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AWADmail Issue 251

March 4, 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 (words wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

¿Hagrid, qué es el quidditch?

It's hard to express irony with tongue literally in cheek:
Sydney Morning Herald

Why Noble Ox won't be running at Cheltenham:
Daily Telegraph

From: Vincent Zammit (anfora maltanet.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--virga

As an explanation you gave something which was completely new to me, but I was intrigued by the word as we do have it in our own language, Maltese. In Maltese it still retains the original Latin meaning.

From: David Halperin (halperin.david gmail.com)
Subject: virga

Virga is also the name of one of the musical notation signs (neumes), consisting of a square dot attached to a vertical stroke. See here (about half way down the page).

From: John H. Snyder (jhsnyder interact.ccsd.net)
Subject: virga

A surprise today! I usually encounter words from you that most of my friends don't know, but out here in Sin City, in the middle of the Mojave Desert, virga is in almost everyone's vocabulary. Happens quite a bit out here, particularly in the summer, when humidity is typically in the single digits, and the temperature in the shade occasionally hits 120 deg. F.

From: Robert Zimmerman (robert.zimmerman lmco.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--virga

Those of us who fly in the arid southwest are intimately familiar with virga, and its incipient danger - as water falls and evaporates, it cools the surrounding air, resulting in a rapidly descending column of air that can outpace the climb capacity of most aircraft. This phenomenon has even brought down airliners.

From: Bekah Tuggy (bekah.tuggy covenant.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--virga

I saw a related phenomenon while I was sightseeing near Portland, Oregon -- a waterfall, 60 or 70 feet high, falling down a sheer cliff and completely dissipating before it hit the ground. You could stand directly underneath it and never get wet.

From: JJ Lamarche (fun2fly earthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--virga

It's funny how the most nebulous and esoteric words can be commonplace in some circles (the medical professions come to mind). Virga is a common term among hang glider pilots. We often see it from the ground and it isn't uncommon to fly through an area of fairly heavy snow a few thousand feet up that people on the ground never experience.

From: Rama Kulkarni (ramaa1 pacbell.net)
Subject: feedback: virga

That would explain why the comma is " virgule " in French, as is the slash mark (/) !

From: Sherry L Spence (slspence spiritone.com)
Subject: March 1 Word - omphaloskepsis

My first real job out of grad school was for a west coast think tank. To celebrate my promotion to a research job, I began posting pithy quotations and witty comments on the bulletin board above my desk, having nothing better to place there. I labelled the bulletin board, "Omphaloskepticon", because it was, of course, a navel observatory.

From: Monique Reed (monique mail.bio.tamu.edu)
Subject: Omphaloskepsis

I once had to give a lab practical exam during which the students had to move at timed intervals to different question stations. I told them that if they finished the questions at a station before the timer sounded they were to stand quietly and contemplate their navels. I almost lost it laughing when, midway through the exam, one young man pulled up his shirt-tails and proceeded to do precisely that.

From: Norma Bates (bateshaus1 comcast.net)
Subject: feedback: omphaloskepsis

I forwarded today's word to my sons so they could enjoy learning it too. One of them, who teaches surgical technology at a local community college, wrote back: Yes, I actually have a little perspective on this one as we surgically correct a condition (in primarily pediatric patients) called an omphalocele, or a sac forming at the umbilicus into which some of the viscera protrudes. Lesson: You can't get ahead of your children!

From: Gilbert Gia (ggia igalaxy.net)
Subject: When a paraph becomes a rubrica

A calligraphic device more elaborate than the paraph was the rubrica, which provincial California friars included beneath their official signatures. The Encyclopedia of California's Catholic Heritage notes that these unique, elaborately-constructed lattice works of loops, circles, and zigzag lines were added to discourage forgery, and the absence of a rubrica called into question the validity of a document. Catholic rubrica from the period 1735-1850 appear in California Calligraphy, Identified Autographs of Personages Connected with the Conquest and Development of the Californias. Father Maynard Geiger, O.F.M. Ballena Press, Ramona, CA. 1972.

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. -Anton Chekhov, short-story writer and dramatist (1860-1904)

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