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AWADmail Issue 93

June 29, 2003

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


From: Jonathan Brusch (jonathan.bruschATaphis.usda.gov)
Subject: this week's topic : slang (Re: muggle)

I like it! Purists desire a world that has never existed, anywhere, at any time, not only in English but I would imagine in any language at all. I was taught in college that ancient Greek was not pronounced the way modern Greek is, another example of change, no matter what purists want.

American English is just replete with slang. It often seems to start in African-American communities and then work its way into common parlance as teenagers pick up the slang and spread it.

I've often thought it was interesting how different slang words from the same genre can have strikingly different fates once they escape their original usage. "Cool" and "groovy" both come from the slang of jazz musicians (and had similar, if not identical, meanings), but groovy is no longer commonly used in American speech (and using it makes you sound very 60s), while cool has been in American parlance for the last fifty years, with no apparent end in sight and no real loss in meaning, either.


From: Cary Hobbs (caryhobbsATearthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--muggle

Muggles was a nickname for marijuna in the 1920-30 jazz era. In fact, Louis Armstrong wrote and recorded a great jazz instrumental called "Muggles". As a lifelong user of that drug, particularly before concerts, Louis felt that it sharpened his performances and increased his skills (the opposite effect your definition would suggest).


From: Walter E Racker (waltATukans.edu)
Subject: Muggletonians

You may be interested to know that a religious group appeared in 18th century England called the Muggletonians. Except for the fact that the parents of William Blake were adherents, they might have remained unknown.


From: Benjamin C Chaffin (benjamin.c.chaffinATintel.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gearhead

In re gearhead: I use this one all the time, though in a slightly different sense. Among our group, a gearhead is someone who takes pleasure (though they often deny it) in owning vast quantities of gear for some sport or activity such as mountain biking, rock or mountain climbing, camping, etc. My housemate Larry, for instance, has been known to take TWO pairs of crampons on a trip to the desert, just in case he should want to climb a nearby mountain, and just in case someone should want to come with him.


From: Elaina Lancaster (elaina.lancasterATdavenport.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fress

I think I fress quite a bit. I fress when I stress. :-)


From: Kevin T. Trainor (kevin.t.trainorATwellsfargo.com)
Subject: Fressen

While stationed in West Germany during the latter days of the Cold War, I was bemused to learn that "fressen" is not only used to refer to animals eating, but also to soldiers.


From: Ruth Schaefer (schaeferrlAThealth.missouri.edu)
Subject: fress

This brings back memories of my grandmother, who was not German but had to learn German when she married into my grandfather's very German family. When we sat down to a big meal, which we did with great regularity, she'd say "Well, here we are again, fressin' ourselves dick (fat)."


From: Tim Lesher (timATlesher.ws)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fress

I'm an 11th-generation descendant of German immigrants to the U.S. I can clearly remember my great-grandparents, whose primary language was not English, but that peculiar dialect of German known as "Pennsylvania Dutch". As children, when we were reluctant to clean our plates, we were exhorted to "fress up!" It's nice to see my memories validated.


From: Paul Ivanovskis (paul.ivanovskisATlibertymutual.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fress

This reminds me of one of my favorite German terms, "Fre▀sack" (or "fresssack" if that German character didn't come through). It describes someone who eats like a pig, but it's more comical/affectionate than pejorative, and we've certainly applied it often enough to my two young sons.


From: John Strother (strother.llniprATworldnet.att.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--vibe

Long before "vibe" or "vibes" was used to mean "subliminal communication" or "aura" or "intuition" or "ambience" (or "vibration," for that matter), it (either form) was used as short for "Vibraphone." This dates back to shortly after the existence of the Vibraphone (a musical instrument derived from the xylophone, using metal tubes rather than wooden bars as its tone-generating elements), which was around as far back as the 1930s. Its first well-known virtuoso was Red Norvo. In context, it is still used with that meaning.


From: Susan Frank (sfrank2ATcfl.rr.com)
Subject: Re: new word (Re: AWADmail Issue 92)

A few years ago, at a local Denny's, I was informed: "Your waitress will be here in a few minutes. She is beveraging another table." Perhaps that should be a new verb to solve the problem.


From: Michael Greene (michaelATgreenes.com)
Subject: Something to drink

Long ago when my son was much shorter than his mother and me, he played soccer. At half time, the coach called the team into a circle and began a somewhat lengthy strategy lecture. Lord knows they needed it, they were getting trounced.

As the half time clock ticked towards zero, we parents began to fret when the coach showed no sign of stopping to water the children. With only a couple of minutes left on the clock, I walked out to the middle of the field where the coach and children were assembled and interrupted the

meeting by asking, "Coach, aren't you going to hydrate the kids?" Where 'hydrate' came from I have no idea as it was the first time I had ever used the word but the coach understood immediately what I meant and broke up the meeting. Good thing too - the tykes were thirsty!

So English has at least two words to the question, "When you give someone something to drink you ___ them." You can hydrate them or water them.


From: Don E Stucky (don.stuckyATmail.ihs.gov)
Subject: Comment

When you give someone food you feed them. When you give them something to drink, it's called enabling. ;-D


From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--vibe

My wife, Jerry Shackle, recently felt strong vibes about General MacArthur's son who was four years old when she met him with his mother in Brisbane during World War II. She asks "Where Is Arthur MacArthur?" in an intriguing story in the July edition of my e-book.


His words, like so many nimble and airy servitors, trip about him at command. -John Milton, poet (1608-1674)

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