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AWADmail Issue 83

July 5, 2002

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


From: Owen Ozier (owenozierATyahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A Word A Day--triolet

I enjoyed Chesterton's triolet. I'm one of the former MIT students featured on the computing-triolet page you listed, and I very much enjoyed seeing triolets in the limelight! The professor in that class instructed us that each time the key line is used, it should take on a slightly different meaning, through punctuation, context, or emphasis. Chesterton's meets the requirements elegantly and playfully.


From: Rod Williams (rjwill6ATyahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--triolet

Oh, this is wonderful! Thanks for giving me a new way to avoid getting any (legitimate) work done this morning :-)

The letters A to Zee (or Zed)
Together build a universe
Inside the curious reader's head.
The letters A to Zee (or Zed)
Are put this way, or that instead
, For good or better, bad or worse.
The letters A to Zee (or Zed)
Together build a universe.


From: Howard Rubin (howrubinAThotmail.com)
Subject: Triolet

Just thought I'd share with you a triolet I sent to my girlfriend after spending a fun weekend out on a lake in Virginia:

I write my thoughts in triolet
Don't let that make you nervous
To make my feelings plain to say
I write my thoughts in triolet
Verbally I cannot weigh
Lake Anna pontoon shirtless
I write my thoughts in triolet
Don't let that make you nervous


From: Marshall Carter-Tripp (marshallATinterlink.com.ar)
Subject: Triolet

I was struck by the June 24 word, triolet. The classic cafes in Buenos Aires all offer a "triolet" for the patrons, meaning a dish - itself usually divided in three parts - filled with three different snacks to accompany a drink.


From: Kendra (kkelle2ATaol.com)
Subject: prick-song

I love Mercutio. While this may be a week of words that appear misleading, you do know that Shakespeare intended that misleading effect, don't you? Mercutio is one of the bawdiest characters he wrote. One of his other quotes is "the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon." Mercutio had one thing on his mind most of the time.


From: R Cooper (a440plusATyahoo.com)
Subject: song-prick

The catch is a musical form that was popular several hundred years ago. Like limericks, catches lend themselves well to bawdy subject matter. A catch is a kind of musical round (one round widely known here in the US is Row, Row, Row your Boat), where several people sing the same song, but start at different times, and thus produce some harmony or counterpoint. What's catchy about some catches is that by means of occasional pauses in the music, a text that appears fairly innocent at first can convey a spicier message later, as additional voices enter. For example:

When Celia was learning on the spinet to play,
Her tutor stood by her to show her, to show her the way.

She shook not the note, which angered him much
And made him cry, Zounds! 'Tis a long prick - 'tis a long prick'd note you touch!

Surprised was the lady to hear him complain
And said, and said, I will shake it when I come to't again.

In other words, Celia failed to play a trill during her music lesson. But when this catch is performed, you hear:

Show her a long prick, show her a long prick

And later:

A long prick, I will shake it?

More at several other sites that are returned by a Google search on the phrase "shook not the note". Another example from Here Flat on Her Back, an epitaph on Sally Salisbury by John Stafford Smith (1750-1826), which earned a Catch Club medal in 1771, and now appears in a published collection called Rounds and Rounds, by Mary C. Taylor, Hargail Music press (1946):

Here flat on her back but inactive at last, poor Sally
lies under grim death.
Through the course of her vices she galloped so fast,
no wonder she's now out of breath?

When sung, you hear "Lies under quite out of breath" a couple of times.


From: Stephanie Heintz (s.heintzATconservation.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--histrionic

My favorite class as a psych major in college focused on abnormal psychology. This, of course, is the study of illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, etc. (As our professor said on the first day of class, "Relax. You will think you have everything we talk about. 99% of you are normal. The overwhelming chances are that you are not schizophrenic, you are not bipolar, and you do not suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I assure you that your abnormalities are a direct result of your status as college students.") There was also a major focus on personality disorders, like narcissism, sociopathy, etc. The one that still stands out for me is the histrionic personality. The DSM-IV definition is as follows:

Beginning by early adult life, emotional excess and attention-seeking behaviors are present in a variety of situations and shown by at least five of:

  • Discomfort with situations in which the patient is not the center of attention
  • Relationships that are frequently fraught with inappropriately seductive or sexually provocative behavior
  • Expression of emotion is shallow and rapidly shifting
  • Frequent focusing of attention on self through use of physical appearance
  • Speech is vague and lacks detail
  • Overly dramatic expression of emotion
  • Easy suggestibility (patient is readily influenced by opinions of other people or by circumstances)
  • Belief that relationships are more intimate than they really are


From: Maeve Everest (evereaATlvlle.training.wa.gov.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mense

It's interesting that the word mense in Afrikaans means people (singular mens), similar to the Old Norse mennska (humanity) and odd that two words which are so alike and have the same root should have changed so in their interpretation in different languages.


