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AWADmail Issue 227

September 13, 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 wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Latvians cry 'fowl' over Microsoft Vista:

Politicians Fall in Love with 'Word Bites':

'Oldest' New World writing found:

From: Anu Garg (garg wordsmith.org)
Subject: Online chat

What do you call someone from Cambridge? Or someone from Zimbabwe? Join us for a chat about words for people from various places. Paul Dickson, author of the book "Labels for Locals", will be our guest.

Where: wordsmith.org/chat
When: Sep 26, 2006, 6 pm Pacific (GMT -7)

From: Bill Mundt (wmundt monticellopro.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--boodle

Boodle: The meaning to a West Point cadet is completely different. It is an out-of-messhall goodie, especially ice cream. In fact, the store where the 'boodle' is gotten is the Boodlers! The only out-of-the-ordinary fact about boodle is that it is after hours of the mess hall. No illegality at all.
Cheers, William E. Mundt, M.D. West Point 1949

From: Maggie (smags aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--boodle

? From: Liz Alewine (liz.alewine comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--paisano

In Texas, and perhaps more of the Southwest, this term also means a large bird others call "roadrunner". Unlike in the cartoons, he doesn't beep, but he is graceful and fast on the ground. I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas ("where the west begins" was our city motto), and paisanos were frequent sights on hilly residential streets and when ambling through fields.

From: Philip Viener (keeperv att.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--skosh

There's a "little" (pardon) more to the story of skosh coming into slang usage...

I first heard the word while serving in the US Air Force in 1971, but it had been part of the military vocabulary long before that. Asking around about the origination of "skosh" got me several answers -- first, that it came back from Viet Nam with returning GIs, and two (the more likely) that it was adopted by those who served in the occupation forces in Japan after World War II.

Around the same time I was flying a desk, Northrop Grumman, the aircraft manufacturer, was trying to sell to foreign countries the F-5, a fighter version of its exceptional T-38 jet trainer. Northrop had given it some properly aggressive name, but everyone called it the "Skoshi Tiger", because it was smaller and lighter than the other fighter aircraft in the inventory. (Side note for film buffs: the F-5 has a cameo in Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now".)

I knew "skosh" was with us forever -- and no longer military property -- around 1975, when I heard a Levi's jeans radio commercial for a new pant design for the (ahem) more mature Levi's wearer. According to the announcer, these Levi's gave you a "skosh more room" in certain areas.

From: Richard Rosol (rrosol verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--goombah

In the field of medicine, goombah has entered the slang lexicon to mean a troublesome mass -- cancerous or otherwise -- lurking in some organ, disrupting the organ's function. One might say something like, "If we scan his chest, what do you wanna bet there'll be some goombah crowding out his right upper lobe?" The term serves as a nonspecific alternative to the boring, Catholic-sounding "mass", while injecting the flippant irreverence so pervasive in medicine.

From: Brian Seitz (wholok gmail.com)
Subject: goombah

It's also notable that the mushroom-looking Super Mario Bros. (a video game) enemies are called goombas.

From: Frank Siraguso (fsiraguso kumc.edu)
Subject: goombah

I heard my dad and his friends (his compares) use this term a million times, but have never seen it spelled out. In their Sicilian dialect (he and they were born in the U.S., but their parents were mostly from Sicily), they pronounced it "goombody" with the accent on the last syllable. It was a term of endearment, used to mean a close friend. I never called my godfather by that term. I called him "purino", which sounded like "burino", and, in the same vein, called my godmother "burina".

From: Megan Jefferies (meganjefferies cgsi.us)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--goombah

I'm reminded of this song:

"Hey goomba I love how you dance the rumba
But take some advice paisano, learn-a how to mambo.
If you're gonna be a square you ain't-a gonna go nowhere."
Dean Martin, Mambo Italiano.

From: Francesco Martinelli (fmartinelli tin.it)
Subject: Re: Goombah

Around the Naples area, this is in general usage between friends, besides its proper definition. With a wink, "compare" and "comare" can get the meaning of lover, especially extramarital; the "commare secca" or "dried-up godmother" is Death.

But there it is pronounced "cumpa'" (changing the "o" in "u" and losing the final "re"), and the southern "c" and "p" are sweeter, sounding like "g" and "b": "gumba" or, in phonetic American spelling, "goombah"!

The real mafioso are not spoken about, so there's hardly a word for them. "Amici" is the word actually used, but in Sicily they have the wonderful expression "uomini de panza" ("men with belly") for local VIPs. In Turkey we say "gobeksiz erkek balkonsuz eve benzer" or "a man without a belly is like a house without a balcony"!

From: Susan Marr (smarr msrs.org)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--goombah

What a delight this week has been. Goombah and paisano remind me of my days of living in Rhode Island. The Federal Hill ("the hill") region of Providence is well known for its Italian heritage. A very dear friend grew up in the area. He continually "warned" me about going up on the hill without my passport or him along as a reference.

Wouldn't you know. We went up there one day for lunch where we ran into a friend of his. His friend turned to me and asked for my passport. My buddy told him "She's with me." That made it all okay.

Of course this was all in jest, but what delightful times I had with this friend. My favorite expression was "agita", very roughly translated to "it rubs the wrong way" or a bad feeling in the stomach. Apparently I was a constant source of his agita, as in "You give me agita."

? Here is where people, / One frequently finds, / Lower their voices / And raise their minds. -Richard Armour, author, on libraries (1906-1989)

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