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Jun 9, 2019
This week’s theme
Weird plurals

This week’s words
stigma
ala
stratum
gutta
charisma

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

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Next week’s theme
People who have had multiple words coined after them

“Words are the small change of thought.” ~Jules Renard
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AWADmail Issue 884

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

Sponsor’s Message: Are you looking for the perfect present for know-it-all dads and grads? The Official Old’s Cool Education is “The Holy Trinity of wit, knowledge, and fun and games,” and is chock-a-block full of gee-whiz, Shakespeare, history, soap-making, sports, anecdotes and quotes, Price’s Law, and diamonds and pearls of wisdom. We’re offering this week’s Email of the Week winner, Jack Bierig (see below), as well as all the what-do-I-get-the-man-who-has-everything AWADers a “Buy Two, Get Three” special through midnight Monday. Gift problems solved >



From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the Net

Last of the Mohawk Code Talkers Dies After Finally Being Hailed a War Hero
The Guardian
Permalink

Why Linguists Are Keeping Some Sign Languages Hidden
The Independent
Permalink



Email of the Week brought to you by The Official Old’s Cool Education -- Wit. Grit. Grad. Dad. Gift. >

From: Jack R. Bierig (JBierig schiffhardin.com)
Subject: Weird plurals

You wrote: There are not a lot of such words in the English language, but I just used a couple of such pairs, a few sentences ago (is/are, I/we; also there’s me/us). Know any others?

How about mine/ours?

Jack Bierig, Chicago, Illinois



From: Thea Weyers (theaweyers2 gmail.com)
Subject: Double plurals

Double plurals. An egg in Dutch is een ei, two eier, which is singular in Afrikaans. There the plural is eiers. Also, een hoen (chicken), two hoender which is singular in Afrikaans, hoenders for plural.

Thea Weyers, Cape Town, South Africa



From: Kjersti Thoen (kjerstithoen hotmail.com)
Subject: cow/kine

Re cow/kine. In Norwegian we say ku and kuer (for more than one), but we also use kyr for many kuer (cows).

Kjersti Thoen, Oslo, Norway



From: Beye Fyfe (beye_fyfe yahoo.com)
Subject: cow

When it comes to verbs, one cows, two cow.

Beye Fyfe, Las Vegas, Nevada



From: Chip Taylor (via website comments)
Subject: cow

“Cow” is an interesting word in itself. Most people recognize the word to refer to specific types of domesticated oxen. But it also specifically refers to females of that species... males being called bulls. “Cow” can be extended to refer to females of many species, including many non-bovine, such as elephants, moose, elk, camels, crocodiles, giraffes, hippopotamus, termites, rats, walrus, and even whales. To complicate matters, heifers and steers also refer to females and males under certain conditions. The plural of cow can be cows, kine, or more commonly, cattle.

Chip Taylor



From: Marianne Kocks (kocks10 outlook.com)
Subject: Humanities

Humanities is not the plural of humanity!

Marianne Kocks, La Jolla, California



From: Lawrence Crumb (lcrumb uoregon.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--stigma

For many people, this is what the plural will suggest: (in Christian tradition) marks corresponding to those on Jesus’s body as a result of the crucifixion.

In Paris Leary’s novel The Innocent Curate, the title character receives the stigmata, and it throws into relief the other characters by their different responses.

Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon



From: George Dunlap (dunlapg umich.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--stigma

A related word is astigmatism, which means “not having a stigma” -- where here, a “stigma” is a single focal point for the lens in your eye. (Looked this up yesterday after my eye exam.)

George Dunlap, Ann Arbor, Michigan



From: Raja Khuri (rkhuri7 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ala

The word ala, with the picture of the nose reminded me of the facial muscle with the longest name for a muscle in the animal kingdom: the levator labii superioris alaeque nasi muscle. It elevates the lip (elevator) and the ala of the nose. Of all the muscles in the body that I studied in anatomy while in medical school in 1957 it has remained in my memory bank.

Raja K. Khuri, MD, MPH, Sarasota, Florida



From: Karen Herron (karen.bloggs gmx.net)
Subject: Ala

The link to the ala of a nose was such a revelation because in my mother tongue, German, we call this part of the nose Nasenfluegel (the wing of the nose) as so often German forms a new word out of two (sometimes three or even four) words.

