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AWADmail Issue 367

July 12, 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

After a 44-Year Labour of Love, World's Biggest Thesaurus is Born
The Times

How the Thunder Sounds
The New York Times

From: Richard Stallman (rms gnu.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--defenestrate
Def: To throw someone or something out of a window.

To "defenestrate" a computer also means to install some other operating system, such as GNU/Linux, in place of Microsoft Windows.

From: John Sahr (jdsahr gmail.com)
Subject: defenestration

In Thomas Pynchon's "Vineland" the protagonist, Zoyd Wheeler, must annually prove his insanity. He does so by jumping through a window ... and this leads to a contemplation of defenestration vs. transfenestration. Well. It's amusing.

From: Keith Tankard (keith knowledge4africa.com)
Subject: Defenestration

Back in South Africa's bad old days, we had a propaganda message called "Current Affairs" on radio every morning. One day the theme was the death of a political prisoner named Timal who had "fallen" from a window high in the prison. Opposition claimed he had been thrown out. Current Affairs said he'd jumped. But Current Affairs kept referring to the incident as "the defenestration of Timal". It was a word to confound the listener, but also confounded the presenter.

From: Hugh de Glanville (hdg bjhc.demon.co.uk)
Subject: Defenestration

To my mind the true meaning of the word should be to remove windows from presumably, a building, a process not uncommon in the 19th century, I believe, when a window tax was introduced. As a child I once lived in a house in Ruthin, N Wales which had two apparently bricked-up window spaces in a wall directly facing the passing main road, and I was told that these windows had been bricked up to avoid window tax.

From: David H. Spodick (dhspod aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--defenestrate

Thank you for "defenestrate". It was also the principal method of the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre in France.

From: Lora Gunning (ldvger2 aol.com)
Subject: Defenestration

In architecture, fenestration has to do with windows, as is alluded to in the definition you give for defenestration. To fenestrate a building is to add windows, to defenestrate a building is to subtract windows. Usually no one is thrown out a window when the architect decides to defenestrate a building, but I imagine many contractors would enjoy the opportunity!

From: Sheila Michaels (shemichaels earthlink.net)
Subject: defenestration

1618 is held to be the Second Defenestration of Prague. The first was 1419. The third was March 10, 1948, when Jan Masaryk, Czech Foreign Minister, was thrown to his death. The middle income complex in which I live -- Masaryk Towers -- was named for him by the complex sponsor, SOKOL, a Czech gymnastic society. These buildings were thrown together during another building boom in 1967. Building specifications were skirted wherever possible. And in the back of my gloomy mind, another defenestration loomed for me, whenever I supported myself on the shoddy frame, to clean the outsides of the windows.

From: Stephen Morrison (smorrison casselsbrock.com)
Subject: The Defenestration of Prague

Had they not landed on a pile of dung but, instead, bounced when they hit the ground, history would have experienced its first "bounced Czech".

From: Yigal Levin (leviny1 mail.biu.ac.il)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--defenestrate

For a famous biblical defenestration see the story of Jezebel's death in 2 Kings 9:30-33:

30 And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her eyes, and attired her head, and looked out at the window.
31 And as Jehu entered in at the gate, she said: 'Is it peace, thou Zimri, thy master's murderer?'
32 And he lifted up his face to the window, and said: 'Who is on my side? who?' And there looked out to him two or three officers.
33 And he said: 'Throw her down.' So they threw her down; and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses; and she was trodden under foot.

The rest of the story is even more gory.

From: David Brooks (brooksdr sympatico.ca)
Subject: Defenestrate

I first learned the word defenestrate as a young boy after reading the Arthur C. Clarke short story "The Defenestration of Ermintrude Inch". In it Osbert Inch is married to Ermintrude and their relationship is less than ideal. Osbert's ultimate solution to his marital woes is never actually detailed -- one must look to the title of the story for illumination.

From: Lynn Mostafa (lynn_skyw yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--defenestrate

Ah, one of my favorites. When my children were very young, I taught them defenestrate. Then, when we were out in public and they misbehaved, I'd say something like, "When we get back to the car, I'll defenestrate you, dear." In my very sweetest, kindest voice of course. No one who overheard this ever realized it was a dire threat. And the children would shape up, knowing I was angry, while at the same time they'd start to giggle at the unlikely image.

From: Derek Padula (krillinfu1 hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--defenestrate

My Latin teacher at East Grand Rapids High School, Mr. Carnevale, would always threaten to defenestrate us if we couldn't conjugate our verbs or started goofing off in class. I don't think he ever did such a thing, but at the time it seemed like an all too real threat, and I'll never forget what defenestrate means, that's for sure.

