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AWADmail Issue 346

Feb 15, 2009

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

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

The Sydney Morning Herald

Dangerous Words

Website Dusts Off Unpopular Words
Utne Reader

From: Aryeh Abramovitz (amaryeh netvision.net.il)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--columbarium
Def: 1. A vault with niches for storing urns. 2. A dovecote or pigeon house.

In Israel we have many ancient columbaria, of the original usage (dovecote), hewn in stone.

From: Kate Schulte (3sch earthlink.net)
Subject: columbarium

One of the oddest columbaria is the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. This watches over the Graveyard of the Pacific (the Columbia River Bar) and was decommissioned in 1957 after 77 years of service. In the 1980s it was turned into a columbarium and is in private hands. This is a small islet about one mile offshore in a famously hazardous and stormy area, surely an unusual but dramatic site and building for a columbarium.

From: Susie Laramore (ps46.10 comcast.net)
Subject: columbarium

The word columbarium awakens memories of Paris and Le Pere Lachaise Cemetery, in particular. We spent HOURS in the columbarium there looking for the little "niche" containing the ashes of Maria Callas. Years later, I have no idea why. But it was an intriguing place. And enormous.

Then there is the age-old question: instead of cremating 'em, why not barium?

From: Phil Aaberg (phil sweetgrassmusic.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--columbarium

Huh...and I always thought it meant "bury 'em in columns".

From: Hanns Ewald (hanns.ewald verizon.net)
Subject: Columbarium

The name of the town Colmar in Alsace, France, derives its name from this word. The place is popular with tourists for the regional food and wine, architecture and art (Isenheim altar). Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, creator of the statue of liberty, was born there in 1834.

From: Daal Jaffers (daalbuoy hotmail.com)
Subject: Columbarium

Then to turn this "bird" word into an insult we could say "One is a pigeonhole short of a columbarium!"

From: Meredith McQuoid (mcquoidm si.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pied
Def: Having patches of two or more colors; multicolored.

In the vocabulary of equine lovers, a horse that has a coat of large patches of black and white is referred to as piebald (can be a noun or adjective); correspondingly, if the patches are white and any other color but black, it is called skewbald.

From: Kitty Rieske (kitrieske aol.com)
Subject: Pied

I love the word "pied". I first met the word in regard to horses, but the very best memory I have of the word is Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, Pied Beauty.

The descriptions of nature and the world make me happy to have experienced this world in all its many colors.

From: Bruce Sloane (sloane crosslink.net)
Subject: Pied

"You've been pied!" she screeched in a fury, as she hurled the blueberry and raspberry pies at her husband.

"You're also a piebald!" she said, as they dripped over his glistening bald head in a disparate tricolor pattern.

From: Bill Barker (billb11 alltel.net)
Subject: Re: Pied

This word back in the days of hand-set type meant different fonts of movable type that were mixed. At the school I attended in California vandals pied all the type in the school print shop. As a student learning the trade I spent about a week unpieing it.

From: George Sitts (gsitts ctesius.net)
Subject: Pied type

Years ago I spent many hours in the high school print shop assembling metal type into wooden forms used to print various club announcements. Occasionally someone would spill the form into a pile of pied type. Redistributing the type into the proper font trays was customarily a discipline meted out to those caught printing "inappropriate" materials.

From: Rob Tristani (robert.tristani ngc.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--roustabout
Def: A casual or unskilled laborer.

WOW! What a memory! I read today's word of the day, and I could smell the sulphur! I worked as a roustabout for a summer on the crude oil pipeline in Worland, Wyoming, U.S. while going to college. In certain areas, the smell of the sulphur was so bad, we were warned "when you can't smell it anymore, you've had too much. You need to get uphill, above the sulphur, before you pass out." Only one time did I actually have to do that. A lot of memories from that summer, most are wonderful. Years later, I even smile about the smell of sulphur. Thank you.

From: Elon Newstrom (storymonger hotmail.com)
Subject: roustabout

Hardly unskilled, as anyone who has even survived in that job for a minute will assure you. Knowing how to swing and lock a 200 lb. set of tongs, the slips, the Kelly, while your driller screams obscenities at you is not unskilled. I bridle at the suggestion.

From: The Pook (via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Subject: roustabout

The term 'unskilled' doesn't usually imply non-academically qualified. It means 'not having or needing skill or special training' (Concise Oxford). Normally it is applied to laboring jobs as opposed to those which require an apprenticeship, trade course or other specific learning and skills training (including, but not limited to, academic qualifications).

From: William Downing (wdowning rohrbachassociates.com)
Subject: Roustabout

Australians will know this word as referring to the unskilled labor around the sheep shearing shed. Predates oil rigs I reckon.

From: Judith Smith (judiths sondelani.co.zw)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--roustabout

My grandfather John S Clarke was once billed as the youngest lion tamer in the world and then later (much later) as the oldest! His father was a roustabout in the circus -- helped put up the big top and take it down, etc.

From: Alexandra Peters (alexandrapeters gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--crestfallen
Def: Dispirited or disappointed by having one's hopes dashed.

"Crestfallen" was the subject of one of my favorite Swifties. You remember those jokes which relied on adverbial puns, named after a character called Tom Swift?

There were many variations using some play on the toothpaste Crest, but they generally ran like this: "Oh no, the toothpaste is on the floor!" cried Tom, crestfallen.

From: Alexander Kellner (originofme web.de)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--canard
Def: 1. A deliberately misleading story. 2. An airplane with small forward wings mounted in front of the main wings.