I will certainly not forget this word, the ala, and I am looking forward to using it in conversation.

Karen Herron, Hamburg, Germany



From: Bryan Todd (boyanlj gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ala

If you happen to refer to “the wing” in a Spanish sentence, you’ll find it a bit of a tongue twister: el ala. It might even sound sort of Arabic.

It’s one of those extra-odd Spanish nouns that’s (1) feminine, but (2) begins with “a” and has its accent on the first syllable. So despite its gender, folks give it the masculine definite article just to make it more pronounceable.
Oh, and to add to the fun: the word is just one accent off from Alá, the term for Islam’s deity. Be sure you pronounce it right!

Bryan Todd, Lincoln, Nebraska



From: Jan Smith (forjhsmith excite.com)
Subject: Strata

A sister word is stratus in everyday use especially with weather. Stratus clouds are low-level clouds characterized by horizontal layering with a uniform base.

Jan Smith, Paris, France



From: D. Jeffrey Mims (djmims academyofclassicaldesign.org)
Subject: Gutta

Those ancients knew a thing or two about construction. The guttae in your illustration were not only ornamental but designed to pull droplets of rain water away from the walls -- and as I understand it are the forerunners of our modern gutters -- discussed in this short article.

Thank you for your imaginative and apparently inexhaustible organization of word themes.

D. Jeffrey Mims, Director, Academy of Classical Design, Southern Pines, North Carolina



From: Christina Vartanian (cvrn99 msn.com)
Subject: Gutta

I always wondered why in medicine we note drop/drops as gtt/gtts. I’ve wondered for over 20 years and never looked it up. Thanks for the epiphany!

Christina Vartanian, San Francisco, California



From: Patrick Melick (patrick.melick ametek.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gutta

A NY gutter.

Patrick Melick, Saugerties, New York



From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gutta

As a self-confessed diehard golf history aficionado (and long-lapsed player), for me today’s word gutta took me back to the formative days of the game and the then-technologically revolutionary gutta-percha golf ball that rapidly replaced the less durable and shorter-running leather-bound feathery ball. (Yes, it did contain actual bird feathers.) Gutta-percha is essentially natural rubber (latex), extracted from tapping unique species of trees native to Malaysia. This milky, viscous liquid could be moulded, mechanically shaped, and hardened, ultimately on an assembly-line scale, which facilitated the addition of uniform surface dimples, thus adding both better control and accuracy in shot-making and greater distance when struck well. Gutta-percha... where the rubber hit the road... Hmm... or more like... the fairways, and greens... and occasional sand trap, and creek bed. Ha!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California



From: Victoria Boisen (victoria.boisen gmail.com)
Subject: Medical use of this week’s words

Guttate psoriasis is a type of psoriasis in which the plaques are teardrop-shaped on the skin.

And nasal ala are the portions of the nose that flare out to the side.

Stratum is used quite a bit too, as the body has layers of lots of things, such as the stratum corneum -- or the outermost layer of the skin.

Stigmata is also used frequently -- particularly in birth defects, such as the child who has the stigmata of fetal alcohol syndrome or congenital syphilis. But there are hundreds more -- the stigmata of liver disease, heart failure, kidney insufficiency. It’s another word for a collection of signs indicating a particular condition.

Dr. Victoria Boisen, Granada Hills, California



From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Kine and stigmata

kine
Intrigued by Anu Garg’s introductory explication of the quirky alternative pluralization of the word cow, i.e., kine, I couldn’t resist imagining this Scottish bovine-themed pastoral scenario, featuring a ruddy-haired, hyper-hirsute Highland cow (Olde Scots translation... “Heilan coo”) and a pair of Aberdeen Shire-rooted Black Angus beef kine. Curiously, the Black Angus breed is naturally polled... no, not prone to taking opinion surveys (groan). This massively built beastie, both sexes, lacks horns, hence the term “polled”, whilst clearly our shaggy, ginger-hued Heilan coo sports a rather impressive set of horns -- perchance, lengthwise, rivaling our famed Texas longhorns?