From: lissyj (via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Subject: defenestrate

In lieu of revealing my checkered past, let me just say this; When torturing a prisoner in the Viet Nam era, this meant to put out their eyes. Also, and quite a bit less disgusting, in boxing lingo it occurs when the eyes swell shut. Both the Three Stooges and W. C. Fields used this expression and it was a favorite of Groucho Marx.

From: Lora Shell (lshell1056 aol.com)
Subject: Re: 12:34:56 7/8/9

This event happens every 100 years and it will happen twice that day (am and pm). :-)

From: Ron Cann (canntyler cs.com)
Subject: Re: 12:34:56 7/8/9

I beg to differ. You are exactly 2000 years too late. In order for these sequences to work, a lot of little changes in notation are required. A little bothersome for those of us with some obsessive tendencies. But I enjoy reading your daily emails.

From: Brian Waldman (teisho yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: 12:34:56 7/8/9

Yes, this is true, but if you put the month/day/year in front of the time, a sequence will also happen shortly after 10 am when it will be: 07/08/09 10:11:12

From: Grant Agnew (gtwa homemail.com.au)
Subject: Unusual combinations

A year, a month and a day after 11:11:11, 11/11/11, and equally regardless of conventions on writing the date, we will have 12:12:12, 12/12/12. And of course one year, one month and one day before the elevens, we will have 10:10:10 10/10/10. Later this year we will have 09:09:09, 09/09/09. Thanks for noting that there are indeed conventions (plural) on writing the date, by the way.

From: Charles Coleman (charles_coleman innovations.com.au)
Subject: 12:34:56 7/8/9

This is beautiful. Here in Australia, it will be the seventh of August. I remember hugging my daughter, then six, at two past eight on the twentieth of February, 2002. That minute it was 20:02 on 20/02/2002. I love things like this and I can't wait to tell her about it.

From: Margaret Deefholts (Deefholt shaw.ca)
Subject: Time/Date sequence

How about 08:09:10 11/12/13 as suggested by my daughter, Susan. That's the last time this sequence will ever occur since the penultimate number can only go as far as 12 (months).

From: Steve Morris (sl.morris sympatico.ca)
Subject: Re: 12:34:56 7/8/9

Using the 24-hour time format, other patterns that come to mind are: 14:13:12 11/10/09 and 15:14:13 12/11/10.

From: Timothy Ebert (tebert ufl.edu)
Subject: date patterns

How about primes 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19 or 02:03:05 on 07/11/13 (assume 2013) pi 3.141592654 or 3:14:15 on 9/26/54 Golden ratio 1.6180339887 or 16:18:03 on 3/9/88 Fibonacci Number 0,1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34 or 01:12:35 on 8/13/2134 (something to look forward to)

From: Sarah Moyes (smoyes uiccu.org)
Subject: Re: 12:34:56 7/8/9

I've noticed that these sorts of things are fairly common too but like an eclipse are still interesting to observe each time.

From: Judy Bailey (judessa gmail.com)
Subject: interesting dates

Nearly a decade ago, i was riding my bike through downtown Sapporo Japan. The Japanese date was Nov 11, year 11 (of that emperor).

A tv news crew stopped me and asked me if I knew what was special about the date. I answered that it was great: 11-11-11! I think it was even around 11 am. They asked me what country I was from, and if the date had any specific meaning there. I answered, I'm Canadian, and no, today is just a regular day.

Of course, five minutes later it hit me, Remembrance Day! I forgot! How stupid of me! Needless to say I appeared on Japanese tv that evening and many of my friends saw me. I was pretty embarrassed.

From: David Sherer (sherer u.washington.edu)
Subject: consecutiveness

Oh, have I got a story for you. 19 years ago, I brought my son, Robert, with me on a baseball trip around Lake Erie. The day after his 13th birthday (he was born on 7/7/77) we were walking to the Skydome to see the Mariners play the Toronto Bluejays. It was an early afternoon game and he asked me to tell him when it was around 12:30. He then watched his watch until it was exactly 12:34:56 on July 8, 1990 or... 1234567890!!

From: Donald M. Boyer (boyerhome gmail.com)
Subject: Re: 12:34:56 7/8/9

Because of the arbitrary nature in which countries choose their date/time conventions, I find the forthcoming 11:11:11 11/11/11 more interesting, since it's the same in every convention (at least in places using the Gregorian calendar, which by now is the majority of the world). If you want to go to the extreme, the "real" ones event has already happened on 11:11:11 11/11/1111, and nothing similar will occur until ten thousand years from that date. And while you can't have 22:22:22 22/22/22, we've already had 02:02:02 02/02/02 as well as 20:02 20/02/2002. And who could forget the one that was so widely celebrated less than a decade ago: 00:00:00 01/01/00 (and, to some, the real start of the millennium, 00:00:00 01/01/01).

