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AWADmail Issue 325

September 21, 2008

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

From: Jason Ubay (jasonu hawaiibusiness.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--figurehead
Def: A person who is head of a group in name only, having no authority or responsibility.

I sighed when I saw the picture of figurehead you included. Pictured was the Falls of Clyde, currently moored at Honolulu Harbor. It has fallen into disrepair and has already been de-rigged, and will most likely be towed out to sea and sunk to make an artificial reef. The ship's steward, Bishop Museum, no longer has the capital to maintain it.

It was the first ship used to transport goods to Hawaii by shipping giant Matson. It was used as a museum for sometime, but it has been unsafe to visitors for almost five years.

From: Ed Jones (capedory310 cox.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mainstay
Def: A chief support or main part.

When I was learning to sail, I was taught never to use the word rope on board a sailboat because a rope is put to many different tasks. A stay, for example, has a specific location and if the stay has a fault there is no need to mentally sort through the numerous other ropes so your attention goes to the needy place.

As the result of this reasoning, there are words such as rode to describe the article that connects to the anchor. Bow lines, spring lines, and stern lines are used to dock the boat. Painters haul the dinghy or hoist the pennant.

In a broader sense of the word jargon, nautical speech is technical terminology. Most serious sailors use the old names and in some, there is the satisfaction of using centuries-old words in current times.

From: Melissa Emmons (melissa.emmons gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--limpet
Def: 1. A conical-shelled marine mollusk. 2. One that clings stubbornly.

I am reminded of a 1960s movie I saw growing up, called "The Incredible Mr. Limpet". It starred Don Knotts, who was a picked-on, geeky, 98-lb weakling who is granted his fondest wish and turned into a fish: At which time the real-life Don Knotts was changed into an animated, bespectacled (still nearsighted!) fish which remarkably captured Knotts's bug-eyed look.

As a child, I was absolutely charmed by it, and by collecting seashells, including the conical limpet shells, which I loved for their pretty patterns.

From: John Bird (johnbird kingston.net)
Subject: Limpet Mines

My first reaction on seeing "limpet" was to think of the "limpet mines" first used in 1939 during WW2. Wikipedia has an excellent article on mines including info about limpet mines.

From: Elizabeth Hewitt (george.hewitt worldnet.att.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--keelhaul
Def: 1. To haul under the keel of a ship. 2. To rebuke sharply.

The torture of keelhauling was also practiced in the American navy until Herman Melville's book "White Jacket" horrified Americans and the torture was outlawed.

From: Rusty Wright (rusty.wright gmail.com)
Subject: keelhaul

Avast ye salty dog! Keelhaul be a sleek choice for today's word (Sep 19), since today is the internationally official Talk Like a Pirate Day!

From: William Melgaard (piobair mindspring.com)
Subject: nautical terms

As a practicing Naval Architect for over 30 years, some of my favorite terms are "baggywrinkle" and "booby hatch". Stairs are referred to as inclined ladders. A "fixed light" is a window that cannot be opened. A "booby hatch" is a vertical hatch (securable door) in a structure that looks like an outhouse, most commonly found on the deck of a bulk freighter. Baggywrinkle is a bumper, commonly found on tug boats, made from frayed rope.

From: Shelagh Nation (nation mweb.co.za)
Subject: nautical terms

Nautical origins wonderfully litter our language. Not just words but whole conversations. "I don't really like the cut of his jib, but it's any port in a storm -- so, as long as he shows his true colours and doesn't get three sheets in the wind once the sun's below the yardarm, I'll set my course in that direction..."

From: Tania Aebi (tania sover.net)
Subject: Nautical origins

This week's theme has inspired me to write and say thanks for years of entertainment and thoughtfulness with words and quotations, but never more than now. At 2:00 Sunday morning, just as "mainstay" was preparing to arrive in my inbox, I returned home from the South Pacific island where I sold the sailboat that, for the past year, carried me and my two teenage boys from the Caribbean to New Caledonia on a voyage of high adventure and precious bonding.

Before setting out, the primary goals were to introduce them to the sea, the greatest teacher I ever had, and to have this time together with them before they head off into their own futures. Mission accomplished. The trip was chronicled by my writing at boatus.com/cruising, and yesterday, the last entry was posted, just as the nautical A.Word.A.Day started coming in, a perfect ending in words. An ocean's worth of thanks for your serendipitous choice of theme that'll keep me connected to what we've just left behind for a few more days.

From: Mick Bloom (mick.bloom atk.com)
Subject: Advertisement from "Sign the Petition Today"

Sign the Petition Today!
The Dept. of Homeland Apology urges Bush to apologize for the past 8 years.

As a subscriber, a conservative and a Republican, I resent a partisan sponsor of this type. Certainly, you have the right to accept sponsorship from anyone willing to pay the fee. However, I guess I simply expected more from you -- neutrality. In addition, you have the right to promote any point of view you desire and, I expect, that the majority of your subscribers may even share an anti-Bush perspective. Mr. Bush, however, is still the duly-elected President of this country and, as such, deserves some respect. One can disagree with his decisions and his policies but still respect the office and the man. To ask him to apologize for his presidency implies he has done something wrong, unethical, or immoral. While I don't agree with all his decisions, I do believe he made them based upon his belief that they were in the best interests of this country.
    Thanks for your note. Some other readers have also complained about this ad (for a book). We do not necessarily agree with the views of all our sponsors. And while we are on this topic, we do not agree with all our readers whose comments are included in AWADmail either.

    We have an ad-free version available: AWAD Premium ($45/year) and we encourage you to try it instead.
    -Anu Garg

Compared to the drama of words, Hamlet is a light farce. -Anatoly Liberman, professor (b. 1937)

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