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AWADmail Issue 183

October 22, 2005

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

From: James Dignan (grutnessATslingshot.co.nz)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lipogram

My girlfriend Alice and I once tried to write a story which used only the ten most commonly used letters of the alphabet (ETAIONSHRD). Amazingly, after several attempts, the only style that seemed to work was "hard-boiled detective" a la Raymond Chandler. A paragraph from the couple of pages we managed to write on it before giving up will give you some idea:

"Thor Hansen's a Dane." said Nate. "He's Stateside to see his sister, Adrienne - she's in Detroit. She hasn't heard that he's here. That he is... raises the ante. He ain't no saint - a rat's nearer - and he's a threat. He's hated here, and Detroit's one hornet's nest he doesn't need to stir. Adrienne has no idea. And she's inside, too, so there's no sense in distressin' her."

From: Des Kahn (deskahnATbigpond.net.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lipogram

"Imagine you've just started your great epic novel and one of the keys on your keyboard is broken..."

Timely word in view of John Banville's winning Booker Prize for The Sea . On page 71 he writes,

"Speaking of typewriters -- I did, I mentioned a typewriter a minute ago -- last night in a dream, it has just come back to me, I was trying to write my will on a machine that was lacking the word I. The letter I, that is, small and large."

It may be novel way to encourage writers to use the third-person voice once more.

From: James Aylett (jamesATtartarus.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lipogram

On Mon, Oct 17, 2005, Wordsmith wrote:

> One can write numbers from zero, one, two,...
> onwards, and not use the A key on the keyboard
> until reaching thousand. As for the literary
> merit of that composition, I'm not very certain.

There's a sci-fi short story (I think by Isaac Asimov) that hinges on this - a great scientist programs his computer to print out the first 999 numbers, just before dying. Everyone has been expecting him to name his successor - they call in an investigator who singles out one of the great man's assistants, called Noah.

From: Julie C. Accardi (loojieATgmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lipogram

One of the most unique lipogrammatic works in existence is Christian Bok's Eunoia, which features a series of chapters in which each uses only one vowel. The word "eunoia", meanwhile, means "beautiful thinking" and is the shortest English word to contain all five.

From: Susan Walker (vi0letmoriaATyahoo.com)
Subject: lipogram

My first thought (as one who works in the health field) is that a lipogram is something written in grease! However, it seems that medical words relating to fat (liposuction, lipoma, etc.) come from a different Greek root (lipos).

From: Tee Emm (tmATsuper.net.pk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lipogram

In Urdu, there are total of around 29 characters out of which 14 characters bear one or more tittles (i.e. the dot called nuqta or nukta in Urdu). Mr Wali Razi wrote a book in Urdu titled 'Hadi Alam' which does not contain any tittled-character. The book is on the life of the prophet of Islam. Given the definition of lipogram where one typically avoids one of two characters to circumvent the restriction, this book is somewhat uberlipogram as the writer had to avoid (14/29 =) 48% of the characters of the language!

From: Monique Reed (moniqueATmail.bio.tamu.edu)
Subject: Re: lipogram

If anyone wants to read a very clever, very funny, progressively lipogrammatic novel, I can heartily recommend _Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters_ by Mark Dunn. Not only is it lipogrammatic, it's epistolary, which is another good word. The story takes place on a utopian island, in a community founded by fans of the man who penned the immortal sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dogs." When one of the letters of the sentence falls off the memorial frieze, the town council bans that letter from all speech and writing...and it all gets better (for the reader) from there.

From: Alex Sidline (asidlineATcomcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lipogram

The Original Lipogram: The Torah has no vowels. One has to be well versed in it, know the biblical Hebrew, or make a good guess. :)

From: Lois Westerlund (lowesterlundATfirstva.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--godwottery

And Richard Armour has replied:

A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot,
But only if God woters it a lot!

From: Vera A. Nazarov (vera.nazarovATevc.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--godwottery

I read a neat parody of T.E. Brown's poem in X.J. Kennedy's "Introduction to Poetry" textbook. I don't have it in front of me, so I can't tell you who the author is (and I take no responsibility for punctuation) but in essence:

MY Garden
A garden is a LOVESOME thing? What rot!
Old pot,
Scum pool,
Weed clot,

From: Kevin Cloonan (kcATmaxnet.co.nz)
Subject: Godwottery

I didn't think I'd be using the word godwottery quite so soon. But the other day at The University of Auckland I was admiring some plants outside the Pacific Studies Centre. And while I don't confess to be an expert on things floral I was aware that most of the plants were from the South Pacific. A woman asked me if I knew the name of a particular plant. I had to admit I didn't really know but I was able to inform her that "it was part of the university's Pacific-themed godwottery. She seemed quite impressed and left happy. It made my day.

From: Lee Dickey (leeATdickey.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--godwottery

I am reminded of the story of the woman tending her front garden as the vicar approached. He paused, leaned over the front wall and and said to her, "Isn't it wonderful what God can do in a garden?"

The woman responded, "You should have seen it when He had it all to himself."

