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AWADmail Issue 164

May 21, 2005

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

From: Jim Dette (jtdetteATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--abigail

In the early 1950s I worked in French Morocco and lived in a construction camp. Some of the married men whose wives accompanied them lived in the nearby town. They all had housemaids that they referred to as fatimas and pronounced as fah-TEEM-ah. Fatima was the daughter of Mohammed and is very common name, similar to Maria in Latin America.

From: Kamil Gryko (kamil.gATwp.pl)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Gresham's law

Gresham was not the first to formulate the law. It is also sometimes called the Copernicus-Gresham's Law, after Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish astronomer, who wrote 'Monetae cudendae ratio' in 1526. The relation between the good and the bad money was also described by Nicolas Oresmes (14th cent.) and even Aristophanes.

From: John Ellis (johnpellisATatt.net)
Subject: Gresham's law

We've seen Gresham's law at work in the US in the last 40 years when the US Mint switched from silver-based coins to laminated copper and copper-nickel coins. I was in the Coin Telephone development group at AT&T Bell Laboratories when this change was made and saw first hand the close cooperation between the coin vending machine industry and the Mint to be sure that the change in material would not let coins be confused as slugs when used in machines. It didn't take many years before almost all the silver-based coins were removed from circulation. Some are probably in your bottom drawer right now.

From: Diana Bouchard (dianabATaei.ca)
Subject: Gresham's Law of Politics

Oh, my. A Gresham's Law of politics. I live in Canada. Need I say more?

From: Teofila Guillermo (tguillermoATamhsamarina.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Gresham's law

This is sadly very true in Latin American democracies where, by being a politician, one is automatically branded as dishonest. More yet, if you are not, then you are branded as a fool.

As a result, many worthy people would not consider being involved in politics or government work to avoid that kind of image. No wonder we have so many scandals.

From: Mara Math (mjmathATsaber.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Gresham's law

Hmmm. . . The major publishing houses continue to spend huge amounts purchasing and marketing the novels of John Grisham and other blockbuster authors while dropping the majority of mid-list mystery writers despite their solid and respectable sales. This suggests a corollary law: Grisham's Law of Literature, in which bad or mediocre writing drives out good.

From: Gary Mason (garybmasonATcox.net)
Subject: Gresham's law

A derivative law is Gresham's law of television which states that "Pure drivel drives ordinary drivel off the screen."

From: Andrew Platt (plattATbyu.edu)
Subject: Gresham's law

I first encountered Gresham's law not in economics but in researching education systems. One theory is that standardized testing acts in the same way as counterfeit money in that it displaces so-called authentic learning like writing or analytical thinking. When diplomas based on a minimum-proficiency standards become the currency of employment or college-entry it displaces the value of the other indices of education.

Since encountering the principle, I have noticed it has corollaries, such as Gresham's law of buffets and potlucks. When someone (okay, me) who would normally content himself with a salad finds himself in front of a buffet filled with rich meats and casseroles, the bad food displaces the healthful on my plate. I think the same law operates in consumption of entertainment, where the salacious crowds out the uplifting.

From: Carolanne Reynolds (crATcarolanne.org)
Subject: Fwd: A.Word.A.Day--rubenesque

> But our society admires thinness -- the Rubenesque Marilyn Monroe likely
> would be considered too plump these days -- and so some of our children,
> in the quest to look attractive, may starve themselves."
> S. Jennifer Hunter; Where Were Schiavo's Loved Ones As Disorder Led to
> Downfall?; Chicago Sun-Times; Apr 6, 2005.

Marilyn Monroe was more Renoir than Rubenesque. Rubens's nudes were more than Renoir's pleasantly plump -- they were fat, roly-poly chubby.

Marilyn Monroe, while with a little more flesh than the 'ideal' today, wasn't even quite as plump as a Renoir.

From: Peter G. Neaman (pneamanATpanix.com)
Subject: Re: Rubenesque

Just to let you know, "Rubenesque" is an ignorantism of the first water. The artist's name was Peter Paul Rubens. The adjective would be Rubensesque. Well, your professor is going to have to kill a lot of people. It's logical that the word should be spelled "Rubensesque" but when it comes to human languages (as opposed to computer languages), usage trumps logic every time. "Rubensesque" is relatively harder to pronounce, and English speakers went with Rubenesque. "Rubensesque" does appear, about once for every 100 occurrences of Rubenesque. Most dictionaries don't even list the variant "Rubensesque". Another such example is the term Shavian (pertaining to G.B. Shaw).
-Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)

From: Emily Rohrer (eclaireATmetbymail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Apgar score

On February 28, 1997, I lay on the operating room table, my second son having been born via c-section after a day and a night of fruitless labor. The nurses were busy cleaning up my new baby, and I heard one of them shout "A perfect nine!" Despite being only semi-conscious, I felt a swell of pride and relief, having been told in childbirth class that no baby is a 10, so an Apgar score of 9 indeed meant perfection! It was only later that my husband informed me that the coveted nine was in fact my son's *weight*. No wonder he wouldn't come out! And to this day, I have no idea what his Apgar scores really were.

From: Marisa Carder (marisa_carderATmckinsey.com)
Subject: Apgar score

When our daughter Margaret (now 13) was born, despite a complicated pregnancy and induced delivery ahead of her due date, she received an Apgar score of 10 both times (1 and 5 minutes after birth). Only later did we parents realize how rare that is. Doting first-timers that we were, still we were amazed that every single nurse that came to see us told us what a beautiful baby she was. Finally my husband Harry said, "Oh come on, you say that to all the parents, don't you?" The nurse laughed and replied, "Oh no, not all babies are that beautiful!" Curious, Harry asked, "What do you say to those parents?" and the nurse replied, "We say, 'What a healthy baby!'" (I've also subsequently heard, "Your baby looks just like you!")

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

Today's eponym takes me back, more than half a century, to high school where my English teacher, a tall and statuesque blond of a certain age, Miss Farquhar often told us stories of her most illustrious ancestor, the Irish playwright, George Farquhar. Though the encyclopedia says that he was on his deathbed when he completed his masterpiece, The Beaux' Stratagem, Miss Farquhar claimed that he died in a drunken brawl in a tavern!

From: David A. Tozier (wryrytrATjuno.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--Lady Bountiful

Thank you for the different (for me) definition of the term. Before your having enlightened me, I had been under the mis-impression that referred to a "full-figured gal".

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

There is or was a plus-size clothing store or chain of stores by that name.

So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with. -John Locke, philosopher (1632-1704)

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