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AWADmail Issue 198

February 25, 2006

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

The Death of Handwriting:

American Accent Undergoing Great Vowel Shift:

Linguists Work to Rebuild Pequot Language:

Towards a Bilingual Nation:

From: Dave Aton (datonATgrahamroad.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sextet

I love this quotation:

Books are the compasses and telescopes and sextants and charts which other men have prepared to help us navigate the dangerous seas of human life. -Jesse Lee Bennett

I thought it would be inspirational to have it posted in my kids' elementary school library. It might encourage the students to read more. In March, 2004, I persuaded a local sign shop to donate their services to make a 2x3 foot poster in the school colors with the quotation on it. It hung in the hallway just outside the school's library for a few months, but then it disappeared.

I asked the librarian about it. She said she was asked to take it down because . . . ready? . . . someone complained that it had the word "sex" in it and some kids wouldn't understand what "sextant" means. I said, "That sounds like a teaching opportunity." The librarian agreed, but said, "Well, I just have to do what I'm told."

After I talked to the assistant principal about it (he thought the objection was silly, too), I later saw the poster hanging near the back of the library. Sigh. A small victory, I suppose.

From: Nancy Bronwell (nancybromATsbcglobal.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gyrovague

About gyrovague: there is a closely allied French word, colporteur. My maternal grandfather, Richard Randolph Michaux, was one. He was a retired Methodist minister, employed by the American Bible Society. He climbed on his horse and made his rounds, selling Bibles and occasionally preaching, in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina from about 1873 almost until his death in 1899. He was a learned man and wrote and had published a small book about his experiences, "Sketches of Life in North Carolina" (1896). At least one copy is still available on the Net. What happened to him and his faithful horse during his travels post-Civil War, would make a movie equally as interesting as "Cold Mountain" which was set in the same location, but during the Civil War. He was a proud man, direct descendant of Richard Randolph of Curles, who emigrated from England in the late 1600s, but a dreamer.

From: Revathi Nataraj (revathi_natarajATearthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--discommode

Today's word "discommode" reminds me of a synonym used by Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes's arch enemy, in The Final Problem. To quote:

"You crossed my path on the 4th of January," said he. "On the 23d you incommoded me; by the middle of February I was seriously inconvenienced by you; at the end of March I was absolutely hampered in my plans; and now, at the close of April, I find myself placed in such a position through your continual persecution that I am in positive danger of losing my liberty. The situation is becoming an impossible one."

They certainly knew how to express themselves in that era!

From: Andrew Pressburger (andrew.pressburgerATprimus.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--obsequy

In that case it could be said that the New York Times Book Review was somewhat obsequious with its obsequy of Anthony Powell.

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

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