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AWADmail Issue 361

May 31, 2009

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

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

Decoding Antiquity: Eight Scripts That Still Can't Be Read
New Scientist

Exposure to Two Languages Carries Far-reaching Benefits

From: Lauren Kern (lauren resourcetec.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day

I just wanted to thank you for your always pertinent A.Word.A.Day. My now-fiancé and I were actually united by your words a little over a year ago, and we still find most of them to be deeply applicable to our daily lives. We have collected them for the past year and a half in digital form, and plan to use the most significant (for us) at our wedding! As a bit of an ice-breaker, we're giving each person at the reception a word and a definition -- mismatched. They'll then have to find the correct definition for their word from among their tablemates.

From: Christian Paul (cfp prodigy.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--decussate
Def: Intersected or crossed in the form of an X.

As I learned when studying physiological psychology in college, the optic nerve from each eye meets the other partway on its route to the visual cortex at the back of the brain. At the nexus, half the nerve fibers cross over to the other side, and the rest stay on the same side as the origin. That half-crossing of fibers is called a hemidecussation. Given the monetary origin of the word, I guess this would be my five cents' worth.

From: Lorrie (lelephant embarqmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--decussate

In the notes section under this word, you talk about Samuel Johnson's complicated way of defining the word network. I disagree that he made an error here. One look at "reticulated" and I would have known exactly what he meant. Maybe not in his time <g> but in this day and age, as the image of a reticulated python comes immediately to my mind.

From: Causse Jean-Pierre (causse.jean-pierre orange.fr)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--hecatomb
Def: A large-scale slaughter.

In perhaps more than 90% of cases, the word is used in French for the people who have died on the roads in car accidents; for example, "Hécatombe sur les routes ce weekend: 12 morts."

From: Brett Beiles (brettb hardyboys.co.za)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--atone
Def: To make amends for.

When the novel Atonement was published, the author Ian McEwan said in an interview that the title should be pronounced "at one-ment".

From: Joe Fleischman (jfleischman wbcm.com)
Subject: atone

The etymology of today's word, "at one" reminded me of one of my favorite one-liners: The Dalai Lama walks up to a hot dog vendor and says, "Make me one with everything."

From: Rose Meny-gibert (crmg iafrica.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tessera
Def: A small piece of stone, glass, or tile used to make a mosaic.

This word in Italian commonly means a ticket or card e.g. membership card. Students have tesseras to identify themselves.

From: Kim Bauriedel (dylan humboldt1.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--decuman
Def: Very large.

Interesting origin of the word decuman. On the north coast of California we think it is every seventh wave that is a big one.

From: Eric Shackle (eshackle ozemail.com.au)
Subject: This week's theme: Words derived from numbers

"Numbers are everywhere", you wrote... As in Column 8, the Sydney Morning Herald's trivia column, which has entertained readers for more than 60 years. But a newspaper now called the Lancaster New Era in Pennsylvania (US) has published a column by The Scribbler for 90 years, barring a few breaks. Can any AWAD reader name a longer-running column?

Former pin-up girl Margaret Caldwell (102) who writes a weekly column for the Desert Valley Times, of Mesquite, Nevada, is the world's oldest columnist. Randall Butisingh (96), a poet, writer and philosopher born in British Guiana (now Guyana) and living in Florida, is probably the world's oldest blogger. For details, see OhmyNews.

Arguments over grammar and style are often as fierce as those over Windows versus Mac, and as fruitless as Coke versus Pepsi or boxers versus briefs. -Jack Lynch, English professor, author (b. 1967)

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