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AWADmail Issue 309

June 1, 2008

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

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

How the Word 'Elite" Became a Slur:
The New York Times

'Guerdon' Wins Spelling Bee for Sameer Mishra:

National Spelling Bee Brings Out Protesters Who R Thru With Through:
The Wall Street Journal

What Do You Call a Terror(Jihad)ist?
The New York Times

From: Rudy Rosenberg (rudyrr att.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--point-device

Archaic indeed. When we lived in Charleroi, Belgium, my Father, an interior decorator originally from Poland, had a very limited French vocabulary, however he'd often use the phrase "A Point Devis" when referring to a job done or to be done impeccably. As a little boy I did not know the meaning of the words. Thank you for jolting my memory and explaining the provenance of this expression.

From: Robert Groover (groover technopatents.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--scrannel

That reviewer was perhaps alluding to Milton's Lycidas:

Their lean and flashy songs
Grate on their scrannel Pipes of wretched straw,

I don't think this word has ever flown far from its nest.

From: J Michael Sharman (jmsharman tiscali.co.uk)
Subject: run faster

Re: psychologist Rollo May's quotation: "It is an ironic habit of human beings to run faster when we have lost our way."

Not only do we run faster when we have lost our way (as Rollo May says), but we also drive faster when we are getting low on petrol. Neither of them is a good idea.

From: G. Ramanath (ramanath rpi.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sweven

"Sweven" may also be derived from Sanskrit "Swapn" which means dream.

From: Jan Boshoff (jan boedels.co.za)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sweven

There is an Afrikaans word, sweef, which as a verb means to float or to hover above the ground. Thanks to you I understand the hidden Afrikaans meaning of the word as well because it is often used in the sense of 'not being fully conscious' or 'dreamily'.

From: Cies Hessels (v.hessels versatel.nl)
Subject: feedback: sweven

Once again I notice, seeing this word 'sweven', that Old English very often is so close to Modern Dutch. 'Zweven' as a verb means: float, hover, glide (glider airplane). 'Zweverig' as an adjective means: vague, woolly, light-headed, dreamy.

From: Chris Papa (doxite verizon.net)
Subject: Re: ween

Gilbert's librettos for the operas he wrote for Sullivan are laced with archaic words, which, once they are connected with the right notes become easily incorporated into a person's vocabulary. Take the case of "ween". It is encountered in the "Gondoliers", where a quartet, two men and two women, are considering the news that one of the men may be the new "King of Barataria" and the lady he's just married will therefore be his queen. They sing a very lively number which includes the words,

"Oh, 'tis a glorious thing, I ween,
To be a Regular Royal Queen!
No half-and-half affair, I mean,
But a right-down regular Royal Queen!"

Time changes all things: there is no reason why language should escape this universal law. -Ferdinand de Saussure, linguist (1857-1913)

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