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AWADmail Issue 339

Dec 28, 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: Dispatches from Mumbai - part 2

Yoga With The Elephants

Mumbai. It's 5:45am and it's still dark outside. I accompany my parents in a short walk to the nearby park known for its sculpted bushes. Along the way, I pass a man asleep on a bench on the footpath (sidewalk) while his motorcycle is parked behind him.

I step around the hawkers (vendors) who are inserting fliers for the latest fashion sale or the newest fad diet into the leaves of newspapers before they head out to deliver them to newspaper-hungry Indians.

The road outside the park is lined with cars and the walking track inside the park is filled with people, many of whom drive here every morning. People in shorts, in saris, wearing sneakers, and walking in groups. They discuss the previous night's episode of the reality show or the fluctuations of the Sensex or the gossip on the college campus before they go home and get ready for work or school.

In the park I join a group of people under a brick shed. All are getting ready for yoga, though not a single yoga mat is in sight. They sit on folded bedsheets, old posters, and polythene sheets.

Given Mumbai's entrepreneurial spirit, I'm surprised no one has jumped in and begun marketing a standard foam yoga mat. Then it dawns on me that such a venture wouldn't be very successful in a culture that prizes frugality and reuse.

The yoga session is conducted by Jeetu Bhai (Brother Jeetu), a lean man with a serious demeanor. I learn later, he has been running this free yoga session every day for the last 11 years.

"All religions lead to the same God," he begins, before telling us to forgive or ask for forgiveness for whatever might have happened in our lives the previous day. Soon we move into focused breathing followed by various exercises. Overall the emphasis is less on striking an intricate balance on one leg or standing on your head, it's more about balancing your mind and thoughts.

A few minutes into the yoga, my mind is as still as the elephants and the giraffes and the oxen, and all the other animals around the park. I am glad to be part of this topiary.

Read more: part 1, 3.

From: Rita Geiger (rgeiger cox.net)
Subject: Mumbai

When I read your message that said you were in Mumbai, it brought back memories of when I was a part of a Fulbright Seminar in India and one of the places we visited was Bombay -- the name in 1978, the time of my Fubright program. When I heard of the recent terrorist attacks, my roommate during the seminar and I emailed each other about being in Bombay (Mumbai). We remembered the visit to Bollywood, seeing the huge Gateway of India and other tourist sites. A big disappointment for our group was that the waves were too high for us to go see the Elephanta Caves.

From: John Campbell (johnppj aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--minnow
Def: Someone or something considered insignificant

You probably know that the ship on the TV series Gilligan's Island was named the S.S. Minnow, but did you know that the ship was so named by the show's producer to make fun of Newton Minow, the former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who in 1961 used the words "a vast wasteland" to describe the state of television programming.

From: Chris James (c1james btinternet.com)
Subject: Minnow

In "English" English the minnow if one specific fish, namely Phoxinus phoxinus. In North America the name gets tagged to other (small) fish, such as the Sculpin Minnow.

From: Raymond Paul (rlp2001 hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gudgeon
Def: 1. A small fresh-water fish 2. A gullible person 3. A bait 4. A pivot

When I was learning to sail, I learned that the gudgeon was the fitting at the stern of the boat to which the rudder was attached; hence the phrase "from stem to gudgeon" to mean everything, the "stem" being the portion of the boat at the very front.

From: Dr Alan Wheals (bssaew bath.ac.uk)
Subject: Gudgeon

The word "gudgeon" has an added significance to the inhabitants of the town of Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire, UK. On one of the piers of the town bridge, which dates from the 12th century, is a lock-up or jail a sculptured fish called the Bradford Gudgeon. This led to the puzzling phrase, often used as the town motto, "Under the fish and over the water" which meant you were in jail, probably only overnight to sleep off alcoholic excesses! Fifty yards away you can see a bronze millennium statue with, on the base either side of a gudgeon, the same motto in Latin: Sub pisce - super flumine.

The lock-up was formerly a chapel and a fish was an early Christian symbol. Another meaning of gudgeon is a pivot that allows something else to move and below the gudgeon is a weather vane that turns with the wind. The fish also gives its name to the monthly town newsletter "The Gudgeon".

With an 8th century Saxon church and one of the best tithe barns in the country, Bradford on Avon (the broad ford over the river) is a great place to visit and only a short distance from the better known UNESCO city of Bath.

From: Stu Tarlowe (starlowe earthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--remora
Def: Hindrance, drag

You wrote:
"Remoras eat scraps from the fish they attach to. But they don't just get a free ride and free food. It's a symbiotic relationship as they, in turn, remove parasites from their bigger buddies."

This relationship reminds me of the tickbirds and oxpeckers that ride on the backs of animals (like cattle or rhinoceroses) and pick lice and other insects off them.

From: John Granath (johngranath aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--inconnu
Def: A stranger

Wow! That's a new definition for me! The only other time I've seen that word was in a boating safety essay... It said, "Do not build campfire inconnu as it may burn a hole in bottom."

