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AWADmail Issue 105

December 20, 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: Gift subscription sent on a particular date

It's now possible to send a gift subscription at a future date. You can enter the details now and it'll be sent on the date you specify.

From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

World's largest book published: cnn.com
The book: amazon.com

What's a spider hole?:

From: Ron Voss (ronATvosses.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--canard

The Wright brothers' accomplishments are legendary, but let us not forget Alberto Santos-Dumont of Brazil, who invented and flew the first true airplane by adding the ability of a heavier-than-air device to take off under its own power with no headwind.

From: Michel Thion (aut.riveATimaginet.fr)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--canard

May I mention that a "canard", in French, means also in common slang a newspaper, which in popular imagination are supposed to usually and deliberately lie (but is this only imagination ?). The most famous satiric French newspaper is "Le canard enchaîné", which was born during the first world war to reveal the military lies, "canards", about battles always won by french troops, and others "tactical retreats".

From: Jane Day (jatilfoATcs.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--contrail

"God does not play dice," we know Dr. Einstein said, yet who knows what really happens in the blue overhead? When contrails crisscross, we who see them from below think perhaps the gods are playing tic-tac-toe.

From: Cliff Smith (cliff.smithATae.ge.com)
Subject: Mach number

I was interested to note that all the usage examples of Mach number had it properly capitalized, but the citation itself was lower case.

The most consistent style that I am aware of in technical writing capitalizes the eponymous portion of phrases such as "Mach number", while not capitalizing equally (or more) famous quantities such as "pi" or "speed of light". This style generally extends to abbreviations as well. "W" for Watt vs "g" for gram, for example.

Mach, Watt, Ampere, Newton, and dozens of others are accorded the honor of having their names live on in recognition of their contributions to mathematics, science, and engineering. I, for one, will also do them the honor of always capitalizing their names, in any context.

From: Deborah Blankenberg (dblankenbergAThotpop.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--empennage

The etymology of yesterday's word interested me, particularly because my husband, an aircraft engineer by profession and long time radio-control pilot by avocation, often refers to a plane's empennage as its "tail feathers."

From: Janet O'Carroll (jocarrollATclear.net.nz)
Subject: Thanks

Many thanks from New Plymouth Girls' High School, New Zealand for the gift of the book "A Word A Day". The school librarians and I greatly appreciate this gift.

From: David Henn (dhennATaol.com)
Subject: 12 notes (Re: AWADmail Issue 104)

I just read the item in AWADmail Issue 104 about how many books have been written using only 26 letters.

Equally thought-provoking is the fact that there have been thousands of compositions in Western music using only 12 notes.

From: Richard Rosen (richard.rosenATverizon.net)
Subject: 26 Letters

I do not mean to minimize the wonder of the 26 letters and their contribution to our culture, but a little humility is in order. It took rearrangements of only four nucleic acids to create the DNA all of humanity -- past, present and future -- and only five (including RNA) to create all life as we know it. However wonderful we and our language are, they are characteristics of our humanity -- characteristics with which we have been blessed -- not human inventions.

To paraphrase Joyce Kilmer: Mere words are made by fools like us.

Modern English is the Wal-Mart of languages: convenient, huge, hard to avoid, superficially friendly, and devouring all rivals in its eagerness to expand. -Mark Abley, journalist (1955- )

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