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AWADmail Issue 363

June 14, 2009

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

From: Joel Mielke (joel carsonparkdesign.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--churrigueresque
Def: Baroque; lavish; over-the-top.

It's a comfort having an architectural term to describe the Spanish style I've always referred to as "wedding cake baroque".

From: Ton Sales (sales lsi.upc.es)
Subject: Churrigueresque

J. B. Churriguera was born in a Catalan family established in Madrid whose original name was Xoriguera (a family name still alive in Catalonia). Xoriguera is a place name from North Catalonia (now politically in France) describing a set of high hills around the Canigó (9,300 ft alt.) and meaning "abundant in xoriguers", where xoriguer is the falconid known in English as kestrel (from Old French cresserelle, ultimately from Latin crepitaculum). Xoriguer itself means "mouse-eater" from Latin soricarius, from Latin sorix = mouse (whence French souris = mouse -- also the computer one -- as well as the tooth fairy). Latin sorix is Old Latin surex corresponding to Greek huraks (English hyrax), the same animal (order hyracoidea) that is often mistaken for a guinea pig or a very well-fed rabbit and that Phoenicians knew as shapan and mistook for the ubiquitous rabbit they found in Ebusos, present-day Ibiza -- the island properly called (in Catalan) Eivissa -- whence the name they gave the coast and continent immediately beyond: I-shapan-im i.e. land of hyraxes (whence Latin Hispania and ultimately English Spain). So, Churrigueresque and Spain are two unexpected relatives. Linguistics does give us surprises!

From Ann Marcia Lee (annmarcialee aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Mata Hari
Def: A seductive woman who works as a spy.

A Dutch friend of mine who lived in Rome was a sympathetic biographer of Mata Hari and made a case that she was wrongly accused and executed. When I visited him, he showed me Mata Hari's own scrapbooks that he had acquired... photos of herself and her home, ephemera, newspaper clippings. It was quite an experience for me!

From: Ken Ashe (kashe sonic.net)
Subject: Mata Hari

You wrote: Her stage name Mata Hari means sun, literally "eye of the day", from Malay mata (eye) + hari (day, dawn).

Presumably, had she been spying in the US or England, she would have used "Daisy" as her stage name, as the flower's name comes from "day's eye" because it opens at dawn and closes at sunset.

There is also a 1988 Malaysian movie named "daisy". No obvious connection to Mata Hari.

From: Charlene McGrady (charlene.mcgrady mdsps.com)
Subject: Mata Hari

I shared the word with a colleague from Malaysia. She wrote:
"Yes, it is Malay and Indonesian. They should say that it is her Indonesian name as Indonesia was a colony of the Dutch. We tend to write it as matahari in one word when describing the sun. Many restaurants and oriental shops call themselves Mata Hari after the famous spy as the word is well known in the West and easy to pronounce."

From: Ernest Green (ernestgreen comcast.net)
Subject: Mata Hari

I read an article some time ago that said Mata Hari was a spy for no one, but took on the image of being a spy to add to her allure as a performer. In short, she was executed for no more than a stage name. Your thoughts?

From: Griselda Mussett (mussetts btinternet.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--rachmanism
Def: The exploitation and intimidation of tenants by landlords.

There's a novel called The Clothes on their Backs by Linda Grant which is a fictionalised portrait of Peter Rachman, and very interesting. As a child in London in the 1950s I remember vividly how his behaviour was reported -- he would set his ferocious dogs onto tenants on occasion.

From: Linda Owens (lindafowens netzero.net)
Subject: rachmanism

There should be a word for landlords or landladies harrassed by tenants. Many tenants steal or ruin furnishings when they leave. One of my friends was slipped a mickey by a tenant and beaten. When my Dad rented two small apartments upstairs from us, many tenants were very nice, but one woman used to throw frying pans at her husband, another took food from our garden without asking, and one poisoned my dog. Others were nice and made dresses for my sisters or befriended us.

From: Michael Bash (mbash1944 yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--rachmanism

It's interesting it would be that name, "rachman" being Arabic and meaning compassionate and merciful. It's a common name root in Greece, where I live, e.g. Rahmanis. And of course it gave us Rachmaninoff, the composer.

