Wordsmith.Org: The Magic of Words: The Magic of Words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 184

October 29, 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: Misc.

Thanks to all of you for your heartwarming messages on the announcement of my new book. I'm truly grateful for your affection and kindness. See you in this week's events:

Nov 1, 2005
Virtual booksigning of the new book Another Word A Day by yours truly: No more standing in line to meet the author and get your book signed.

Nov 7, 2005
Forensic Linguistics: Discuss the role of language in the world of crime and justice with author, professor, and consultant Roger Shuy.

And finally, a news story about banned letters, just in time for the featured word lipogram. They say reality is stranger than fiction and here is a real lipogrammatic tale. In Turkey people are fined for using the letters Q and W: cnn.com

From: David G. Imber (imberATmaniform.com)
Subject: Another Word A Day

Lovely, thank you! The book will be a gift to many (I mean that in both the personal and the global senses).

From: Tom Stewart (stewartAToregonisonline.com)
Subject: new book

Congratulations on your new book.

I only put my feet on books when it will allow me to see over the heads of those who STAND on them!

From: Robert G. Thompson (robert.thompsonATwellpoint.com)
Subject: Re: A new book "Another Word A Day"; Virtual booksigning

Ah. You don't want us to step on books, but to stand upon their wisdom.

From: Hassall (toosnookATtelusplanet.net)
Subject: Reverence for books

I was raised to treat all books, whether hardcover or paperback with 'respect', the concept never needed defining. Failure to do so led to the ultimate punishment; one entire week with no reading material, not even the back of a cereal box.

From: Julie Bestry (organizeATjuliebestry.com)
Subject: Re: A new book "Another Word A Day"; Virtual booksigning

I read your comment about treating books with respect with great interest. There is a similar Jewish custom of revering knowledge (and therefore books) such that if one drops a holy book like the Siddur or a Humash, one immediately retrieves it and kisses it.

From: Cecile Moore (cecile138ATcharter.net)
Subject: feet on books, books on heads

I was very moved by your description of putting a book against your forehead to show proper respect. When I was in high school, I got off the bus one day in a light rain. I was hunched over my armload of school books to keep them dry. One of my classmates had one of her books on top of her head to keep her hair dry. I was appalled. I did observe that for the rest of our school career, it always seemed that what was on her head was more important to her than what was in it.

From: Joseph (josephcolin2001ATyahoo.com)
Subject: Thanks

Just wanted to share with you that I had a similar experience to your own regarding the value of books, only I was on the other side of the story.

In graduate school, I made some Russian friends who visited me at my apartment. I was using books as cup holders and leaving coffee stains on them. I was using them to prop up tables and lamps. I would toss them lackadaisically on the couch or carry them with me into the kitchen.

They were horrified. They told me stories of waiting in line all night in the St. Petersburg winter to get a copy of Shakespeare's work or of Dostoevsky's. Volumes were to be stowed neatly away in glass fronted cabinets when they weren't in use. They would be handed down to brothers and nieces and grandchildren. And you certainly didn't write in them.

While I did appreciate their care and concern, I think I like my well-worn books. I consider them lived in. In any case, they are all more valuable to me after your service in elevating my level of diction.

From: Ella Wilcox (ellawATmenc.org)
Subject: Re: A new book "Another Word A Day"; Virtual book signing

Congrats on your new book, Anu, which I'll get my husband to get me for a holiday gift.

Here's another approach to the "sacred book" concept. The student who put his feet on his backpack knew that books are printed by the thousands here. We Americans are spoiled in that we are lucky enough to have many. As a child, I used to dislike the librarians who wanted books safely on the shelves instead of in the "dangerous" hands of readers. I'd rather see a book read, even a little bit abused or dirtied, because the important thing isn't the goddess who resides within, but rather the ideas that come out and that make a book a conveyer of learning and wisdom. The goddess does no good unless we commune with her.

Although I won't deliberately hurt a book, I like to see them used, not treated as sacred objects to the point of not being put to work at the task for which they were created. It reminds me of people who are hesitant to eat with their "good silver" because they want to preserve it; often, they end up never using it at all, and it tarnishes in the drawer.

