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AWADmail Issue 365

June 28, 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

Note to English-only group that can't spell "conference":
The Web of Language

Schools told not to teach "i before e except after c" spelling rule
The Times

From: Dorothy Lewis (banditzmom fozztexx.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--eleemosynary
Def: adjective: Relating to charity.

This brought back memories of school days, perhaps sixth grade or so. It was a mark of prestige if you could spell eleemosynary (quickly without thinking) and even more so if you could explain what it meant. Of course the other challenge was to see how fast you could spell antidisestablishmentarianism without tripping over your tongue! Amazingly (now 62) I can still zoom through both of them.

From: Murray Stone (via Wordsmith Talk)
Subject: eleemosynary

"Eleemosynary" sprang back into popularity when Senator Sam Ervin posed this sarcastic question to John Ehrlichman, a White House flunky who claimed large amounts of cash were funneled to the Watergate burglars out of compassion:

"Well, I have always thought that if a political institution or committee enacted the role of an eleemosynary institution, it would, like the Pharisee, brag about it on all opportunities, and so you agreed with me that a Doubting Thomas might think that this money was routed in this clandestine way, not only to keep it secret but also to keep these people that were receiving the money secret?"

From: Jim Taggart (iagot comcast.net)
Subject: eleemosynary

I first became aware of eleemosynary as part of a (somewhat curious) joke: When a man who was thought to be a bit of a showoff used a particularly obscure word, his friend challenged him to define it. The first guy did, so his friend asked, "How did you learn that word?"
The man responded, "I came upon it when I was looking up 'eleemosynary'."
"Why were you looking up 'eleemosynary'?"
The man responded, "Why, I always look up 'eleemosynary'."

From: Judy Larkin (larkin canisius.edu)
Subject: eleemosynary

In the distant past the IRS used the word "eleemosynary" to describe what we now call "charitable" contributions on our income tax forms. Times (and vocabularies) have definitely changed!

From: David Trumbull (david trumbullofboston.org)
Subject: eleemosynary

I believe I first came across the word "eleemosynary" in, of all places, a humorous essay:

"A great many people use faulty English without knowing it. Ain't you? How many times, for instance, have you wanted to use the word 'eleemosynary' and haven't been able to do so without laughing? So you have used 'whom' instead, thinking that it means the same thing. Well, it don't -- doesn't."
-Robert Benchley (from the essay "Do You Make These Mistakes?")

From: James E. Hunter (jehunter pantechengineering.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--palliate
Def: 1. To ease the symptoms 2. To make an offense appear less sever.

Your Thought for Today brought back a couplet from college days some 66 years ago: "I'd rather fail my Wasserman test than read a poem by Edgar Guest."

From: Lynn Mancini (mancini dtcc.edu)
Subject: This week's theme?

After the senator's excoriation of the incumbent's policy on the war on poverty, the president palliated the situation by publicizing his own personal eleemosynary generosity, thereby countervailing the obloquy.

Words, when written, crystallize history; their very structure gives permanence to the unchangeable past. -Francis Bacon, essayist, philosopher, and statesman (1561-1626)

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