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AWADmail Issue 182

October 16, 2005

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

From: Yigal Levin (leviny1ATmail.biu.ac.il)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--benjamin

Once upon a time, the portrait of Theodore Herzl (whose name in Hebrew was also Benjamin!), founder of the Zionist Movement, adorned the Israeli 100 pound note. At the time, my mother was a nursery-school teacher. One day, she showed her students a portrait of Herzl and asked them to identify the man in the picture. One child immediately responded - "that's Herzl - we have pictures of him at home." "Where?" asked my mother. "In my dad's wallet!" was the reply.

From: Kerala Varma (trc_puranATsancharnet.in)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--benjamin

I started earning a living in the India Security Press in the early 60s as a supervisor which was also part of the currency note printing press in India at the time. We used to work in bays, so to say that any worker leaving the bay had to be frisked by a watchman at the door, and workers returning home or breaking for lunch literally were required to strip themselves in front of the security staff who carried out the search with bare hands. Bales of special white paper used to get printed in printing presses six days in a week of two ten-hour shifts in a dingy prisonlike highwalled building. Fresh air was at a premium and once inside you could breathe fresh air only when out of the main Gate.

We still carry the picture of Mahatma Gandhi in currency notes and no one calls the Indian currency notes 'Gandhis'.

From: Geoff Kuenning (geoffATcs.hmc.edu)
Subject: Re: benjamin

It's worth noting that the $100 bill hasn't always been the largest denomination, nor even the largest denomination in circulation. Up until the mid-70s, and possibly later (I no longer recall the date), there were at least $500 and $1000 bills available to the public. They were withdrawn as part of the so-called "war on drugs"; the theory was that if large bills were unavailable, it would be more difficult to move large amounts of cash. In recent years, some people have suggested that since the change made no visible dent at all, the $100 and even the $50 should be withdrawn as well.

The other force pushing the demise of larger bills is the fact that U.S. banks steadfastly refuse to stock their ATMs with anything other then $20 bills, even though the public would prefer a wider variety. (European banks typically offer all denominations from 5 to 50.)

Even before the large-denomination bills were withdrawn, there were even larger bills used in banking. The largest denomination I know of was the $1,000,000 bill. The extremely large values were used to move money among banks in the days before electronic fund transfers.

From: Sigmund Mikolajczyk (smikolajczykATcrain.com)
Subject: re: "benjamins"

Your item about "benjamins" sparked my memory. Actually, there used to be a $1,000 bill (and larger denominations) in U.S. currency. Haven't seen one, though, since the late 1960s, but I did get one once when I was a boy. Saved all the money I made on my paper route to get one, which had to be special ordered by the bank. I still remember the day I got the call telling me the bill had arrived and to come to the bank to pick it up. I very quietly told a teller who I was and what I was there for, not wanting everyone to know I'd be leaving the bank with a $1,000 bill. She then proceeded to yell to all the other tellers (and other bank patrons), "Hey, come here and look at this: a thousand-dollar bill." Apparently none of them had ever seen one before. Needless to say, I left the bank constantly looking over my shoulder, but made it home with bill intact. Grover Cleveland's face was on that denomination.

I was curious about whether the very large denominations were still in circulation so I went to the U.S. Treasury Web site, which pointed out that on July 14, 1969, David M. Kennedy, the 60th Secretary of the Treasury, and officials at the Federal Reserve Board announced that they would immediately stop distributing currency in denominations of $500, $1,000, $5,000, and $10,000.

From: Vivian Barbiero (vbarbieroATaol.com)
Subject: benjamins

As one of the recording engineers who first mixed the popular Puff Daddy hit record, entitled "All About The Benjamins", I can't help feeling a bit of a combination of disappointment and relief that this slang expression for a hundred-dollar bill has now formally been incorporated into the lexicon of our twenty-first century vernacular.

Relief, because, despite hundreds of playbacks in working on the original piece, it took my sixteen-year-old son's exasperated explanation to illuminate me to its meaning, and disappointment because it seems a poor repository for the memory of perhaps the most brilliant of our American forefathers. Nonetheless, I am curious if there are any literary references to the word prior to the release of the pop song, or if P Diddy is to be remembered for all time as a modern contributor to our language.