In German a false newspaper report is called "Zeitungsente" (newspaper duck) and the expression seems to have the same French roots as the English canard. The newspaper duck is quite a shy creature as far as unintentional false reports are concerned, but it can be seen everywhere in German newspapers on April Fool's Day. Of course, this equally applies to many other countries.

From: G. Bard Ermentrout (bard math.pitt.edu)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--canard

In mathematics, the word canard is used to describe the behavior of certain types of equations. Interestingly, there are two reasons that have been suggested for the choice of words. One reason refers to the idea of deliberately misleading since the equations do not behave the way one would expect. The second is funnier and refers to the fact that when they are plotted in a plane, they have the appearance of the profile of a "French duck".

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Canard

There is also the famous French satirical magazine Le Canard Enchâiné (founded in 1915).

From: John Campbell (johnppj aol.com)
Subject: Canard

I still remember Gene Shalit's comment from the 1970s on The Today Show when he said about something he thought was a hoax, "That was such a canard it made me duck."

From: Alan Holmes (inthemoon sbcglobal.net)
Subject: canard

At a country fair in France, in the 1930s, I won a duck ("un canard") after the rabbit on which I had bet came in first in the fair's Great Rabbit Race. I took the (live) duck home and fed him several large snails, which he appeared to enjoy before I put him in an improvised cage that was open at the top.

The next day, the duck was gone.

A second trip to the fair revealed that the duck was back in the hands of the Gypsy who ran the rabbit race concession. It was explained to me (not by the Gypsy) that the duck's wing feathers had not been clipped by the Gypsy, and that the duck had flown back to the Gypsy to be among his fellow ducks. This was apparently a fairly common occurrence at country fairs, but my parents were not aware of this, so I was out one duck.

From: Muffie Meyer (meyer middlemarch.com)
Subject: Canard

It strikes me as interesting that a canard is something that is often perpetrated by a quack!

From: Drury Wood (drechen1 earthlink.net)
Subject: Gulf of Tonkin canard

Admiral James Stockdale was a close friend of mine for nearly 50 years before he died. He made the first recons at the Gulf in an A4D. We talked often about the flights and he repeatedly said. "Drury, there was nothing there." He repeated it shortly before he died. He said that when he returned to the Carrier, his report was modified and not the same one that he wrote. He was an honorable man and I believe him.

From: Helen Madden (hhmadden gmail.com)
Subject: crow video #1

Video #1 reminded me of the sea gulls at Pawleys Island, South Carolina. After the tourists leave and cold weather comes, the gulls' food sources are scarce. With their beaks, the sea gulls will pick up clams from the creek edge (on low tide, when the clams are exposed). The gulls then fly to the edge of the ocean and drop the clams on the hard sand. The clams explode open, gulls have a great meal and all's right in their world.

I remember that, as a child, I had a terrible time figuring out exactly how all those broken clams shells got on the beach!

From: Daniel Abel (abeldaniel gmail.com)
Subject: Amazing! Bird sounds from the lyre bird

Check out this video from the BBC.

From: Ellen Blackstone (ellen 123imagine.net)
Subject: BirdNote in Seattle

Are you aware of BirdNote, a two-minute radio show and podcast, that originated in Seattle?

We did a show about Betty, the tool-making New Caledonian crow. And we've even done one about birdbrains! Also see the Amazing, Sinking Pied-billed Grebe. Click on *Enlarge*, and you can see how this bird came by its name!

From: Joan-Claire Veriditas (veriditas earthlink.net)
Subject: bird words

What perfect timing to have words about birds in the week that leads up to the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (Feb. 13-16)! Your readers can participate in it.

From: Kathleen Carr (jaglady126 aol.com)
Subject: Words about Birds

I posted today's posting on a bird group I belong to in the NYC area; here is what one of the members replied:

"It's true that there are lots of negative bird words or expressions around (how come they missed 'turkey' and 'vulture'?) but there are some positive ones too. How about 'eagle eye', 'hawk', 'nightingale', 'thrush', 'lark', 'warbler', 'duckie', 'dove', 'kite', 'my little chickadee', 'songbird', 'kingfish', 'kingbird', 'kinglet', 'king rail', 'cardinal', 'phoebe', 'wise owl', 'swift', 'sandpiper', 'bunting'. None of those sound too bad."

From: Alex Sidline (asidline verizon.net)
Subject: Columbarium and Crows

The Japanese consider crows to be very smart birds. There are children's songs with crows in it.

Karasu to issho-ni kaerimasho. Lets go home together with the crow.

From: Jane Bean (davejane optonline.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--columbarium

I love crows and have heard how smart they are. A long time ago the National Geographic magazine did an article on animals at play, and one of the ones was of crows who were sliding down hill, just for fun. Amazing.

From: Stephan Deibel (sdeibel wingware.com)
Subject: smart birds

Here is another video I thought was interesting, showing a bird fishing with bits of bread. Unfortunately it has a brief but annoying and loud advertisement at the end.

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

Your images of birds brings to mind an expression about the robin which consumes China berries in great quantities. After having been hit by a frost, the sugar content of these berries turns into alcohol and the birds soon become very intoxicated. They then have a hard time leaving the ground, fly in strange patterns, fall off limbs of the tree, run into buildings, all the things you might imagine a drunk bird would do. Unfortunately, cats take advantage of the incapacitated birds and there are feathers flying all over the yard. This brings about the expression drunk as a robin which means intoxicated to the point of risking severe harm.

I was reading the dictionary. I thought it was a poem about everything. -Steven Wright, comedian (b. 1955)

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