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AWADmail Issue 115

March 8, 2004

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: Viruses, suggestion, administrivia and an interesting story

Many of the viruses forge the From: line of email. Remember, we do not send attachments. If you receive an email message that supposedly came from Wordsmith.org but has an attachment, you can safely delete it. Also, we use Linux, not Windows. You can't get a virus from us.

Use an anti-virus software. Virus and spam often feed on each other. Your virus-infected PC is used by spammers to send out spam.

When you reply to an email from us, please do not include the original message. We already have it. Also, do not send us messages with attachments -- we filter them out.

And finally, something more interesting, a story about the English language. Do you think English will go the way of Latin?

From: Andrew Kay (akayATsharp.co.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--jawbone

You wrote:
We'll start near the top of the human body and move down as the week progresses.

Watch out for complaints on Wednesday.

From: Martin Andic (martin.andicATumb.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--jawbone

The use of the word "jawbone" as a verb to mean talking things out, negotiating, predates Lyndon Johnson! Winston Churchill in the later 1940s is said to have been fond of the slogan "Better jaw, jaw, than war, war." And Tobias Smollett in Roderick Random (1748) writes "None of your jaw, you swab" and "they jawed together fore and aft a good spell."

From: Carol Brinneman (carol_brinnemanATsil.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--jawbone

Here's what came to me as soon as I read the definition of the verb form of "jawbone." From the Old Testament (New International Version):

Judges 15:14 As he (Samson) approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands.
15 Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.
16 Then Samson said, "With a donkey's jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey's jawbone I have killed a thousand men."
17 When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi.

From: Steve Hauser (shauserATnewton.physics.uiowa.edu)
Subject: body parts

While in many languages the emotions may rest in the heart it finds a place in the liver in Malay. "Baik hati", literally "good liver" means kind.

From: Don Francis (donfrancisATnetva.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--flatfoot

The word "flatfoot" also refers to a form of mountain, or country, dancing in the Appalachian area, at least.

From: Jeffrey Brandstetter (sfentlawyerATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--flatfoot

There's a third meaning for the word "flatfoot" that is a euphemism used in filmmaking. It refers to shooting a scene with every (unnecessary) detail included, as opposed to cutting to the relevant footage. An example of flatfooting a scene might be showing someone arriving at a destination, opening their door, getting out of their car, walking all the way up a walkway, ringing the doorbell, waiting for the reply, and then entering. Unless there is some cinematic reason for showing each of the above-described details, a director will often simply show the car arriving and cut to the character at the door or some other redacted variation of the scene.

From: Liana MacKinnon (lianamacATmsn.com)
Subject: body parts

I'll bet we can all name a couple of body parts that are frequently used metaphorically but will never make it into your column!

From: David A. Tozier (wryrytrATjuno.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--potvaliant

I relate to potvaliant/ Dutch courage on four levels: 1. I've dabbled in "pot"/ possess a "pot"; 2. I used to own a Plymouth Valiant; 3. I've visited/ toured Holland; and, 4. I knew a 5' 0" alcoholic woman who -- "under the influence" -- attempted to resist arrest by three muscular police officers. Later, during a sobering moment, she shared that she had felt 10 feet tall!

From: David E Zornig (eighttrackdaveATwebtv.net)
Subject: potvaliant

As an ex-drinker, I was occasionally witness to this phenomenon. It was referred to as "Liquid Backbone".

From: Lance Bowden (lance_bowdenATexcite.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--potvaliant

For better or worse, I've never been able to read the word potvaliant without thinking of (and chuckling at) the less refined "beer muscles".

From: Herve Thomas (hervethomasATaol.com)
Subject: details about "pot".

I'm French. Yeah, I know... :o))).. didn't choose.
Now about "pot" (pronounced po). Among several others meanings, it's still used as an every day expression to say: "nous allons boire un pot" (we 're gonna have a drink), or, even more common; "il y a un pot pour.. le départ d'untel" (there's a "pot", really meaning that there's farewell party for "someone"). I believe that pot was the equivalent of what's now a glass.

From: Amanda R. Bolton (aboltonATjobservice.us)
Subject: Potvaliant comment

Over the years my husband and I have accumulated a few humorous stories of escapades conducted while under the influence of "liquid courage" as we like to call it. It's great to know that there is a perfect word to use when referring to these events: Potvaliant Tales.

