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AWADmail Issue 334

Nov 23, 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

Obama's Use of Complete Sentences Stirs Controversy:
Huffington Post

Meh chosen for 30th anniversary of Collins English Dictionary:
The Times

From: Allen Cosnow (marv78rpm aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--logy
Def: Lethargic, groggy.

I recall a radio commercial that played for years in the 40s and 50s, I think for some laxative, that spoke of "that listless, logy, ache-all-over feeling". My father and I liked the cadence of it and used to go around repeating it like a chant.

From: Anne Reece (areece hchc.edu)
Subject: Logy

Not long after emigrating to the US, our family acquired a purebred German short-haired pointer whose official name was "Kildrummy Loge von Lunenberg", Loge being the Norse God of fire, and a character in a couple of Wagner's Ring Cycle operas (my father was an ardent Wagnerian). Since we emigrated from Scotland, the dog's shortened name was inevitably "Logie" which is a common Scottish surname. You can inmagine the bewilderment of our new American neighbors, for this dog was anything but "logy" -- which had to be explained to us.

From: Robin Kay (robin clearnight.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--prolix
Def: Tediously wordy.

In Australia, it's a bad idea for any politician to be perceived as elitist. In 2005, then Labor party leader (and Rhodes scholar) Kim Beazley tried unsuccessfully to prove he had the common touch by admitting, "I am trying to improve on my prolix habits, mate, so you don't have to worry about that." It didn't work.

From: Henry Willis (hmw ssdslaw.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cadastral
Def: Of or relating to a map or survey showing property lines, boundaries, etc.

This word, in its French version, figures in Grand Illusion, Renoir's classic film about a group of French prisoners of war during World War One that keeps returning to the difficulties that all of its characters have in communicating with each other and their efforts to overcome them.

Some of these difficulties are linguistic -- Marechal, the Frenchman, cannot make himself understood to a stereotypically obtuse British officer and never could understand most of what his German guards were yelling at him (but does manage to communicate with the German widow he meets at the end of the story).

Other difficulties have more to do with class -- when Marechal, who is working class, asks one of his fellow prisoners what he does, he replies that he is "un cadastre". Marechal mulls over this for a few seconds, then asks (in French of course) "Qu'est que c'est cadastre?" -- pronouncing that word from the back of his throat one syllable at a time as if it were something unpleasant or ridiculous.

You can read his question any number of ways, as either resentment at being high-hatted by someone who can't even use an intelligible word in response to a simple question or maybe amusement at the pomposity of the word. In either case Renoir makes the point again how language can divide as well as unite us.

From: Edward Floden (techren techren.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--corpulent
Def: Large, bulky, fat.

"Corpulent" is a fair description of a hog; but my wife has adopted a variant of this word to describe the result of a lack of exercise: "porculent".

From: Sharon Ellis (sharon.ellis oag.state.tx.us)
Subject: My story of AWAD

I met the love of my life through AWAD on May 24, 1999, on the weekly AWADmail. Though I had never taken the time to read it before that date, I was drawn to open that particular newsletter and read the various responses to a question posed on your daily post. Among them was one with an email domain and name that I thought I recognized as a local acquaintance. In fact, I did not know this person who lived in Corpus Christi, Texas, rather than Austin (my home).

We started an occasional correspondence about the word of the day and humor, which evolved over time into our meeting and falling in love. He died this past May, nine years almost to the day after our first AWAD contact. I miss him terribly. But each time the A.Word.A.Day pops into my mailbox, I smile pondering how he would sculpt a humorous gem with the word.

Thank you, Wordsmith, for immeasurably enriching my life.

From: Grant Barrett (gbarrett worldnewyork.org)
Subject: Word-of-the-Year Nominations Open

The American Dialect Society is now accepting nominations for the "word of the year" of 2008. What is the word or phrase which best characterizes the year 2008? What expression most reflects the ideas, events, and themes which have occupied the United States and its residents? Nominations should be sent to (woty at americandialect.org).

They will be considered for the American Dialect Society's 19th annual word-of-the-year vote, the longest-running vote of its kind in the world and the word-of-the-year event up to which all others lead. It will be held in San Francisco on January 9, 2009.

The best "word of the year" candidates will be:

  • new or newly popular in 2008
  • widely or prominently used in 2008
  • indicative or reflective of the national discourse
Multi-word compounds or phrases that act as single lexical items are welcomed, as well.

Sub-categories for "word of the year" include most useful, most creative, most unnecessary, most outrageous, most euphemistic, most likely to succeed, and least likely to succeed. Past winners can be found on the society's website.

You can never understand one language until you understand at least two. -Ronald Searle, artist (b. 1920)

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