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AWADmail Issue 238

December 3, 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: The gift of words

This holiday season, why not make a gift of words? Here are four suggestions:


A Word A Day
Another Word A Day

"Just the thing if romping with words is what you want to do."
-The Washington Post


A.Word.A.Day Premium

"The most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass e-mail in cyberspace."
-The New York Times

A.Word.A.Day is now in its thirteenth year.

From: Joel Berg (jbergx cox.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--prise

Prise is a common French word although little used as such in English with one major exception, derived from French: in chess, a piece is "en prise" if subject to capture on the next move.

From: Rev. John W. Price (johnwprice38 hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--divers

Years ago, a lady called me, her priest, to ask if it was true that Jesus healed "the bends".

I assured her I didn't think that was a problem presented to him since the first dives possible of producing the "bends" didn't occur until the time of the American Revolution.

She replied that her Bible (King James Version of 1611) said, "that Jesus healed divers diseases."

From: Mary El Finger (maryelfi cox.net)
Subject: feedback: divers

I remember being puzzled as a child in Sunday School by a Bible story which told of Jesus healing those with "divers diseases". Why did he only heal the divers, I wondered, and what kind of diseases did they have? rashes from the water? other sicknesses from germs in the water? (I don't think I knew about the bends in the 1930s). No one else seemed to find it strange, and I was too shy to ask. It was the King James version, of course (Mark, 1:34).

From: Johanna Hewlett Brown (jhbandcats zipcon.com)
Subject: Foolish reliance on spellcheck programs

I once worked for a firm of landscape architects/city-planners here in Seattle. One of them had inadvertently used the word "pubic", instead of "public", in a land use report. Luckily we caught it before it got to the boss's desk.

And re the etymology of the word "prise" (Wow! My e-mail spellcheck just marked that as a misspelled word! Ignorant computer!), the word "prize", used in the Aubrey & Maturin series of books by Patrick O'Brian (the first is Master & Commander, and the word is also used in the recent movie by the same name), indicates a war ship which has been seized, thereby bringing prize money to the crew of the ship which has seized her.

From: Lisa Abbott (liabbott cushing.org)
Subject: spellchecker blooper

I have been teaching English for fifteen years or so, and my favorite spellchecker blooper came from a friend's class. It was an interesting essay on Salinger's Holden Caulfield, said to suffer from "Attention Defecate Syndrome." Oh, but for a watchful eye there, instead of the instant fix . . .

From: Patricia McKenna (patriciam alchemysoftware.ie)
Subject: correcteur orthographique

That reminds me of when I was working as a secretary in France and I mistyped "Meilleures salutations" (Best regards). My spellchecker replaced it with "Meilleures salivations"! Luckily I spotted it in time.

From: Lorna Dzialo (ldzialo landam.com)
Subject: Spellchecker Words

When my son was in the last few weeks of his senior year of high school, he had a minor run-in with a teacher. My son had never been in trouble during his four years at the school, but the assistant principal sent me a note about the incident. I believe she wanted me to do something about my son's senioritis, but spellcheck got the better of her. The note told me that she realized that my son had "senoritas", but he needed to behave.

From: Lise Rosenthal (lise rakefet.com)
Subject: spell check

In 1988 I returned from a nine-year stay on a kibbutz where the highest form of technology I encountered on a regular basis was a sewing machine that made aliyah from Poland in the 1930s. Upon arriving in the US, I got a job at a synagogue, was shown to my tiny office and introduced to my computer which, to my excitement, had a marvelous toy called Spell Check.

The day I discovered Spell Check, I needed to produce a thank-you letter for a sizable donation. I typed up my document and then let the all-knowing machine check my spelling and make any corrections it felt, in its infinite wisdom, needed to be made. As I was folding the letter to insert it into the envelope, the name caught my eye. My helpful electronic friend had changed the donor's name from Michael Goldring to Miasmal Gobbling. I retyped the letter and went out at noon and bought a dictionary.

From: Eric Anderson (eric ecollege.com)
Subject: Mandolin Genetics

This reminds me of a freshman biology student I had that turned in a lab report on "Mandolin Genetics". Of course it was supposed to be about Mendelian Genetics, but like many science terms the automated spell checker had no idea what that was. She looked even more confused when I suggested that if she could discover the genetics and breeding habits of Mandolins that she could become quite famous.

From: Dennis Chong (chongd starpower.net)
Subject: Scrabble

You wrote that "[y]ou could use them to your advantage: to defeat your opponents in a game of Scrabble, for example." I have to tell you, as a frequent player of Scrabble, I hope the words you choose for this week are more practical than some of the nonsense words that have made their way into the Official Scrabble Players' Dictionary!

In the rarefied world of Scrabble words, "et" is a past-tense form of "eat" (try telling Tommy's third-grade composition teacher that); "za" is an acceptable word meaning "pizza", and nontraditional alternate spellings abound (no examples roll off my head at the moment). For a game that's based upon words, I often question whether a child using the Official Players' Dictionary would be served or hurt by it.

From: Eric Shackle (eshackle ozemail.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--divers

Divers mysterious emblems showing three hares, each with two ears, but with only three ears in all, have been found in many countries, going back for 1500 years. Three British investigators are trying to discover their origin and meaning. You can read about them in the December edition of The World's First Multi-National e-Book.

We should have a great many fewer disputes in the world if words were taken for what they are, the signs of our ideas, and not for things themselves. -John Locke, philosopher (1632-1704)

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