You could really idle away a lot of time looking for such patterns, but there's really no significance to them. Consider that there are three major calendars that I'm aware of (Hebrew, Gregorian, and Islamic, in order of oldest to youngest), a few minor or archaic ones (Mayan and Roman spring to mind) and possibly many more I'm not, all of which use different and arbitrary date and time conventions and have a "day one, year one" at different chronological points. All those "significant" points in time will either occur at different times or, in some calendars, never occur at all due to differences in things such as the length of a month or how many of them are in a year.

From: Shirley Ricks (shirley_ricks byu.edu)
Subject: date patterns

My father-in-law, who lives with us, will be turning 99 on 09-09-09. Though his short-term memory is not all that great, he spends time daily reading his autobiography to remind him who he is. He reminds all he comes in contact with that they need to write their personal history.

From: Janet O'Dell-Teys (jnet haulpaq.com)
Subject: Re: 12:34:56 7/8/9

In Australia, we write dates using the sequence day/month/year as opposed to the month/day/year convention used in America. Because of this way of writing the date (bearing in mind this wouldn't have happened had I been in America), I was fortunate enough a few years ago to have the following as my age and birthday: 33/22/11/00 -- I turned 33 on November 22, 2000.

My mother was also born on a magical set of numbers: 13.1.31 -- January 13, 1931.

From: Tom Sigafoos (tomsigafoos gmail.com)
Subject: Date and Number Patterns

Riddle: In the second half of the twentieth century, something occurred which will not happen again for over four thousand years. What was it? Answer: Well, the answer used to be "The year 1961", which could be read upside-down. However, digital numerals have changed all that. We've since enjoyed 2002, and we're looking forward to 2112, 2692, 2882, 2962, 5005.

From: Morton Sosland (msosland sosland.com)
Subject: Number sequences

My wife and I were married on June 6, 1946, and three years ago we celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary on 06/06/06. I guess we could have awakened in time to precede that with 06:06:06.

From: Mike Barker (mbarker mit.edu)
Subject: Um... 24 times?

Given the way time zones work, we'll have a whole slew of these -- one for each time zone.

From: Frank Poduska (frank iastate.edu)
Subject: Re: 12:34:56 7/8/9

If you allow decimals into the discussion you live through an infinite number of similarly interesting patterns every day. 01:23:45.67891011...[lots of digits omitted to save space]...892008 8/9/2009

One not enough? Continue the decimals through n892008n where n is any positive integer.

From: George Pajari (george pajari.ca)
Subject: UNIX time

And for us UNIX/Linux nerds, UNIX time passed 1234567890 seconds earlier this year (see 1234567890day.com) with parties around the world to celebrate.

From: Katherine Levin (lacemakr winternet.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--limnology
Def: The study of bodies of fresh water, such as lakes and ponds.

Every time I see the word "limnology", I blissfully remember an article that appeared in the journal of the American Society of Limnology and Oceanography some 35 years ago, The Population Density of Monsters in Loch Ness.

From: John D. Laskowski (john.laskowski mothman.org)
Subject: Limnology

As a biologist/educator I have read (and taught) most of the major concepts of limnology in my ecology and aquatic biology courses. I would always go out on a limb to ask my students this perplexing question:
"Why is the shore so near the lake?"

From: Yan Zen (yzen clarity.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--somnolent
Def: 1. Sleepy; drowsy. 2. Sleep-inducing.

Water spinach, or commonly known as morning glory, in Indonesian known as kangkung, is suspected widely as a somnolent vegetable.

From: Christoph Grein (christoph.grein eurocopter.com)
Subject: Words with three letters in alphabetic sequence

I remember a sentence made only from the alphabet (as pronounced) in a column of Martin Gardner in Scientific American (he cited the origin, which I have forgotten) -- it's a crow talking to a scarecrow:

Hey be seedy, eh, effigy, hate shy jakey yellow man; oh, peek, you're rusty, you've double, you ex-wise head.

May be not 100% correct. And there's your last week's word jakey in it.

From: John Hughes (jfh cs.brown.edu)
Subject: This week's theme

I teach computer science. Whenever I teach shortest-path algorithms, I write a list of words on the board like those from this week, and ask my students to identify what they have in common, and in common with the class topic. Students show they know the answer by providing another word. The link to the class topic is Dijkstra, the inventor of a well-known algorithm for shortest-paths.

One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper patterns at the right moment. -Hart Crane, poet (1899-1932)

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