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AWADmail Issue 212

June 4, 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

Definition, D-E-F-I-N-I-T-I-O-N, Definition
The New York Times

Free Chapter Added to Saga of E-books:
Boston Globe

Punishing Patients:
Mother Jones

From: Gary Muldoon (muldgATaol.com)
Subject: redux

I live in New Brunswick, Canada where the motto is "Spem Reduxit" (Hope restored).

From: Michael Tremberth (michaelt42ATtiscali.co.uk)
Subject: redux

Not to be confused with redox, chemical shorthand for reduction-oxidation, as in redox potential. An example of a composite word made up of complementary parts.

From: Sally Boyson (ag8stacheATcomcast.com)
Subject: Redivivus/rediviva

This word brings to mind a very beautiful, tiny plant, Lewisia rediviva, so-named because it disappears completely in the summer heat, only to return in the spring. The genus is named for Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark expedition, who documented many new plants.

From: William S. Haubrich, MD (willhaubATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--emeritus

My friend Dr. J. Edward Berk, on the occasion of his retirement as chairman of the department of internal medicine at the University of California Irvine, explained the origin of "emeritus". He pointed out that the term is taken from the Latin e-, ex- (out of) and meritus (deserves to be).

From: Michael Rothschild (mrothschildATbus.wisc.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--emeritus

Your definition of emeritus is OK, but here's a better one:

When one of our faculty members was retiring, I was asked to say a few words at the event. Most of the attendees were nonacademic, conservative business people who had benefited from the retiree's assistance over many years. I thought it would be appropriate to explain the derivation of "emeritus".

I said that "emer" had a middle eastern derivation from emir, the wise elderly leader of the community. "Tus" came from an Eastern European or Slavic base, from which flatulence also derived.

Putting the two together, one could then see that emeritus meant "old fart".

From: Shrisha Rao (shraoATnyx.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--regnant

In the early 1950s when Winston Churchill was the Prime Minister of the UK, there were persistent rumors about Queen Elizabeth II being pregnant. Finally, the Queen summoned her Prime Minister to Buckingham Palace to scotch the rumors, upon which Churchill observed, "She may not be pregnant, but she certainly is regnant," a remark suggestive of the verbal virtuosity that won him the Nobel Prize in Literature.

From: John Allen (johnallenATxtra.co.nz)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--regnant

The similarity of this word to "pregnant" gives rise to some amusing wordplay. When our secretary took maternity leave her temporary replacement quipped, "I'm just here during the interpregnum."

From: Jacob Seliger (jseligerATclarku.edu)
Subject: Postpositive words

I actually just had an email exchange with a writer at Language Log about the postpositive plural issue. He posted some of our exchange, which may interest you in light of this week's theme.

I guess I'm not the only one who noted the linguistic oddities of Apple products, since I was discussing the MacBook Pro and you cited the iPod nano as an example of corporate branding that places adjectives after the noun.

From: Theodore R. Buddine (trbfromncATaol.com)
Subject: postpositive

We were taught in French class that while the usual position for an adjective was following the noun it modified, an adjective having a figurative meaning often preceded the noun. The aide-memoire we were given was: Napoleon n'etait pas un homme grand, mais il etait un grand homme.

From: Dix Franke (xidATkapik.com)
Subject: Theme of the week

Instead of "This week's theme: adjectives used postpositively." being at the top of the page, you should have put "This week's theme: adjectives postpositive".

From: David Trumbull (davidATtrumbullofboston.org)
Subject: postpositive words

I had occasion to use the word "postpositive" in my biweekly Boston newspaper column:

Of late, the clerks at CVS pharmacy, presumably under instruction (perhaps under duress) from the management, ask at the check-out, "Did you find everything you were looking for?" I do feel sorry for the poor clerks who daily repeat the question hundreds of times. Aside from that questionable postpositive preposition (something up with which I will not put), there is the whole tedious business of the wisecracking customer (probably the third one already this shift) who tries to be witty. "Every thing I was looking for? True love? World peace? The meaning of life?"

You can never understand one language until you understand at least two. -Ronald Searle, artist (1920- )

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