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AWADmail Issue 336

Dec 7, 2008

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

From: Judith Smith (judiths sondelani.co.zw)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--skedaddle
Def: To leave hurriedly.

My Mum used to tell us to "skedaddle or I'll paddle" (smack our bottoms) when she had had enough of us. She came from the North East of England. It was said as a joke but we got the message!

From: Bill Merrick (merrick charter.net)
Subject: Skedaddle

"Skedaddle!" My, how that brings back memories of my grandmother: "Skedaddle, you scallawag", she would say way back when words were used for more salubrious effect.

From: Bradley Westervelt (bdw hawaii.rr.com)
Subject: skedaddle

There were young men who did not want to go fight their southern brothers in the American Civil War and moved to Canada. They were known in Canada as Yankee skedaddlers.

From: Jeff Wedge (jeffreywedge juno.com)
Subject: Americanisms

Obviously, these are the words that give a certain distinct flavor to the language. As a writer of historical fiction, one of my biggest problems is discerning the particular slang in use at a given time, not to mention the particular flow of cursing among the soldiers of the Civil War. Thanks for helping to expand the horizon of the language.

From: Dick Coleman (richard.lewis.coleman gmail.com)
Subject: Skedaddle

I've long suspected that skedaddle is connected to a statistical concept, most commonly seen is homoskedasticity, meaning, roughly, of equal scatter (as a function of the independent variable). This odd word is so similar to skedaddle and so like it in meaning (scatter) that it seems too great a coincidence.

The word homoscedasticity/homoskedasticity is derived from Greek skedannynai (to disperse). It's possible it's the source of skedaddle as well, but at this time we know little about its origin with certainty.
-Anu Garg

From: Anthony Gostanian (agostanian gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--discombobulate
Def: To disconcert or confuse.

My wife and I use the term "recombobulate" to refer to the post-airport security process of getting our bags and putting on our shoes. The security screening is clearly designed to leave you in a state of confusion, thus our need to recombobulate.

From: David Savlin (dsavlin lunatiq.org)
Subject: discombobulate

The Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal-Sentinel newspaper recently had an article about a humorous touch at their General Mitchell Airport. The airport crew placed a sign above the area past TSA Security, where passengers can sit to put their shoes, belts, bags etc back together. The sign reads "Recombobulation Area". I think every airport should have one!

From: Michael Finlayson (michael finlayson.tv)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--flummadiddle
Def: 1. Nonsense. 2. Something worthless.

As a percussionist, I was surprised to see you attribute flummadiddle to a dessert. I respectfully submit a possible alternative source.

From day one, we drummers are drilled with the basic rudiments, which include various drum rolls of course, and such odd birds as the flam, the ratamacue, the ruff or drag, the paradiddle, the dragadiddle, the flamacue, and you guessed it -- the flam paradiddle. If you contract it the same way as dragadiddle and flamacue you get flamadiddle.

Certainly that should be in the running for flumadiddle. I can see some exasperated young drummer that couldn't master the rudiment spitting out flummadiddle with a few other choice adjectives! For more info, see drumrudiments.com.

Thanks for all the great words!

Michael Finlayson
B. Mus.Ed.
James Madison University, '75

From: Brenda Seabrooke (seabrooke verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--hornswoggle
Def: To cheat, hoax, or deceive someone.

Somewhere in my rummaging in books about the Elizabethan period, I found that to hornswoggle meant to put the horns on another man, to cuckold him.

From: Harold Piper (hbpiper hotmail.com)
Subject: American words

I enjoyed the American coinages this week, partly from nostalgia. Most of the words were in use half a century ago, though even then they had a pleasantly antique sound to them -- even a frontier resonance; they were used in cowboy movies. Elsewhere, if one encountered the words at all, they had a humorous, comic-effect cast. Today, they seem much rarer in common speech.

As noted in your etymologies, most of the words were of uncertain origin. My guess is that they were the fanciful inventions of plain folks pretending, for satiric effect, to put on airs.

The great men in literature have usually tried to bring the written word into harmony with the spoken, instead of encouraging an exclusive language to write in. -John Erskine, novelist, poet, and essayist (1879-1951)

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