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AWADmail Issue 292

February 3, 2008

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: Chat with Seth Lerer, author of "Inventing English"

Come chat with Seth Lerer, a professor at Stanford University and author of "Inventing English". The topic of the chat is the history of the English language:
Wed, Feb 6, 7pm Pacific (GMT -8)

From: Mike Pope (mike.pope microsoft.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cingular

Another relative of "cingular" is "surcingle", meaning a belt or girth, and used quite memorably by Emily Dickinson in this poem:

Bees are Black, with Gilt Surcingles --
Buccaneers of Buzz.
Ride abroad in ostentation
And subsist on Fuzz.
Fuzz ordained -- not Fuzz contingent --
Marrows of the Hill.
Jugs -- a Universe's fracture
Could not jar or spill.

From: Barry Hurwitz (barryindy ameritech.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lucent

In 1984, when I was working for Pacific Bell, they announced their new name: Pacific Telesis. (Or, more correctly: Pacific Bell "A Pacific Telesis Company".) In their press release, they stated that the word was pronounced te-LEE-sis, and that it referred to intelligent planning and design (which now has an entirely different meaning).

Within a few days, everyone, including employees, was pronouncing it TEL-i-sis. I notice that my online dictionary also prefers that pronunciation. It appears as though the original pronunciation they supplied was incorrect.

By the way, their official name is now Pacific Bell Telephone Company d/b/a AT&T California.

From: Dominique Mellinger (dominiquemellinger yahoo.co.uk)
Subject: brand names

I can't resist giving you a little story of my all-time favourite brand name: When we were teenagers, everywhere in French canteens, there were glasses supposed to be unbreakable whose brand was engraved underneath. Because of their reputed hardness to break, they were called : Duralex, referring to the well-known Latin proverb "Dura Lex sed Lex" (The Law is Hard but it's the Law). Someone in a glass factory had had the idea of creating a very humorous brand after a Latin proverb. That was so pleasant and witty, and it still is, even many years later.

From: Raymond Cobb (apologist1 cfl.rr.com)
Subject: Business Name

A few years ago, we teamed up with a small company named AZOIC to write a proposal. Thinking that the name was an acronym, I asked the owner/founder what it meant. He said it was from the Greek word zoion, meaning "an animal, or living being". Of course the a in front is the Greek alpha privative, which negates the word. Establishing and running a company single-handed left him almost no time for his family, hence "no life".

From: Madeline S. Johnston (johnston andrews.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cingular

I chuckle at your opening paragraphs here. I've never heard anyone else that thinks about this. I always refuse to buy items like this, for the very reason that I don't like to be manipulated, so I choose not to be manipulated into advertising for the manufacturer -- unless it speaks of some cause that I really wish to support. I also refuse to buy such clothes as gifts for my grandchildren, just as I refuse to buy the ones depicting entertainment stars or demonic-looking characters. These are not what I want my grandchildren to emulate or admire. Nor will I buy the ones promoting premature sexuality.

Today, however, that makes it very hard to shop for clothing gifts for my grandchildren, once they get past the toddler sizes. I am almost limited to a couple of mail-order catalogs, but I am thankful for those.

From: Greg Sampson (gsampson westianet.net)
Subject: Corporate Words -- Kodak

"Kodak" is an example of a synthetic corporate name, although it is not just an arbitrary sequence of letters. From the very beginning (1885), George Eastman had a vision that his newly founded photographic company should be international in scope. So he made up a name which sounds the same and is easily pronounceable in all tongues. As a bonus, the sound "Kodak" is reminiscent of the sound of a shutter clicking.

In the common words we use every day, souls of past races, the thoughts and feelings of individual men stand around us, not dead, but frozen into their attitudes like the courtiers in the garden of the Sleeping Beauty. -Owen Barfield, author (1898-1997)

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