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AWADmail Issue 135

September 12, 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: Book giveaway update

Did you request a free copy of Guest Wordsmith Robert Fuller's book Somebodies and Nobodies on rankism? Here is an update: http://digdi.com

From: Sam Zeveloff (coatiATcomcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gulosity

The scientific or Latin name of the wolverine is Gulo gulo, which is based on its supposed "greed" for meat.

Sam Zeveloff, Professor of Zoology, Weber State University; Ogden, Utah

From: Andrew Denny (grannybuttonsATgmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gulosity

Re your points on spam, never mind the quality or value (or, indeed, existence) of the products they are selling. What I resent is the sheer incoherence of the message.

I think we'd all appreciate spam a bit more if there was wit and elegance, articulation and mastery and brevity of language in their messages!

And that, for me, is the interesting bit. There's a lacuna (have you done that word yet?) in the spam market, a gap waiting to be filled by an enterprising and educated villain.

From: Arrigo Mongini (arrigo.monginiATverizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--synesthesia

In 1962 or 1963 I saw a movie in Toronto entitled "Call Me Genius", starring the old British comedian, Tony Hancock, in which he plays the part of a crazy artist. I recall that one of the lines was: "I belong to the shape school. All the colors have different shapes."

From: Eleanor Jackson (elejATmindspring.com)
Subject: Synesthesia

As far back as I can remember, I've visualized words, particularly people's names, in colors when I'm reading, hearing, or even thinking of the names. (It annoys my color sense somewhat when first, middle and/or last names clash.) I never realized this wasn't something everyone else experienced until a few years ago when I mentioned it to someone and they had no idea what I was talking about. I vaguely remember an article on the subject of associating colors with words in a Smithsonian magazine a year or two ago, the first time I'd ever read anything about it. Incidentally, "Anu" is a light pink and "Garg" is a pinkish tan..my own first name is coral and my last name is a medium magenta (rather gaudy combination), whereas my husband's first name (begins with a D) is a dark blue and goes much better with our surname.

From: Jeremy Young (nonpartisan84AThotmail.com)
Subject: synesthesia

My sister is a synesthete. We discovered her talent one day when she had been studying the Lewis and Clark expedition and she remarked, "Sargeant Ordway is blue." We now have her labeling each member of the Expedition by color. I am also somewhat of a synesthete, as I see certain letters, numbers, musical composers and keys in color (the key of E is most definitely dusty yellow).

From: Anna Ingebretson (mail4me56547ATyahoo.com)
Subject: Synesthesia

This extrasensory trait seems also to be found not infrequently in musicians. As musicians, most of us deal to some extent with musical "colors" and "coloring," but not necessarily in the visible spectrum! Still, I once heard a violinist urging her rather perplexed quartet mates to "go for green" in a particular classical piece. "It's just...green," she tried to explain, unhelpfully I thought. They obviously didn't get it, but I didn't exactly either.

From: Khin Yee Lo (khinyeeATyahoo.com)
Subject: comments on synesthesia and chromesthesia

The phenomenon of synesthesia has been of interest in the field of psychology of music since the 1960s. Synesthesia is basically a multisensory response to a stimulus. In addition to hearing a musical tone, the respondent experiences the musical tone simultaneously in a non-auditory manner, such as by seeing a color or smelling an aroma. The experience is one of conscious sensation, not merely verbal association. To be precise, there is a type of synesthesia that describes the form of "color hearing" called chromesthesia, whereby a musical tone elicits a color as well as an auditory sensation. In a well-known case study conducted over a period of five years, music psychologists Haack and Radocy (1981) reveal how an art teacher demonstrates a remarkable range and consistency of tone-color sensory linkages. Absolute pitch (the ability to identify or produce a musical tone without the aid of an external reference tone), which the art teacher possesses independently of her chromesthesia, shows less stability than the chromesthesia. For her, high octaves of a musical tone tend to evoke a lighter color value, and lower octaves a darker value. "Black key" pitches are reported to elicit a greater color intensity. Interestingly, rapid arpeggiated, major chord tone sequences elicit chromesthetic response involving rapid flashes of colors, "somewhat like fireworks exploding." I am not sure if there is such a thing as absolute synesthesia (or absolute chromesthesia, for this matter), whereby people with chromesthesia consistently experience the exact same tone-color perceptions.

From: Jan Srinivasan (jan.srinivasanATcibc.com)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--anagnorisis

Your explanatory note about today's word made me chuckle and forward it to my old buddies-from-school mailing list. The situation you describe is a staple of innumerable Bollywood movies and in my boarding school in India, we used to spoof this very scenario endlessly.

From: G. Savin (hanganuATzahav.net.il)
Subject: anagnorisis

Then there is the story of the Soviet citizen who sees his mother again after 20 years of Goulag and recognizes her by her coat.

From: Nancy Ewing (nme75ATyahoo.com)
Subject: anagnorisis

I just want to say thanks for what is probably an unexpected result of your work. I enjoy A Word A Day as a break from my fiction writing and as a bit of mental exercise. Yesterday, while pondering the ending of my play that just wasn't working, I read the simple breakdown you wrote defining anagnorisis and its relation to peripeteia and found what was missing in my play -- the characters coming to an understanding of each other. I had read Aristotles Poetics in college, but that was a while ago. Thanks for a concise reminder (and the link).

From: Nancy Cross (ncrossATmadonna.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--shivaree

Having grown up in the rural Midwest, where chivarees (as we spelled it) were quite the custom, I know that you have left out a key element of that ritual: the timing. The noisemaking (which can also include such elements as trumpets and drums, if the couple's friends have them) is done sometime after midnight under the window where the newlyweds are presumed to be "sleeping".

From: John H. DeTar M.D. (urojakeATtorchlake.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--shivaree

In the Basque tradition a shivaree is reserved for the mother of the bride if she gets pregnant before the bride. I learned this from Basques in Reno, NV.

From: Byron Gassman (b_gmanATmsn.com)
Subject: shivaree

In my small central Utah community--at least 50 years ago--a shivaree might involve tying tin cans to the rear bumper of the newlywed's getaway car. Or it could also be friends following the getaways in their own cars honking them out of town

From: Shane Galtress (shaneATgaltress.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--shivaree

"The London Charivari" was the subtitle of Punch the famous and remarkably long lived, satirical magazine, sadly no longer with us (1841-2002 RIP). Always wondered why it was so named, but now it makes perfect sense.

Every word was once a poem. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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