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AWADmail Issue 100

September 14, 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)
Subject: 100th issue

Welcome to the 100th issue of AWADmail, the newsletter with your comments and stories about words featured in A.Word.A.Day. We went to the AWADmail archives for a trip down memory lane. Here are some highlights:

Back when we had 4000! subscribers (Oct 4, 1994)

Collective nouns:
AWADmail 13 (Jun 16, 1999)

The word mondegreen elicits huge response any time it's mentioned:
AWADmail 14 (Jan 8, 2000)
AWADmail 28 (Mar 28, 2001)
AWADmail 29 (Apr 10, 2001)

Immediate reactions to Sep 11:
AWADmail 47 (Sep 16, 2001)

Special Peace Issue:
AWADmail 48 (Sep 20, 2001)

All AWADmail issues are in the archives.

From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: Wordlovers' Library Project Update

This week marks six months of the Wordlovers' Library Project. To see the stats and other details of the project, visit here.

This project is made possible through the support of Harnisch Family Foundation.

From: Angus MacLean Thuermer (thuermer_aATmediasoft.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sui generis

When George Bush Sr. became head of CIA, I was his press officer. I sat in on the "Morning Meeting". On the first or second day, I was commenting on his previous position as the representative of the United States in communist China, where he was neither an ambassador nor not an ambassador.

"George," (everything was very informal), "you were neither an ambassador nor not an ambassador; you were so unique, I suppose they served you chop sui generis."

All the Harvard, Heidelberg and Oxbridge graduates at the table had a chuckle. I am not sure his excellency got it.

From: Joshua Tanzer (joshuaAToffoffoff.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sui generis

Another example involving "sui generis" quoted in Slate:

New York Times, May 30, 1993
Because of a transmission error, an interview in the Egos & Ids column on May 16 with Mary Matalin, the former deputy manager of the Bush campaign who is a co-host of a new talk show on CNBC, quoted her incorrectly on the talk show host Rush Limbaugh. She said he was "sui generis," not "sweet, generous."

From: Sarah Tudgey (tudgeyAThotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sui generis

Latin is also being kept alive in other ways. Following in the footsteps of other translations into Latin like winnie ille pu (Winnie the Pooh) and ursus nomine paddington (Paddington Bear), the first Harry Potter has recently been translated into Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis and at the bookstore where I work it is selling quite well. The language is also still taught at some schools in the UK. It is nice to see that while the English language constantly evolves and moves forward, there are people who are keeping its roots alive.

From: Tom Houston (thoustonATus.ibm.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tu quoque

The phrase also has a rather more somber literary connotation. Some Latin epitaphs (in the literal sense of words carved on tombstones) ended with the phrase


(or "you too, traveler") to remind the reader that someday he or she will have passed from among the living.

From: Leonard Attard (lattardATodpp.nsw.gov.au)
Subject: Latin contributions to the English language.

I am greatly enjoying this week's theme of Latin contributions to the English language. Back in 1961 to 1963 when I was a student in a Catholic monastery to become a Passionist priest (founded by St Paul of the Cross in Italy in the early part of the 18th century), I recall an episode when someone constructed what is very difficult in Latin - a pun.

Two priests arrived at a doorway together, and the senior stood back and said, "Seniores priores" (elders first - priores pronounced "pree or rays"). The junior replied, "Seniores peiores" (elders worse) "peiores" pronounced " pee or rays".

From: Heather Stone (heather46ATozemail.com.au)
Subject: Everyday Latin

And to think that at school we used to believe that the QED at the end of a geometry theorem was meant to stand for "Quite easily done"!

From: Capt. G.Kent Andersen, P.M, ISME (spotonATjuno.com)
Subject: A follow-up to retromingent

Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit.
Wise man does not urinate against the wind.

From: Ann C Smith (agwizATjuno.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ad lib

It is also used as an adjective to describe the availability of food to animals in kennels, research facilities, etc. Food is supplied "ad lib.", meaning it's put in a dish which is kept full, and the animals can eat when they like.

