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AWADmail Issue 368

July 19, 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

Researchers find swearing has health benefits
The Web of Language

A for Horses, B for Mutton: one of AWAD's copy editors writes a sequel to an item in last week's AWADmail:

From: Mark Bennett (Mark_Bennett harvard.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--yardang
Def: An elongated ridge formed by wind erosion, often resembling the keel of an upside down ship.

Hoodoo or fairy chimney is another erosional feature due to wind. Why these features are not lumped together, under one name, regardless of shape, is unclear to me.

From: Stanley Lenkowsky (SLenkowskyDDS aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pingo
Def: A mound or hill of soil-covered ice in permafrost, pushed up by the pressure of water seeping in.

Pingo is slang for pen is in some South American countries.

From: Doug Ott (dott nada.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--scree
Def: Rock debris at the base or the side of a mountain.

In 1975, after a successful high school gymnastics season in Colorado Springs, our team celebrated at Cheyenne Mountain overlooking the city. After performing zany circus antics, like handstand walking across the bridge over Helen Hunt Falls, we rode in the back of a pickup truck to a high dirt road near the summit. We all piled out and I watched, in total amazement, as four or five guys jumped straight off the steep edge of the road and kangaroo-hopped, leapt, and zig-zagged their way down the side of the mountain in the soft dirt and debris. The rest of us gleefully followed. The experience was exhilarating. The sheer steepness made each step feel as though we were flying. At the bottom, the pickup truck was waiting and we drove back to the top and did it again. As our coach explained, the activity was called screeing. Tremendous fun but the rocky soil devastated our shoes.

From: Larry Wines (tiedtothetracks hotmail.com)
Subject: Thoughts on scree

As a longtime alpine mountaineer and rock and ice climber, I thought everyone might enjoy additional information. When ascending, everyone with any climbing skills will take circuitous detours to avoid a "scree slog", which is the classic three steps up, slide two back. Yet, descending, some of us enjoy "scree surfing", wherein a sizeable wave of scree can be ridden for appreciable distances down a vegetation-free mountain for a quick descent. The caveat? One must avoid "ball-bearing scree", which is scree over any angled slab of underlying rock or ice -- making that mistake can launch you into an unintended and uncontrollable mode, at considerable velocity.

From: Lyn Perks (lynperks yahoo.com)
Subject: scree

I learned this word in, of all places, a statistics class. Scree are the small bars at the end of a Pareto chart, the 80% that are insignificant vs the 20% that are in Pareto's principle.

From: Lester Carver (lester.carver am.jll.com)
Subject: Scree

The picture of Dolomites, Italy, posted with today's word scree, is a great illustration of an associated word talus, 1. A slope formed by an accumulation of debris. 2. A sloping mass of debris accumulated at the base of a cliff. It comes from Old French for "sloping side of an earthwork". My thanks to my college professor John Donnely for instilling long lasting memories of my mine reclamation classes.

From: Werner Linz (walinz mindspring.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--inselberg
Def: An isolated mountain or hill rising abruptly from its surrounding.

Interestingly, I was born in Thuringia, a province of Germany, and our nearby mountain was der Inselsberg. Note the extra s. It is quite a tourist attraction even now.

From: Bill (wge usa.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--karst
Def: An area of irregular limestone in which erosion has produced fissures, sinks, etc.

Karsts changed my life!

I was in an extremely boring high school geography class which I detested. The teacher was equally boring. One day we came to the topic of "karsts". It was the final straw. I could not see any reason whatsoever to learn about them. I transferred to Spanish 101. I loved it and 50 years later I still love the language, speak it whenever I can, use it in my business, and visit Spanish-speaking countries whenever possible.
It was one of the smartest moves I ever made -- all due to karsts.

From: Mo Kelly (mokelly verizon.net)
Subject: Trieste (Re: karst)

Trieste was in Slovenia. It is now in Italy. If you are in Trieste, Slovenia is across the mountain. Trieste was given to Italy in an end-of-war settlement, opposed by the US, but accepted. It appears gray and Eastern bloc. It has great pizza and the Adriatic is lovely. Slovenia's loss.

From: Richard Jesse Watson (rjw olympus.net)
Subject: ventifact

My dad was a scientist, and taught geology at Pacific University in his early years. As a child I used to look at various rock samples that he had gathered. One beautiful, sculpted sample was a rock he found in the Mojave desert where I grew up until I was seven. He called it a ventifact. It was very hard and was shaped by the wind on all sides. This rock was the size of a small flat loaf of bread but had obviously flipped from the workings of the wind to have many angles of soft sandblasted angles and curves.

From: Jerry W Barrington (jerry.barrington gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--yardang

You wrote:

Handling those grains of sand, I wondered if I were touching people who lived thousands of years ago.

It's been pointed out that, in every glass of water you drink, there's likely a molecule that passed through Oliver Cromwell's bladder. In this sense, we are *always* touching *all* of the people who lived long ago.

From: Stephanie Lovett (stephanielovett fcds.org)
Subject: AWADmail issue 367

WRT the reference by one of last week's correspondents to "the late Martin Gardner", one might indeed say "the great Martin Gardner", but adding "late" to that appellation is premature, fortunately for him, us, and mathematics.

Men ever had, and ever will have leave, / To coin new words well suited to the age, / Words are like leaves, some wither every year, / And every year a younger race succeeds. -Horace, poet and satirist (65-8 BCE)

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