From: Christina Larson (larsonchristinaATgmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--heterography

Your example (Christina/Cristina/Kristina) made me laugh. I have dealt all my life with having to spell both my first and last name, AND with people calling me Christine (which isn't a nickname I go by).

It used to irritate me, until I worked in a vet clinic in the Ozarks of Arkansas where the clients who came in wouldn't even spell their own names the same way twice. It didn't matter to them, and our computerized & numbered world hadn't shifted their laissez-faire spelling attitude at all.

From: Shruthi Rao (shruthi.raoATpatni.com)
Subject: Heterography

Heterography reminds me of Bernard Shaw, who came up with the word "Ghoti" for "fish"! According to him, "gh" was pronounced as in "laugh", "o" was pronounced as in "women" and "ti" was pronounced as in "nation"!

From: Susanne Koenig (skoenigATmidsouth.rr.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--heterography

This is the way that modern-day Scots is handled -- spelling is arbitrary. It's funny how Scots is much older than modern English, but the spellings are still up for grabs.

From: Ben Skyrme (ben_skyrmeATxyratex.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--allonym

The word is timely: an unnamed individual announced entering the next French presidential race, but is currently identified only as Catherine de Médici. According to the Daily Telegraph (UK):

"The choice of Catherine de Médici's name is striking even though the secretive candidate has prudently dropped the aristocratic "de" to appear more humble.

"As widow of Henri II, Catherine became the ruthless power behind the throne of a France beset by the religious conflicts of 16th-century Europe. It was under her authority that Roman Catholic mobs began the 1572 St Bartholomew's Day massacres in which tens of thousands of Protestant Huguenots were slaughtered.

"[the publisher] Michalon is adamant that while the pseudonym could herald a period of violent debate, it is intended to combine a powerful image from history with ambiguity over the candidate's gender."

Unless unmasked sooner, the individual will come forward on Jan 5, 2007 as a genuine candidate for the Elysée. For more, check out telegraph.co.uk.

From: Julia Glahn (juliagAThkusa.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--allonym

You wrote of Hamilton and the Federalist Papers the same day I came across this Pat Oliphant cartoon.

From: Charlie O'Reilly (charliezATverizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--allonym

In the 1970s, a reporter on economic issues who wrote in New York magazine called himself "Adam Smith". His byline usually appeared in quotation marks, lest anyone think the famous economic theorist was back from the grave.

From: George Feissner (feissnergATcortland.edu)
Subject: allonym

To mathematicians, perhaps the most famous allonym is that of Nicholas Bourbaki, the "multicephalic" French mathematician of the first half of the 20th Century. After the First World War, a number of young and very brilliant French mathematicians gathered to write a new calculus text, but ended up producing a stunning set of volumes on the foundations of mathematics. They decided to publish their work under the name of Nicholas Bourbaki, a French general from the Franco-Prussian War. After one of the volumes appeared, a reviewer in a journal made light of the fact that Bourbaki did not actually exist. The next issue of the journal contained a letter from Bourbaki containing a clever proof that the reviewer didn't exist either!

From: Jim Waldfogle (jim.waldfogleATburke.com)
Subject: allonym

Rock bands also occasionally use allonyms. Alice Cooper was originally a 17th-century witch, and Jethro Tull was an 18th-century agriculturalist.

From: Alany Staffa (sastaffaATalltel.net)
Subject: Re: allonym

The last name of Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda is an allonym. He took it from Czech poet Jan Neruda (1834-1891). I'm sure Pablo Neruda didn't reach for a dictionary while choosing his allonym; in Czech "neruda" comes from "nerudny" describing person as rude, ill-mannered and ill-tempered person which Pablo Neruda was definitely not.

From: Stuart Tarlowe (starloweATearthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--allonym

There is a contemporary singer who calls himself Engelbert Humperdinck, which is also the name of the German opera composer (1854-1921) best known for "Hansel und Gretel".

How about professional names taken from fictional characters, e.g. the illusionist who calls himself David Copperfield and the singer who calls himself Tom Jones, after characters created by Charles Dickens and Henry Fielding, respectively?

From: Rachel Miller (rochelleahATgmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--allonym

Using an allonym is a practice that goes back to antiquity. There are a number of books, excluded from the canonical Jewish Bible (known by the acronym "Tanakh"), which were composed using the names of biblical characters, even early ones such as Adam and Eve, Enoch, and Abraham. These works are known by the term pseudoepigraphia. There are similarly noncanonical books allonymically attributed to apostles and even Jesus.

From: Anne Beer (annebATppunitedway.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--neologist

My favorite portmanteau came from our two-year-old daughter, whose response to the question "How was your day [at daycare]?" was: "Oh, hective, very hective." We assume that it was a combination of hectic and active, but whatever the source in her mind, it remains a wonderfully descriptive word for busy family life.

From: Roselyn Danner (roselyn.dannerAThoughton.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--neologist

In nursing school I learned the word "neologism" when studying stroke patients who sometimes, with damaged speech centers, develop new words in trying to communicate.

The shorter a word, the more meanings it has. -Paul A Delaney, meteorologist [Never trust a calm dog]

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