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AWADmail Issue 202

March 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

Whale Song Reveals Sophisticated Language Skills

Linguists Find the Words, and Pocahontas Speaks Again:

From: Joseph Motacek (cleanshooterATgmail.com)
Subject: Pyrrhic victory

Few people see war, except as the media portray it, the way it is seen through the eyes of a soldier. And as a soldier I can attest to the words said of war in this week's theme. Pyrrhic victory brings so many thoughts and memories to my mind, the great cost of this war on human life and to the economy of America. This war seems so futile from the inside, because you can't tell the difference between the people you want to help and the people you have to fight. They say there is no civil war in Iraq but what do you call it when the people that live in a country kill each other because they have different beliefs?

From: John Stinson (olmillerATauracom.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pyrrhic victory

In the interest of retaining some harmony between our countries, I wouldn't necessarily put this in the digest but I thought the following of interest: moderateindependent.com.

From: Michael Gul (mgulATstleonards.vic.edu.au)
Subject: pyrrhic victory

It is not at all the case that "a war is perhaps the only occasion when killing a person is not just accepted but rewarded." I have the privilege of teaching my students the basics of the laws of murder. Most of them are taken aback when I start to focus on the idea of an unlawful killing as opposed to a lawful one.

There is much lawful killing going on in the world, far away from war zones. The executioners of Texas, California, Singapore, and China all perform state-sanctioned killing rituals. Their paypacket surely is a reward by the State for this service. Furthermore, a police officer shooting down a gun-toting suspect will also be praised by his fellow citizens for protecting them from potential harm. As my students can discern at the end of our course, it's not the killing itself that is the problem: it is the legal nature of the act that is problematic.

From: Milan Schonberger (schondergATaol.com)
Subject: pyrrhic victory

But even a "war of words" may at times lead to a pyrrhic victory. Consider the possible scenarios when an argument leads to the use of motor vehicles and/or guns or when a heated word exchange results in a massive heart attack. Better solution, I think, is to give much greater consideration to how important it is to assert ourselves and whether a graceful disengagement would not be the best "victory". In another words the real meaning of "pyrrhic victory" depends on the value or quality of human life in proportion to the cause fought for.

From: Andrew Pressburger (andrew.pressburgerATprimus.ca)
Subject: Pyrrhic victory

One of the outstanding literary illustrations of this expression might be the litigation Jarndyce v. Jarndyce in Charles Dickens's Bleak House, recently dramatized to critical acclaim by the BBC. In the novel, thanks to the protracted handling of the case (the proverbial "law's delay"), by the time the disputed inheritance is awarded to one of the contestants, all of its originally considerable size had been dissipated by legal costs, the fruitless triumph driving the poor beneficiary to distraction and ultimately to an early grave.

From: David Redmann (dredmannATlemle.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--spoliation

Spoliation has become a widely used legal term of art, and it indeed includes "[t]he deliberate destruction or alteration of a document", but also applies to the destruction or alteration of any evidence or potential evidence, whether intentional or merely negligent. Indeed, today spoliation issues often arise regarding non-documentary evidence, such as a wrecked vehicle or a drug that allegedly caused an adverse reaction. The exact legal contours of spoliation are evolving, with one of the debated points being whether there can be legal consequences to the alteration, or destruction of potential evidence when it was not done with the intent to harm the evidence. By the way, you also see an apparently ignorant/incorrect variation, "spoilation"; I don't think "spoilation", if it is a word (I think it is, referring e.g. to food going bad), properly applies to what we'd call spoliation.

From: George Miller (glmillerATbresnan.net)
Subject: spoliation

Interesting observation: the frequency of the misspelling of words. One that frequently catches my eye is the word "cavalry" when the writer is referring to "Calvary". Perhaps my being a minister makes me notice this more. But it's still startling to see a reference to the Cavalry Baptist Church, always making me wonder if the worshipers attend services in uniform and on horseback. I am equally interested in the frequency of mispronounced words. "Prostrate" comes to mind. One hears it universally when "prostate" is the word wanted in the context. "I just found out I'm going to have to have my prostrate out." I suppose one could make some kind of argument for the appropriateness of being "prostrate" over such a medical condition, but it still misses the mark of accuracy in communication.

Language is the archives of history. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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