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AWADmail Issue 205

April 16, 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

Polyglots Have Different Brains:

Dakota Sioux Language Saved by Scrabble:

The Dirty Word in 43 Down:

Overly Wired? There's a Word for It:

No Books to Read:

From: Jahn Markus (markusjahnATcsi.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--publican

As this week's topic is 'death & taxes', I find it worthwhile mentioning that 'publican' relates to both.

In Ireland, traditionally the publican (i.e. the pub owner) also used to be -- and in some villages still is -- the funeral director, and the wake takes place in a back room of the local pub.

The second meaning of 'tax collector' for 'publican' must sound quite ironic to pub owners, as the taxes levied on alcoholic beverages in the UK and Ireland are remarkably stiff.

From: John Paul Liddle (johnpaul.liddleATscotland.gsi.gov.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--publican

The window tax has a lasting legacy -- it existed until the mid-19th century and many tenement buildings survive in parts of the UK from that time (including the one I live in). My building, and many like it, have windows that are bricked up -- a drastic form of tax avoidance!

From: Donn Neal (donnnealATyahoo.com)
Subject: Window tax

The U.S. also had a "window tax", imposed by the Federal government in 1798. It was unpopular so it did not last long, but its byproduct was some very valuable information to researchers about the size and type of dwellings. Most of the tax returns (except for Pennsylvania) have not survived, unfortunately.

From: James Friend (frienddjpATcomcast.net)
Subject: Re: Death and taxes

The best variation on this theme that I know is the New Yorker cartoon showing two vultures sitting on a high tree branch and surveying the desolate scenery below them. The larger one says. "Son, in this life two things are inevitable, death and meals."

From: Andrew Pressburger (andrew.pressburgerATprimus.ca)
Subject: Death and taxes

The medieval custom, called heriot, requiring a serf to leave his best piece of furniture or some such possession to the lord of his manor when he died, unites the two themes and pre-dates the modern death duty that is said to have dug the grave of the inheritance of British (and other nations') aristocracy.

The proffered excuse was to endow the lord with a memento of his serf's fidelity, a kind of reverse reminder if one assumes that the much bruited-about -- but probably overrated -- droit de seigneur (also known by its Latin designation ius primae noctis) had left a living memento of the lord himself in the serf's family.

From: Frans Hartgers (fransAThartgers.de)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--thanatopsis

If you mention this one, then do mention that it was originally also the urge to die; and also mention its opposite, the urge to live: eros!

From: Andru Reeve (andru62AThotmail.com)
Subject: Thanatopsis

I actually used this word in my book "Turn Me On, Dead Man: The Beatles and the 'Paul Is Dead' Hoax" (SubRosa Publications/AuthorHouse 2004). I promise you I was not being ostentatious; the word came in handy and was a perfect fit for what I was writing. Just more proof that a strong and deep vocabulary is one of the most powerful tools in writing!

From: Gene Wolfe (genewlfATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--anabiosis

Goldfish are routinely frozen in blocks of ice for shipment. A few die, but most survive. This has been a common practice for many years.

From: Jack (maycompATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--anabiosis

On my last visit to Africa while driving down a narrow dirt trail we encountered a native. On a stick over his shoulder was slung a large net bag. The bag contained a huge wad of muddy fish, not dead but not very lively. I was told the fish gather in the last puddles of water before the annual dry season and become dormant. When the rains come, the fish revive.....unless first discovered by a hungry native! (I have some photos.)

From: Art Haykin (theartATwebtv.net)
Subject: anabiosis and cryogenics

I can't be sure how others may think, but the freezing of human bodies (or just heads) for future thawing, when there's a cure for what killed them, is the height of optimistic conceit. The downsides to such a ridiculous proposition, both technical and philosophical, are both varied and several, not to mention expensive and uncertain.

Not the least of these negative factors is, in my view, that unless one were a young Mozart or Einstein, what makes one think anyone will be interested in bringing you back in, say 200 years? We'll probably be up to our hips in people anyway. I say, play the hand you're dealt in this life as best you can, and be grateful for the gift, be it 35 years or 75 years. Mozart made it to about 35, and Einstein to about 75. Life is qualitative, not quantitative.

From: Scott Chase (schaseATairmail.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--capitation

Health insurance companies, under HMO contracts, will often pay a physician group a monthly fee on a per patient per month ("PPPM") basis and it's called a capitation payment. The HMO hopes that the group will provide efficient services within the total amount paid and the group believes that the upfront payment is better than waiting for their bills to be paid. As it turns out, generally neither happens and the practice has led to the "death" of some physician groups.

From: Phil Curl (philcurlATyahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--capitation

How ironic that the last word in the "death and taxes" theme is one that has to do with taxes, but just needs the proper prefix ("de") to mean a type of death as well!

From: Gary Loew (garylATchampion-workflow.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--capitation

If capitation is a head tax, why isn't decapitation a tax cut?

From: Murat Kayacan (mkayacanATmemleket.com.tr)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--impost

They say in Turkey: "If you have impost debt to the government, don't pay it soon. It may not take it. If it has a debt to you, take soon. It may not give it back."

Language is more fashion than science, and matters of usage, spelling and pronunciation tend to wander around like hemlines. -Bill Bryson, author (1951- )

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