I also like having a mental collection of words that my spell checker always insists are incorrect. Like for this email, it wants me to put a space in potvaliant = pot valiant. I think it's fun to be smarter than my own computer. :)

From: Kay Wright (kwrightATwolfenet.com)
Subject: Potvaliant/Dutch courage

I need to share with you an experience I had while living in The Netherlands.

I bragged to some of my Dutch friends about our various charming (so I thought) expressions such as Dutch treat, Dutch uncle, Dutch chorus, Dutch oven, etc. Without exception, they reared up to voice strong objection. They told me that these expressions are all pejorative and originated during a period of embattled conflict with England during the 17th Century. The English, as often happens in war, demonized the Dutch by portraying them as cheap, drunken, off-key and incapable of cooking anything more sophisticated than a meal-in-a-pot. In 1626 the Dutch founded New Amsterdam, but in 1655 the English seized it and changed the settlement's name to New York. Had the Dutch prevailed, we might have inherited slurs against the English. Nevertheless I learned a useful lesson from my Dutch friends--which, in the spirit of shared understanding, I offer to you. When my Dutch friends heard the unintended slurs (but slurs nonetheless) tumble innocently out of my mouth, they felt hurt and angry--not charmed.

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

An alternate term for that condition is anencephalic, which is a medical term. Apparently individuals are sometimes born with brains so undeveloped that they are in a perpetual vegetative state. Typically they don't last long, though.

From: Guy Letourneau (guy1656ATados.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--blunderbuss

Regarding the weapon itself, the wide mouth design also allowed a shooter to funnel in makeshift projectiles when cast lead balls ran out or weren't available. Typically this might mean a small handful of pebbles, but the gun could produce devastating results with a similar sized charge of nails or other bits of broken up metal.

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

Incidentally, it is incorrectly used in the sentence "The gallant soldier went to Buckingham Palace to benighted by the Queen" even though our royal family could be properly described as "being lost in an intellectual and moral darkness".

From: Nancy B. (nancybbATnts-online.net)
Subject: Words describing insults

I have found "pusillanimous" invaluable as insult. I used a variant last week to reply to an unsigned e-mail, insulting me over an expressed opinion. I addressed the sender as "Dear Pusillanonymous."

And once, when I'd been served a motel dinner so bad I couldn't finish it, as I laid down my fork, the waitress anxiously asked me, "Don't you want your dinner?"

I smiled and replied, "That is the most execrable food I ever had!"

She beamed. "Oh, thank you!" she earnestly replied. "We don't hardly git no compliments like that around heah."

From: Marshall Williamson (marzallATaol.com)
Subject: Re: Inoffensive insults

Having followed the ascending path of A-Word-A-Day for just two years now I realise that I may be something of a benighted neophyte (absolute sponge-like zoophyte, perhaps) when it comes to fully appreciating the challenges posed by the need for a weekly theme that keeps us, as subscribers, entertained and engaged.

But I must say that I find no particular virtue in this week's excerebrose attempt to corrupt the worldwide AWAD reading public with a new vocabulary whose sole purpose is to aim premeditated insults at the innocent and somewhat unlettered (if deserving) in a kind of scattershot, blunderbuss use of words solely to injure. Was this theme born of some potvaliant courage that derives its boldness merely from the faceless anonymity of the cyberworld?

And being just another correspondent to our lovely Word-A-Day I do hope that I might take some refuge in the advice that I might "...try these elegantly veiled insults without fear of offending."

    This theme was presented with tongue firmly in cheek. -Anu

From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Subject: Re: Portiere (Re: Aug 1994 archives)

Do you know that, as with PORTIERE, all the letters of the word TYPEWRITER are on the same line of a keyboard? They must have been arranged that way on purpose. Does anyone know why, when, and by whom?

Paul Smith, 82, who can't walk, read or write, and is confined to a wheelchair, uses only one line of an old-fashioned typewriter to draw superb sketches - and he's been doing that for more than 60 years.

His inspiring story is in the March issue of my free e-book.

Dictionary: Spell binder. -Joseph F. Morris

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