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AWADmail Issue 234

November 12, 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

The New York Times

The Million Dollar Comma:
The Register

Kids Are Reading For Speed -- And Getting Nowhere:
Pioneer Press

In Plain, Southern English:
The Chattanoogan

From: Alison Huettner (pondalorum aol.com)
Subject: Ordinal words

The following was the 1993 winner of the Bulwer-Lytton contest for the worst conceivable opening line for a novel (named after Bulwer-Lytton's "It was a dark and stormy night", beloved of Snoopy). It's my favorite!

"She wasn't really my type, a hard-looking but untalented reporter from the local cat box liner, but the first second that the third-rate representative of the fourth estate cracked open a new fifth of old Scotch, my sixth sense said seventh heaven was as close as an eighth note from Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, so, nervous as a tenth grader drowning in eleventh-hour cramming for a physics exam, I swept her into my longing arms, and, humming 'The Twelfth of Never', I got lucky on Friday the thirteenth." -Wm. W. "Buddy" Ocheltree, Port Townsend, Washington

From: Charlotte Whale (cwhalejr aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fifth column

Casey's request of lining up alphabetically according to height, just might work for me -- I am tall and my last name begins with "W".

From: Murray Frank (mfrank.ihp vineyard.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fifth column

At my first pay-day in the Army in 1944, they called us out to the squadron's drill grounds -- several hundred of us -- and told us to line up in alphabetical order. It took hours to get paid.

From: Mike Schoenberg (hellfroze1 mindspring.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fifth column

Sometime in the late 1970s or early '80s there was a interesting book that came out called "God's Fifth Column" by an English writer, William Gerhardie. He had been a novelist in the 1930s and then went to work for the government during the war. Afterward he supposedly disappeared as his works went out of fashion and I remember reading a piece on how BBC went looking for him and found him in this tiny apartment with bits of paper scattered all over. These bits constituted the contents of "God's Fifth Column" as Gerhardie tried to make sense of what had happened in the last 100 years with the idea that writers and other thinkers from all over Europe were part of this grand scheme.

From: Frank Ruddy (globalltd earthlink.com)
Subject: fifth column

Your definition of a fifth column as traitors is outrageous. But for General Mola and other officers of Francisco Franco, Spain would have become another Rumania. Did you ever see the pictures of nuns driven through the streets naked by the Republican government? Are you aware of the theft and transfer to Russia of the Spanish treasury? Read Orwell's Homage to Catalonia to get some idea of the murderous tactics of the Stalinist forces in Spain aiding the Republican government. Orwell, after all, was no right winger. The fifth column in Spain were patriots who successfully kept Spain from going Communist. There were heroes. You should be ashamed of maligning them as traitors.

Frank Ruddy, U.S. ambassador (ret.)

    Language doesn't always follow fact or logic. John Duns Scotus, after whom the word dunce is coined, was no dull-witted ignoramus. The French, after whom the term French leave is coined, are no more prone to leaving without notice than the rest of us. The list is endless.
    The term "fifth column" is in the dictionaries, and to try to change the definition you'd need a fifth column in the editorial offices of their publishers.
    -Anu Garg (garg wordsmith.org)

From: Evelyn Clement (erren aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--third degree

When my youngest son (fourth child) was a pre-schooler, he was pretty emphatic about doing things his own way and often scolded me when I insisted on MY way. His favorite threat when this confrontation occurred was, "If you don't let me (whatever) I'm going to say 'three' at you!"

From: Cecile Hessels (v.hessels versatel.nl)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--second fiddle That most beautiful 'Second Fiddle' sung by Bessie Smith! Thank you for making me dig up the old LP and play it.

From: Vickie Hook (vickieh ontera.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--second fiddle

This term brings to mind one of my favourite sounds -- the cacophony of an orchestra tuning up. May I make a wee correction to your definition? The concertmaster may lead the tuning, but it is the oboe player who actually sounds the first note to which everyone else in the orchestra subsequently tunes. It is an instrument (one of many), which I hope someday to learn. See dubuquesymphony.org.

Lexicographer's business is solely to collect, arrange, and define the words that usage presents to his hands. He has no right to proscribe words; he is to present them as they are. -Noah Webster, lexicographer (1758-1843)

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