From: Rabbi Stephen Fuchs (sl.fuchs comcast.net)
Subject: Rachmanism

I find it interesting that this word means the opposite of its cognates in Hebrew and Yiddish. "Rachmanoot" in Hebrew or more familiarly "Rachmanis" in Yiddish mean "mercy or "compassion". They derive from the Hebrew root letters, resh, chet, mem (rechem) which means "womb".

From: Susie Greenwald (hisuzgreen aol.com)
Subject: rachmanism

Interesting because the Yiddish word, Rachmonis, is the opposite of this word/name. From an online source:
Rachmonis: (rach-mo-nis) sympathy, empathy, pity. "Look, my wife left me. My kid died his hair blue. Business is lousy. I know you're a landlord, but, please, have a little rachmonis and give me an extra week for the rent!"

From: Shweta Bhat (shwetapbhat gmail.com)
Subject: Rachmanism
A decade ago, there were quite a few Kannada movies telling the stories of tenants harassed by the tyranny of evil landlords. Most of these movies were of the drama genre, although some were comedies. I remember enjoying one such comedy where the protagonist is a poor tenant at the mercy of a very miserly landlord. How does he overcome his rent problems? He marries the landlord's daughter! :)

From: Kelly Aune (kelly kellyaune.com)
Subject: rubbish/trash

Your observation of the tendency for British to use "rubbish" where Americans use "trash" made me laugh because here in Hawaii we put our rubbish in the trash. My kids come home from school saying "put the rubbish in the trash", to which I always respond "where should I put my trash?" A second trash-related observation is the local joke that tourists always think the word for "trash" or "garbage" is "mahalo", which appears on all our public trash (rubbish?) bins. Mahalo means, of course, "thank you".

From: Helene Demeestere (lndmstr aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--martinet
Def: A strict disciplinarian.

Born and educated in France, I remember the martinet, the French word for an object like a baton with leather ribbons gathered at one end. The martinet was the ultimate threat when a child misbehaved, object of fear, it was hooked in homes at arm's length of parents, generally in the kitchen. Believe it or not, I recently noticed some for sale in a French hardware store in Paris!

From: Lise Brown (dbrownmg mnsi.net)
Subject: martinet

Just the word "martinet" still sends chills up my spine even though I never felt its wrath, nor witnessed its use. You see, "le martinet" was the much feared leather strap -- capable of delivering one heck of a wallop -- that hung on the wall in our French Catholic school classrooms. Just the sight of one was enough to keep the unruliest students in line. "Barbare" to say the least!

From: Bob Boisvert (bob.boisvert tc.gc.ca)
Subject: Martinet

In French-Canadian grade schools, over fifty years ago, unruly students would go to the principal's office to receive a form of punishment we called "le martinet", essentially a leather strap blow to the hands. I know I worked pretty darn hard not to make such a visit.

From: Roy Thompson (rthompson algomafamilyservices.org)
Subject: Martinet

In French-Canadian circles (particularly in Northern Ontario), the term "martinet" was used to refer to a large wooden paddle (or other wooden stick) that school principals used for discipline, correction, and coercion.

I myself never fell victim to "Le Martinet", but I was aware of those who were "disciplined" using this holdover from the inquisition. Nevertheless, the word itself was enough to cause a child to tremble in their "souliers".

From: Scott Baltic (sbaltic rcn.com)
Subject: Fragging

Just want to note a possible small error in today's message. "Fragging" always refers to an intentional action against an officer or senior NCO, while "friendly fire" is a much more generic term. Historically, the vast majority of friendly fire, in fact, is accidental. (See the book Friendly Fire by C.D.B. Bryan.) FWIW, the American armed forces, imbued with a culture of applying massive firepower, seem to experience more friendly fire incidents than most. The bottom line is that unless we know that Martinet was *intentionally* hit by friendly fire, the incident should not be referred to as fragging.

From: Steve Thomas (stype sccoast.net)
Subject: eponyms

I would like to note a medical eponym which has amused me lately. This term is "Tommy John surgery" -- a medical procedure that is popular among ailing pitchers in American baseball and named for the sports star who apparently tried it first.

Recently I have begun hearing the terminology shortened to the point where sentences such as, "He's just now returning to form after having Tommy John" are not uncommon. I wonder what people who don't follow baseball think of that.

For more information on the procedure, see this article.

Thought is the blossom; language the bud; action the fruit behind it. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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