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AWADmail Issue 20

November 12, 2000

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

From: Monica Clements (clementsATtio.com.au)
Subject: ocker

Seeing the word ocker reminds me of a story told by a friend. It took place during the Australian air traffic controllers' strike of the 1980s, when interstate travellers were desperate for any form of airborne transport and all the light planes were full.

My friend's father was one of the people who tried to hitch a ride on a light plane. He rushed up to the steward--about to close the plane doors, and asked breathlessly whether there was any room, only to be answered with the immortal line: "Sorry, ocker, the Fokker's chocker."

From: Sam Robinson (samvrATattglobal.net)
Subject: Ocker

I'd thought that the word "ocker" had been around since before TV, and it turned out I was only partly wrong. According to the Australian National University, (and how could you disagree with a source named ANU?), "Ocker" has a longer history as a nickname in Australia for anyone with the personal name Oscar or Horace, or with the surname Stevens, just as "Blue" is the nickname often given to people with red hair. I'd wager that the character in the Mavis Bramston Show (1963-68) was known by a nickname because a bloke like Ocker would hardly ever be known by his real name - especially if it was Horace.

From: D. McCulloch (derek_mccullochATurscorp.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dauphin

Never occurred to me before this -- the heir to the French throne was the dolphin, while the heir to the British is the Prince of Whales. Nothing fishy at all about that -- mammally, perhaps.

From: Kevin Purcell (kpurcellATmicrosoft.com)
Subject: Diverging Languages

UK: I'll give you a ring
US: I'll call you.

UK: The number is engaged
US: The number is busy

Of course this leads to some interesting puns in British English that don't work in US English ("I'll give you a ring unless you're engaged" has two meanings in UK English but only one in US English).

From: Jane Hope (jhopeATodf.state.or.us)
Subject: English vs. American

I was married to an Englishman during the 1960s. I had no idea what he wanted when he asked for a bobbin of cotton. (He meant a spool of thread.)

Also, at first he would promise to "knock me up in the morning" -- which he thought meant he would come by to wake me up.

From: William Youmans (wyoumansATgte.net)
Subject: variations of English

This discussion regarding the different meanings of American English and English English reminds me of an experience in a London restaurant several years ago . I was in the company of my wife and two middle aged American ladies. Upon the completion of our very good meal {In England yet} one of the ladies in a loud voice stated "I feel really stuffed". Upon observing amused glances from our fellow diners perhaps imaginary on my part, I suggested to her that being "stuffed" in England had a much different connotation than being satiated with food.

From: Jennifer Reibel (reibelATexecpc.com)
Subject: pronunciation

Many years ago, while living as an American houseguest in the north of England, my host offered to take me to the "lakeshore". This confused me, since there was no lake nearby, and my hosts didn't drive a car. Instead, we walked downtown to a ramshackle building, and walked up three flights of stairs to ... a leek show. The British are fanatical gardeners, and love to show off their talents. Also on display were tomatoes, onions and many kinds of flowers. But the event was known throughout the community as the leek show.

From: Nathaniel G. Higgs (natehiggsATprodigy.net)
Subject: Language is changing

Just as British English differs from American English, I find this true with other languages, too. In Spain a car is called a `coche' and a coach or cart is called a `carro'. In the Americas a car is called a `carro' and a coach is called a `coche'. There are several other words that have opposite and different meanings depending upon the country, yet they all speak Spanish. Language is changing constantly and those changes do not always occur concurrently within the global community.

From: Kathryn Flueck (kflueckATbirgeminckley.com)
Subject: Re: British English

Is it too late to comment about differences between American and British English? I have seen nothing on one of the most colorful aspects of British English -- Cockney rhyming slang (perhaps because it is considered somewhat lower class, although it has been around for more than a hundred years and some of the terms have crept into more common usage, clearly no pun intended). The theory is it was started as a code language. The idea was to use a phrase, usually two words, the second of which rhymes with the word one wants to use, then often the rhyming word is dropped off, making the statement impossible to understand unless one knows the term. Thus, "apples and pears" rhymes with "stairs," so if one asks where a particular room or thing is, one might be told it is "up the apples." "Use your loaf," means "Use your head," for loaf of bread rhymes with head. Once I fixed scrambled eggs for some Cockney friends, and was asked if I had any rocking horse. I was at a total loss, of course. Turned out they were asking for ketchup, which the English call sauce, and in Cockney English, horse and sauce rhyme ("hoase" and "soace"). For those interested, I highly recommend the book Cockney Rabbit, by Ray Puxley. Rabbit stands for talk. The phrase is "rabbit and pork," and in Cockney English, "pork" and "talk" rhyme ("poke" and "toke")!

From: Kovacs Istvan (kofaATalarmix.net)
Subject: Palindromes

I know it's not the current topic, and it's related to computer languages just as strongly as to English, still I thought maybe you'd appreciate this:

There's a contest for abusing the C programming language, the International Obfuscated C Code Contest www.ioccc.org. One of my favourite people who regularly participate is Brian Westley. One of his programs is completely symmetric (each line is a palindrome): www.ioccc.org/1987/westley.c

Maybe you think this has nothing to do with English. Maybe this'll help you change your mind: www.ioccc.org/1990/westley.c

From: Anthony Stevens (anthonyATc21products.com)
Subject: AWADmail (issue 19)

Do all recipients of AWAD appreciate the forum available to exchange comments and chat in this more interactive manner - on the discussion board of the site? Men, women and fish from all over the world are represented, so all are made welcome! Take a look at wordsmith.org/board

From: Susan Lubell (sluebellATjuno.com)
Subject: sigh

My friend Kris first sent me AWAD about a year ago and I initially cursed her for one more bit of (seemingly) annoying junk mail. Because of our long friendship, I grudgingly read it for a few days, fully meaning to unsubscribe and then, to my amazement fell in love. Thank you Anu for the untold pleasure you give me, and now my daughters (almost) every day.

All words are pegs to hang ideas on. -Henry Ward Beecher, preacher and writer (1813-1887)

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