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AWADmail Issue 130

August 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: Administrivia

It's time for a bit of administrivia...

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From: Zelda-Dvoretzky (mamazeeATnetvision.net.il)
Subject: Anglo-Saxon

Then there is "Anglo-Saxon" which is the blanket term Israelis use for all Anglophones here, whatever their country of origin. Being called "Anglo-Saxon" (plural; "Anglo-Saxim" pronounced with the shortest possible second "a,") was very strange to me, particularly since in my earlier life in the United States, I was anything but "anglo".

From: Jim Taggart (taggartATphotodetection.com)
Subject: doncs and dogs

I worked with a guy who lived part of the year on Patmos, a Greek island. There, he and his son had occasion to see donkeys in the area. His son knew what donkeys were, but when he was about 4, he started calling them "doncs." My friend puzzled about it for awhile, and then concluded that the kid had inferred a rule about language and then mis-applied it. He had learned that doggie is baby talk for dog, and horsie is baby talk for horse, and he was trying to sound more grown up!

From: Keen James (kkj2323ATcox.net)
Subject: Washington with eyes closed

Recalling deep into the past, my mother told me that I came home crying, from third grade, distressed that the teacher has insisted that I write "Washington" with my eyes closed. The next PTA meeting brought clarification: She had asked me to write "Washington" with my o's closed.

From: Marcia (queenauditATaol.com)
Subject: Old English

I would like to thank you for showing words that are derived from the Old English version. I will someday be an English major (if I ever decide to get out of college). I currently hold down a full time job working with the military and also go to college on the side. Several years ago when I transferred from CCRI to URI (University of Rhode Island) I had the chance to take a graduate level english class. I figured that as an older student I could handle it. Boy was I ever misguided. I took the Old English class that they offered and thought to myself that since I liked languages it should be pretty easy. Not really logical I can now say but I did get through the class with a B+. I worked harder for that class than any other class I have ever taken. Due to having to learn to pronounce, translate and read the old english I now have a fondness of looking to see if the words you use are taken from old english or middle english. Thank you for bringing back some "old" memories.

From: Kevin Irwin (kevin.irwinATabnamromellon.com)
Subject: When elephants fight...

I always love your quotes at the bottom. This one happens to be one of my favorites. However, there is a slightly better version of it that states "whether elephants make love or war, it is the grass that suffers", which adds just a bit more to the saying. At university I wrote a paper concerning the Cold War in Africa that was titled "Whether elephants make love or war" and argued that whether the US and USSR had disagreements or had tacit agreements with each other about how a country should align itself, it was always the little guys that suffered in the end.

Words are a mirror of their times. By looking at the areas in which the vocabulary of a language is expanding fastest in a given period, we can form a fairly accurate impression of the chief preoccupations of society at that time and the points at which the boundaries of human endeavour are being advanced. -John Ayto, lexicographer (1949- )

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