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aa (ah-ah) noun

Lava having a rough surface.

[From Hawaiian, apparently from the sound one emits on walking barefoot over the jagged lava surface.]

Aa is one of the two kinds of lava typically found in Hawaiian volcanoes. The other kind is pahoehoe, one with a smooth, ropy surface. You can see their pictures here and here.

"Aa has a surface that's broken into blocks with sharp, spiny projections."
Ian Skilling, Lavas and Life, The World & I (Washington, DC), Jul 1998.

"With so much to memorize, trying to recall that aa is a kind of solidified lava or that an ai is a three-toed sloth, would tax the brain unnecessarily. Mr. Keskaroonkul estimates he knows nearly 110,000 words, or nearly 70% of Webster's New World Dictionary, published by Merriam-Webster. In comparison, the average college graduate is said to have an active vocabulary of 10,000 to 15,000 words."
Joseph Pereira, Hard Scrabble: Thais Who Play Very Well Learn the Dictionary -- But Some Have No Idea at All What the Words Mean; Why Clutter Up the Mind?, The Wall Street Journal (New York), Jul 19, 1999.

This week's theme: Words that seem unreal


The happiest is the person who suffers the least pain; the most miserable who enjoys the least pleasure. -Jean-Jacques Rousseau, philosopher and author (1712-1778)

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