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AWADmail Issue 340

Jan 4, 2009

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

Writing the Web's Future in Numerous Languages:
The New York Times

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Dispatches from Mumbai - part 3

Unexpected Delights at Elephanta

I board a ferry at the Mumbai harbor opposite the hotel Taj Mahal Palace (literally, Taj Palace Palace). The engine sputters to life and the ferry starts out. It's navigating the same waters that the Pakistani terrorists used here last November and cause destruction at the Taj and other places. The grand hotel becomes smaller and smaller before it vanishes in the morning mist. I'm headed to the Elephanta Caves.

Dating from circa 6th-7th century, the Elephanta Caves were carved out of the whole rock: everything including halls, pillars, 20-foot sculptures, and relief carvings. Not easy to toss away like a canvas if it doesn't come out right.

Portuguese explorers found a giant elephant sculpture here, giving it its current name. A one-hour ferry ride brings me to the Elephanta Island. I jump off the ferry and make my way to the caves, but it's a disheartening sight. Iconoclastic explorers, careless tourists, and an apathetic government equals disaster. There's barely a relief carving that hasn't lost a limb, a head, or more. What may take years to build, takes only a few hours to destroy, all because your belief may be different or because your god commands you to do so.

Yet I find unexpected pleasures at Elephanta. Before I climb more than 100 steps on my way to the caves, I stop at a roadside cart selling roasted corn on the cob. Munching on the juicy corn coated with a mix of spices and lime, I make my way across the long pathway leading to the steps. Past the handicraft stalls, just before the steps, a kid goat blocks my path. Her eyes are on the half-eaten cob in my hand. She raises her tiny head and before I know it, the kid is chomping on the cob. It's enough to dispel my notion of a meek animal patiently waiting on the side for people to treat her right. I consider the roasted corn as part of the admission.

Later that afternoon I'm in the ferry again, heading back to the Mumbai port. As the ferry reaches closer, the Taj Mahal Palace keeps getting bigger and bigger, until it's back to its original size.

Read more: part 1, 2

From: Charlie O'Reilly (charliez verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pell-mell
Def: In a confused, jumbled, or reckless manner

The American Tobacco Company marketed a brand of cigarettes called Pall Mall, named for the London street. Through the 1950s and 1960s, American Tobacco's ad agency insisted that the brand was pronounced "pell mell". My father was a traveling salesman for American Tobacco for several years, and somewhere in my house is a 12-inch ruler imprinted with the sales slogan: Pall Mall Rhymes with Sell. Knowing of the word pell-mell, I always thought, then, that it somehow derived from Pall Mall, and its spelling was changed to reflect the way the words are pronounced. I didn't realize then that the British pronunciation of the street (and the game for which it was named) is closer to "pal mal", "pall" as in pallor and "mall" as in mallet.

Broadcast media in the US have not aired advertising for cigarettes since the end of 1970, and as a result most smokers now pronounce the cigarette brand (now a part of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco) "paul maul", in line with the way Americans pronounce the individual words "pall" and "mall".

From: Dr Rick Rickards (docrick petalk.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--imprimis
Def: In the first place

Glad to see that you preferred the long "I" in Imprimus! I own a Toyota Prius which I pronounce the same way but I am told is incorrect. I refer people to the legal term "nisi prius" that is spoken with a long "I" and if that doesn't work, I ask them how they pronounce Pope Pius. We must stop letting the car manufacturers from taking over the language, for example, the Fiat with a short "I" may be OK for a car but laws are made by fiat with a long one.

From: Max Montel (maxmontel yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--shilly-shally
Def: Hesitantly; irresolutely

I can never hear this word without thinking of the Jimmy Durante song which I know thanks to my uncle (who also introduced me to AWAD, so he gets double credit today). The typically crazy lyrics go:

Everybody's trying to figure out
What's wrong with the country.
Well, I'm proud to say I've solved the case,
'Cause after dilly-dallying
I've reached a concussion [sic]:
The state of Arkansas is in the wrong place.

For those curious, you can look up the full lyrics, and probably find a recording of the song somewhere, but rest assured that it never makes what any sane person would call "sense".

From: Sharon Smith (mainelyneuropsych wildblue.net)
Subject: Adverbs

Your discussion of adverbs reminds me of the verbal game that specializes in adverbs: inventing "Tom Swifties".

As Wikipedia explains, it "is a phrase in which a quoted sentence is linked by a pun to the manner in which it is attributed."

For example, "I NEVER use adverbs!" lied Tom, swiftly.

From: Esther Frey (eefrey verizon.net)
Subject: Adjectives and adverbs

When I taught writing to high school students, I often had to talk with the junior high teachers to get this idea across to them. As my own son said, "Mother, don't you know that the fifth grade teachers tell us, 'Now you have your subject and predicate; put in a lot of adjectives and adverbs to make it interesting'?"

Carl Sandburg also said essentially what Strunk and White wrote. They knew!

From: Geirr Aakhus (geirr aakhus.com)
Subject: slamming and stomping

"She stomped out and slammed the door" would work better, don't you think? Your sequence of events might cause unfortunate bumps and bruises, I'd think, thus adding to the contretemps that probably caused the stomping and slamming.

Language is the only homeland. -Czeslaw Milosz, writer, Nobel laureate (b. 1911)

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