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AWADmail Issue 150

January 9, 2005

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Shara Svendsen (sharasvenAThotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--skookum

Thank you so much for including a word from a native language of the local area. After attending the Seattle Art Museum's show on Spanish exploration, my husband (from Mexico) and I were comparing how the native languages fared after conquest. In Mexico, many people continue to speak their native language as their first language, and many of the plants and animals are still known by the names given by local peoples. It seems that the native languages in the US fared much worse. We don't even call native trees or flowers by their original names (think of Douglas fir, blue spruce, killer whales). Besides place names, and parka and kayak, I couldn't think of any native words. Thank you so much for including "skookum" in this list!

From: Mazie (maziecATearthlink.net)
Subject: Skookum

The Skookumchuck river in the state of Washington could be used as an example. It must have been full of fish when it was named.

From: Sandy & Tom Gibbons (iamATreachone.com)
Subject: skookum

Odd that you recognize a word from the Chinook, but the Chinook tribe in south-west Washington is not recognized as a tribe. (no casino here!)

From: Susan Grigor (sgrigorATbelco.bc.ca)
Subject: Re: skookum

Here in Bella Coola, BC, Canada, we say "skookum chuck" for the ocean (big sea), and someone may serve a skookum cup of coffee. A man is skookum if he can lift logs--large, strong and tough.

From: Ed Buhl (etbuhlATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--chaparral

Cowboys wear chaps -leather leggings - to protect their legs and pants when riding a horse through chaparral, usually to rescue a stray cow. The word comes from the chaparajos, apparently a blend of chaparral and aparejos (gear).

From: Robert Tristani (robert.tristaniATngc.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--skookum

To quote Orson Scott Card, "Once you know everything there is to know about someone, it leaves no room for hatred." (may not be exact, but it's close)

But there is also "Know your enemy. Know what he is thinking." from 'The Art of War' attributed to Sun Tsu. (Oxford's third edition translation, I believe)

Many Europeans know each others' languages, but they still managed to start both world wars. Civil wars and revolutionary wars tend to be among those who speak the same language. What I'm trying to say is that there is evidence and wisdom both for and against your writing below. Overall, though, I agree with what you're saying. Learn as much as you can about various cultures. My thinking is that way if you have to fight them, you will know them. If you conduct mutually beneficial commerce with them, you will know your market. If they are in need, you will know what to do to help them. If you are in need, you will know what to ask of them. As a maker of warships, I would love to be building specialized commercial ships instead. However, as long as there are Hitlers, Stalins, etc., etc., I choose to continue to manufacture the best warships the world has ever seen.

From: Bob Wilson (bobwilsonATkc.rr.com)
Subject: Learning languages 'boosts brain'

I could not agree with Charlemagne's more. I took a year of French in high school, and 13 hours of French in college. About five years ago we made friends with a French family that lives in the suburbs of Paris. That was the impetus to get me back into the books. I now read and write French reasonably well, and can speak and understand it well enough to get by.

We maintained contact with our Paris friends ever since. I was a pilot for Continental Airlines and flew into Charles de Gaulle several time a month and stayed at our friend's house 2 to 3 times a month for five years. We also have spent several weeks with them either in Paris or here in the US.

One of the unexpected consequences was that I began to understand why so many Americans consider the French, especially the Parisians, to be rude and to dislike Americans. The reason was simple; we do not understand them or their way of life.

Perhaps the most interesting thing grew out of the War in Iraq. I find now that my wife and I are one of the few who still like France and the French. Learning their language and really experiencing their culture gave me an appreciation and understanding of why France refused to participate in the invasion of Iraq.

From: John Graham (johnATjgrescon.fsbusiness.co.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nark

In the UK, a nark (as an informant to the police) is often referred to as a "copper's nark" - which, when spoken in a suitably sneering manner, is splendidly derogatory. In this context it is also used occasionally as a verb - to spy.

From: Diana Lieberman (dzlz105ATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--peri

Finally, you've chosen a word I am completely familiar with! The subtitle of the operetta "Iolanthe," by William S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan, which opened November 25, 1882, at London's Savoy Theatre, is "The Peer and the Peri."

The show concerns a shepherd named Strephon, who is half human. half fairy. (Leading another character to ask, ingenuously, "Which half?") Strephon's mother, a beautiful fairy named Iolanthe, was banished from fairydom many years earlier for marrying his father, a mortal. Since she is immortal, she has never grown older, a fact that leads to numerous complications when Strephon's fiancee catches him kissing Iolanthe.

Although not as well-known as "HMS Pinafore" and "Pirates of Penzance," "Iolanthe" is a delightful show, with clever dialogue and some beautiful music.

From: Dave Zobel (dzobelATalumni.caltech.edu)
Subject: Waxing Wroth

At one point in Horse Feathers, Groucho (as a college professor) is informed by his secretary, who has just entered in a fit of agitation, "The dean is furious! He's waxing wroth!" To which Groucho amiably replies: "Is Wroth out there, too? Tell Wroth to wax the dean for a while."

I bet Dean Wroth of the Vermont Law School gets a kick out of that one.

From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Subject: reprobate

Have you noticed how Naming and Shaming is the latest craze sweeping around the world? In olden days, law-abiding citizens imprisoned reprobates in stocks and hurled eggs and verbal abuse at them. Today, Laura Norder supporters punish mischief-makers and evildoers with Name and Shame ridicule. See an N & S roundup in the 50th edition of my free e-book, http://bdb.co.za/shackle

Language is the armoury of the human mind; and at once contains the trophies of its past, and the weapons of its future conquests. -Samuel Taylor Coleridge, poet, critic, and philosopher (1772-1834)

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