In the end, all things are ultimately dust except ideas, so use your books, but gently! And read everywhere!

From: Judy Williams (wkjATmeer.net)
Subject: Another Word A Day

I know what you mean. Late in my life I enrolled in a graduate program to be a librarian - a life long dream about to find fullfillment. In one of the first classes the professor tore up a book in front of us and encouraged us to do the same. He wanted us to lose our reverence for books. Needless to say, I couldn't do that and I dropped out of the program. In this case my dream was better than the reality!

From: Fionn Rogan (fionn.roganATintel.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--accismus

I am new to this word accismus. However, its accuracy in describing an old rural tradition in the West of Ireland where I grew up is remarkable. Irish accismus flourished at a time when the society valued appearance and reputation yet was overwhelming poor. It's a manner still maintained amongst an older generation and occurs when hospitality is offered. A host would typically offer food, drink, or plain help only to be refused wholeheartedly by the guest. A vigorous feigning and tussle of gestures would ensue until the guest finally resigned with "if you insist".

The magnitude of the acting was to avoid the taboo of "putting someone out" by taking advantage of their generosity. Appearing humble and frugal as a guest was a virtue. Today the practice continues in pockets and sometimes backfires when an elderly host cannot interpret a genuine refusal from a guest and so any food stuff or drink is firmly thrust upon the guest and no more "of this nonsense will be entertained". One is left with far more food/drink than one could safely manage to finish.

Another modern side effect is when "if you insist" is used prematurely even before any offer of generosity is made and so the guest pretty much helps themselves to whatever is going.

From: Victor Lund (vlundATmahoney-law.com)
Subject: Accismus

There is a good example of accismus in Trollope's Barchester series of novels. All of the ecclesiastical bigwigs are dying to be elevated to the status of bishop, but the ceremony for investiture as bishop requires the candidate to announce, "Nolo episcopari," i.e., "I do not wish to be a bishop."

From: Christopher Murray (murrayandcoAToddpost.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--accismus

Accismus is a more succinct way of putting "To refuse praise is to ask for it twice."

From: Patrick Hort (patrick.hortATproductivesoftware.co.uk)
Subject: disinterest (Re: accismus)

Really - and I'm sure I'm not the first to point this out - such misuse of the word disinterest really doesn't do much for AWAD's credibility!

I look forward to the global apology :)

    Many readers wrote about this entry, indicating that it should have been "uninterest" instead of "disinterest". The idea in accismus is to feign indifference and the word "disinterest" fits, just as the fox pretended that she didn't care for the grapes. The word "disinterested" has a more distinct sense of being "impartial" or "unbiased".

    This is a perfect example of the confusing evolution of language: in the beginning, the word "disinterested" had a clear sense of being "not interested" and "uninterested" meant "impartial"! Over time the two words exchanged their meanings though even now there is no clear boundary between the two words and they are used in both senses. The context makes clear what sense is implied.

    In the end, language is not a hard science. You could very well be right with the word "uninterested" too. Also see the next message from our grammar guru.

    -Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)

From: Carolanne Reynolds (ggATwordsmith.org)
Subject: Interested?

The mail about uninterested and disinterested has sparked lively debates. There are extremely subtle differences so that from some points of view, either word could have been used in Anu's example, depending on the attitude of the speaker. It's akin to the view that hate is the opposite of love, whereas one could say indifference is (and argue it's lack of). When the person speaks, is uninterest (a non-word? in any case signifying opposite of interest, lack of interest) being expressed or is the speaker feigning irrelevance (disinterest)? Maybe it's immaterial.

Back to accismus -- is the case that the person is really interested but displaying the opposite, or is the speaker being dismissive?

On the other hand, a disinterested person (ie having no interest, usually financial, in the matter) is desired to arbitrate a dispute between two parties (with interests, though different or opposed) and listening to the debate might be interesting or uninteresting, depending on what interests you. We can find a lecture uninteresting but not disinteresting (another non-word?).

