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AWADmail Issue 231

October 15, 2006

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

From: Scott Peterson (scottpeterson prodigy.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--panmixia

I think that the word panmixia is indeed about "mixing things in a pan", at least figuratively speaking. I don't go to singles bars, but I think panmixia is exactly what one would find there. I do remember "mixers" ages ago in college, and, well, a different Pan was in evidence there too.

From: Joe Fleischman (jfleischman wbcm.com)
Subject: panmixia

My immediate thought upon learning this word was of its applicability for owners of mixed breed dogs. It's far more lofty sounding than the oft-used "Heinz" (57 varieties), and more prestigious than "mutt". When asked henceforth of the lineage of my beloved mixed-breed pooch, I shall proudly declare, "He's a Panmixian."

From: Charles Plant (cplant dowco.com)
Subject: Words that don't mean what they appear to be

As anyone who has travelled between the lower mainland of British Columbia and Vancouver Island knows, the main sea route goes through Active Pass, between Galiano and Mayne islands. The pass has a couple of 'dog legs', and as boaters know well, the current through it can be quite ferocious. On a big tide it can be six or seven knots, with overfalls, back eddies, and the lot. More than one vessel has come to grief here.

The pass was so named, not because of its behaviour, but after the American steamer USS Active which made the pass in 1855.

From: Scott Swanson (harview montana.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--officinal

One often encounters 'officinalis' (or 'officinale' or 'officinarum') in the Latin ("scientific") names of plants, indicating that they are or once were commonly used in medicine. 'Melilotus officinalis' (yellow sweet clover) and 'Salvia officinalis' (common sage) spring immediately to mind. As usual, of course, one can find a wealth of information online, and the site piam.com lists all of the 60 or so plants bearing this species name.

From: Greg Higby (ghigby mailplus.wisc.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--officinal

In the United States, the term "officinal" became conflated with "official" after 1820 when the first Pharmacopoeia of the United States (USP) was published. This book of drug standards established what medicines were expected to be found in a fully stocked apothecary shop, i.e., officinals.

After this book was adopted as official by governmental units, officinal and official became more and more interchangeable. Officinal continued to be used into the twentieth century. In 1888, the American Pharmaceutical Association published The National Formulary of Unofficinal Preparations (NF), a collection of recipes for physicians to use in writing prescriptions. After 1906, when the NF became an official standard under the Food and Drugs Act, "officinal" was dropped from the book's title and faded from common use among health practitioners.

Gregory J. Higby, Ph.D., R.Ph.
Executive Director
American Institute of the History of Pharmacy
University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy

From: George Singer (ashleybkco aol.com)
Subject: officinal

The Latin root "officina" has found an hospitable home in the fine printing area in its original meaning of "workshop". In mid-18th century London, Horace Walpole's Strawberry Hill Press was also known as the Officina Arbuteana. Arguably the best known private press of the 20th century was the Officina Bodoni, founded in 1922 by a German expatriate who took the Italian name of Giovanni Mardersteig.

Words are chameleons, which reflect the color of their environment. -Learned Hand, jurist (1872-1961)

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