From: Carol Thompson (quidnuncATmcleodusa.net)
Subject: tautonym

In reading AWADmail issue 82 I found a comment from R. Nicholson regarding same first and last names. In the late 60's I worked in the office of a creamery in Pana, IL. A US Marshall came down from Chicago for inspections. Interestingly enough, his name was Marshall Marshall. Tautonym and occupation. Is there a word for that?


From: Katherine Neville (k8nevilleAThotmail.com)
Subject: tautonym

My brother had a music teacher in high school whose real, legal, original, parent-given name was Alan Allan Allen, or something very similar -- I am not actually certain of the correct spelling of each name, but each of his three names was a variant of Alan.


From: Marian E Hamilton (mamamarianATjuno.com)
Subject: Comment

This is in response to Roxanne Nicholson's question in this month's newsletter about people having the same first and last names.

I grew up in the town of Walla Walla, Washington. I haven't lived there since 1963, so I am not certain that the local newspaper still runs this feature, but they used to publish photographs of residents who had the same first and last names: Thomas Thomas, Robert Roberts, Allen Allen, etc.


From: David R. Greer (littledavymcgAThotmail.com)
Subject: Tautonyms

Many years ago while on a field trip with my biology students at the Columbus Zoo, I was delighted to observe that the scientific name for gorilla was ... Gorilla gorilla! (King Kong" kame pretty klose; was that a take-off on "Ping-Pong"?)

With human names, I have known many who also came close: John Johnston, Richard Ritchie, Tommie Thompson, et al. Many of those Last-name-which is- usually-a-First-name folks get hung with such nicknames as Andy (Anderson), Tommy (Thompson), Pete (Peterson), etc. That's usually the result of patronyms, often Scandinavian, as a series of AWAD already covered earlier this year.


From: Michael L. Michael (mxtwoATrcn.com)
Subject: Tautonym

In AWADmail issue 82 (June 24, 2002), Roxanne Nicholson asked if there was a word that describes those whose first and last names are the same. You suggested "tautonym".

My suggested alternatives, based on personal experience, would include "pitied," "ridiculed," and "good-humored."

I've maintained a file of references to others with double names. Among those of some note are Horst P. Horst (fashion photographer), Livingston Livingston (ancestor of a former Speaker of the House, whose 1999 resignation prompted Monica Monica to seek his seat), Jeremiah S. Jeremiah Junior (one-time Chief Judge of the Rhode Island Family Court), Hamilton Hamilton (American painter 1847-1928), Nicholas Nicholas (former President of Time, Inc.), and the infamous Sirhan Sirhan. Fictional characters include Meyer Meyer in Ed McBain's "The Mugger" and, of course, Major Major Major in Joseph Heller's "Catch 22."

I would be interested in learning of other examples of which others may be aware.


From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Subject: Copacetic (AWAD Feb 3, 1997)

Trying to find out why police are called coppers, I searched your archives, and thought I'd found a clue when I discovered you had listed copacetic. Unfortunately, that was just another red herring. The outcome is described in the July edition of my e-book, http://bdb.co.za/shackle/articles/cops.htm


From: Cindy Geiger (rgarner1ATcinci.rr.com)
Subject: My little fascination with words

While waiting in the doctor's office the other day, I picked up the Reader's Digest and came across an article about you and your web site. I thought you might get a kick out of the little thing I do with words. People who know about it ask me to do it on occasion, although I'm not quite certain what they find so fascinating. My fiancÚ tells me I should go on Dave Letterman and do a "stupid pet trick" segment. I think what amuses people is how I even discovered this talent! Well, I'll keep you in suspense no longer. In a second or two, I take the letters of a particular word and put them in alphabetical order. Wordsmith=dhimorstw. One year in a birthday card my Mom attempted to write me a letter using this little technique. Anyway, if I can spell the word, I do it in my head. If I can't, I look at it and do it. Thought you might get a kick out of my story.

Aehv a aegrt ady!


Time changes all things: there is no reason why language should escape this universal law. -Ferdinand de Saussure, linguist (1857-1913)

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