Usage deepens the rut of differentiating. When two words are similar, usage tends to steer them in different directions. This is an element of the richness and variety of the English language with a wider spectrum than most languages. And not just from the Norman French stamp on Anglo-Saxon (labour, work; flower, bloom, blossom). A legal system imposes itself also. In Canada (interested to hear if elsewhere), 'inquiry' refers to legal or government matters, whereas 'enquiry' is not official, more a question; For instance, a sign in a library can have 'Enquiries', some counters may have 'Enquire here'. Our courts render 'judgments', but assessing a person we might allude to his 'judgement'.

Isn't language fascinating!

From: Susan LoVerso (sueATloverso.southborough.ma.us)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--parrhesia

My niece, a recent transplant from the NorthEast US to the Deep South US noted this phenomena immediately. We didn't know it had a name. In the south, if you find your soul being blessed you know to watch out. Something like: "Bless your soul, Billy, but that is the dumbest idea I've ever heard."

From: Phillip Harris (phil.harris10ATbigpond.com)
Subject: Parrhesia

How unfortunate that you had to let the world into the secret of "with all due respect". In my country (Australia) that phrase has been a marvellous yardstick for media interviewers. When an interviewed politician uses the phrase it is a certainty that some lie, obfuscation, or buck-passing has been revealed by the interviewer.

From: Rapoport (rapoportATnetvision.net.il)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--parrhesia

In Hebrew, we use the word Parrhesia to describe a blatant action in public. e.g. "he desecrated the Sabbath in parrhesia."

From: James McTernan (osokunattesumimasenATyahoo.com)
Subject: Re: parrhesia (nesting)

With all due respect, nested quotes can cause confusion:

Wordsmith (wsmithATwordsmith.org) wrote:
"But the Greek philosopher's intellectual honesty and contrariness were his downfall. 'Socrates says, parrhesia is the cause of my unpopularity,' [Cornel] West noted, citing Plato's book 'The Republic'."
David Alire Garcia; What This Nation Needs Is Some Plain Talk; Albuquerque Journal (New Mexico); Jul 27, 2003.

Now I've quoted AWAD quoting Garcia, quoting West, quoting Plato, quoting Socrates.

From: Dr. Liana Lupas (llupasATamericanbible.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--parrhesia

To the best of my knowledge parrhesia derives from pan + rhesia, not from para + rhesia and implies the freedom of saying everything you wish to say, not the fact of saying something outside the norm. It was a fundamental concept of democracy in Athens and the privilege of free citizens.

    Thanks for catching the error! -Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)

From: Petronella J.C. Elema (pjc.elemaATplanet.nl)
Subject: nychtemeron

The Dutch language has "etmaal" for the full period of 24 hours, and we use it fairly frequently. In English, I had to make do with "a day" which isn't quite the same.

From: Lars-Erik Sørbotten (larsATbabel.no)
Subject: nychthemeron

Finally the word I've been looking for!

Norwegian has a commonly used word for a 24-hour period, "døgn", as do the other Scandinavian languages. I've often wondered why there wasn't a word for this in English, too, and English speakers have had to resort to phrases like, well, "24-hour period". Since I'm a translator, I've on several occasions had trouble with this concept and have had to rephrase sentences to work around this problem.

From: Tim Green (timothy.j.greenATgmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nychthemeron

On 10/27/05, Wordsmith (wsmithATwordsmith.org) wrote:
> There are 12 moons in a year.


According to Google Math:
= 12.36 moons.

From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Subject: Re: accismus

When tourists flock to the remote New Zealand town of Kawakawa, they head for the public toilet, not so much to use its facilities as to gaze in awe at the building's unique architecture and bizarre artwork. It's a lasting memorial to a gifted but eccentric Austrian designer and artist, Frederick Hundertwasser, who after visiting New Zealand in 1970 to exhibit his work, decided to settle in that country. He (unlike some of the visitors) certainly didn't suffer from accismus (feigning disinterest in something while actually desiring it). For details, see the November issue of my ebook.

Words are a commodity in which there is never any slump. -Christopher Morley, writer (1890-1957)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith