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AWADmail Issue 89May 31, 2003
A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages
From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Interesting stories from the net:
He Wrote, She Wrote:
Languages Bulldozing Others:
Much Ado About Nothing:
From: Steve Topham (steveATiod-sa.com)
During the 1980s, I came across a vivid example of metal words used as metaphors back in Sheffield in the UK. I asked a local trade union leader about progress in his recent negotiations with management over working conditions. "No progress", he said. "They want us to concede everything - the golden handshake, the silver lining and the copper bottom!"
From: Doug Hensley (dhensleyATmath.tamu.edu)
Don't forget Joseph Djugashvili's new name Joseph Stalin, a Russian version of Joseph Steel---or steely, or something like that.
The island of Cyprus, named after the Greek word Cuprus or Kyprus for copper.
This is an inexhaustible topic.
From: John Davis (twigsalesATglobal.co.za)
A most, most wealthy man was told by the Lord that he must get his affairs in order as his life was to end. The man asked for special dispensation to take his huge hoard of gold with him. He got a YES after a pause. So when he gets to the pearly gates, St peter says, "No luggage allowed." An Angel says, "There has been special dispensation in this case." Peter says, "Show me." He looks and is aghast and exclaims, "Paving stones?!"
From: David Morgenstern (davidATwriterdog.com)
Another important meaning for "silver bullet" that resonates with us Baby Boomers (and our parents) is from The Lone Ranger, the longest running children's show on radio (1933-1954) and then on television during the fifties and sixties.
At the end of each episode, having saved the day, The Lone Ranger rode off into the sunset without pausing for thanks but always leaving a silver bullet behind as a keepsake of his visit.
From: Mark (markmc82ATaol.com)
On the theme, silver is a noble metal. This purity was presumed to "cure" a supernatural condition, such transmogrifying lupinism (silver crosses for vampires; silver bracelets to prevent bewitching, etc.) Iron at the head & foot of one's bed was supposed to prevent possession by any of the specters or shades. Either refined iron or heartwood white oak are recommended to defeat vampires. Brass is supposed to deflect the spells that cause zombieism.
From: Elizabeth Ohlson (ohlsonATaol.com)
Silver Bullet is also the name for an extra dry, straight up martini.
From: Kenneth Pantling (kipngATaol.com)
The UK abandoned the pound bank note in favour of the pound coin whilst
Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. One of the old style Tory grandees
(Norman St. John Stevas I think) asked why Thatcher was like the new pound
coin and answered the question himself by saying:
From: John Davis (twigsalesATglobal.co.za)
Your word - leaden, together with the showbiz examples, brings the following to mind.
"The lead actor went through the whole range of emotions from A to B."
From: Scott W. Langill (slangillATdcaccess.net)
What appears to be missing here is a stronger sense of lack of value, presumably an artifact of tin's relative value when compared with steel, brass, and precious metals.
Slang employing tin usually conveys a sense of imitation, pettiness, insignificance, pretension, or contempt. Tin god, tin lizzie, tin pan alley, and tinhorn come to mind.
Tin ear has also been referenced as slang for a disfigured ear, an eavesdropper, and a slow telegrapher.
From: James R. Valentine (jvalentineATchemicalogic.com)
I have always thought that the term had its origin in the historic use of a metal "ear-trumpet" by the deaf (the metal often was "tinned" iron or steel i.e., steel with a tin coating to prevent rusting in the same manner as a "tin" can). Hence, having a "tin ear" denoted that an individual was figuratively "deaf" to a particular situation, circumstance, or argument. Having a "tin ear" seems to be generally accepted as describing a passive condition (physical, emotional, or educational deficit) as contrasted to the phrase "turning a deaf ear", which is an active, albeit negative, response.
From: Shari Hofmann (sharihoATnortelnetworks.com)
Years ago, ear trumpets were used by people who were hard of hearing, to capture more sound waves, to amplify the sound and direct it into the ear. More info.
From: Marjo M. van Patten (marjoATcoax.net)
I'm glad to see you're testing our 'word mettle' with 'metal words'. Hopefully, it'll be an unalloyed pleasure.
From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Many readers responded to Dr. John P. Barbuto's query in AWADmail 88 about a word to describe what he described as "doing `the right' thing today that may turn out to be `the wrong' thing tomorrow.
Normally, the suggestions would be sent to the original writer (with a copy to us) and s/he cam summarize them. As it turned out Dr. Barbuto's email address is now unreachable. Here is a summary of responses. The following suggestions were sent by many:
According to my father, who is a retired physician, the mythical
medical instrument for performing this impossible task is called
I believe the word you were searching for is 'oops'. For a positive
situation, it becomes serendipity.
I think the word he is looking for is "hindsight". In hindsight, we all
My suggested neologism for this concept is, a "verichronistic" decision, or,
if people hearing that might tend to think one is saying "very chronistic,"
then, a "chronoveristic" decision.
Diagnosguess to describe the possibility that things don't turn out as even
well-planned. Also, try postgnosticate to describe passing into what was
once an inscrutable future on the wrong end of the odds.
I am told the U.S. Army has an acronym for something like this:
OBE - Overtaken By Events. I am often reminded of this concept when
'the best laid plans go awry'.
Would the concept of Schrodinger's Cat help here? (It's either alive or dead,
but you can't know which until you open the box it's in, and opening the box
may affect whether the cat is alive or dead. It is an example of how
observation of an event may affect the outcome of the event.) The appropriate
word could be "Schrodingered".
A related concept is the chess phrase zugzwang, which refers to the situation
when your obligation to make a move is to your disadvantage. It is a long
shot, but you could compare it the situation where a doctor or a gambler has
to make a decision, which he or she would make better later.
From: Jill Blackmer (jillymcATvnw.org)
About 4 years ago, my father got his first computer at the age of 74. Somehow he found your site and subscribed to your newsletter. He signed me up... and since then I've been getting your regular emails.
My father died 2 years ago... but almost every day when your email arrives, I smile and remember him and what a great guy he was.
From: Michael Wrought (m.wroughtATworldnet.att.net)
I and my 92 year old mother, a daily crossword puzzle worker, enjoy your service greatly.
From: Sherry Gottlieb (writerATwordservices.com)
I thought you might be interested in the news that the international exposure of their mistake on AWADMail has resulted in a satisfactory response from the Ventura County Schools Credit Union. I am delighted that they have fixed the error on their commercial.
From: Jane Ballou (robotwithskinATmindspring.com)
Last month some time an A.W.A.D. theme was "words to describe people," and the little blurb at the onset really made my week. It suggested that readers "find at least one person epitomizing the day's word, every day this week." I eagerly leapt the the task.
All morning I would weave through the crowded hallways, looking for just the right person. "Ah ha! I've found you," I would announce at last, stabbing some confused acquaintance's chest with my finger. "You're the eristic!" "The lumpen!" "The nonesuch!" Duty fulfulled, I might then waltz away all smiles, leaving my interrupted classmates blinking after me in befuddlement.
My passion for language so often falls behind the priorities of everyday life, I appreciate having this daily reminder. A Word A Day is a leg up in alleviating the desolation of high school, and the value of that is hard to overstate.
A thousand thanks!
From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au) Subject: AWAD Metal Words (Re: goldbrick)
"Oh, how we're fascinated with metals, especially the yellow kind," you wrote. That's true of Nikolai Syadristy, a Ukrainian micro-metallurgist. Carving minute specks of gold, he has fashioned images only five microns high. His incredible World's Smallest Sculptures are described in the June edition of my ebook.
So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with. -John Locke, philosopher (1632-1704)