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AWADmail Issue 125

June 15, 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

Once-dying Chinook Language Finds Future:

A Dog's Vocabulary:

From: Eleanor Dugan (DuganekATaol.com)
Subject: Lack of verbs

There was a wonderful Doonsbury cartoon a few years back about Ted Kennedy making a speech. After a very long sentence that was going nowhere and saying nothing, the audience began calling out, "A VERB, Senator, a VERB!"

From: Bob Fiori (robtfioriATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--amerce

    "Uncouth though he was, (Geoffroi) le Brun was at least more sophisticated an operator than some of his neighbours. Most of them simply mulcted, amerced, plundered, ravaged, and otherwise terrified their trembling feudal subordinates. Le Brun, advised by a monk skilled in public relations, proceeded more cautiously. He wrote them long letters explaining why what he did was entirely necessary and in their best interests. Only then did he mulct, amerce, plunder, ravage and otherwise terrify them."
    Smallweed; The Guardian (London, UK); Jan 28, 1995.
This is exactly what corporate America does today. It writes letters explaining why the changes they are making to your contract are entirely necessary and in your best interests. And then they proceed to mulct, amerce, plunder, ravage and otherwise terrify you."

From: Michael Poole (michaelATcew.melco.co.jp)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--deracinate

What a word! I love it. I'm seriously deracinated: a "South Pacific Pom" living in Japan. People here always ask visibly obvious aliens like me where they come from, but I'm so deracinated I don't have a good answer, not even for myself.

From: Raymond Anderson (raymondaATiafrica.com)
Subject: deracinate / racinette

I was surprised to see the entry on "deracinate", meaning: 1. To uproot, or 2. To displace someone or something from a native culture or environment. I just visited my home in Canada, where one of my favourite soft drinks is root beer. Being a bilingual country the labels also have the French name, "racinette".

From: James Schoening (jmsATvcn.bc.ca)
Subject: Downsizing of Verbs

One place that verbs are becoming scarce is in TV newscasts. Many American and Canadian newscasters leave out the verb to be in the first sentence of a news story. I assume that this is done somewhat in the spirit of a headline, but it is different from a newspaper headline. Whereas a newspaper might say, "President Bush Visits Iraq," the TV version might be, "Today, President Bush visiting Iraq." There is no "is"! I find it particularly jarring to hear this.

From: Helene Demeestere (lndmstrATaol.com)
Subject: Thaler

Mentioning the novel of Thaler, "The train from nowhere" reminded me of a literary work by a very feminist French writer, some thirty years ago, who published a novel where she replaced all the words including the four letters Pere (father) by replacing the P for an M, which became Mere (mother) such as Permanent became Mermanent, Perfusion, Merfusion and so on.

From: Thomas Rush (thomas.rushAThp.com)
Subject: Re: borrowed terms playing by our rules (AWADmail Issue 124)

One of the 'neatest' examples of this phenomenon is found in Southern California, where people often talk about The La Brea Tar Pits (resting place of thousands of prehistoric animals that became trapped and then preserved in the sticky natural asphalt).

'La brea' is Spanish for "The tar", so people are speaking of "The The Tar Tar Pits."

Language is fossil poetry. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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