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AWADmail Issue 358

May 10, 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

There's No Klingon Word for Hello

How I Met My Wife
The New Yorker

From: Joan Caviness (cavije aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--evitable
Refer: Capable of being avoided or evaded.

Wow! How far we've come; I seriously first read this as evite-able, able to be invited on evite. Is the Internet making me dumber?

From: Madeline Schueler (trulyblest verizon.net)
Subject: forgotten positives

During my years working for a beloved charity, one of the jobs concerned working with unhappy sponsors. I considered that responsibility to be the task of re-gruntling the disgruntled. It required a special type of personality, a person gifted with a great amount of ruth (it always bothered me that we use the word mercy as well as merciless, but we note ruth only in its absence).

From: Russell Jones (russell jones.wattle.id.au)
Subject: Forgotten positives

I hope we're going to get "derfed", meaning well nourished. After all, "underfed" means poorly nourished.

From: Sally Stretch (sestretch mweb.co.za)
Subject: Forgotten positives

Many years ago I read a humorous article entitled "The Mystery of the Vanished Positive" which questioned why the form of words like 'inane' 'unruly' and 'disgusting' appeared to be negative, but that there were no corresponding positive forms. Also why something can be described as 'spick and span' but never just 'spick' or 'span'! The article ended with a poem entitled A Very Descript Man parts of which have stuck in my mind over the years. This week's theme prompted me to look for it and read it again in its entirety.

From: Ken Wilson (kwilson210 aol.com)
Subject: Negativeland

Oh, come on, Tacoma ain't that great, but neither was 1988 (Reagan??). So, the third sentence, "It wasn't 1988 yet, and I was driving home from Tacoma" can't be considered negative.

From: Mike Tarasyuk (lizkinpapa yahoo.com)
Subject: Oulipo

I did not know about Oulipo, but my favorite contemporary Russian author, Sergei Dovlatov (some of his books are translated into English -- The New Yorker published some of his stories), is known for not using words that start with the same letter within the same sentence in most, if not all of his books. Just like rhyming in poetry, such self-constraints indeed result in unusual word choices and lively prose.

From: Dominique Mellinger (dominiquemellinger yahoo.co.uk)
Subject: Re: Oulipo

About Oulipo: it's short for "Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle". "Un ouvroir" is a place where women met to do needlework in the old times but it suggests also more generally a place where people work together, sharing projects and techniques. Ouvroir is a deliciously old-fashioned word which, associated with "littérature", suggests that people can meet and produce literary work as women did embroidery or lace in the past: chatting happily and having fun, I suppose. The word "Potentielle" refers to something possible in the future or about to happen.

In France, "Des papous dans la tête" is a cult radio programme on France Culture radio channel every Sunday at noon (lasts about two hours) where people belonging to Oulipo or working in its spirit practise lipogram and all sorts of varied (and often hilarious) literary games, sometimes very refined and very poetical. Texts are usually intentionally far-fetched or a bit abstruse and exchanges between participants so much fun, always. "Des papous dans la tête" is really a cult programme for people who love French literature and word games.

Dictionary: Opinion presented as truth in alphabetical order. -John Ralston Saul, writer (b. 1947)

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