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AWADmail Issue 337

Dec 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 wordsmith.org)
Subject: Administrivia

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From: Patricia Harrington (pharrin107 aol.com)
Subject: Thinking Espaliered Trees
Def: noun: A tree trained to grow flat against a wall. verb tr.: To train a tree in such a way.

Loved today's word and comments on nature thinking. I have four espaliered trees, and I'll wonder now what they're thinking when their branches are pruned. Do they feel like a pampered pet being groomed, or do they bear the assault? It may be that they determine to just grow new vertical shoots in defiance while captive in my yard.

So says this mystery writer and sometimes twilight author.

From: sks24 (Via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Subject: espalier

See yalepress.yale.edu.

From: Gary Garnier (ggarnier yahoo.com)
Subject: Less than purity of intent in the animal kingdom

Further to Mark Germer's response to the Hal Borland quotation: In the book Alex and Me, the author describes her African Grey parrot deliberately and repeatedly giving an incorrect answer as her owner attempts to show off the bird's considerable reasoning powers in front of a visiting scientist. As soon as the guest left, he repeatedly called out the correct answer: "Two! Two!".

Wonderful book!

From: Shrisha Rao (shrao nyx.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--espalier

That's interesting, but not surprising. Even bacteria have social lives and sophisticated coordination and communication. See this paper.

From: David Veenstra (dveenstra tampabay.rr.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--espalier

The chemical warfare plants engage in is fascinating. Consider the acidic detritus of oak trees and evergreens that suppresses plant growth immediately underneath them. Not to mention how they hog up all the light.

From: Catherine Campbell (ccampbell cottey.edu)
Subject: trees and plants

Your quote from Mark Germer reminded me of a short story "The Sound Machine" by Roald Dahl I read years ago. In it, a man had invented a machine to "hear" plants and trees. He was especially upset to hear them scream when they were cut or otherwise harmed.

As I said, I read this a long time ago, but I still remember it and your comment brought it back.

From: Steve Benko (steve.benko gecapital.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--espalier

Deceptive and "criminal" behavior among animals, particularly those birds and mammals who live in social groups and pair-bond with their mates like us, is an endlessly fascinating topic. Of course predators and prey both use camouflage, the most basic form of deception. But within their own species, many individuals also act in ways that we would consider immoral, i.e. deceptive or downright destructive, and are responded to in much the same way that we do by their victims, mates, or the community at large.

Yet in a sense Hal Borland is still right, since how can you frame an "accusation" implying moral judgments against creatures acting on instincts that are the product of millions of years of evolution? Everywhere we look in nature we see ourselves mirrored, and we have much to learn about the roots and rudiments of our own behavior at both the individual and societal levels by doing so.

From: Edward H. (Pete) Hancock (ehhancoc msn.com)
Subject: Squirrels

With your comments about the ability of birds and squirrels to obtain their basic needs, I despaired of preventing the four-legged creatures of getting into our bird feeder. I finally was successful. I am sure that there are many ways to do this, but I felt so sorry for the squirrels then, I began to feed them also. They are so clever.

From: Jeff Ayers (jayers corporateconceptsofsc.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--topiary
Def: The art of creating sculptures by clipping, trimming, and training plants. Also, such a sculpture or garden.

I was pleasantly surprised after reading the usage quotation for topiary. Having worked at a lawn and garden center in Columbia, SC, I had many opportunities to speak with Mr. Pearl Fryar. Whether it was selling him conifers that were deemed less than desirable for retail, introducing him at the talks he gave for us at the garden center, or at his house in Bishopville among the vast landscape of topiaries he had created, it was always pleasurable.

He is an embodiment of how much a person can accomplish when they set forth a goal and go forward with it. He taught himself the art of topiaries (and espaliering as well) by attending a couple of lectures, reading a few books, and getting his hands dirty making wonderful plants. If anyone has the opportunity, come to Bishopville, South Carolina, to visit his place. It has always been worth the time to see his work and spend time with a truly humble man.

From: Vaishali Kamath (vaishalikamath hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pleach
Def: To interlace branches or vines to make a hedge, decorative shape, arbor, etc.

I had seen some great pictures of 'arborsculpted' trees here. Thanks for sharing the word 'pleach'; it's much more user-friendly than 'arborsculpt'. :-)

From: Claire Schaeffer (claire.schaeffer mms.gov)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bonsai
Def: The art of growing miniature trees; a tree grown in this way.

My long-time bonsai master Harold Sasaki always begins a new class with the correct pronunciation: BONE + SIGH. He wants to make sure that no one confuses this word with banzai (bahn zye).

From David Meltz (dvdmeltz yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pollard
Def: 1. A tree cut back to the trunk; 2. An animal that has its horns removed.

