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AWADmail Issue 10

April 17, 1998

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

This compilation is based on the words sent during Mar 30-Apr 5, 1998. Check out the archive for Mar 1998 and Apr 1998 to see the words.

From: Eric Falkof (eric.falkofATdigital.com)
Subject: short words

A short note from a quiet and appreciative AWAD reader...

One of the most powerful sentences comprised of ten 2-letter words:
"If it is to be, it is up to me."

Thanks for the years of postings. Always informative and interesting.

From: Wayne Maple (abcowboyATrt66.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--vim

Can you find "vim" used WITHOUT "vigour"? I haven't. We can't expect "vim" to stand alone as a potent word.

    "Vim" is spirited enough to stand alone on its own though it prefers to bring "vigor" along. HotBot search engine lists almost 4 times as many Web pages having both versus those with vim alone:

    vim AND NOT (vigor OR vigour) : 35485 hits
    vim AND (vigor OR vigour) : 134443 hits

    Here is an citation with "vim" alone from a recent issue of The Daily Telegraph:

    "The songs, taken from the album, Life Thru a Lens, were solid and memorable, the musicians performed with commitment and vim, and Williams' voice was clear and accurate, if a little lacking in character."
    David Cheal, The Arts: Natural performer bounces back, The Daily Telegraph, 10-20-1997.


From: Tom Kohn (tkohnATscitexdpi.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fey

One additional, slang meaning of the word that should be included, especially for the ESL (English as a second language) readers, I've provided as meaning 3.

3. slang, often pejorative. Effeminate; affecting feminine characteristics. Effeminately gay or homosexual.

    Also noted by Alan Harris (alan.harrisATcsun.edu). -Anu

From: David Brain (braindATcix.compulink.co.uk)
Subject: Re: gest

Your entry on "gest" reminded me of one of the classic English adventure novels, Beau Geste (1924) by PC Wren. He worked in a variety of professions, including a stint in the French Foreign Legion, which is where the book is set. It was also parodied in the movie "Carry On, Follow That Camel" which featured a main character named "Beau Nidle" (which might possibly have been the best joke in it :-)

But it had never occurred to me that Geste's name might have had a more significant meaning; I just assumed that it was a badly-thought-up name.

From: Magdalena Cano Plewinska (mplewinskaATmindspring.com)
Subject: pounds to kilograms - AWAD 4-2-98

AWAD of 4-2-98 included this definition:

kip (kip) noun
A unit of weight equal to 1,000 pounds (455 kilograms).

I'll admit this is picky, but since 1 lb = 454 g (or 0.454 kg), 1000 lbs = 454 kg (actually 453.59, but I don't want to get picky )

    But you sure are getting kippy... Makes me wonder why the editors of AHD3 decided to round off the figure in the definition of "kip" while at "pound," they correctly note it as "A unit of weight equal to 16 ounces (453.592 grams)". For some reason it reminds me of the attempt, a hundred year ago, by the State of Indiana legislature to set the value of pi to a nicely rounded number 3. -Anu

From: Michael L. Hall (hallATgalt.lanl.gov)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dun

Another quotation that springs to mind for this word is from the bard himself, in a sonnet making merry with idolatrous Petrarchan love sonnets:

Sonnet CXXX
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
William Shakespeare

From: Jeff (admesqATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dun

An additional definition of "dun" which could have been included for etymological historicity would have been "Dun", the Celtic word for "fort", which appears particularly in Irish place-names, viz.: Dun Laoghaire, Dundalk, Duncannon, Dungarvin, Dunganstown, just to name a few. A cognate Scottish example would be Dundee.

    Also noted by Chris Schnurr (cjsATicbl.hw.ac.uk) and Clive Oakes (coakesATwaves.utoronto.ca). -Anu

From: Kevin Cole (kccoleATone.net)
Subject: origins of the word "dun"

In today's posting, the word "dun" is featured, in the sense of importuning a debtor for payment. This sense of the word is listed as "origin unknown" but I remember reading once that this use of the word had its origins in the practice (in the 1930s) of using the Dun and Bradstreet credit ratings by debt collectors to pick out debtors from whom it'd be profitable to collect. This of course could be an ex post facto assumption by the writer but you never know.

    Many people have written to suggest this etymology. While this makes for an interesting story, citations for the word "dun" are available from the period when D&B didn't even exist. Oxford English Dictionary lists citations a good 300 years before the date you suggested. See the next message. -Anu

From: Berkeley Fleminga (bflemingATmta.ca)
Subject: re: "dun"

According to John Ayto, Dictionary of Word Origins, "dun" in the first and second senses you have indicated is derived from "dunkirk," a seventeenth century term for "privateer," originally directed at those sailing from Dunkirk.

    Thanks for digging into the origins of "dun". My copy of Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology concurs. -Anu

From: Kraig M. Hill (kraigATigc.org)
Subject: Purl

When the nose of a surfboard (or kayak or other watercraft) catches on the surface of the water causing the board to stop suddenly (typically pitching the rider forward), the board and/or the rider is said to have "purled." I find it interesting that this definition seems to combine the elements of rippling water and the knitting stitch---the tip of the board pierces the water like a needle.

    Also noted by Michael McClure (michael_mcclureATfa.disney.com) and Harlan McKay (hmckayATtdrss.wsc.nasa.gov). -Anu

From: Bob Salmon (bobATgtl.com)
Subject: Word a day: maw

You may be interested in a stained glass window in Little Moreton Hall in Cheshire, UK. There is a picture of a wolf's head (maw) and next to it a barrel (ton).

From: Colleen McConnell (yu177380ATyorku.ca)
Subject: Unusual English spellings

With all these comments on the irregularity of English spellings, I just wanted to send a reminder that it is not all arbitrary - there are reasons for it all. For example, the much lamented "colonel" comes from the French "colonelle", in which the "l" is pronounced. As Bill Bryson writes in "The Mother Tongue", there was a time in England where two different pronunciations, following their respective spellings, ('kernel' and 'colonel') existed. When spellings were standardized after the invention of the printing press, the spelling that was chosen ("colonel") unfortunately did not reflect the pronunciation that would become predominant ("kernel"). Many other "problems" in our spellings have similar - and fascinating - explanations.

From: Brooks Slaybaugh (brooksATipi.irkutsk.su)

Hi, I'm an American English teacher in Siberia, 90 miles from Mongolia, working at a university, and I wanted to know if you could tell me what a couple of word s means. I teach the TOEFL, and I've been teaching science words. The words are titration and valence.

    Good to know that AWAD reaches as far as Siberia! You may find Dictionary/by/Mail service useful. To use it, send a blank email to wsmith@wordsmith.org with the subject line as "define titration" or whatever word you wanted to know the definition of. -Anu

This aphorism would be seven words long if it were six words shorter.

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