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AWADmail Issue 353

Apr 5, 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

Pun for the Ages
The New York Times

In One Word How Do You Feel About the Economy?
The New York Times

From: Lynn Armstrong (lwarmstrong embarqmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--diaphanous
Def: 1. Transparent, light, or delicate. 2. Vague or hazy.

I'm reminded of the first time I took note of the word diaphanous. Almost 30 years ago the word was used in the caption under a photo snapped (and then widely circulated) by the first assault of paparazzi on a very young Lady Diana before her life began as Princess Diana. She was captured for posterity wearing a certain skirt outside the school where she worked, on a bright sunny day as she played with children in her charge. Her legs were clearly visible through her skirt because, the caption declared, her skirt was "diaphanous". She was actually dressed very modestly, but, unfortunately, she wasn't wearing a slip under that diaphanous skirt.

Later news stories reported how embarrassed and upset she was over that photograph. As a young woman myself at the time, I remember feeling so sorry for her. And that was just the beginning for poor Diana.

From: Catherine Holochwost (catherin udel.edu)
Subject: diaphanous

This word reminds me of a little-known device I'm researching for my dissertation in art history, the diaphanorama. Part of the nineteenth century mania for spectacles like the panorama and the diorama, this "device" was invented by the Swiss painter Franz Niklaus Koenig in 1815. It consisted of a transparent (or diaphanous) painting, usually of a landscape, that would appear to move or change before the viewer's very eyes. (Think volcanoes erupting, or a winter landscape changing to summer.) Although people tend to think that the vogue for moving pictures is a relatively recent one, it actually dates back further than they might think.

From: Sam (koshisam hotmail.co.uk)
Subject: diaphanous

As if the English language wasn't confusing enough, here is a word that actually defines two opposite meanings! It can mean either transparent or vague? Surely we can spare another word to clear this up a bit. Oh, and sorry if my ignorance of the actual dictionary definitions of 'vague' or 'transparent' is not correct and I'm scorning with no reason, please don't scoff -- I've been looking for an opportunity to write feedback for months!

From: Martha Jackson (marthajack gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pellucid
Def: 1. Admitting the maximum passage of light. 2. Clear; easy to understand.

I loved seeing this word today! My favorite books as a child were the series by Edgar Rice Burroughs about Pellucidar, the kingdom at the center of the earth. An oddity there was that there was a perpetual sun, which stayed in the same position all the time, never rising nor setting, so it was always bright daylight and there wasn't really any way to tell that time was passing. Now I see why he used that name!

From: Carsten Kummerow (carsten.kummerow web.de)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pellucid

As a medical student we were taught about the anatomy of the brain. Right in the center of it, there is a small shiny membrane between two of the ventricles (which contain the cerebrospinal fluid). It is called septum pellucidum because it is almost transparent. Our professor demonstrated that feature in the course by holding a brain slice up in the air so that the sun was shining through the septum.

From: R. Kulkarni (drramakulkarni gmail.com)
Subject: pellucid

There's also zona pellucida, a transparent, noncellular secreted layer surrounding an oocyte.

From: Louise (looeeez yahoo.com)
Subject: Thanks

I work at a university and I put your daily word up on a chalkboard in the hallway outside my office every day. If I, by chance, miss a day and leave it blank or with yesterday's word, I get a lot of complaints. People are interested in the word and it has become a tradition.

Thanks for doing it and making it available for all.

There are some who only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts. -Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778)

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