Wordsmith.Org: The Magic of Words: The Magic of Words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 223

August 20, 2006

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

From: Brian Seiler (btseiler AT sehs.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--clinquant

As an aside, would the "hip-hop" version of clinquant be "bling-quant?"

From: Julian Kerrell-Vaughan (kerrell_vaughan AT yahoo.com)
Subject: clinquant

Clinquant in French today means something brash and vulgar - I suppose that 'bling' would be the UK equivalent. If a woman is described as 'clinquant' she is probably covered in designer labels, and of course a pair of sunglasses, and heaps of very large gold jewellery.

Hollywood, for example, is 110% clinquant.

From: Dan Brook (brook AT california.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--clinquant

More AWADmancy? Just yesterday, my son and I were panning for gold in the American River, in Coloma, the place where gold was first found by James Marshall in January 1848, setting off the gold rush and one of the greatest migrations in history. We did find some flakes of gold, but the real gold for us was seeing the beauty of the gold flakes glittering in the fast-flowing, cold, clear river. It was a luminous, numinous, and mesmerizing sight. We didn't have the appropriate word for it yesterday, but now we do!

From: Johnnie Godwin (johnniegodwin AT aol.com)
Subject: Re: Empathy with "feeding the beast" . . .

I wrote a weekly newspaper column for nine years. I titled it "Words and Things". I too love words and have ever since I can remember, but I too came to weeks when I had to feed the beast. As some wit wrote about being a columnist, "It's like making love to a nymphomaniac: as soon as you get through, it's time to start all over again." Well, maybe not a good analogy, but the point wasn't lost on me.

From: Tom Houston (thouston AT us.ibm.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--agnomen

This word reminded me of something I learned 45 years ago from my Latin professor, Zeph Stewart.

Besides the four parts of a Roman's name that today's article identified, every Roman also had a secret name -- I do not know the Latin term for it -- that would have been known only to that Roman and to his or her parents, but which was never revealed to anyone else.

Its purpose was to prevent enemies from doing harm through magic, because in popular Roman opinion, the delivery of magical harm required the complete name of the victim. So without including its target's secret name, a curse or malicious spell could have no effect.

This "secret name" custom seems striking in its implication that divine beings, forces of Nature, the Evil Eye, or whatever the Romans believed had the power or responsibility to enforce curses and spells -- perhaps the "genius" of the human instigator? -- are guided by the literal content, not by the unspoken intent. Perceiving value in having a secret name acknowledges the power of words in a domain outside the fields of law, politics, and propaganda to which modern civilization owes to the Roman Empire so great a debt (or perhaps "owes so much resentment", for those who question the value of our world's vast Roman legacy).

From: Mark Nowacki (2ndmass AT gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--agnomen

In the recent remake of the "Battlestar Galactica" science-fiction TV series, the intelligent Cylons robots are known only by their model numbers. There are dozens of copies of each model, but each "6" looks the same as every other "6", each "8" the same as every other "8", etc. Individualism is not part of their mind-set.

When, however, when a specific model-6 Cylon achieved something that was admired and revered by the entire Cylon race (the destruction of the planet Caprica), she came to be known as "Caprica 6", and became a celebrity. This was a significant shift in Cylon society: Previously, not any had ever had their own name, or received an agnomen.

From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr. (rrosenbergsr AT accuratechemical.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--agnomen

During the Hitler regime, Jews in Germany were compelled to take on an extra "first" name. All Jewish men had to add "Israel" and all women "Sarah". That made it easier for the police (and everyone else) to know who was a Jew.

My grandmother became Emma "Sarah" Friedemann and my uncle Richard "Israel" Friedemann.

From: Jesse Selengut (jesse AT jesseselengut.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--clinquant

On weeks like this you should let us know that there is no theme per se but still challenge us to connect the dots anyway. I am sure the creative, intelligent subscribers you have cultivated would delight you with theories we could construct. Maybe there is some Jungian message waiting to be disclosed to you?

Thusly, I'll hazard a guess at this week's "synchronicity theme".

Words that relate to street festivals like Mardi Gras, in New Orleans, or Carnival in Brazil.

The best part is, I know that I can't be wrong!!

From: Roch Rollin (rochrollin AT ca.inter.net)
Subject: English and French verbs (Re: AWADmail 221

Sorry for the delay, this is from last week's mail issue #221 In answer to Rudy Rosenberg Sr.'s assertion:

French is very like English in that a verb without a noun (or pronoun) is useless and vice-versa. In English you can use a single word to mean many sometimes unrelated things, e.g.: ring, ring: rung, rung. In French it is true nouns don't usually serve as verbs as they are. But it isn't incorrect to make a verb up. Who is to stop you from taking any noun for which you don't have a verb and creating one (néologiser!). You have the same kind of formation in English: French becomes Frenchify; English, Anglicise. This process is very well illustrated by your Brel example ( très vulgaire, but what the inferno! ) and is the manifestation of one of the qualities that distinguish creative writers.

To carry forward your example: "You can knife someone", in French you might say: "Tu peux couper quelqu'un." You could also use another perfectly serviceable verb: daguer, poignarder, embrocher, sabrer, émincer, fileter, dépecer, éventrer, égorger, etc., depending on what kind of tool you use, how you manipulate it and what kind of injury is likely to result. And if you really can't live without a verb from couteau, you could easily make one up: coutelliser sounds good. The time when the Académie française was a reference is long gone.

I won't elaborate on derriériser which could equally be expanded into analiser (too close to analyser), rectumiser (funny) or enfiler (très vulgaire); and yes, embrocher could also be used for that! For more of this kind of vocabulary, you might read the "divin marquis" who manipulated French vulgarities like a rapier.

Frankly French (both from Latin Francus)

Roch Rollin

P.S. By the way enculer takes only one 'L'.

Language is fossil poetry. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith