Wordsmith.Org: The Magic of Words: The Magic of Words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 275

October 7, 2007

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Veni, Vidi, Wiki:
Wall Street Journal

Doctors Out to Cure Medicine of Eponyms:
The Times

From: Dana C. Grossman (dana.c.grossman dartmouth.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--deleterious

"Deleterious" may not be in the vocabulary of most preschoolers, but it's a word I've known since I was very young. For many years, however, I -- and I have learned, at least some of my siblings -- had a mistaken impression of its meaning.

My parents were quite strict about nutrition. Cake, cookies, and other treats that they deemed to be unhealthy, at least for regular consumption, were tagged as being "deleterious" -- perhaps a bit of an overstatement, but a not inaccurate use of the word.

However, over years of asking, "Can we buy some cookies?" and hearing, "No, they're deleterious," my siblings and I came to the conclusion that "deleterious" meant something that was sweet and really tasty!

I can't recall how old I was before I was disabused of that notion, but even today, when I encounter the word, my mouth begins to water. So reading today's AWAD bulletin wasn't a bad way to start a Monday morning! Many thanks for the unintended chuckle.

From: Julie Snyder (jsny42443 aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--deleterious

Today's entry reminded me of the days when the graduate nurses would recite the "Nightingale Pledge".

"I solemnly pledge myself before God and in the presence of this assembly, to pass my life in purity and to practice my profession faithfully. I will abstain from whatever is deleterious and mischievous, and will not take or knowingly administer any harmful drug. I will do all in my power to maintain and elevate the standard of my profession, and will hold in confidence all personal matters committed to my keeping and all family affairs coming to my knowledge in the practice of my calling. With loyalty will I endeavor to aid the physician in his work, and devote myself to the welfare of those committed to my care."

During graduation rehearsals, we often had to help the graduates with the pronunciation of the words. We hoped they knew what it meant.

From: Bruce Berger (bberger rof.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--deleterious

How delighted I was to delete all my spam and proceed to the one legitimate item, AWAD, which featured the word 'deleterious'.

From: Columbine Phoenix (hilda apocalypse.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--oligarchy

A variant on oligarchy that I (and I'm sure many others simultaneously) invented is oleogarchy - rule by the oil industry.

From: Jocelyn Foxley (foxfeathers gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--oligarchy

As a student of political economy, the term oligarchy is one I'm familiar with. One of my mentors in class described the major types of government with their opposites as being 1) Monarchy/Tyranny, 2) Aristocracy/Oligarchy, 3) Democracy/Anarchy. The first types he described as being ruled by law, whereas their respective counterparts were ruled by whim. The more I study this, the more I find it to be correct; and it makes me wonder how I rule, or allow to be ruled, my own life.... by whim, or law?

From: Nina Piccirilli (ninabean gate.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lugubrious

"Lugubrious" has been one of my favorite words for about 30 years now so I was quite excited to see it as today's word. My 30-year-old definition of it had always been "mournful to a ludicrous degree" but whenever I try to fit that definition into the place where the word has been used it never fits.

This led to my putting "look up the definition of lugubrious again" on my things-to-do-before-I-die list. Thanks for both proving that I am right, and that now I can cross it off my list. I think many people simply like the way the word sounds but use it incorrectly, which of course is in fact lugubrious.

From: Michael (mlambert arrisarchitects.com)
Subject: More Practical Words

While your effort to meet that demand is laudable, I signed on to EXPAND my vocabulary. I find that most of your offerings have challenged me... even if I would not use the words in casual conversation. Although, I suppose that some may consider me pompous or over-educated, I enjoy integrating the full range of our vocabulary in my writing and, when appropriate, in conversation and public speaking.

Don't "dumb down" your offerings too much, we Americans have settled for the utility of a small fraction of our wonderful language for several decades now. The disintegration of our language into guttural grunts, groans, and mono-syllabic versions of larger words is quite distasteful and ruinous.

Years ago, I was told to write for the average eighth grader, now it is the average third grader. Yet, when I am reading through historic documents, I find that the average writer a century ago seemed to prefer to write UP and hope the reader would advance in his or her knowledge rather than retreat to an easier station.

I was actually told by a grade school teacher that the reason for writing for a third grader, now, is that they have a much more advanced grasp of our language than eighth graders did 50 years ago! Unbelievable! I believe that our teachers should be required to take grammar proficiency exams throughout their teaching careers. Perhaps this is another place where we are selling ourselves far too short as a country and civilization.

By the way, I am not some ornery, octogenarian, "old fogey". I was raised in a small, rural town with great teachers who believed that we could only excel if we were challenged. Too, I had a father who had barely graduated from high school but who sent us to read the dictionary or encyclopedia if we were ever "bored", which developed into a love of learning rather than punishment (never his intent). I put myself through a Big Ten university and live in a major metropolitan area with a successful business. I write and lecture on a regular basis. Over the years, I have been complimented on my speaking and writing style in regard to my grasp of language. I don't consider myself unusually intelligent or a sensational linguist; however, I use a broader range of words than most people I encounter. In part, that is because I have always enjoyed "It Pays To Enrich Your Word Power" (Reader's Digest) and, more recently, A.Word.A.Day.

Keep challenging us. Thanks.

Translation is the art of erasing oneself in order to speak in another's voice. -David Cole, professor, author, and correspondent (b. 1958)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith