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AWADmail Issue 324

September 14, 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: Interesting stories from the net

Italians Vote For Ugliest English Words:
Daily Telegraph

Bonobos May Have Greater Linguistic Skills Than Previously Thought:

From: Geoff Teabo (gteabo russellreynolds.com)
Subject: Chinese auction = penny social (Re: Chinese puzzle)

Please allow me to be the 500th person to tell you that in the rural farm communities of upstate New York, that a Chinese auction there is known as a penny social.

This is because each ticket normally sells for a penny, and everyone buys hundreds or thousands of tickets.

From: Pete Dunne (dunnesgarden comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Chinese puzzle

In NJ, Chinese auctions are called "Tricky Tray" auctions. The reference being the items are displayed for auction on individual serving trays.

From: Patricia Locklin (patricia.a.locklin maine.gov)
Subject: Chinese Auction
In Maine we tend to call this type of auction a silent auction.

From: Grace (shanermd aol.com)
Subject: Chinese auction

You indicated that this term is not very offensive, but might I suggest to the reader who queried to change the name anyway. Start a new tradition and offend no one. Name it Fall auction or (your school name) auction.

From: Consul (consul consolidated.net)
Subject: Re: taking offence

I have friends in London, Madrid, Stockholm, Istanbul, Montreal, Warsaw, Tehran, Amsterdam, Moscow, Paris, Copenhagen, Acapulco, Germany, and Athens.

Could you please explain the origins of the following terms. My friends and I would all like to know whether we should feel offended or not.

English muffins, Spanish fly, Swedish meatballs, Turkish baths, Canadian bacon, Polish sausage, Persian rugs, Dutch treat, Russian roulette, French kiss, Danish roll, Mexican hat dance, Hamburgers, Frankfurters, and Greek conundrum.

Much obliged.

From: Rob West (rwest biico.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Toronto Blessing
Def: A form of religious rapture marked by outbreaks of mass fainting, laughter, shaking, weeping, fainting, speaking in tongues, etc.

Well, I must have been living in a cave for the past long while. I say that because I have lived in Toronto for most of my life, and certainly for the 14 years before and after 1994, and I have *never* heard of the phrase Toronto Blessing. On the the other hand, I've never even been to China, and I had heard of a Chinese Puzzle. As Marilyn Monroe observed in "Some Like It Hot", "It makes a girl think."

From: Randy Cook (rgcook mindspring.com)
Subject: Toronto Blessing

I'm a little surprised that "religious rapture" is felt by some to have been first observed in 1994. It's been going on here is the deep south for a couple of centuries. The "fainting" part is known as being "slain in the spirit". Canadians are welcome to observe most any Sunday!

From: Laura Newman (martinwarrior gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Bristol fashion
Def: In good order.

I am from Bristol, and have always heard the 'going aground' version of the definition. You talk about ships going aground, but it's more than that: ships in the port of Bristol (which is at the top of the tidal Avon, coming out of the tidal Severn) were left high and dry, perhaps lying on their sides. A floating harbour was later built for the port and it was finally moved out to the river mouth, at Avonmouth. (see this link)

From: Geirr Aakhus (geirr aakhus.com)
Subject: Bristol fashion

When it comes to boats, they don't actually say Bristol fashion that much. Bristol condition is the term they use for a boat they feel -- or rather claim -- is in pristine condition when they do the only fiscally prudent thing and try to sell the tub. Being a member of the challenged masses that suffer from boat since early childhood, I feel comfortable in saying that a reasonable definition of 'Bristol condition' is "prevaricated qualitative claim by the seller of a floating contraption." I have spoken. Ugh.

From: Dee Parker (bajansweetheart hotmail.com)
Subject: Gloss Over

You should be specific as to how Bristol made its fortune. It was through the slave trade. I feel offended that you would gloss over this fact. Slavery happened and Bristol was a huge part of it.

From: Logan Neufeld (loganrneufeld hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Roman nose
Def: A nose having a prominent bridge.

I laughed when I saw this word, because, when I was a kid, my family often visited Roman Nose State Park in Oklahoma, named after a Cheyenne chief who must have had quite a prominent nose.

From: Mac Williams (wuapinmon hotmail.com)
Subject: Roamin' nose

My rather large-nosed grandfather (1912-2008) always used to say that he had a "roamin' nose" because it "roamed all over his face".

His folk definition always made me smile when I was a kid.

From: Donald Billgren (donbill algonet.se)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Glasgow kiss
Def: A headbutt.

The Swedes call this a "dansk skalle", a "Danish head", although of no origin that I can imagine.

From: Peter Graney (peterg granules.com)
Subject: Glasgow kiss

I seem to remember a "Danish Kiss" from an early Sven Hassell novel. I'm not sure if it was given with a German helmet on or not but there you go.

From: Chris Harrison (chris.harrison zoom.co.uk)
Subject: Glasgow kiss

If first heard in the 1980s, Glasgow Kiss has to be a derivative of the Liverpudlian expression "Kirkby Kiss". Kirkby (pronounced Kirby i.e. without the second k) is an area of North Liverpool that was developed by the city to rehouse people at the time of the slum clearances of the 1950s and 60s.

It gained a reputation as a rough neighbourhood (as partly depicted by the BBC '60s police drama Z-Cars, placed in the fictional Liverpool area of Newtown, but based on Kirkby). I lived in the NorthWest at that time, and the expression was current then.

From: Diogenes (cdhoran hotmail.com)
Subject: Glasgow kiss

When I was traipsing around Europe and Africa in the mid-60's I heard my Scottish friends refer to this expression of affection as the "Highland Kiss".

From: Brady Ryall (bryall energyconsultants.ca)
Subject: Glasgow kiss

A similar expression arose in Canada -- the Shawinigan Handshake -- after Prime Minister Jean Chretien strangled a social activist during an outdoor protest in 1996. Being from the town of Shawinigan, the term was jokingly coined by the Prime Minister himself.

From: Blanca Castro (descoloria yahoo.com)
Subject: French leave

In Spain we say "despedirse a la francesa", just a translation of the French "filer à l'anglaise" but using them instead.
French 2 English 1. :-)

From: Albert Brown (aheb verizon.net)
Subject: Toponyms

Toponyms are obviously not uniquely English. The German word for a monkey wrench is Franzose -- Frenchman; don't ask me why. The Munich comedian Karl Valentin, active between the world wars, had a comic museum which included a wrench in a box with bars, labeled "gefangener Franzose" -- captured Frenchman. You can see it in the Karl Valentin Museum in Munich.

From: H. Gordon Havens (gordonhavens hotmail.com)
Subject: Harry Truman's initial

As a resident of Independence, Mo., Harry Truman's hometown and site of his presidential museum and library, I would like to further stir the muddled waters of his initial squabble. Engraved on the entry of the library's stone exterior is his name Harry S. Truman with the period chiseled deeply and distinctly.


H. Gordon Havens (or maybe H Gordon Havens)

From: Jeanette Ertel (jeanertel gmail.com)
Subject: Harry S. Truman's Middle Initial

I do believe I have the final word on whether the S initial should have a period or not in Truman's middle name. In 1958 my husband James Ertel wrote to Truman to ask him about that S. Here is a quotation from the response:

"Each of my grandfathers had a name beginning with S and because my parents could not agree on which name I should have, they gave me only the S, followed by a period, to stand for both."

That says to me there should be the period after the S if we want to take Truman's word about his name. The letter has been framed and I am pleased to have it as a reminder of a president who talked straight when straight talk must have had a deeper meaning than it does today.

All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry. -G.K. Chesterton, writer (1874-1936)

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