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AWADmail Issue 242

December 31, 2006

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

From: Mort Malkln (gadflysmiling yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--agonistes

As a political satirist, I do not merely languish in language but employ it to make fun of deserving people and institutions. I thought you might be interested that in the health care industries, "agonist" refers to a chemical (usually a drug) that heightens a particular biological effect. It is the opposite of an antagonist. A common one is a beta-agonist (often used in asthma) which would have an adrenalin-like (sympathomimetic) effect.

From: Lynn Flaster Paul (lflaster optonline.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--agonistes

Don't forget the brilliant Gary Wills book from 1968 (recently back in print), "Nixon Agonistes". We need this kind of incisive political analysis "now more than ever".

From: Sharon Smith (mainelyneuropsych wildblue.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--prepense

Another definition is malice aforethought. I've always longed to write a mystery novel in which the villain's name was M. Alice O'Forethought.

From: Aaron Rasmussen (ai_rasmussen yahoo.com)
Subject: Akimbo as a colloquialism

An alternate definition of akimbo comes from the video-gaming community. Akimbo is an adjective used to describe a pair of guns that are held so that one gun is in each hand. For example, you might have "akimbo MP-5s" or "1911s akimbo", which are a pair of machine guns and a pair of handguns, respectively. The guns have to be held in the hands to qualify for the term, otherwise, they'll just be another matched pair of guns. There's an excellent article on Wikipedia. I find that it's a very useful term in discussing the post-Matrix era of film where all action heroes are now required to hold a gun in each hand. I also prefer it over the alternate term, which is "dual wielding".

From: Carolyn Silver (carsilver juno.com)
Subject: postpositives

The postpositives sometimes greatly intensify. A princess royal is a whole lot more royal than a royal princess.

From: Stuart Showalter (sshowalter cfl.rr.com)
Subject: postpositives

Many legal agonistes like "attorney general", "surgeon general", and "court martial" (pl. courts martial) come from Law French, the language of the English courts after the Norman Conquest. Normans, being Frenchmen after all, used both Old French and Old English (and sometimes Latin) in the common law courts that developed after 1066. Hence we have such nonsense legalistic redundancies as "rest, residue and remainder", "free and clear", and even "last will and testament". Agonistes include my favorite: the "negative pregnant". It's a negative (usually a denial) that is pregnant with meaning. Example: Plaintiff alleges Defendant "misused more than a hundred thousand dollars." The Defendant denies this. Thus, the defendant did not deny the misuse, just the amount. A contemporary example might be "I did not have s ex with that woman." :)

From: Dave Laird (dlaird kharma.net)
Subject: An adaptation to A.Word.A.Day...

After many years of subscribing to A.Word.A.Day, and upon finding that most of the people who work at my health clinic here in Spokane do not have even a marginally-functional vocabulary compared to what I would have expected of them, I began playing a game with them several years ago that I call "Word of the Day", which plays somewhat upon A.Word.A.Day.

Each time I arrive at the clinic, I nearly always come equipped with a word, chosen from my vocabulary. The rules of the game are simple: they have to correctly spell the word and give a reasonably-good working definition of how the word is used. If they succeed on both counts, the first person to correctly define and spell the word wins a free Starbucks latte of their own choosing.

All employees of the Spokane Falls Family Clinic are eligible to play, and most members of the reception, nursing station, and pharmacy play on a regular basis. To date, I have handed out eighteen free Starbucks drinks, which might seem to be a remarkably low number. However, I deliberately choose words which seek to expand vocabularies, including the "trick words" I remember from when I won a championship spelling bee at age 16.

We have a lot of fun with my little project, and each winner, of course, is told about A.Word.A.Day, as a lot of the inspiration for the "game" came from your endeavors over the years.

So, there you have my modest adaptation of A.Word.A.Day. At age 60 (soon to be 61 next week) I am beginning to find new and unusual methods to educate others after walking away from a teaching career nearly 35 years ago.

From: Eric Shackle (eshackle ozemail.com.au)
Subject: Postpositives

You could call Sweden's Allan Lf (94) the eminence grise of the Internet. He's the oldest of the world's 55 million bloggers. Ray White (93) a Tennessee tomato-grower, is America's oldest, closely followed by Canada's Donald Crowdis, who turned 93 on Christmas Eve. You can read about these venerable bloggers in the January edition of The World's First Multi-National e-Book.

The raw material of possible poems and histories. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, essayist and poet, on dictionary (1803-1882)

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