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AWADmail Issue 210

May 21, 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

Dolphins Have Their Own Names:

BBC News

The Art of Translation:
British Council

Monkeys Use "Sentences":
National Geographic

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

This word features prominently in the movie "Akeelah and the Bee" which is currently showing in the U.S. It's a very positive movie in which words are the co-stars, and contains much insight into word origins, spelling, etc., but also into how spelling is more than memorization, it's an extension of a love for the language.

From: Mary Stoltz (stoltzmjATflcc.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pulchritude

Today's word, "pulchritude", brought a fond memory. The only person I have ever heard use the word was my dad. He often held up my mother as an example of "feminine pulchritude". I may not have known the dictionary definition but, in context, it seemed to be both beautiful and good.

From: Stuart Tarlowe (starloweATearthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pulchritude

Pulchritude may merely mean "beauty" but, while reading Playboy (in my youth) I encountered the word used so many times to describe the Playmates' attributes that I was sure that pulchritude had something to do with, uh, large breasts.

From: Hennie M. Lloyd (h.m.lloydATsympatico.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day - pulchritude

I can't see myself using 'pulchritude' to denote beauty -- it reminds me of the word 'putrid' too much. I guess that's part of its unusual quality. Yet, if one were a scientist studying the process of decay and discovered an unusual form of putridity, the word 'pulchritude' might be.

From: Lynn Mancini (manciniATdtcc.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--terpsichorean

My favourite use of the word "terpsichorean" comes from T.S. Eliot's poem "The Song of the Jellicles", which describes a type of cat. The relevant verse is,

"They're quiet enough in the morning hours,
They're quiet enough in the afternoon,
Reserving their terpsichorean powers
To dance by the light of the Jellicle Moon."

This poem, along with many others from Eliot's "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats", form the basis for the musical "Cats".

From: Jarrett Gonzales (shmoovioATgmail.com)
Subject: Terpsichorean

As with silly walks and unexpected Spanish Inquisitions, 'terpsichorean' was first brought to my attention by Monty Python, who used the word in their famous cheese shop sketch:

Customer: I want to buy some cheese.
Owner: Oh, I thought you were complaining about the bazouki player!
Customer: Oh, heaven forbid: I am one who delights in all manifestations of the Terpsichorean muse!

From: Robert Walker-Smith (rwlkrsmithATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--terpsichorean

Terpsichorean reminded me of a Felicia Lamport poem from decades past, commenting on the then-new fashion for summer cultural festivals in rural locations, specifically the lines:

"In hickory thickery folks once got liquory;
Now it's Terpsichore's lair."

From: Chris Roberts (chris.robertsATrodney.govt.nz)
Subject: Unusual words theme

As soon as I saw your theme and first example yesterday, a phrase sprang into my mind from the one of the M*A*S*H novels by Richard Hooker (on which the film and TV series were based). Hawkeye and Trapper John had a running gag that involved them using these sort of phrases for commoner expressions to try to catch each other out and the one I have always remembered was "terpsichorean ecdysiast", another euphemism of which would be "exotic dancer". I was about 16 at the time and had to go and find a Big Dictionary to track down the second term.

From: Rama Kulkarni, MD (ramaa1ATpacbell.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--succedaneum

The medical term caput succedaneum refers to a boggy, indistinct swelling of the scalp of newborns caused by the tourniquet effect of the cervix on the scalp. It is temporary, lasting only about a day or so. Perhaps the swelling is imaginatively considered a "substitute head"?

From: Tuvik Beker (tuvikATsoligence.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--margaritaceous

In the Bible, the Hebrew word for pearl is margalit (mar-ga-LIT). This is a common Hebrew name to this day, by the way.

From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr. (rrosenbergsrATaccuratechemical.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day

During the war (WWII, there have been so many since then) I had to interrupt my studies for three years and go into hiding. The last 17 months were spent with my mother, in a basement where the only reading material was the Larousse French dictionary. We became dear friends as I read it from A to Z. Although it did not become an addiction, we have remained on friendly terms. Reading your daily "tisane" keeps me alert and sane in this increasingly bewildering world. Thank you.

Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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