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AWADmail Issue 248

February 11, 2007

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

Found in Translation:
MIT Technology Review

French as a Legal Language:
International Herald Tribune

From: Delores Orcutt (igodo4him verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--umbrage

How appropriate to see this word shortly after the announced release date of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7). One of the most annoying characters is Dolores Umbridge in book 5. Although spelled differently, she does take umbrage at Harry's persistent declaration that Voldemort has returned. I found myself having an umbrage that she might be a secret Death Eater.

From: Peter Grilli (meditr mac.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--umbrage

The word also is related to one of the most important legal doctrines of the 20th Century: the concept of "penumbral" constitutional rights first discussed by the Supreme Court of the United States in Justice Douglas's opinion in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965).

Justice Douglas believed, and the Court enacted, the doctrine that rights other than those explicitly enumerated in the Constitution exist in "penumbras, formed by emanations" from Bill of Rights guarantees. This doctrine became the underpinning of Roe v. Wade (legalizing abortion) and Lawrence v. Texas (forbidding the criminal punishment of homosexual sodomy). (Many liberals support the doctrine of "penumbral rights" from which many modern privacy rights proceed. Many conservatives oppose the doctrine for its vagueness, arguing that it allows a judge to enact his or her personal policy preferences.)

From: Liza Levy (sparkydoc kyk.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--profligate

After Watergate, it became fashionable to append -gate to Washington scandals. Wouldn't it be nice to see a scandal over wasted money dubbed "Profli-Gate"?

From: John George (john.george enmu.edu)
Subject: quotation on stars

If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

Your quotation for Friday's word, below, reminded me of Isaac Asimov's short story "Nightfall". His editor, John W. Campbell, Jr., saw the quotation and asked Asimov what he thought. According to Asimov, Campbell's opinion was, "I think men might go mad." Asimov was inspired by that suggestion to write the story of a world in which the stars only appeared one night in a thousand years. It became his best-known story, and stayed in print constantly in anthologies for decades thereafter.

Asimov later incorporated himself, and (advised not to name the corporation after himself or any person for legal reasons) he chose his most famous story, and all his stories from some point on were copyright by the Nightfall Corporation.

From: Michael Truman (mike.truman lexisnexis.co.uk)
Subject: More obscure words please...

You obviously get a lot of emails from people who are into self-improvement and want words that they can use; hence this week's selection. Whilst, as you said, the etymology of some of them was interesting, the words were rather tame.

So here's a plea for PROFLIGATE words on A.Word.A.Day. Phantasmagorical words, erudite words, obscurantist words. Recondite, daedal, and abstruse words. Words for dilettantes, aesthetes, and aficionados. Words that roll around the mouth, tickle the tonsils, and tumble off the tongue. Not these quotidian, commonplace, practical, and worst of all USABLE words.

From: Jessica Jackson (jesjackson gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--resistentialism

I remember very well the day "resistentialism" was the word and I remember using it that very day! At the time I was a bartender...I had read the word and then later on, at work, I had to change a keg. It was a particularly busy moment so I tried to be quick. And of course, the keg just wouldn't budge. There I was, in the beer cooler, straddling this giant keg, trying to wrestle the tap free; so of course I cussed. At that very moment, my finger got caught in the tap as if the thing had bit me! Imagine, a keg of beer that dislikes impolite words! Anyhow, when I finally got it loose and changed it, I made it back to the bar and told my colleague the story. I told him it was a classic case of resistentialism!

In the common words we use every day, souls of past races, the thoughts and feelings of individual men stand around us, not dead, but frozen into their attitudes like the courtiers in the garden of the Sleeping Beauty. -Owen Barfield, author (1898-1997)

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