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AWADmail Issue 110

January 27, 2004

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

From: Jeffrey W Comer (jcATjjc.cc)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--alienist

This reminds me of the great book, The Alienist, by Caleb Carr, which is about eight years old now. In the book, a reporter - the narrator - is assigned to follow a renowned scientist - an alienist - around New York City at the turn of the 20th Century as they attempt to solve a string of brutal murders.

We see how at that early date, the practices of psychology and psychiatry were in their infancy, and many in the scientific community were extremely skeptical. The sleuths manage to put together a psychological picture of their culprit, much as today we would run a psychological profile. It is riveting, made more so by the infancy and inexactness of profiling in that era: not only do they compile a profile, they refine the process for doing so.

It is much better than any episode of TV's "CSI" ever could be!

From: Diana C Bouchard (dbouchardATpaprican.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--alienist

In French the word "aliéné(e)" can be used to describe someone who is out of his or her mind. I think it is an older and more literary word, not as much used nowadays, at least not in Quebec.

From: David A. Reid (davidATcyberguild.com)
Subject: Re: alienist

After reading your commentary about obfuscation in advertising, I would like to share with you one (of my many) favorite lines from one of the famous crooner Tom Waits' songs (the title of which I don't remember right now - early onset of "Oldtimers'" Disease?)

"The big print givith and the small print taketh away."

From: Trish Awai (trishawaiATmac.com)
Subject: exclusive offer

What I do when I get those "exclusive offer" mailings is I attach a sticker I have fashioned myself that reads "rethink admail." I then stuff the entire mailing into the postage paid envelope and mail it away. I think I may have been removed from a mailing list or two as a result, but more importantly, it's somehow very satisfying to attach those little homemade stickers, seal the envelopes and send them off.

From: Paul Sweeney (easysweenATaol.com)
Subject: Kudos

Kudos to you for pointing out deceptive come-ons from advertisers et al. I've thought that it would be fun to teach a class on how people are dishonest: my current pet peeve is "buy one, get one free." Maybe it's two for the price of one, but it's not free.

From: Jack Waters (tpd127ATtampabay.rr.com)
Subject: Unopened Mail

Please do not discard junk mail without opening it. I manage a unit of the Tampa Police Department which, among other things, investigates Identity Theft. This is the fastest growing crime in the western world. One of the most common ways that this crime is committed involves the thief going through trash and finding credit card offers or credit checks.

From: Russell Remington (russell.remingtonATaccounting.ucsb.edu)
Subject: alienist

My observation is that whenever the word "important" appears on the outside of the envelope, it isn't. If it says "open immediately," it's even less important!

From: Joseph Spenner (joseph85750ATyahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--alienist

Here're a few!

"Limited Lifetime Warranty"

"Extended Basic Cable Television"

"This product uses almost no electricity." (almost no electricity?
Any amount of electricity is infinitely more than no electricity) "Car prices starting as low as $499!". So, they have 1 vehicle for $499, and all others around $39,999?

"You can lose 60 lbs in as little as 60 days!". Let's rephrase that: "You can lose 60lbs, but it will take at least 60 days."

"Order now, and you could qualify for a free trip to Elbonia!" So, if you order now, it's possible you could qualify to be in a drawing?

Just a few off the top of my head.

From: Mark Stenglein (markATstenglein.net)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--crapulent

Crapulent is one of my favorite words. Recently, after a giant holiday meal, my family and I were discussing our crapulence when the conversation turned to other words that end in -ulent. We came up with this sentence:

This succulent and opulent food and poculent wine are leading to crapulence, corpulence and flatulence.

From: Ri Weal (poetriATactrix.co.nz)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fencible

Settlements dating from early European times in New Zealand had fencible cottages. I always wondered what it meant, and had never clicked to add "de" in front.

Thanks for clearing up a mystery!

From: Hank McCarl (hmccarl62ATaol.com)
Subject: fencible - additional and more current definition?

Perhaps you might consider the more recent definition of fencible as stolen goods that can be sold for money through a fence (not a picket type).

From: John Graham (johnATjgrescon.fsbusiness.co.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--funicular

Funicle is also a term used in anatomy and biology to describe a small fibre or stalk. Funiculus is another term for the umbilical cord (not restricted to a woman giving birth in mountain railway car).

From: Jeb Raitt (raittjbATssg.navy.mil)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--funicular

And all this time I thought it had something to do with the "funnel-shaped" cone of a volcano. The only funicular railway with which I was familiar at all was the one that goes up the side of Mt. Vesuvius, for whose opening the song "Funiculi, Funicula" was written.

From: Judith Oneil (juju41ATmsn.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--missish

Thanks you for including the word "missish" last week. I remember this word being used in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. At the end of Chapter 57, Mr. Bennet asks Elizabeth, "You are not going to be missish, I hope, and pretend to be affronted at an idle report. For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbours and laugh at them in our turn?" In my edition of the novel, missish is italicized and my spell check has the word underlined as a misspelling. I have looked in several dictionaries but couldn't find the definition. Being a fan of Jane Austen, I had once thought of calling my local university English Dept. to ask about this word but didn't get around to it. What a wonderful surprise to see in on AWAD.

Life is a foreign language; all men mispronounce it. -Christopher Morley, writer (1890-1957)

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