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AWADmail Issue 162

May 7, 2005

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

From: Tor Fosnaes (torATmobilewords.ca)
Subject: Newfoundland version of Gordian

Trawl lines are extremely long fishing lines with a hook every meter or so. They are coiled in tubs (barrels) for deployment in the ocean, and when recovered are again coiled into their containers. Even at the best of times, trawls can cause trouble as they are easily tangled. An older woman in a grocery store, when looking for her money in her new wallet and thereby delaying the people in the line behind her, was heard to remark., "Oh my, I'm as tangly as trawls today!"

Another "Gordian" Newfoundland process was the untangling of skeins of homespun wool. In this case it was traditionally done by elderly blind women.

In trawls and wool the "sword" solution was unacceptable.

From: David Bhaseman (davidbhasemanATmac.com)
Subject: Gordian knot solution - an example

I am told that the US spent a lot of money trying to find a pen that would write in weightlessness. They showed the "Space Pen" to the competing Russians. They showed the US reps - a pencil.

From: Karen S. Torres (karenAThayjones.com)
Subject: Gordian knot

A classic example of figuratively cutting the Gordian knot comes from the movie "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Indiana Jones is facing a black-robed warrior twirling and flashing a scimitar to the awe of the Kasbah marketgoers. Indie rolls his eyes, pulls his pistol and summarily shoots the guy. Moral: never bring a knife to a gunfight!

From: Jane Mobley (janemobleyATearthlink.net)
Subject: guinea pigs are herbivores

If the ad you mentioned indeed had a guinea pig and a piece of cheese, the maze wasn't the only problem to be solved. Guinea pigs I have known would rush to an apple or a carrot and they shriek with excitement when lettuce leaves rustle. But not cheese. Maybe it was a rat?

From: Herbert M. Rosenthal (herbroseATcomcast.net)
Subject: Gordian knot and microwave ovens

Several years ago (before the price of a new one dropped so drastically), our microwave oven crumped. Just died. Well, EEs (electrical engineers) don't take that easily. A neighbor helped me carry it (this is a very large and heavy Sharp oven) to the garage workbench, where I proceeded to dismantle it to find the cause of the failure. There are four critical parts in the oven: a microwave tube, a transformer, a capacitor and an avalanche diode. While these terms may not mean much to the non-technical reader, they are common to an an EE, and particularly to a ham radio operator (of some 50 years then). But it was not to be an easy task, I realized, for none of my modest test equipment could diagnose the failed components at their very high operating voltage.

A trip to a repair shop and a friendly repairman offered the following advice: an easy way to test the transformer, and instead of isolating the other three components, simply replace them all! He had been doing this for years, as the cost of the parts was less than the labor to isolate the failed part. Total cost was around $45, and the oven works to this day.

My Gordian knot was easily untied by selecting "all" instead of "which one".

From: David Sacks (dsacks1776ATaol.com)
Subject: Gordian

The adjective "Gordian" surely refers primarily to the place where the knot was located: Gordium (modern Yasihuyuk), which as you rightly mention was in Phrygia. Gordium was a real place, now corroborated by archaeology. Maybe a King Gordius is mentioned in legend, but I've never read that detail before.

The famous knot was publicly displayed on a chariot yoke at Gordium, and Alexander stopped by there in his campaign.

David Sacks, author, Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World.

From: Liron Newman (plastishATultinet.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mammon

In Hebrew, the word "mammon" also means riches and wealth. The financial section of one of the biggest daily newspapers in Israel is called "Mammon" because of that.

From: Jeb B. Raitt (raittjbATssg.navy.mil)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cain

Q: What did Adam do when he wanted sugar for his coffee? A: He raised Cain.

From: Nancy Bronwell (nancybbATnts-online.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gorgonize

"Gorgonised me from head to foot
With a stony British stare."
Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Maud; 1855.

This reminds me of someone who translated, "Here comes the Englishman with his usual "sang froid", as "Here comes the Englishman with his usual bloody cold."

From: Robert J. Skinner (memphisbobAThotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--phoenix

There is a similar creature in Indonesian mythology, the garuda. This bird is born by erupting out of its parent's body when the parent dies. The Indonesian national airline is named after it.

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

The Scotsman newspaper has used the word PERPEND only 31 times in 188 years, and TEMPORIZE 33 times. By contrast, it has published your other verbs, ADDUCE, ANIMADVERT and PALTER more than 1000 times. I discovered this by searching a wonderful new digital archive that the Edinburgh paper - one of Britain's best - has made available. It offers copies of stories from every page it has published since its first issue in 1817. Several historic reports, including the assassination of President Lincoln, are free to Internet surfers. (An apt anagram of THE SCOTSMAN is HASN'T COST ME).

There is no more irritating fellow than the man who tries to settle an argument about communism, or justice, or liberty, by quoting from Webster. -Mortimer J. Adler, philosopher, educator, and author (1902-2001)

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