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AWADmail Issue 273

September 23, 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 at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Small Object of Grammatical Desire:

One Language Disappears Every 14 Days:
Los Angeles Times

Alex the Parrot dies:
The New York Times

From: Melissa Current (melissa.current thehartford.com)
Subject: linsey-woolsey

Interestingly enough, the mixture, or mingling, of linen and wool is proscribed in the Old Testament - leading to an explanation of the term meaning an incongruous mix of something.

Leviticus 19:19 (please forgive use of anachronistic spelling, as text copied verbatim from KJV version of Bible)

"Ye shall keep My statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a divers kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen com upon thee."

From: Sue Levy (slevy jalcomputer.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--linsey-woolsey

Linsey-woolsey reminds me of a very strange Jewish law called 'shatnes'. This is an injunction against mixing species, most specifically linen and wool in the same garment or item. I believe there's no particular rationale behind this commandment other than to test man's obedience of the commandments (and there not 10 but 613 of those!).

From: Yosef Bar-On (jobaron galon.org.il)
Subject: linsey-woolsey

Linsey-woolsey is a perfect example of something strictly forbidden in Jewish law. Mixes of different fibers to make a stronger garment, crossbreeding of, for instance, horses and donkeys to produce mules, or even planting a legume and a grass together to produce a crop of hay, all these are called Shatnez and are not allowed by Jewish religious law.

There are stories from Eastern Europe where Jewish farmers in need of mules for heavy work would sell their mares to non-Jewish farmers, who then would breed them with male donkeys. Then the pregnant mare would be sold back to the Jewish farmer.

From: Janet (bearpaul peoplepc.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--linsey-woolsey

Linsey-woolsey is definitely strong and coarse. I did some restoration work on a linsey-woolsey coverlet that was dated from the late 1770s. It was coarse enough to be uncomfortable to handle; I can't imagine sleeping under it. But to have lasted 200+ years, even with careful handling, you know it's strong.

From: Danny Brook (brook california.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--linsey-woolsey

Seeing this word, and then seeing that your description for the week's words included "leaders", "dirty linen", and "politicians", I was sure this week's theme was words that were or sounded like politicians' names. The Sixth Congressional District in the U.S., covering Marin and Sonoma counties, is represented by Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey in the House of Representatives. I don't know if her nickname is Linsey-Woolsey.

I do know, however, that one of my philosophy professors always thought of the word donnybrook when she thought of me (and not just because of my name).

From: Dave Zobel (dzobel alumni.caltech.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--buckram

In the blink of an eye, today's word whisks me back across the decades to Carol Ryrie Brink's enchanting young-people's novel, Andy Buckram's Tin Men. Andy, a homespun all-American lad and a very inventive boy, cobbles together four robots out of old cans, motors, baling wire, chewing gum, even a discarded phonograph. Each metal man has its own quirks and its own shortcomings, and each is in some way a disappointment to its maker. When disaster strikes, it looks as if it's all over for the tin can clan, until unexpectedly, Andy discovers that the very things that make them all unique are the things that make them all really wonderful. A moral for our time, and for all times.

I always delighted in the blue-collar, Midwest sound of the name Buckram -- cut from the same cloth as Tom Sawyer and Homer Price, I suppose -- but its literal meaning makes it even more apt.

From: Christina De Angelo (christinadeangelo gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--grog

Grog is also a term used in ceramics for ground fired clay. It is often mixed into clay as an additive for support to make clay bodies sturdier when constructing larger or more complex forms.

From: Louis Hansell (louis.hansell telephoneintelligence.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--grog

There may be another word entry in which Admiral Vernon is involved. Admiral Vernon was a beloved figure in his time, and he is the Vernon that Washington's Mount Vernon is named after.

He fought in the War for Jenkin's Ear, which may be an entry in the "wacky conflict names" word week.

From: Jorie Latham (latham optonline.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--grog

I can't resist sharing my own odd grosgrain story, entirely unrelated. In my last year of college, I was an intern of sorts with a theatre in NYC and was sent on errands for the costume and props departments which included returning a stuffed cat to a taxidermist from the last show, and buying trim for costumes for the next show.

I was just learning my way around the city and had been directed to a street in the 20s, the millinery district, in search of grosgrain ribbon. I found an impressive emporium filled floor to ceiling with all manner of ribbons. Amazing, I thought, that there could be a big store like this that sold only ribbons. Only in New York. Confident that I would find what I was seeking here, I showed the wizenend gentleman behind the counter the ribbon I was hoping to match and he regarded me as a complete imbecile. "That's grosgrain ribbon! We don't sell grosgrain here!" Only in New York!

From: Eric Shackle (eshackle ozemail.com.au)
Subject: National Punctuation Day

Nine out of ten emails seem to contain at least one typographical error, better known as a typo. Never before have so many words been mangled. Is it caused by carelessness, keyboard clumsiness, or just plain ignorance? The U.S. will celebrate its fourth annual National Punctuation Day on September 24. Let's make it a worldwide affair, when we name and shame offenders, and return faulty emails to their senders, with mistakes highlighted in red. More about this in The World's First Multi-National e-Book.

Often the accurate answer to a usage question begins, "It depends." And what it depends on most often is where you are, who you are, who your listeners or readers are, and what your purpose in speaking or writing is. -Kenneth G. Wilson, author and professor (1923-2003)

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