From: Art Borkent (aborkent sunlite.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tope
Def: 1. To drink habitually and copiously 2. A small shark with a long snout 3. A dome-shaped monument

The word tope brought back fond memories of a trip my wife and I took with our three children to Costa Rica in 1993-1994. We drove from British Columbia and therefore had numerous experiences during our journey there and back. In Mexico, speed bumps are called topes and they are generally on the outskirts of towns or cities as one goes driving through that lengthy country. I did most of the driving and topes would generally have signs but many were not. We hit one at a high enough speed that the small travel trailer we carried bounced right off the hitch. Everyone in the car became trained to keep an eye out and throughout Mexico we regularly all yelled out "Tope!!" and I would slam on the brakes. A constant driving challenge but also one of many great memories of travelling as a family.

From: William W. Kirkness (bill.kirkness sbcglobal.net)
Subject: tope

I can't resist the thought that a Buddhist could tope himself into a stupa.

From: Bob Stanton (rstanton u.washington.edu)
Subject: Your comment on fishing

Your comment on fishing reminded me of my first and last experience as a hunter. I was at a resort and the owner handed me a shotgun and asked me to help him eliminate a groundhog that was undermining a riverbank. He threw a rock at some bushes and I fired when they moved. A moment later they moved again and I fired the other barrel. When he checked, he said, "Good! You got the mother and father, so now the babies will die."

From: Ruth Ann (ruthann thehf.org)
Subject: There's a short film

In it a man takes a bite of a pizza that has tempted him, and (you saw this coming) he gets reeled in.

I grew up in a family of fishers and hunters. We were not vegetarians (we had never HEARD of vegetarians) and we ate what we killed.

I don't remember when it occurred to me how mean it was to trick something into thinking it had found food.

Now, my husband loves to fish.

He has not had very good luck in recent years.

I, too, always say "Good luck."

Just as you do.

I am still not a vegetarian, but I am aware and grateful for all life and all that feeds me.

From: Stephanie Brown (sbrown rockharbor.net)
Subject: fishing

Although, I still eat and enjoy fish and meat, I abhor the gleeful culture that it is somehow noble to kill something that fights so hard for its life. The first and last time we went deep-sea fishing in Hawaii, the captain left the dock with a rousing "Now, let's go kill something!" Luckily for most fish, all we had was a sickening six-hour zig-zag ride, breathing in diesel fumes and finding only one small mackerel which they beat to death. I believe that we should maintain our skills for survival, but I would hope for some reverence for the other living beings on this planet. Thank you for your story and by the way, for this always intriguing A.Word.A.Day.

From: Susan (dyable71347 mypacks.net)
Subject: Minnow

Try putting a small weight instead of a hook at the end of the line. Enjoy the quiet of sitting by the water and the connection to it, but harming none (not even the worm).

From: Bill Richardson (kymrbill aol.com)
Subject: Fishing

My fishing tale mirrors yours closely. At the age of ten or so, my dad decided that any Kentucky boy needed to go fishing at least once. We went down near the mouth of the Kentucky river with my new Sears rod and reel and great anticipation. After a very short wait, I felt that self-same tug and reeled in a small Bluegill, about the size of my ten-year-old hand.

As the fish cleared the water, I had a profound epiphany in which I became the fish, fighting for breath and freedom. "Dad, can we let it go?" I asked, tears in my eyes. Somehow, dad understood, took out his knife and cut the leader so I could toss the fish back. My career as a fisherman was over. Only in later years did dad confess that the poor critter had swallowed the hook, not just embedded it in its mouth. Its chance of survival might have been slim but it felt right at the time.

From: Dave Gerdes (dag magt.com)
Subject: minnow; fishing

Your experience with fishing, and the fish that was hooked and presumably needlessly killed is regrettable. Conversely, many responsible outdoorsmen and women are very serious about preserving and honoring wildlife, taking and consuming only what they can reasonably utilize. Native Americans have done it for centuries. I worry about those whose personal experience does not include a rational and factual exposure to the food chain. We hear of otherwise sophisticated people who are so attenuated from reality that they think milk, eggs, and hamburger originate at the grocery store. We also hear of those who kill wildlife for no apparent reason. Both instances are also regrettable.

From: Gabby Kissane (gkissane gmail.com)
Subject: Dad's response

My dad is an avid fly fisherman, and I thought he'd be interested in this week's AWAD. Here was his response to the story you wrote introducing the fish theme:

"The theme is interesting, yet the little treatise has me baffled. Just because you hook a fish doesn't mean you have taken its life. Catch and release, Anu, catch and release!"

Just found his point of view interesting!

See Just Kidding Fishing and this FAQ.
-Anu Garg

From: Gerry Cotter (g.cotter lancaster.ac.uk)
Subject: Fishing

Thought you might like a poem by John Wolcot (1738-1819), an English satirist who also wrote under the name of Peter Pindar.

Ballade To a Fish of the Brooke

Why flyest thou away with fear?
Trust me there's nought of danger near,
More here.

From: J.K. Emery (jkemery aol.com)
Subject: e.e. cummings

Although I can't prove that e.e. cummings preferred his name in lowercase, I found out some sixty years ago that he did not take kindly to proofreaders who overstepped their editorial prerogatives. While reading galley proofs for a small poetry magazine, I changed his style to one I considered more acceptable, puzzled why the poet hadn't used uppercase letters in the first place. Mr. Cummings returned the proofs to publisher Alan Swallow with a note expressing in non-poetic terms his displeasure with my tampering. Alan was amused. I was mortified.

There is no more irritating fellow than the man who tries to settle an argument about communism, or justice, or liberty, by quoting from Webster. -Mortimer J. Adler, philosopher, educator, and author (1902-2001)

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