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AWADmail Issue 322

August 31, 2008

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

From: Ilan Elron (ilan.elron gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dactylogram
Def: A fingerprint

In French (and French-influenced languages e.g. Romanian) a dactylographe is a typist.

From: Robinson Herrera (robi alum.calberkeley.org)
Subject: Dactylograp

Dactylography is the study of fingerprints. That's strange... In Spanish, dactilografía is the class you take in high school to learn to type, and dactilógrafo/-fa is a typist.

From: George O (jollyplowboy gmail.com)
Subject: dactylogram

Two of the great simple descriptive taxonomic names are pterodactyl and chiroptera. Pterodactyl, or "wing-finger" applies to ancient flying reptiles whose wing framework consisted of a single extremely elongated finger, corresponding to our pinky finger, leaving three fingers to form a hand for climbing and even quadrupedal walking.

Chiroptera or "hand-wing" describes the bats, whose wing frame is built on all the fingers, minus the thumb, which again is reserved to form a grasper for climbing.

Bird wingbones are much shorter and fused together, since birds can use feathers to achieve the needed elongation and spread.

From: Jenee (jayrei_acira yahoo.com)
Subject: Dactylology

When I saw the notes beneath the word "dactylogram" I couldn't help growing excited. I am majoring in American Sign Language at San Antonio College and I've always wondered if there was a Greek or Latin phrase for fingerspelling. Thank you so much for introducing it so that this particular philologist can call herself by a proper name that sounds impressive to anyone who doesn't know what it means!

From: Jane Mallison (jcmallison yahoo.com)
Subject: dactyls

Your entry on the dactylogram reminded me of my delight when I first learned that the DUM da da rhythm of the metrical foot named "dactyl" comes from -- moving from the hand outward -- the joints of the finger: long short short.

From: Michael Malcolm (michael malcolm.net)
Subject: Dactylonomy

I play timpani and percussion in several community orchestras. Often there are long passages of rests to be counted.

I use a form of binary counting, with the little finger as the 1s bit, ring finger the 2s, middle the 4s, index the 8s, and thumb for 16. It is fairly easy to learn to count, even quite rapidly, using this scheme.

To increment to the next number: If the little finger is up, it merely goes down; otherwise, when the little finger is to be lifted, simultaneously lift all its adjacent down fingers. This is a 'ripple carry' -- when it reaches the first up finger, that one goes down. That's the whole method. Motions can be kept small, and the act of counting is hardly noticeable to the audience.

Numbers 1 to 31 are easily represented this way, and you can learn to read them directly. It's possible to count without even thinking the numbers, then simply look at the hand to see what number you're at.

For practicality, I usually count to 30, then start over; if necessary I count the groups of 30 with the other hand in the same way.

It is also possible to stay in the pure binary form and count to 1023 using both hands, but it is much harder to 'read' the numbers when they get large, so I find the groups of 30 method better.

The Wikipedia article on Finger Binary uses the thumb as 1s, etc. I find counting that way very awkward, as the thumb is not as facile as the little finger, going up or down with every count, and the ripple carry doesn't feel as natural.

From: Rudy Rosenberg (rudyrr att.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--maquillage
Def: Makeup or cosmetics

Funny, the origin of "maquillage" is related to "maquignon" a horse trader, also an adroit wheeler dealer. Maquignonner is described as the use of artifacts to hide defaults in a horse for the purpose of making a sale. Also, trying to make a deal succeed by less than honest means.

Aren't words marvellous?

From: Massimo Russo (massimo.russo libertyiu.com)
Subject: Using more attractive words

Drafting a work document for publication, I included, in appropriate context, the word "lacunae". A reviewer challenged "What's wrong with 'gaps'?" I regret at the time I was too flat-footed to continue arguing. Reflection tells me that a correct response could have been 'But what's wrong with "lacunae"?'

From: Vaishali Kamath (vaishali.kamath cognizant.com)
Subject: Addictionary

You are probably one of the few, who cater to people's addiction, provide them 'doses', yet are not into illegal activities. (-:

From: Seth Rosen, M.D. (sdrmia pol.net)
Subject: mithridatism

There is another word in medicine and pharmacology to describe this phenomenon: tachyphylaxis. This occurs with certain medications when taken on a regular basis and over time they lose their effectiveness and/or side effects.

Every word was once a poem. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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