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AWADmail Issue 236November 19, 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)
Last week's THEme of words with built-in definite articles generated letters with numerous examples of duplication. Here are a few selections:
What a great theme! Thanks, Anu. I wanted to point out a funny little
detail that you've probably already noticed. The following excerpt itself
has a duplication of definite articles (*the Los* Angeles): "An extreme
example of this inadvertent duplication of definite articles is in the
name of the Los Angeles site ..."
The point about the redundancy in 'The La Brea Tar Pits' reminds me of the
teacher who once asked, "Where is Leonardo da Vinci from?" (not realizing,
of course, that 'da Vinci' literally means 'from Vinci').
Here's a story of "losing" the first sound as opposed to gaining it. When
I first began to study Persian history in the language, as opposed to
English, I was amused to find out Alexander the Great is referred to as
"Escandar". The Persians thought the "Al" part was the definitive article
and thus left it out.
We do this kind of thing all the time in our medical setting. A child who
is scheduled for an appointment in our Ambulatory Care Clinic is given
instructions to find the ACC clinic (the ambulatory care clinic clinic).
Your mention of the La Brea Tar Pits reminded me of the Austin Lounge
Lizards' classic, "Big Rio Grande River". The entire song is made up of
just such redundancies. Here's an excerpt:
I always smile when people write "Please RSVP."
Ala Moana Blvd: Ala is Hawaiian for street so this is like saying
Moana Street Blvd.
A radio announcer clearly not familiar with the Bay Area touted a
store whose location he rendered as being "on the El Camino Road".
That is, "the the road road".
In Davis I used to live on La Rue Road. I always cracked a smile turning
onto my street translating the sign from French to English = The Road Road.
You'd think a University town would know better!
We are just back from Egypt and Jordan and were told that sahara means
desert in Arabic so Sahara Desert is Desert Desert.
Another one would be Mount Fujiyama (in Japan), which means, Mount Fuji Mount.
Kilimanjaro contains word for mountain (kilima) from Kiswahili/Bantu languages.
Another example is Katahdin, Maine's tallest mountain and the place where
the sun's rays first hit the continental United States every morning. The
original Abenaki Native American name, Katahdin, when translated is "greatest
mountain". But everywhere we see signs for Mount Katahdin and guidebooks for
Mount Katahdin and we even send post cards home extolling our trip to Mount
Katahdin. So we are saying we climbed "Mount Greatest Mountain". Join the
Committee to Stamp out the Mount on Katahdin. It costs nothing and while it
does not make you unique, it does allow you to brag about belonging to a
growing, but educated, minority.
Here in southern Arizona we have a state park near the site of the only
Civil War battle fought in our state, at Picacho Peak... or Peak Peak.
My brother played in a fairly successful regional tex-mex style band,
all white guys, who called themselves The Los Hermanos Brothers!
Your reference today to "The The Tar Tar Pits" reminded me of a book review.
The title of the review of Ronald Dworkin's "Taking Rights Seriously" was
"Taking 'Taking Rights Seriously' Seriously".
Lake Lagonita at Stanford University, which is generally doubly
redundant, as people refer to it as "Little Lake Lagonita".
Los Angeles has another example of inadvertent duplication, and my favorite:
the baseball team The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or The The Angels
Angels of Anaheim.
Schuylkill River = Hidden River River. English after Dutch.
Source: The Island at the Center of the World.
Years ago, I was doing field work on the east bank of the Hudson River
south of Albany, NY. I opened up the topographical map, found our location
and started laughing. My colleagues were puzzled until I explained that we
were along the banks of the Black Black Creek Creek (Black Schwarzenkilll
In Tajikistan there is the "Amu Darya River", which literally means
Amu River River.
Reminds me of when a server asks me if I want my beef sandwich "with au
jus sauce" which would literally translate as "with with juice sauce".
Not to mention Pollo Kentucky Chicken (Chicken Kentucky Chicken) in
A local pub (in West Brookfield, Massachusetts) is named "Ye Olde Taverne".
I frequently see and hear it referred to as "the Ye Olde Taverne".
Not only are articles repeated when translated from one language to another,
but take the word of holiday greetings in Yiddish/Hebrew: "Gut Yom Tov" which means
"good day good". Incidentally Hebrew uses a lot of definite articles.