The noun poll in the 13th century meant head, and centuries later the part of the head where hair grows ("His beard as white as snow; all flaxen was his poll." Hamlet) or the top of the hair. The verb came to mean to cut, shear, or clip the hair of a person or animal; from there it meant to cut a tree's branches. But the verb could also be used figuratively, as when Coleridge wrote: "Rabelais is a wonderful writer. Pantagruel is the Reason; Panurge the Understanding -- the pollarded man, the man with every faculty except the reason." (Table Talk of S. T. Coleridge)

From: Charles F. Hruska (chruska earthlink.net)
Subject: pollard-charcoal-gunpowder

The DuPont 1802 Eleutherian Mills [at Hagley Museum, outside of Wilmington, Delaware] has a row of willows pollarded as they were in the 1800s to provide wood for charcoal, a major component of the gunpowder made at the mill. If, instead of cutting the top of a tree, the trunk was cut at about ground level, it was a "coppice" and would produce shoots that were also used for charcoal.

From: Russ Carlson (fangorn.01 comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pollard

As an arborist, I was happy to see this week's topic on plant-related words. Regarding pollard, there is a little more than the definition stated. It is not merely cutting off the top of a tree (which is technically just called topping -- a very harmful practice for trees). Pollarding is a pruning technique whereby the small branches are cut back to about the same place annually, creating knobby "fists" on the branches from which the new shoots grow.

One explanation for the origin of the practice is that in medieval times the landowners (kings, etc.) would prohibit the cutting of large trees by peasants, in order to protect their forests. The peasants still needed fuel wood, so they were allowed to only take stuff that was smaller than a certain size. By cutting the branches at the same point every year, they avoided the size issue, got the wood they needed, and still kept their heads. The practice has since become a formal pruning technique.

From: Dottie Simmons (simmonsville hughes.net)
Subject: Pollard

We raised goats for many years and would dehorn the kids. The same is done to cattle, and we always heard it referred to as "polled" (pronounced "poled") as in "a polled Hereford".

I now realize I never saw it written out and that the pronunciation is probably colloquial to either ranchers or our part of the Western States (rural northern California). If I said "Pollard Hereford", referring to a dehorned steer, no one would recognize the term -- or, at best, would think I had a foreign accent!

From: P. Jestin Trahan (lavonnejestin aol.com)
Subject: Pollard

When I saw that pollard had its origin from the old English word polle, meaning head, I quickly made the association with the word poll tax, defined as a capitation tax. Cool.

From: Jim Taggart (iagot alum.mit.edu)
Subject: Words about shaping trees

Scott's Valley, California, had an attraction known as the Tree Circus made by a man who bent trees in a variety of impossible forms. I believe it is gone now, but I have seen it. Here are some pictures.

From: Kyle and Brady Baldwin (kyleandbrady myownbook.net)
Subject: sharing the joy of reading

For years we have started our morning with our mom telling us the word of the day at breakfast. We played games trying to use the word during the day. In fact, to this day we refer to our humble adobe as "the snuggery" thanks to you!

We are 16 and 18 years old and run an organization called My Own Book to spread the joy of reading. We were shocked to find some children in our community do not have a single book of their own, so we started visiting less fortunate K-3rd grade classrooms, reading a book, telling them about the public library, showing off our library cards, and then letting the children pick a brand new book as their very own. The children are delighted -- the joy of having a book that is brand new and being able to pick one's own book is fabulous. So far, we have distributed 15,000 books. We now have a chance to do much more but we need your help. My Own Book is a finalist in the Best Buy @ 15 Challenge where we have the opportunity to earn $10,000 to buy new books for children.

There are 30 finalists and the 15 who get the most votes receive the grant. Here's how you can help:

  1. Vote for My Own Book by texting bbyv14 to 32075 (this is the easiest way)
  2. Vote for My Own Book by going to GenV.net
  3. Forward this email to others who are concerned about literacy.
You can cast two votes per day (once on the Internet and once by text) until Jan 9. Every vote counts so please vote daily. Thank you.

From: Eric Shackle (eshackle ozemail.com.au)
Subject: Bonsai

The oldest known bonsai trees are said to be 400- to 800-year-old specimens displayed at Happo-en, a private garden and exclusive restaurant in Tokyo, Japan. We humans have shorter life expectancies. By a strange coincidence, Britain's oldest man, Henry Allingham, and America's oldest man, George Francis, were born on the same day -- June 6, 1896. That means they were 112 years and six months old last week. For more details, see OhmyNews.

The speaking in a perpetual hyperbole is comely in nothing but in love. -Francis Bacon, essayist, philosopher, and statesman (1561-1626)

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