the ball joint, and yet have the image of the tip be inside the image of the bone in both a side view and a front view of the situation.
Translated into mathematics, one gets x and y off of one image, and x and z off of the other image, and the question is whether x2+y2+z2 < r2 (actual tip inside actual sphere). This insight was the subject of a prize-winning medical sciences paper in the 1970s, and after its publication, the rate of failure of the operation dropped sharply:
Robert Walters and Sheldon R. Simon; Joint Destruction: a sequel of unrecognized pin penetration in patients with slipped capital femoral epiphyses; "The Hip: Proceedings of the 8th Annual Open Scientific Meeting of the Hip Society, St. Louis"; C.V. Mosby; 1980.
Doug Hensley, College Station, Texas
Mary Miller Boy (mary all-the-boys.de)
When I was in elementary school in the 50s, one of the items on our report card, for which we were graded in the same way as for the three R’s was “comportment”. I remember getting an A.
Mary Miller Boy, Falkensee, Germany
From: Michael Feinberg (mfeinberg dca.net)
And here I thought that comport was what you plugged the modem into.
Michael Feinberg, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
From: Dharam Khalsa (dharamkk2 gmail.com)
Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina
From: Robert Jordan (alfiesdad ymail.com)
Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
He rose to the top with celerity.
Many went to the polls with alacrity.
Spewing rhetoric defined by asperity
Our leader-elect is a rarity,
The Donald rose up with celerity
The couple’s counselor said, “Something’s amiss.”
Though the marriage was less than harmonious,
He knew how to win an election,
The day we succumb to our phobias
They sailed to the New World rachitic
“My team says it’s time to be politic,”
With the alt-right he chose to comport.
Shrugged the Donald, “Campaigning’s blood sport;
From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Celerity: the ability to quickly garnish a Bloody Mary.
If conjoined twins take a selfie, is that photo symphysis?
The willing voyagers on the alien space ship requested, “opprobrious, please!”
Did that thorn in his flesh give Politic?
Besides “mark twain”, a riverboat guide might also have yelled, “comport!”
Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:There is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some diehard’s vote. -David Foster Wallace, novelist, essayist, and short story writer (1962-2008)