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AWADmail Issue 228

September 24, 2006

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

From: Terrence Weddle (tmweddle aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--buccaneer

A buck an ear is a high price to pay for corn. But a low price to pay an audiologist!

From: Francis Roe (cfroe aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--buccaneer

The word buccaneer reminds me of a story I heard a long time ago back in Scotland. On Guy Fawkes night, a little boy was visiting his neighbors dressed as a pirate Captain, complete with tricorn hat and eyepatch. He knocked at the door of a little old lady who lived down the road. "Oh my goodness!" said the LOL, "You're a Pirate!" Then she asked, "But where are your buccaneers?" The little boy looked her in the eye, shrugged, and replied, "Under my buccan hat!"

From: John K. (kenai279 excite.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--buccaneer

Buccaneers are an important element in the FSM religion which has discovered that the decline in Pirates over the years is directly correlated with global warming.

From: Michael Poole (michael.poole cw.mitsubishielectric.co.jp)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--buccaneer

I imagine that rather than Robert Newton establishing a Cornish accent as suitable for a pirate, casting a Cornishman as Long John Silver was regarded as appropriate owing to his accent. "Treasure Island" starts off in Cornwall, as no doubt RLS was well aware that the West Country was for long the main starting-point of transatlantic traffic from England (it remained so until the liners became too large for Bristol and Plymouth). Not only did many of the pirates of old probably speak with West Country accents, because of hailing from there, but the North American accents of today are recognisably descended from same -- notably the values of the vowels and the prominent within-word and trailing "r" sounds that the rest of England tends to suppress. As a child, when I met one particular Cornishman, I at first thought he was a Canadian!

From: Brooks N. Clark (nbclark tva.gov)
Subject: Pirate Talk Actually Catches English Amid the Vowel Shift

Arg. Shiver me timbers.

In a lecture series-on-tape on the development of the English language that I got from my local library, a Stanford linguistics professor described the great "vowel shift" in English that left us so many rhymes in poetry that are no longer rhymes (and my own name which went from Clark to Clerk and horse race that went from Darby to Derby and the town that went from Hertford to Hartford).

The professor said that, hearing what the vowels used to sound like, a student said it was "pirate talk", and the professor said, in fact, that's what it was. The Pirates' language was frozen in the decades when English made that vowel shift, and that's one reason it sounds so distinctive to us.

From: Ross Miller (boatmiller snet.net)
Subject: Talking Like a Pirate (A True Story)

A few weeks ago we were sailing back into port, threading our way at a leisurely pace downwind through the mooring field, when we came abreast of some highly inebriated folks enjoying the afternoon aboard a safely tethered boat.

"Arrgh!" their leader called out, "We're pirates, ye know!"

"Aye, and so are we," I replied.

"Arrgh," he said.

"And do ye know what the eighteenth letter of the pirate alphabet is?" I asked him.

"No," he hollered back.

"It's 'Arrgh', matey, it's 'Arrgh'," I bellowed, hoping that we were beyond the range of his guns.

From: Zach Shatz (prismind hotmail.com)
Subject: pirates

No one should be deprived of the laugh from a recent "Bizarro" comic strip. A pirate playing "Wheel of Fortune" says "Rrrrrr!" The gameshow host replies, "For the last time, you've already guessed that letter!"

From: Claudia (claimsgoddess yahoo.com)
Subject: talk like a pirate day

On the morning of Tuesday, 9/19/06, I was advised by my favorite radio announcer that he had just read his AWAD and it was National Talk Like a Pirate Day. He further advised that he would not talk like a pirate because doing so would end his radio career. He then intoned the time (as morning radio personnel do frequently) and the station call letters: WQX...arrrrh...FM! And the music was: no, not Pirates of Penzance, but the overture from Le Corsaire by Berlioz, followed shortly by Dance of the Pirates from Spartacus by Khachaturian.

From: Jan Adkins (j.adkins verizon.net)
Subject: Jolly Roger

I'm an author of non-fiction for children, and recently finished What If You Met a Pirate? The research was delicious, though puzzling. Pirates weren't the bloodthirsty villains in the movies, and they didn't voyage about in the big gunships of the Errol Flynn movies. They were hard-nosed businessmen who signed articles of agreement on joining, elected their captains democratically, and fired them when they failed to produce.

They preferred small, weatherly vessels of shallow draft and killed as few as possible. Dead men were worthless; live men could be ransomed or could "give quarter", pay back a quarter of their next year's wages to go free. At a time when honor meant something, a man who gave his word sent the money.

From: Sara E. (sme_proj_as yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Jolly Roger

I am reading a book, Pirate Curse by Kai Meyer, in which one character tells another, "...all the pirates here in the Caribbean had red flags, so the French called them jolie rouge, which means 'pretty red'. And then the English made 'Jolly Roger' out of it, and the black pirate flags are still called that today."

From: Martha Bihari (marthabihari2002 hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--avast

Now I know why my antivirus program was named "Avast!". It sure makes good sense.

From: Jeb Raitt (jbrmm266 aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--avast

But not only pirates. The term was and is a general nautical term, used now in naval parlance to instruct the cessation of specific activity, such as pulling (heaving) a line (rope). "Avast heaving!" means, "Stop pulling on that rope!"

From: Polly M. Law (pmlaw thrumsend.com)
Subject: Word project

I wrote to you two years ago about an art/illustration project I was doing based on words I had gotten through A.Word.A.Day. Well, there is currently a show of those words/works hanging at a gallery in Woodstock, NY: Word Project.

It is probably no mere historical accident that the word person, in its first meaning, is a mask. It is rather a recognition of the fact that everyone is always and everywhere, more or less consciously, playing a role. -Robert Ezra Park, sociologist (1864-1944)

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