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AWADmail Issue 280

November , 2007

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

From: Gabe Helou (gabe mystery.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pinchbeck

You wrote: After watchmaker Christopher Pinchbeck ... maker of ... orreries ...

So today's eponym comes from a maker of eponymous devices? Wheels within wheels! Come to think of it, watchmakers are used to that sort of thing.

From: Art Yaffe (art.yaffe gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pinchbeck

Alloys of zinc and copper are usually called brass, but there are many varieties, of which pinchbeck is one - possibly not the only eponymous brass. Common brass is 37% zinc with the balance copper. Pinchbeck is around 10% zinc, and there may have been a gold wash on Pinchbeck's work. Even today, 300 years or so after Pinchbeck made them, many pieces still have the luster of gold.

From: Theodore L. Drachman (tldrach webtv.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pinchbeck

Trying to think of any memorable use of pinchbeck, I recalled the lyric from THE MUSIC MAN, something about playing pool in a "pinchbeck suit". Possibly plausible ("spurious" or "ersatz" suit; maybe there were such things in Iowa in the pre-World War I period).

Still the lyric didn't ring quite true to my ear (I'm a theater lyricist), so I checked the Meredith Willson selections in READING LYRICS, an anthology of outstanding "non-rock" English & American song lyrics from the early 20th century to the 1970s, selected by Robert Gottlieb & Robert Kimball.

There in "Ya Got Trouble" was the confirmation of my doubt; the lyric reads:

"And the next thing you know, your son
is playin' fer money in a PINCHBACK suit..." (emphasis added)

A glance thru my revered WEBSTER'S THIRD NEW INTERNATIONAL DICTIONARY shows me that "pinchback" (characterized as "of a coat or jacket") is an adjective defined as "having a close-fitting or pleated back".

THAT made sense. Now I know what's "spurious" and what's a "tight-fitting jacket".

From: Max Montel (maxmontel yahoo.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--bunbury

We have a family friend who named his dog Bunbury. The dog was real, to be sure, but was also his excuse to go out. In my book, the only competition Bunbury has as far as pet names go is Dorothy Parker's dog, who was named Cliche.

From: Ben Harrison (ben.harrison liquidmesh.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bunbury

There is a perfectly real country town in Western Australia's southwest corner of the same name, to where a good many Perth residents escape regularly! I couldn't begin to guess at the reason for its name; perhaps an early officer of HM needed an alibi on occasion to escape the Swan River Colony.

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

Darby and Joan appear in the Kern and Hammerstein song, "The Folks Who Live On The Hill:

Our veranda will command a view of meadows green,
The sort of view that seems to want to be seen.
And when the kids grow up and leave us,
We'll sit and look at that same old view,
Just we two, Darby and Joan who used to be Jack and Jill,
The folks who like to be called
What they have always been called
"The folks who live on the hill."

From: Thomas Gille (musetomg gmail.com)

Subject: Heartfelt thanks
The past two years of my life have been a nearly overwhelming barrage of debilitating, life-threatening medical problems for loved ones, disastrous career reversals, bitterly regretted relocations, and diminishing hopes for a better future.

During this time I have gradually given up most of the things I used to enjoy, including my daily reading of AWAD.

I didn't delete them from my in-box, telling myself that one day, when things settled down, I'd read them all.

Recently I decided that things may never settle down, but I still needed to clean up and organize many of the things that I have let slide over the last several months, among them my e-mail in-box.

I sorted out all the AWADs, and was on the verge of deleting them, when I realized I couldn't let all those wonderful words vanish without a trace.

I started reading the AWADs from nearly a year ago, and quickly realized how much happiness and entertainment your words, explanations, and daily quotations bring to my life.

I won't waste more of your valuable time rhapsodizing; I'll merely say "Thank you."

Thank you for your hard work, for your love of words, and for helping remind me that even in the bleakest times there is joy and comfort to be found in the things you truly value and love.

Words are timeless. You should utter them or write them with a knowledge of their timelessness. -Kahlil Gibran, mystic, poet, and artist (1883-1931)

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