stigmata
In seeing our initial word for this week, “stigma”, in light of our odd plurals word-theme, its plural, “stigmata”, immediately came to mind. Interestingly, the much-revered 12-13th century Christian cleric, St. Francis of Assisi, has been chronicled in the historical annals of early Christianity as the first-ever “stigmatic”, i.e., one who has a miraculous, physical manifestation of the bleeding wounds of the crucified Christ... spike puncture wounds on the hands and feet and the spear gash to the side. Knowing that St. Francis has been beloved for centuries as the patron saint of “all creatures great and small”,* I’ve imagined this tender scenario where he is about to totally immerse his “stigmatized” hands into a bird bath, as a gathering of curious animals look on, somewhat perplexed.
*Apologies to James Herriot, author of the popular series of tomes titled All Creatures Great and Small.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California



From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words
 
This week’s theme: Weird plurals
1. stigma
2. ala
3. stratum
4. gutta
5. charisma
= What’s it?
1. mark, smudge
2. arm has plumage
3. a sheet
4. artistic twist
5. allure
     Weird plurals
1. stigma
2. ala
3. stratum
4. gutta
5. charisma
=
1. slur; guilt
2. as a twig/arm
3. a plate
4. a stud as trim
5. charm
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)



From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Limericks

We are told in a passion cantata
Crucifixion was marked by stigmata.
If only one nail,
A stigma we’d wail,
And the nailer? Persona non grata.
-Ben Dunham, Marion, Massachusetts (fiddlesr verizon.net)

A stigma is often connected with pain,
And never, I think, a source of gain:
A perfidious scar
That is known near and far
Is the one that’s called “mark of Cain”.
-Marcia Sinclair, Newmarket, Canada (marciasinclair rogers.com)

“Until now you’ve all been plain vanilla,”
Said Meghan one day to Camilla.
“Though Kate is quite pretty,
Her color’s a pity;
I’ll help you get over the stigma.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
(Anyone interested in receiving feedback on their limericks is welcome to share first drafts of their pieces with me prior to submission, maximum one limerick per week, for the next four weeks.)


Her neck was delightfully naped
And her hair most appealingly draped.
Her ears were just right,
Both her brows a delight,
And each ala was perfectly shaped.
-Gordon Tully, Charlottesville, Virginia (gordon.tully gmail.com)

She planned for the fancy-dress gala
with a plan on a grandiose scale-a.
She would enter the room
in her feathered costume
and a hat in the shape of an ala.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“We need money to help Venezuela,”
Said Maduro one night at a gala.
“With your contribution,
We’ll have the solution:
To build on my palace an ala.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


This arrogant shady tale spinner
To the stratum he brags he’s a winner.
With a smirk on his face
He boasts of his base,
But would never invite them to dinner.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

The last stratum of the rock revealed:
an insect trapped in amber congealed.
There was hope for a second,
a new species they reckoned;
‘twas a roach when the casing was peeled.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Wakefield, Massachusetts (mukherjis hotmail.com)

The stratum of emotion for those
Men and women who so bravely chose
To fight for freedom;
Many did not come
Home to hold the ones dear to them close.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

“I’ll be taking your rib today, Adam,”
Said God in his heavenly stratum.
“Just lie down and relax,
And Coltrane on the sax
I’ll put on while I make you a madam.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The architect said with a smile,
“Those guttae are part of my style.
When beauty I seek
I turn to what’s Greek --
It’s classic and goes back a while.”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Exploring the ruins historic,
archaeologists soon grow euphoric.
“Although this is but a
diminutive gutta,”
they cry, “it’s distinctively Doric!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

In the days of the Raj in Calcutta,
There were droughts where it rained not a gutta.
What water there was
Set the British abuzz,
And they’d use it all up for a cuppa.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


POTUS Trump truly doesn’t have class,
On his Normandy trip, he was crass,
And with no charisma,
All we do hear is blah.
He can’t help it. He is just an ass!
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Charismata are missing in Trump,
Who’s charmless, and witless, and plump,
The Queen should have seen,
That the man is obscene,
And suggested high tea in a dump.
-Judy Distler, Teaneck, New Jersey (jam1026 aol.com)



From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Aquaman also had weird pleurals

The tattooist said, “I like to stigma needle into people.”

Is ala stronger brew than porter?

If you want to impress Rock & Roll audiences, stratum.

I’ve gutta feeling my girlfriend is about to drop me.

The Broadway ingénue sang, “I’m Dreaming of a Great White Charisma.”

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma



A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Ethics, decency, and morality are the real soldiers. -Kiran Bedi, police officer and social activist (b. 9 Jun 1949)

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