My father was likewise fond of these sorts of doubledeckers: he liked to
point out that The La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe was another double duplicate:
The The Hotel Hotel. And somewhere in England there is a hill whose name
is six different words for hill piled on each other, or so he said.
I would assume many AWAD subscribers also enjoy reading The New Yorker
magazine, for a while now I have been wondering if it would be correct
to refer to it as the The New Yorker and if so when the current issue
arrives it would be the new The New Yorker, just wondering...
It irks me to read 'the El Dorado' very commonly seen, also in books and
papers that should know better!
One of the common mistakes that really aggravates me (and also my children,
so I must be training them correctly) is heard from the seemingly endless
parade of talking heads repeating "HIV virus" on television. Since HIV means
Human Immunodeficiency Virus, there's no need to add "virus" on the end of
it again. There are others, but that one stands out. Sheesh!
From: Eric Ewanco (eje ewanco.com)
Thanks to you, my life's new goal is to find out how to use the phrase "hoity toity hoi polloi" in a legitimate sentence!
From: Raymond Cobb (rcobb harris.com)
In high school in Detroit, our Greek class sat together at football games. After every touchdown, we'd stand up and do our Greek cheer:
Hoi polloi, hoi polloi, bowman pantes iscaroi
Loosely translated: "The guys, The guys, let's go all you fighters. Greeks, Greeks, let's go all you fighters."
Dumb, but it sounded impressive.
Later, in Atlanta, a group of us graduate students would go to our beloved "The La Carousel Club" (Yes, that's what the sign said) on Saturday nights for a few hours of jazz by the likes of Ramsey Lewis and Cannonball Adderly. Since this place was frequented by true jazz aficionados, I was instructed on my first visit to be sure I snapped my fingers on the up-beat. Snapping on the down-beat could get us all thrown out.
From: David Goldblatt (dgoldblattmd verizon.net)
The idea of building an article into the word it modifies, as in your examples from other languages, is appealing, because native speakers of American and British English -- much less persons for whom English is a second language -- can't agree about which one to choose or even about whether to use one or not. For example, does one go "into the hospital" or "into hospital"? Am I writing "in the autumn" or "in autumn"?
From: Bob Seidensticker (bob future-hype.com)
I once worked with a guy from India and his English was flawless except that sometimes he would add articles where they shouldn't be or drop them where they should. I tried to help out by finding the rules for such things in my grammar books but couldn't find anything. The only place where I see US-born English speakers differing is with the word university. To my ear, "I went to college in Boston" sounds right, but "I went to university in Boston" doesn't, but lots of people would disagree.
From: Dan Reitsma (dreitsma controlproductsinc.com)
Albatross is also a golfing term which means you scored 3-under par on any one hole. The term Albatross is used more commonly in the UK. In the U.S., it is usually referred to as a Double Eagle. It is considered the rarest feat in golf, even more so than a hole-in-one because you must have two perfect shots instead of one. Unless of course if you score a hole-in-one on a par 4 hole.
From: Mike Kitney (mikekitney westnet.com.au)
[Via French and Latin from Arabic al-malgham (the ointment), from Greek malagma (softening agent).]
From Greek to Arabic to English and amalgam winds up as an anagram of its Greek origin. Wonderful!
From: Dr. Ken Bugajski (kbugajski sf.edu)
Today's AWAD just missed commemorating an anniversary. Coleridge began writing The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on November 13, 1797.
From: Tyler Kenney (tyler.kenney mattel.com)
Speaking as a member of a large toy manufacturer, those $2 batteries would end up costing you at least 3x their price if included. The manufacturer takes their hard cost and adds their margin, then the retailer does as well. If the batteries don't need to be in there, it's better for all parties.
From: cafewalter (from bulletin board)
I'm a (very small) manufacturer of battery-powered devices. Although I do ship my goods with batteries, I have some insight into why others might not. One big reason is that they're HEAVY. It adds substantially to the shipping cost, and also to the risk of damage owing to sudden acceleration (bumps and drops) during shipping.
I met, not long ago, a young man who aspired to become a novelist. Knowing that I was in the profession, he asked me to tell him how he should set to work to realize his ambition. I did my best to explain. 'The first thing,' I said, 'is to buy quite a lot of paper, a bottle of ink, and a pen. After that you merely have to write.' -Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)