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AWADmail Issue 163

May 15, 2005

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: Miscellaneous notes about AWADmail

If you wish to write to the correspondents whose comments are included in AWADmail, remember to replace "AT" in their email addresses with "@".

To keep each issue of AWADmail brief, we include only a few of the readers' comments. You're welcome to join the discussion of words at the bulletin board.

From: Bill Daly (billdalyATcableone.net)
Subject: Vacations (Re: gordian)

Your comments reminded me of a vacation to St. Louis several years ago. I had it jam packed with activities. About the 3rd day we were returning to the motel room when my oldest son (about 12 at the time) said, "Dad, I need some time off."

We slept in the next morning and skipped, uh ?? I forget what.

From: Doug Pahl (dpahlATkahlerslater.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bindlestiff

The word bindlestiff instantly brought me back to high school, and the reading of Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. Lenny and George, the two wayward travelers always conjured up images of a stick, slung over a shoulder, with a red bundle at the end.

From: John Burbidge (burbidgeATcenturytel.net)
Subject: Bindlestiff

For Australians, a bindlestiff would be better known as that swagman carrying his "matilda", as in that famous song which has become Australia's unofficial anthem, Waltzing Matilda. Another intriguing term for waltzing one's matilda is "humping your bluey", equally obtuse but certainly as poetic and possibly lending itself to other interpretations too. For everything you ever wanted to know about this gem of Australiana, you probably can't beat the National Library of Australia's discussion of Waltzing Matilda.

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

> ... according to the county agent, the very
> process of tilling and watering may be more
> important than the provender."
> Joan Kaufman; The Greening of New York City;
> The Wall Street Journal (New York); Apr 23, 1985.

I wonder if by that the agent means that the tilling and watering are good for the gardens or the gardeners or the city. In my estimation it's all of the above.

Getting one's hands in the dirt is a satisfying experience, and making things grow, be they edible vegetables, ornamental vegetables, or flowers,

satisfies a creative impulse in a very positive way. In an urban landscape, having growing plants and live soil is a welcome relief, both physically and esthetically, to the concrete and stone.

The fresh vegetables that the gardeners eat (and if they raise zucchini, give away) are a sort of collateral benefit.

From: Jeffrey Fleischmann (cosmicompATadelphia.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--persiflage

This word reminds me of a phrase I learned decades ago that someone told me was a highfalutin way to say "BS", namely "meretricious persiflage". This phrase is probably only quasi-synonymic for BS, but I immediately loved it and have used it many times over the years. I thought you might find it of interest, if you haven't ever heard or read this praise.

From: Jacco Burger (j.burgerATtnw.tudelft.nl)
Subject: The urban legend of the space pen

In AWADmail Issue 162 David Bhseman wrote :
> 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.

This story is an urban legend. Indeed a pen was designed that writes in weightlessness, but it is developed by an individual (Paul Fisher) and not by NASA. The Soviet Union actually purchased 100 of the Fisher pens back in 1969, for use on its Soyuz space flights! More info:

He that uses many words for explaining any subject, doth, like the cuttlefish, hide himself for the most part in his own ink. -John Ray, naturalist (1627-1705)

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