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AWADmail Issue 21

November 19, 2000

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

From: Hans Feuss (hans.feussATcibc.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--aufklarung

I am now 54 years of age, but during my youth the word 'aufklaerung' (note the umlaut here), had a very specific meaning:

Having received 'aufklaerung' or having been 'aufgeklaert' ALWAYS meant, that your parents/elders etc. have told you, not necessarily taught you, the ways of the birds and bees and how babies were made. I suppose, this is a form of enlightenment, but not necessarily in the way it was presented.

    Also noted by Pamela Matsuda-Dunn (pmdartATaol.com) and Raul Cucalon (cucalonrATpom-emh1.army.mil).

From: Quincy Liu (liuAThmi.de)
Subject: Anschluss

Before the word Anschluss became encrusted with the political overtone of `being taken over', it had, and still has, the straight forward meaning of `having connection to', e.g., by knowing a certain contact person one has the Anschluss to an organization or a group.

From: Eric Wilson (cerebrumconsultingAThome.com)
Subject: Succinct definition of kitsch

Some years back on a BBC radio program called 'My Word', I heard the most succinct definition of 'kitsch'.

kitsch: "A Venus de Milo statue with a clock its belly."

Says it all, don't you agree?

From: Randall Gray (randall.grayATmarine.csiro.au)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--kitsch

We were discussing what someone ought to wear to a moderately formal function when a voice from the rabble piped up:

"Remember: Kitsch never goes out of style."

It is now on the wall in our loo along with a motley collection of other similar aphorisms both humourous and wise.

From: Gretta Small (grettasmallATcs.com)
Subject: Spelling

Why have you chosen to OMIT the umlaut in "gemutlichkeit" (your spelling) rather than to observe the convention (using an "e" following the ought-to-be umlauted character to indicate the umlaut) normally observed when the umlauted character is not available on the keyboard? This is done even in Germany. Thus, the word would be spelled, "Gemuetlichkeit."

The umlauted "u" has a completely different pronunciation from the non-umlauted "u" and thus is absolutely essential. I lived in Germany for many years and learned this the hard way, e.g. "schwuel" (WITH the umlaut) means "humid" and "schwul" means "homosexual."

From: Rudolph Chelminski (rudychelminskiATcompuserve.com)
Subject: Re: German words

I have received a multitude of complaints that the German words I selected for AWAD as a Guest Wordsmith were missing umlauts and were not capitalized, as is standard German practice for nouns. Two explanations for this: 1) Many (most?) American keyboards, mine included, do not have the umlaut symbol; and 2) once German (or Hindi or Afghan or whatever) words have been kidnapped into our language they are no longer 100% what they were. Now that we have them in captivity they have to play by OUR rules, heh,heh,heh. So no accents, umlauts, diacritical marks or whatever. And no capitalizations.

From: Mark Willis (mwillisAThelix.nih.gov)
Subject: Fifteen minutes of fame for "chad"!

I've been enjoying your AWAD mailings for over a year now, and every once in awhile I see in print a word I had recently learned from the daily morsels you send. But I doubt if any newly-learned word so far has appeared as prominently to me as the term "chad" (AWAD, 11/3/99). For the past six days, the election of the president in the United States has been (literally and figuratively) hinging on the chads attached in various conditions to the manually-punched ballots in the state of Florida, as election officials examine them for hints of the voters' electoral intent. When I originally saw `chad' on your list, I wondered why we needed a name for such an item. Now I realize that every word will have its fifteen minutes of fame!

Whenever I see or hear the word (which the news media often stop to define before proceeding with the story), I think of AWAD. Thank you for doing your part to inform our electoral process here in the United States.

From: Brian West (brianwestATclara.net)
Subject: Slang

I have with much interest read the correspondence on English rhyming slang. This reminds me of an alternative slang used on occasion by my late Father, and allegedly by Butchers in England where words were reversed, thus eson was nose, ecaf (esaf) was face and so forth. Quite difficult to understand until acquainted with the rules.

From: Suzy (suzy807QATaol.com)
Subject: speaking backwards

Since most people who subscribe to AWAD are linguaphiles, I would expect that many have a facility with languages in general. I'm wondering how common the ability to speak backwards is. (For example, one could instantly translate while speaking "Hello, my name is John" into "Olleh, ym eman si Nhoj.") I can do it and I've only met one other person who could do it as well. Is this a fairly common ability?

    I t`nod kniht os. -Una

Dictionary: Spell binder. -Joseph F. Morris

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