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AWADmail Issue 278

October 28, 2007

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

From: Kathy Hartmann-Campbell (k.hartmann-campbell bluewin.ch)
Subject: zeitlang

I was touched by the letter from Diane Santoriello. I am American but have lived in Switzerland for nearly 26 years and travel easily between Swiss German (which is very closely related to the dialect of the Pennsylvania Dutch) and English. After I read the newspaper article I realized the connection in meaning to current Swiss German usage.

In High German one usually says "Ich vermisse..." to indicate that they miss something or "ich sehne mich nach..." for longing for. In Swiss German I have often been asked if I have "lange Zeit" for America, e.g. if I miss / long for / am homesick for America. Eine Zeitlang means for awhile in current German usage. But the meaning of longing and of something missing does indeed exist in the reverse form. I find Diane Santoriello's new usage very apt.

From: Ursula Miedaner (ursimie gmx.de)
Subject: zeitlang

I just read your email with the description of the Pennsylvania-Dutch word zeitlang. I'm Bavarian, and the word is still in use here, close to the Czech border where we live, for a very strong longing for someone, so children missing their parents and vice versa would have zeitlang for the others. It can also be used for homesickness. Among people speaking Bavarian German, it's really widespread, especially among older people. The word feels very familiar, and I can very well imagine its being used by parents missing their dead children.

From: Edith Roulet (roulet inode.at)
Subject: there is a word

I am one of your subscribers, living in Vienna, Austria. The existing German language has always had a beautiful word for aching longing: Sehnsucht. Goethe wrote "Only the one who has Sehnsucht knows how I suffer." Diane: there are people like us in other countries who feel deeply sorry for you and your Sehnsucht and sorrow.

From: Tuvik Beker (tuvik soligence.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--famulus

The Hebrew language has a very specific word for the loss of a child: she-khol (sh-KHOL). "she.khol ve.al.mon" (Isaiah 47:9) were translated to English as "the loss of children, and widowhood". The word for a parent who has lost a child is "horeh shakul". Shekhol is a dominant topic in modern Hebrew literature, having touched every extended family in Israel.

From: Ushnish Ghosh (ushnish_ghosh rediffmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--famulus

One who has lost a child can be called "santanhara" in Sanskrit (santan: child, hara: one who has lost something).

From: Liz Strejcek (lizstrejcek yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--famulus

Actually, my maiden name means yearning in German/Old English. Geiermann means griever or yearner. When I was a kid, I had thought it meant vulture man. I was very astonished when I did a Google search a few years back to look up relatives and discovered this meaning. I also found a reference in Russian to geiermann meaning grieve which may be the origin of the name. I know there were professional "grievers" in the past.

From: KCC (kchobo aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--famulus

The inquiry about a word for parents of a deceased child brought to mind the time some years ago that I'd returned to work after burying my mother. She died six months after my younger brother had died and my grief was palpable. I sat at my desk wishing there was morphine for survivors. A little while later, I picked up my dictionary while performing a task. It fell open to a page where a word I'd never seen or heard before caught my eye: nepenthe - a potion used by the ancients to induce forgetfulness of pain or sorrow; something capable of causing oblivion of grief or suffering. My grief subsided eventually without resort to a nepenthe.

From: Charlie Walton (cwalton worldnet.att.net)
Subject: Book : When There Are No Words

I was saddened to read Diane Davis Santoriello's articulate description of the futile search for words to describe the sudden death of a child. As a father who suddenly one cold December morning lost two sons (and one of those sons' best friend), and as a person who had earned his living for years putting things into words for other people, I wrote a book called When There Are No Words that has subsequently proven very supportive to grieving parents, at Columbine, in Jonesboro, after 9/11, and in thousands of individual cases. Grace and peace.

From: Alberto Krimer (alberto.krimer sap.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--famulus

The word "famula" in Spanish is used as "servant", i.e. a domestic servant at home.

From: Steve Price (sdprice510 mac.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--famulus

"Famulus" must be akin to "familiar": an animal, either a pet or a spiritual entity, that serves a witch as a magical helper. One such animal is Piwacket, the cat that helps Kim Novak's character in the movie "Bell, Book and Candle".

From: Meera Narayan (meeranarayans yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--famulus

Ah... sibling to factotum :)

From: Lawrence Crumb (lcrumb uoregon.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--famulus

In the Latin liturgy, there is a prayer "pro famulis et famulabis" (for servants and handmaidens -- there has to be a different ending for the feminine to distinguish it from the masculine). There is a story about a monastery where the text had become defective through the years, with the result that the monks were praying "pro mulis et mulabis" (for he-mules and she-mules).

From: Jana Peirce (jpeirce acsalaska.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lexiphanes

We've always enjoyed the inherent irony of lexiphanicism. You can't use the word without being guilty of it.

From: Patrick Kelly (trickkelly gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lexiphanes

Fabulous! That this word exists is almost as satisfying as receiving a Christmas present that I really wanted. I can't wait to use it aided by the proper amount of contempt that I have for flagrant lexiphanes.

From: Maria (m.capitani ocme.it)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nosism

This is also known as Pluralis majestatis or the "Victorian 'we'". Admiral Hyman G. Rickover once told a subordinate who used the royal we: "Three groups are permitted that usage: pregnant women, royalty, and schizophrenics. Which one are you?"

From: Srinivas Shastri (shastrix gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nosism

Nosism = No Narcissism?

From: Colleen Fuller (colleen.fuller.ctr hanscom.af.mil)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nosism

Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, signed her correspondence as WE, for Wallis and Edward.

From: Jackson Shelton (cactusleaf gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nosism

The proper response to:
How are we doing today, Mr. Garg?
is most appropriately:
We're doing well.. and ourself?

From: Eric Shackle (eshackle ozemail.com.au)
Re: A.Word.A.Day--lugubrious

Many people over 40 tend to be lugubrious on their birthdays, when they count their years. Not so my friend Olive Riley, the world's oldest blogger and YouTuber, on her 108th birthday last week. She was delighted to receive hundreds of emails from wellwishers all over. The remarkable great-great-grandmother is also the world's oldest Cinderella. Full details in the November issue of my e-book.

The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they've been in. -Dennis Potter, dramatist (1935-1994)

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