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AWADmail Issue 191

December 17, 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: Interesting stories from the net

To Keep Warm, Library Books Sacrificed:

With Sound From Africa, the Phonetic Alphabet Expands:

To Speak the Unspeakable, Try Alphabet Soap:

From: Andrea (gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--frisson

I remember loving the song "C'est Si Bon" so much as a kid. I also remember how one line "Qui me donne le frisson" was usually translated as "It sends a shiver down my spine" or even taken out of the song altogether. The latter phrase certainly doesn't capture the moment at all. It's more than a chill down your spine; c'est si bon!

From: Rebecca King (rebeccaATneronewjersey.com)
Subject: Frisson

A frisson is also the nipple on which a cap is placed on certain styles of muzzle-loading guns. The hammer hits the frisson and the cap provides the starting explosive charge which sets off the main charge of powder in the barrel of the gun. I have no doubt that the term comes from the same word, as firing a muzzle-loading rifle is certainly a sudden (and loud) event. It's amazing where you can find interesting words!

From: Will Downing (wdowningATrohrbachassociates.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--carte blanche

An interesting simile to carte blanche, used in architecture and other design fields, is tabula rasa or "blank slate". In this case it is meant to imply that there are no preexisting restrictions on the possible outcome of a design problem. This is often used to describe the approach of early Modern architects who proposed that buildings and cities should be built for the present and future, without the restriction of historical precedent. The French architect Le Corbusier is a famous example of this methodology.

From: Janet Smith (janetsmith_niwotATyahoo.com)
Subject: Re: carte blanche

My favorite use of carte blanche is by Georgette Heyer, who practically invented the Regency Romance genre. Heyer regularly uses carte blanche to mean "an offer by a gentleman that includes living under his protection, but not marriage", as noted by the Heyerlist website. I don't know whether this was an actual meaning of the term in Regency England, but I'd like to think so.

From: Matilda Lipscomb (matilda.lipscomb.2ATmodulonet.fr)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--carte blanche

Because I have lived in France since de Gaulle was president (1967), I am particularly happy to see you're giving us some terms from the French language. Over the almost 40 years I've been here (I am now 85), I have seen the French language evolve quite rapidly toward English, much to the chagrin of some of our French bureaucrats.

But with the lightning growth of technology, it's been almost inevitable. Still, they, the French, stick to certain peculiarities and refuse to adapt. For instance, the whole world says "fax", but the French insist upon "tÚlÚcopie". Every other country uses the term email, but the French prefer to stay with "courriel". I know of no country except France that doesn't refer to "software" -- they insist on "logiciel". And yet, they don't seem to acknowledge the hundreds of French terms in our English language, coup d'Útat, carte blanche, bureau, rouge ... it would take hundreds of pages to list them all.

But France is a great and proud country whose language was the lingua franca in the 19th century, and they can't let go of that! These remarks are NOT a criticism of France. I LOVE this country and am happy to be here. But I am still American, and am embarrassed, like the rest of the world, at whom we have allowed in the current White House!

From: Allan Kouchich (akouchichATyahoo.com)
Subject: Re: AWADmail Issue 190

The memo from Carolyn Makovi refers to Tennyson's "In Memoriam" as being written on the death of his father when in fact it was written on the death of his friend Arthur Hallam, with whom it is speculated he was in love.

Life is a foreign language; all men mispronounce it. -Christopher Morley, writer (1890-1957)

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