From: Eleanor Grim (ecgrimATaol.com)
Subject: Infant (Re: nom de guerre)

You may be interested to know that infant also has a very specific meaning in medicine. It means "the human young from the time of birth to two years of age" according to Dorland's Medical Dictionary. That is quite different from the legal definition which includes anyone below the age of consent.

From: Jim Campbell (jim_cATxprt.net)
Subject: Infant Soldiers

I would like to add little perspective to your discussion of infants and infantry. Infants can't speak, infantry may not speak. Apparently through the ages in all countries, one constant is that being in the army consists of standing in large rectangular groups, not speaking.

When I was in, our saying was that "Infants in the infantry don't have as much fun as adults in adultery."

From: Friederike Werner (fwernerATroeperhof.de)
Subject: Infantry

They are certainly not boring but sometimes very revealing! The poor foot-soldier is not defined by his ability to speak but to march, follow orders and serve as "Kanonenfutter", as we say in German (cannon fodder).

From: Simon Warwicker (simon.warwickerATambascience.co.uk)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--nom de guerre

If the infantry are unable to speak, does that make them grunts? :o)

From: Ann Marie (LadyannsfATaol.com)
Subject: Nom de

Back in the old days--1997--when I first went on-line, I was awed at all the screen names. It seemed every person in the country had at least two personas. I started calling my online screen name, my nom de cyber.

From: MaryAnne Hamblen (mhamblen1ATearthlink.net)
Subject: infante

Another meaning derived from the same root as infantry is the historical Spanish and Portuguese usage of infante/infanta as any son or daughter of a king except the heir to the throne. For example, in the famous painting by Diego Velasquez (1599-1660), depicting la infanta Maria de Austria.

From: Henry Russell (henry.russellATvirgin.net)
Subject: Nom de guerre

Why did people assume names when they went to war? Why, for example, should the poet Coleridge have been Silas Tomken Cumberbatch? Was it in case they were held to ransom? Or to hinder subsequent identification if they committed an atrocity?

From: Lars Christensen (larschristensenATyahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--antebellum

In the German film "Ex-Fuehrer," I was surprised (and initially confused) to see this used in the subtitles as the translation of German "Vorkriegs." The translation is literally correct, but of course the war the characters were referring to was World War II. I believe "pre-war" is the more general term in English and would have been a better translation, even though it, too, is etymologically speaking the same word.

From: Josef Baron (jobaronATgalon.org.il)
Subject: Antebellum

Another word derived from Bellum is Parabellum, another name for the Luger pistol - much used in Israel before 1948 as the weapon of choice in the underground organizations fighting the British for independence.

From: Lynn Mancini (manciniATcollege.dtcc.edu)
Subject: War-related terms

Thank you for giving me the perfect opportunity to share with other word-lovers a riddle I created: What word in the singular refers to a collection of people as a whole, but in the plural refers to the individuals within a group?

The answer is "troop". A Boy Scout troop is a collection of people, but if the government were to send 100 troops overseas, 100 individuals would have been transported.

From: Paul F. Lyman (plymanATuwm.edu)
Subject: expletives (Re: AWADmail 99)

Regarding Latinate vs. Anglo-saxon words in expletives and speech in general, I wanted to share a story from my father. When we did something naughty but minor, he would loudly and angrily bellow: "Do you want me to exonerate you?" To which, we would cower and say, "No, no, daddy, please don't exonerate us!" I can't remember how long he got away with that!

From: Louis Di Guiseppe (louis155_11ATjuno.com)
Subject: Cuss words

A colleague of mine and I were both teachers in a junior high school in Brooklyn, N.Y A group of unruly students continually used expletives that were particularly offensive. m-----f----- the word used most profusely caused my friend to call the group to attention and in a solemn voice said: "Mater Fornicator, please" I can still see the perturbed look on their faces, even now.

We should have a great many fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas, and not for things themselves. -John Locke

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