    The OED lists him (as S. Combs) as the first citation (1994) for the word in the line "My pockets swell to the rim with Benjamins." -Anu Garg

From: Vicky-Evic Go (reginacoelisATgmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--benjamin

I just thought when I read "benjamin" of how we used this term to denote the youngest of 'several' siblings - in "older" cultures - (non-modern USA) where the phrase would instead be "apple of one's eyes" - parent's eyes.

The root of course comes from the 12 brothers of Joseph - the 12 tribes of Israel (Jacob) - Benjamin was the youngest.

In fact sometimes we would derisively call my sister (the youngest of four) "Benjamina" because she got away with 'murder' being born thus.

From: David Sices (david.sicesATdartmouth.edu) Subject: Benjamin

Apropos of "Benjamin", because of the Biblical story of Benjamin, in France the name is generally reserved for the last son, and one speaks of "le Benjamin de la famille", the Benjamin of the family. Thus, when my son and his wife had his third child and named him Benjamin, my French wife and I thought that meant the end. But they had two more children, daughters... At least he was their last son!

From: Birgitte Saltorp (saltorpATskriveriet.com)
Subject: benjamin

In continental Europe (don't know about the British Isles, but it might just be the same), a Benjamin is the youngest of a group. The biblical Benjamin was the patriarch Jacob's youngest son.

In the group of friends I spend most time with I am the Benjamin because they are all six or seven years my senior.

From: Dagmar Fink (kniffATaon.at)
Subject: Benjamin

In German a Benjamin is the youngest member of a family.

From: Vinay Kashyap (kashyap.vinayATgmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--maxwellian

"Maxwellian" has been an eponym for far longer than any publishing baron co-opted it. It is a term that denotes any distribution (e.g. of velocities of molecules in a gas) that has been thermalized. It is named after the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879); the same one who unified Electricity and Magnetism. There is even an SI unit named after him.

Please retract today's word, or at least add a clarification! Frankly, this is like saying "Newtonian" is a term to describe GOP tactics in the USA because they were pioneered by Newt Gingrich.

From: Jeff Hix (jhixATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cereologist

If one were obsessed with dating crop circle investigators, would they be a serial cereologist?

From: John Neal (johnnealATsecretacademy.com)
Subject: cereologist

A friend edited the first crop circle magazine, for the first few editions it was titled The Cereologist. A reader pointed out that it should more properly be titled The Cerealogist. After much discussion it was decided that the latter term was correct and the title was altered. After about three years and the disillusionment of the then editor, it was no longer published.

From: Theresa Winters (desdrataAThotmail.com)
Subject: cereologist

Chicago was recently introduced to the new chain store called Cereality. There, you can partake of the countless variations of cereal and topping combinations, all the while being helped by the resident 'cereologists'.

From: Erin Curry (ecurryATsecurustech.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Heath Robinson

This word put me in mind of the great Honda Accord commercial that showed a fantastic contraption that finally started the car at the end of the sequence.

From: Birgitte Saltorp (saltorpATskriveriet.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Heath Robinson

A contemporary of Heath Robinson was the Danish Robert Storm Petersen (1882-1949) known to us Danes as Storm P. I think you will agree that his inventions are worth a laugh or two. You can see a few of them on this site.

In Denmark we, of course, call a "Heath Robinson" a "Storm P-invention" (the Danish word for invention is "opfindelse").

From: John (jeandeuxATyahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Heath Robinson

Very much reminds me of Wallace and Gromit, or at least Wallace's inventions.

From: Cindy Smithey (csmitheyATtexasbar.com),br> Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--vulcanian

Here's a website that will show the Vulcan statue that's been in Birmingham, AL for over 100 years: bhamonline.com.

As far as I'm concerned, 'whom' is a word that was invented to make everyone sound like a butler. -Calvin Trillin, writer (1935- )

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