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AWADmail Issue 300

March 30, 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: Coming events

Wordsmith Chat:
Online chat with Nicholas Ostler, chairman of the Foundation for Endangered Languages; Tue, Apr 8, 2008, noon Pacific (GMT -7).

Anu Garg's schedule:
Tacoma, WA: Wed, Apr 30, 2008, 7pm, King's Books
Spokane, WA: Fri, May 30, 2008, 7:30pm, Auntie's Bookstore
Port Angeles, WA: Fri, Jun 27, 2008, 7pm, Port Book & News
See details.

From: Jim Coats (wjcoats ucdavis.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--schnorrer

Seeing today's word schnorrer, I remembered the lines from the Captain Spaulding song (Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby) in the Marx Brothers' "Animal Crackers":

Spaulding: This fact I emphasize with stress,
  I never take a drink unless - Somebody's buying.
All: The Captain is a very moral man.
  Hooray for Captain Spaulding, the African Explorer!
Spaulding: Did someone call me schnorrer?
All: Hooray, hooray, hooray!

Today is the first time I've read an actual definition for the word, but because I heard that song and saw the movie early in life I knew what it meant long before I knew what it meant. If you know what I mean. I actually saw Groucho at a UCLA rally in the mid 1970s when he and some fans were working to get around a copyright dispute so that Animal Crackers, long unavailable, could be released again for public viewing. The effort eventually succeeded. And even though Groucho ate and drank what the rally organizers provided, he really didn't seem to be such a schnorrer after all.

From: Andrew Pressburger (andrew.pressburger primus.ca)
Subject: Schnorrer

In Mordecai Richler's celebrated novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, small-time crook Jerry Dingleman (known to his admirers as the Boy Wonder), presumably to ease his troubled conscience, holds open house every Wednesday between ten and four, at which time "supplicants" can "touch" him for a handout under one dubious pretext or another. The weekly reception is known as Schnorrers' Day, since he regards clients of his questionable fiefdom as so many crooks in his own image, after the adage, "It takes one to know one."

Needless to say, the schnorrers are vetted in advance by the Boy Wonder's minions before they are allowed in the hallowed presence of the Great One. At the end of the novel, Duddy, having surpassed his "master", invites the crippled Dingleman to visit him during his own version of Schnorrers' Day.

The book itself is a veritable goldmine of Yiddishisms, Montreal variety, circa 1950.

From: Israel Pickholtz (israelp pikholz.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--megillah

The reading of Esther on Purim (which was last week) is anything but tedious. "Raucous" would be a better description, as everyone makes noise to drown out the name of the villlain (Haman) each of the fifty-four times his name is mentioned.

From: Marvin Polonsky (marvopolo msn.com)
Subject: feedback: megillah

The word does not apply exclusively to the Scroll of Esther. Megillah is a generic term that refers to several stories that were included in the Jewish biblical canon, most notably, the Book (Megillah) of Ruth. Ecclesiastes is another. The plural of megillah is megillot.

From: Carsten Kruse (c-kruse t-online.de)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--schnook

I had to look up the word in my WAHRIG (one of the best dictionaries of German) and the dictionary stated that "Schnucke" is the short form of Heidschnucke an undemanding breed of sheep mainly bred in the region of Lüneburg Heath.

As I wrote before, I had to look up the word because most Germans will think of the word "Schnuckelchen" which stands for "darling", "my dear" (mainly used for girls/women). Its original meaning was "small sheep" (Schäfchen).

From: Amir Mane (amirmane gmail.com)
Subject: A brief tutorial on personality types in Yiddish

There are so many jokes in Yiddish, and most of them don't translate too well. But here, for your enjoyment, is one that makes a loving use of the Yiddish vocabulary and illustrates the proper use of three great Yiddish words.

What's the difference between a schlemiel, a shlimazl, and a nudnik? The schlemiel spills the coffee on the shlimazl; and the nudnik comes over to ask: "Was that hot?"

For the uninitiated:
schlemiel - a habitual bungler
schlimazl - someone who is unlucky
nudnik - a bothersome person

From: Beth Vige (cevigegrand gmail.com)
Subject: Beads for the smart lady

I just wanted to thank you -- Wordsmith won me a string of deluxe St. Patrick's day beads this past week.

My boyfriend and I were at an Irish pub in St. Thomas, and the entertainer of the evening asked a trivia question: can anyone name an English word that has all five vowels in it, in order. I turned to my boyfriend and said, "I know that one! It's facetious! He urged me to shout it out, which I did, and I won a string of beads, as well as the admiration of the crowd. So, thank you, Anu, for your "vowels in order" theme some time back. Incidentally, I also remembered after the fact that abstemious also has all five vowels in order...but I didn't want to show off too much! ;) )

Stability in language is synonymous with rigor mortis. -Ernest Weekley, lexicographer (1865-1954)

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