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Jun 4, 2001
This week's theme
Words from the names of newspapers

This week's words
picayune
excelsior
laconic
sentinel
argus
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

While Times, Journal, Post, Reporter, News, Voice, etc., are common as the names of newspapers, there are many papers with rather offbeat words in their titles, such as Crier, Bee, Pennysaver, and Reflector. The mergers and acquisitions yield some remarkable names too. Q: What happens when the Daily Reflector and the Sun News decide to merge? A: You get the Daily News, and a sun reflector. The fact is stranger than fiction and there have been, in fact, more peculiar fusions. In 1939, when two newspapers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, combined, the result was perhaps a case of truth-in-advertising: the News and the Free Press merged to become the News-Free Press. Well, maybe it was a case of too-much-advertising.

In this week's AWAD, we have selected words from the names of newspapers. Two examples of the newspapers with today's word in their names are the Times-Picayune and the Picayune-Item. While the critics of some of these newspapers may believe that they are so named because they deal in trifles, we have different news. They are so named because they could then be bought for a few cents, or because they originated from the town of the same name. The former publication raises its flag in New Orleans, Louisiana, while the latter calls Picayune, Mississippi its home. Incidentally, did you notice the two newspaper names are near-anagrams?

While on this topic, let's clear a folk etymology along the way. No, the word `news' didn't form from the initials of the four directions of the compass (North, East, West, South). It came from the word `new' as in "What's new?"

picayune

Pronunciation RealAudio

picayune (pik-uh-YOON)

adjective:
1. Of little value or significance.
2. Petty, small-minded.

noun:

1. A Spanish-American coin equal to half the value of a real (a silver coin).
2. A small coin, especially a five-cent piece.
3. Something or someone of little value.

[From French picaillon, from Provençal picaioun, a small coin.]

"One could criticize the book as having a progovernment bias, but such criticism would be picayune and, I believe, wrong."
F. Frederick Hawley; Terrorism in America; Social Forces; Mar 1, 1995.

"Well, it is not supposed to be good form these days to dwell on the picayune personal problems, especially of Republicans, but, you know, I've never been much for form. So, of the speaker, Gingrich's three recent personal problems - his mother, his historian and his book - the book is potentially, I think, the most serious."
Dan Schorr; Reality Sets in for New Congress, Weekend Edition; NPR; Jan 14, 1995.

X-Bonus

Don't discuss yourself, for you are bound to lose; if you belittle yourself, you are believed; if you praise yourself, you are disbelieved. -Michel de Montaigne, essayist (1533-1592)

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