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AWADmail Issue 132

August 22, 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

Tongue Twisters:

English, in Anyone's Language:

Also, see this interesting new project:
The Omnificent English Dictionary In Limerick Form

From: Dale Roberts (drobertsATcasarino.com)
Subject: Jumping the shark

    "'Scrubs' continues to look for humor in medical mishaps... Hand me the defibrillator, stat, I've got to shock myself out of hysterics."
    Ted Cox; 'Scrubs' Hospitalized After Jumping Shark; Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, Illinois); May 7, 2002.
Today's offering contained a reference to another interesting term in our popular language. I wonder how many AWAD readers recognize that reference? In television lingo, the term "jumping the shark" refers to the point where a television show, usually a long-running one, markedly deteriorates in quality. The term comes from an episode of the long-running situation comedy Happy Days, wherein Fonzie jumped his water-ski over a live shark in the ocean. Many consider this to be the point where Happy Days lost its quality, if indeed it ever had any.

From: Kelly Bowman (bowmankATatt.net)
Subject: Latin spam

Just remember, in case of Latin spam - caveat emptor.

From: Cooper Griggs (cooperisATyahoo.com)
Subject: an anti-you-know-what program

I thought I could recommend a (free, open source, multi-platform) program that I use: Popfile.

It's the best filtering tool I've ever used, and I've tried more than a few.

From: Liane Berkowitz (lianeberkowitzATnoos.fr)
Subject: Spam in French

Your piece on "spam" made me think of something I heard on the radio the other day. As you probably know, the French-speaking Canadians are very much against the introduction of more and more English words into the language... so they constantly come up with FABULOUS new French words to counter the English ones.

An excellent example for this is the mot-valise (don't know how to say it in English... when two words form one) pourriel = spam. Pourri in French means rotten, spoiled and Courriel is the French version for e-mail!

    Mot-valise in English is a portmanteau word (e.g. SPAM = SPiced hAM), and the word portmanteau itself is a mot-valise from two French words.
    -Anu Garg

From: Chris Handley (chandleyATcs.otago.ac.nz)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--stat

I agree with you about spam, but sending the spammers to Mars is too expensive. A friend of mine who is helping write the NZ legislation to deal with this, says, quite bluntly: "Two hundred bullets would eliminate 90% of the world's spam overnight."

From: Shelley Poplak (shelleyATtamarindretreat.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--stat

This brings to mind the word stet which is used by proofreaders to signify I decided that the original is actually OK and I've changed my mind after all so just ignore this comment.

It reminds me of my time in an editorial department with a rather stuffy supervisor who had a copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage and a Rolodex full of correct usage tips which he wielded like legal precedents in a courtroom drama when challenged. But he also had a poster on the wall which read something like The greatest human passion is neither love nor hate, but the need to alter other people's copy. And the word alter was crossed out and change included, then the word change was replaced for amend and amend for revise etc etc.

It was a humbling reminder to allow others their freedom of expression.

From: Diana Phillips (dianamarkATjuno.com)
Subject: Latin

At one time, a dozen years after studying high school and college Spanish, I went to Venezuela to live due to my husband's work. For a while I was too embarrassed to try using my rusty Spanish with inadequate vocabulary. However, one cannot live that way and I soon found a solution. With a good background in Latin, I was able to function by tying Spanish endings to Latin roots.

From: Denis Shedd (qrATpipeline.com)
Subject: Regarding "stat"

Although rendered almost obsolete by the digital age, the word "stat" has been used by the graphic arts community for decades to define a high-resolution photographic print (usually black and white, no grays) of artwork, halftones ("veloxes," a truly outdated word) or contact prints made from lithographic film. In my business, I hear the word used and on occasion, I confess to using it myself. It may be one of those anachronisms our industry will never be rid of.

From: Yosef Bar-On (jobaronATgalon.org.il)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--terra firma

The old WW2 paratrooper's gag goes, "The more firma, the less terra!"

From: Elizabeth Creith (hedgehog.ceramicsATsympatico.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ceteris paribus

Many years ago when I lived in Toronto, I had friends who owned a cat they called Ceteris Paribus. They explained the term to me, and I was delighted with the name, because it reminded me of Kipling's Cat Who Walked by Himself, and all places (and, presumably, things) were alike to him.

From: Arrigo Mongini (arrigo.monginiATverizon.net)
Subject: ceteris paribus

The opposite of ceteris paribus is mutatis mutandis, which means "those things having been changed that are to be changed". While this is also an expression used by economists, I have always been amused by the fact that the Italian word for underwear is "mutande" (which is derived from the same Latin verb "mutare", to change). So I always think of mutatis mutandis as a change of underwear.

From: Brian N. Larson (blarsonATlarsonlegal.com)
Subject: Ceteris paribus and a faux-Latin phrase

I had a historical (and hysterical) linguistics professor in college who was fond of "ceteris paribus". He combined it with a clause in English: "Ceteris paribus, and they never are." Is there an expression for expressions making use of mixed tongues? ( It's macaronic. -Anu )

While I'm at it, this professor also introduced me to an expression that is rich with irony (or at least the potential for it) when used to describe the English language as the world's common commercial language: "Lingua franca" - an expression in the Latin language (or so I believed then), denoting the French (or "Frankish" or European) language, applied to the English language. Each language involved in this expression has been a lingua franca in some way or at some time; with the exception of English, they have all been eclipsed in that role. Of course, English may be facing the same fate - anyone know how to say "lingua franca" in Mandarin?

For a long time, I thought lingua franca was Latin, but have since come to learn/believe it is of Italian origin.

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

In this day of polarized dichotomous extremism in reporting, it would be refreshing (indeed) to be informed via a "via media" media! However, such staff writers/editors/publishers would be accused of their being radically centrist. If they strained to present a balanced approach, wags would deem them to be vacillators!

From: Tara Housman (dross984ATearthlink.net)
Subject: Qua - You leaked one of my Scrabble secrets!

Thank you SO much for your A.Word.A.Day mailings. They're delightful, informative, and most welcome....usually.

Today, though, you've helped to whittle away my edge in future Scrabble games with friends. Qua is one of my favorite words to keep in my quiver, in case I need a way to dump the Q-tile in a three-letter space.

Could you promise me one thing, though? Please wait at least a year (preferably longer!) before you feature the word "qat" in A.Word.A.Day, okay?

What word has st in the middle, in the beginning, and the ending? (Hint: it anagrams to 'Kind ants'.)

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