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AWADmail Issue 170

October 1, 2005

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

From: Alix Janik (ajwisATdiscover-net.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--filemot

Duck hunters along the marshy coast of Massachusetts lay on their backs in sneak boats as they navigated the winding creeks through the dead autumn grasses. The boats were painted a color named "dead, dry grass", an actual color named on the paint can. They could have called it filemot.

From: Malati Shah (malatishahAThotmail.com)
Subject: filemot

Reaching down,
You pick
A bright autumn leaf.
Between thumb and forefinger;
both joy and grief.

These lines being the title of a series of leaf paintings by me inspired by the colours of a North American autumn.

From: Tisha King (tisha_kingATprosystemfx.com)
Subject: autumn color words

Just a quick thanks for this week's "autumn colors" theme. I grew up under a canopy of centuries-old oaks, maples, elms, tulip trees, and beeches (among other varieties), in west-central Indiana. The "fall" season involved months of beauty as, tree by tree, the leaves went through their various rainbows, before finally falling to the ground. Every autumn, we celebrated by visiting the circuit of covered bridge festivals, held around many of the state's old-fashioned covered bridges as the leaves began to change.

I've lived in Kansas since graduating college and while the Great Plains have their own beauty, "Fall" as I knew it does not exist here. Few trees grow here naturally (we say our state tree is the Utility Pole), and on the trees we do plant (and manage to keep alive), "Fall" here lasts no more than 48 hours. One day the leaves are green, the next day brown, and the final day, the heavy winds have blown them towards Missouri.

I look forward to the memories of my childhood that this week's words are certain to conjure!

From: Meera Narayan (miranarayanAThotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--filemot

Really to think of colour is to think of India. It is an inescapable and unavoidable association. Absolutely a feast for the eyes.

One of the most charming places to see colours in mind-blowing range are the sari shops and especially the famous and gorgeous Kancheepuram saris of Tamilnadu. I have several times accompanied my Mother and aunts on shopping expeditions and been extremely thrilled at the colour specifications - women can be very exacting. When they run out of words, they describe colours and this is a completely accepted practice as there are colours solely identified by description!

Some of them have become the word for the colour. The descriptions fire the imagination and evoke such beautiful and pleasant images. For example, translated from Tamil mayilkalutthu which quite literally is "the blue of a peacock's neck". 'Mayil' for peacock and 'kalutthu' for neck. You can hear women specifiying 'the colour of dawn', 'the colour of a pink rose when it is in first bud', the color of an onion (which by the way is a colour word - vengaayam), the colour of honey, the pink of a flamingo, the colour of twilight, and a strange one called 'heliotrope' (same as the botanical garden heliotrope- a small purple flower)! Don't be surprised to see a traditional elderly mami (aunty/dowager) from Madras dripping with diamonds firmly tell the salesman, "heliotrope with a green border"!

I swear this is true - there is a colour called 'the colour of snot'! :)) I have heard these all delivered without the bat of an eyelid! Additionally, there is a shade of blue which was popularized by the famous Carnatic music singer M S Subbulakshmi and the colour came to be called 'MS Blue'! I have never ceased to be amazed and delighted at the varied and various descriptions for the exact shade one is looking for.

It is a testament to the expertise of the enterprising salesmen as also the enterprising weavers that they almost always rise to the occasion and satisfy the most exacting and excruciating of their customers' desires.

From: Glenna Jo Christen (gwjchrisATearthlink.net)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--filemot

A few years ago a clothing historian friend was researching historical color terms. She shared some of the more entertaining ones, along with when the term was first popular. I was able to share with her some that came into popularity in the late 1850s and early 1860s, named for famous battles of the era, such as Magenta and Solforino. Others she found were more blatantly political. My favorite was "Dead Spaniard", popular in England about the time of the Spanish Armada. The actual color is lost to time, but I can imagine it was not particularly appealing. ;->

From: Richard Cornelius (richard_corneliusATyahoo.com)
Subject: internationalism

I appreciated your recognition that some who read your messages live outside the U.S. (vide infra). I live in New Zealand, and am surprised at how often we are overlooked. (Some of the egregious examples can be found among the world maps published in Newsweek magazine, which often omit New Zealand altogether.) I spent the first 55 years of my life in the U.S. and I must confess an occasional faux pas myself, such as referring to the season following summer as "fall". New Zealanders use "autumn", since few leaves here know that they ought to fall.

From: Wesley Paine (nashvilleathenaATyahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--incarnadine

This word brought wonderful memories of great rehearsals for Macbeth at exactly this time last year.

Macbeth, Act II, Scene 2
Macbeth has murdered Duncan and, rattled, comes out still holding the daggers in his bloody hands. Lady Macbeth is furious with him, tells him to go back and leave the daggers, and when he refuses, she takes them and returns to the murder scene, leaving him to jump at every noise:

"Whence is that knocking?
How is't with me, when every noise appals me?
What hands are here? ha! they pluck out mine eyes!
Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No; this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red."

Thanks for reminding me of a rare, great word, seldom thought of, much less used (and as a verb, no less!)!

From: Joel H. Bailes (jbaiATloc.gov)
Subject: incarnadine

This "flesh-color" (incarnadine) is an easy mistake to make but one that must be avoided. People have different colored flesh.

At the national gallery in Washington DC about 15 years ago a lecturer referring to a Degas wax ballet figurine now turned nearly black (with age) said it used to be "flesh-colored". Black museum guards stood listening ten feet away. I remarked that people have different color flesh. The two old Jewish (my own persuasion) culture vulture ladies listening jumped on me to rend me for my presumption but the lecturer, a nice young man from Texas who knew me, said, [don't kill him] he has a point.

Wouldn't "meat-colored" solve the problem and avoid ambiguity? Have I demonstrated that "flesh-colored" means "pinkish" in English?

From: Michael McNamara (michael.mcnamaraATquorumconsulting.com)
Subject: incarnadine

Ever since Crayola had to change its crayon named "flesh" to "peach" (or whatever the resulting name is), I wondered when things like "flesh-colored" would pop up as today's word is defined. Flesh comes in many colors, not one. Maybe the definition should read: raw meat-colored?

From: Grace Sanchez-MacCall (grace-sanchezATrogers.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fuscous

If you overcook couscous, does it turn fuscous?

From: William S. Haubrich, MD (willhaubATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--glaucous

The Greek glaukos, descriptive of a silvery green or blue color (such as of the sea), also gives the medical term "glaucoma" that denotes a condition in the eye consequent to increased intra-ocular pressure. In untreated, advanced cases, the degenerate eyeball turns the color so described by the Greeks.

From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--incarnadine

Incarnadine would probably be the right word to describe the faces of dedicated euchre players when they read Natty Bumppo's definition of their favorite card game. "Euchre is a poor man's bridge," he declares. "Bridge is for discerners. Chess is for discerners. Euchre is for drunken slobs." Read about Natty's quirky name and euchre in the October edition of my e-book.

To know another language is to have a second soul. -Charlemagne, King of the Franks (742-814)

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