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AWADmail Issue 302

April 13, 2008

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

Names That Match Forge a Bond on the Internet:
The New York Times

Ving, Vang, Vong. Or, the Pleasures of a New Vocabulary:
The New York Times

From: Geoff Reynolds (amundo iinet.net.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ebullient

With regard to your "good" conversation, watch this video. I have tried to ban the word "good" from our kids' answers with not much success.

From: David E. Selvin (david_e_selvin mcpsmd.org)
Subject: This week's theme

The theme of this week's words about "tired" words is one of the important ideas that I try to instill in my 5th grade students' writing. We have a display I call "Graveyard Words" where students can add their entries to lay to rest certain words that have too broad or an indefinite meaning. Good, bad, nice, and like are usually the first ones to appear on the list. I think, in light of today's economy, I should call these words "Retired Words" and make a display of words looking for employment.

From: Frank Brown (frank.brown travelport.com)
Subject: Retiring "good" and "bad"

Two other words I would like to see retired or at least semi-retired are "love" and "hate", at least as they are used towards inanimate objects and things.

"I HATE Brussels sprouts." What a strong emotion to waste on a vegetable. "I LOVE your shoes." If you love my shoes, how am I supposed to respond when you tell me you LOVE me. "What, like you love my shoes?"

From: John Zeisel (zeisel thehearth.org)
Subject: good

When my kids answered questions about their day in school or a movie they saw or a party they went to or whatever with the single word "good" I would always say "Good is a four letter word starting with 'g' and ending with 'd'. Now how WAS the movie, meal, or so on?"

Now when I am tired and answer similar questions with the descriptor "good", I get the same lecture. Thanks for reminding me!

From: Steve Benko (steve.benko gecapital.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ebullient

I must object to your domestic banishment of "good". Especially with children, it's all in HOW they say it. Isn't it? I'll never forget how my then-four-year-old daughter, now 19, reacted when I asked her how she liked her new baby sister, upon first setting eyes upon her minutes after birth. Jumping up and down with excitement, she pronounced her, "GOOD!" As did God of his creation in Genesis.

From: John Rochat (houyhnhnmland sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ebullient

Similarly, as a physician, I have told my patients for years that the words "sick" and "ill" have been banned. If they insist on using those words, they are advised that I will have to ask them about ten more questions to find out more precisely what they intended to tell me in the first place, thus delaying a meaningful solution even further.

If, however, they tell me they are "fine", I then require them to tell me what that means, too. On further reflection, a few will maintain they are "fine" but no one seems to remain just "sick" or "ill". While Sir William Osler may have said, "If you listen carefully to the patient they will tell you the diagnosis," I can't help but think his patients must have had a larger vocabulary than good, bad, sick, ill, and fine, and a greater interest in discovering the most appropriate remedy.

From: Michael Anderson (michael evanstongroup.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tremulous

Seeing "tremulous" this morning, I thought of Robert Frost. (I had just attended, last evening, a Frost reading group. My friend and I have been meeting now for 14 years with one purpose: a careful reading of every poem, seriatim. At roughly one title per night we expect to finish sometime in 2015!)

But, as I say, "tremulous" sent me immediately to Frost's "Tuft of Flowers" in which a butterfly first flew away, "and then on tremulous wing came back to me." The poem appears in "A Boy's Will", his first book. Browsing in that same volume, I then re-read, "My Butterfly", the first line of which I'd forgotten: "Thine emulous fond flowers are dead, too."

How had we, all these years, missed this little cleverness? Here the bard had paired--in one book, in two poems, both about butterflies--"tremulous" and "emulous". It's a feat that would make Ogden Nash himself, king of the clever rhyme, tremble in emulation.

From: Brian McKeown (brian_mckeown ie.ibm.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pusillanimous

I reckon that word will strike a chord with many people out there - though they might not know why! I knew I'd heard it before and after scraping the bottom of the memory barrel remembered I'd heard it in a movie - The Wizard of Oz. It's near the end, as the wizard gives scarecrow his diploma, he declares - "Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the earth, or slinks through slimy seas has a brain!" So in a Donald Rumsfeld kind of way that word has been a 'known unknown' for me for many years -- I've heard it many times (ie. seen the movie many times) but didn't know what it actually meant -- until now. :-)

From: Adele St. John (asaint stanford.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pusillanimous

This was the first "big" word I ever learned. My grandfather described a speech in which then Vice-President, Spiro Agnew said "pusillanimous pussyfooters". I was very, very young but, grabbed onto words and had a way above average vocabulary by the time I was in first grade. My dad and my grandfather were chuckling because I was trying to say pusillanimous -- it must have been amusing to see/hear a very small child repeating a very big word that was probably longer than I was tall.... At that time, my grandfather and grandmother lived in Long Beach, California. I enjoyed going to the pier with my father so I could see the "fish-doggies"... my own, very creative term for seals. Pusillanimous brings up those kinds of memories for me.

From: John Richardson (rubrick.illumus gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pusillanimous

I was really amused to get this word in my mailbox today just a few days after listening to this interview on NPR with the cookie monster.

In it Cookie monster claims his least favourite word is pusillanimous, but doesn't know what it means. From the way that he describes it I reckon that his definition sounds more appropriate!

From: Bruce P. Bogert (bpbogert comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pavid

Years ago I chose the motto "Semper Pavidus" as appropriate for my yachting activities and I still wear a baseball cap with that motto. Surprisingly, in all those years only one person has overtly translated it. It looks close enough to the U.S. Coast Guard motto "Semper Paratus" (Always Ready) so that once I was mistaken for a USCG alumnus!

From: Sue Kniss (suebk myaccess.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--piker

Here Down-Under in Australia a piker is one who won't do something. Rather derogatory, and implying a level of fear. One might be called a piker for refusing to bungee jump, or go white-water rafting. No one wants to be called a piker, so sadly the term is also used for less 'noble' undertakings -- like drinking, smoking, drugs, gambling. To 'pike out' is the verb for not participating in some activity, again with a connotation of fear being the motivator. I guess the Australian meaning is closely related to the possible origins of "to leave". One who is piker, or who pikes out, does actually leave a situation.

From: Griselda Mussett (mussetts btinternet.com)
Subject: Re: piker

Here in Kent, England (where some old dialect vocabulary is still alive and well), piker is used interchangeably with pikey and is a very derogatory term applied to gypsies and travellers. Such people are regarded as thieves as well as vagabonds, and are chased away by 'respectable' house-dwelling folks -- a medieval drama still enacted in our small towns and villages. The possible Middle English meaning of pike (to leave) is fascinating as these families are always leaving to try somewhere else.

Language is more fashion than science, and matters of usage, spelling and pronunciation tend to wander around like hemlines. -Bill Bryson, author (b. 1951)

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