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AWADmail Issue 121

May 9, 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: Interesting stories from the net

The Language Detective:

How to Navigate Scientific Language:

From: Amanda Crowley (amandacrowleyATrehabprograms.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--idiot savant

History behind the term idiot savant: There were no early tests used to determine the functioning level of people with disabilities, people were classified as: idiot, imbecile or moron. In the late 1950s it was decided to administer the standard IQ test (initially used to classify WW-I Service men).

From: Peirce Hammond (peirce.hammondATed.gov)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--spendthrift

The word "spendthrift" is an insult, or at least a putdown, for one living in an economic system like our own. But in a gift economy--think potlatch--there is no greater compliment. Neither would there be a contradiction--giving is the measure of one's prosperity. Perhaps we could use more of that frame of mind.

From: Jason Gresh (jgreshATsportingnews.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pianoforte

It might be worth mentioning that in contemporary usage among musicians and concertgoers the word fortepiano usually indicates a performance on a "period" instrument, and is meant to contrast with piano, implying the modern instrument.

From: Margaret Maxfield (mmaxf2ATyahoo.com)
Subject: History Today, sophomore

I hope this week's oxymorons will include "sophomore", and did you know that historians rejoice in their journal "History Today"?

From: Charles Small (curmudgeon1ATsympatico.ca)
Subject: Oxymorons

I thought of your oxymoron collection today, having spent a few hours PLANTING a garden of WILD FLOWERS.

From: Andrew Smith (asmithATmail.wrl.org)
Subject: My Favorite Oxymoron

The late 20th century addition to the oxymoron family - Microsoft Help.

From: Brian Dorsk (invinoveritas1ATaol.com)
Subject: oxymorons

I would also like to contribute a couple of oxymorons that I have enjoyed for years, the first of which seems temporally appropriate now vis-a-vis the current Iraq conflict: military intelligence and posthaste.

From: Alan Tobey (alantobeyATearthlink.net)
Subject: Oxymoron

To continue the May 2 discussion of oxymorons, currently-suffering fans of our local baseball team here in the San Francisco Bay Area have proposed what may be the world's first one-word oxymoron: Giants!

From: Banerjee (banerjeemtATexeculink.com)
Subject: oxymorons and other paradoxes

If your are interested in paradoxes of all varieties, check out "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid," by Douglas Hofstadter. Therein, you'll find gems such as:

The following statement is false.
The preceding statement is true.

Men ever had, and ever will have leave, / To coin new words well suited to the age, / Words are like leaves, some wither every year, / And every year a younger race succeeds. -Horace, poet and satirist (65-8 BCE)

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