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AWADmail Issue 374

August 30, 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

Can a Mother Lose Her Child Because She Doesn't Speak English?

Manx Gaelic 'Not Extinct'
BBC News

From: Susie Burstein (twinssa wol.co.za)
Subject: smalto
Def: Colored glass or enamel used in mosaic.

What an unusual word -- but tell me what is wrong with the word tessera? I always understood it to be the favoured term of use for mosaic tiles. Sometimes I think the liberality of the English language in so freely allowing foreign words into the vocabulary when there are perfectly adequate existing words in the lexicon, allows for much misunderstanding and/or grandiloquence! Anyway, thanks for all the enlightenment I get from your fine site!

From: John Marino (jrmsf sbcglobal.net)
Subject: agnosia
Def: Loss of ability to recognize objects, people, sounds, etc.

This word brings to mind the new science of agnotology, the study of ignorance and its application in modern culture. The new science finds its origins in the use of doubt, misinformation, disinformation, and downright lying by the tobacco industry to defend its product.

Out of this has grown the "product defense industry" whose sole purpose is to create sufficient confusion in the minds of the consuming public to allow the ongoing use of toxic products until such time as those who are harmed by them can prove, beyond doubt, that those products are the source and cause of the harm they have suffered.

It is the skillful application of this new science that fueled the rush to war in Iraq; sustains beyond all good reason the "healthcare" debate that is nothing more than an argument over who is to derive most profit from the care of the sick; and promotes the use of carcinogenic and otherwise toxic petrochemical byproducts to add "fragrance" to personal care and household products and to "refresh" the air. For more information see the book or Wikipedia.

From: Theodore L. Drachman (tldrach webtv.net)
Subject: Scrutinizing facial-recognition ability | Harvard Magazine

"Prosopagnosia" goes to Harvard!

P.S. AWAD joke?
"Who was that woman I saw you with last night?
"Beats me -- I've got prosopagnosia."

From: Henry Higman, MD (hhigman1 verizon.net)
Subject: Comment: Agnosia

I was disappointed not to see anosognosia among the related words: a=not, nosos=disease, gnosis, knowing. It is often encountered in a patient with dense left hemiplegia, unaware of and denying paralysis. In a visual form due to bilateral lesions of the occipital cortex, the patient usually injures himself crashing into obstructions because of the blindness which he ignores and denies. The term might be applied metaphorically as a disorder afflicting certain political figures. I leave it to you to decide which party offers a better illustration.

From: Martha Rustad (mehrustad yahoo.com)
Subject: cobber
Def: A pal.

I graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, where the mascot is a cobber. I always thought that the name came from the fields of corn that once occupied the campus land. This name could not have inspired much fear in sports opponents. Your definition opened up a whole new meaning to me. When I returned for Homecoming last year, I learned that now someone on the cheering squad dresses up in a corn cob costume as Kernel to the cries of "Fear the Ear!" The face of this cobber really is a little fierce.

From: Brice Bowman (beaumambo hotmail.com)
Subject: Cobbers

A friend has written a story with the title, "Cops and Cobbers". I enjoyed reading the story but didn't fully understand the meaning of the title. Today I read the word of the day, cobber, and forwarded it to my friend who replied, "Indeed. The title was a tongue in cheek reference to the Guardia Civil cops acting as friends.

Thank you for assisting two very good friends to enjoy a mutual love of language.

From: Dave Zobel (zobeldave aol.com)
Subject: cobber: Flanders & Swann

Michael Flanders, of the 1950s/'60s songwriting team Flanders & Swann (noted for "Madeira, M'Dear?" and other comedy classics), used to tell of an Australian hotel at which "every morning at the crack of dawn this great beautiful Betjeman girl would come clumping into the room, slap a great mug of scalding tea down [a guest's] chest, and say [nasal Strine accent], ' 'Ere y'are, cobber -- an' if you don't like sugar, don't stir it.'"

From: Kiko Denzer (potlatch cmug.com)
Subject: cobber

I'm amazed that so close to the heart of the cob revival you didn't include the local meaning of "cobber" which is someone who makes things out of mud or "cob" as they call it in England, from the Anglo-saxon for "lump", as in "cob-coal", a "cob-loaf", or "cobble-stone" or even the horse called a "cob" because it tends to be short and stocky -- lumpish.

Google "cob" today, however, and you'll find numerous references to a marvelous mix of dirt, water, and straw, which has been used for centuries to build beautiful, comfortable homes -- warm in winter, cool in summer -- even in cold, wet SE England, where there are tens of thousands of cob homes, some of them 500-700 years old! In Devon, they say "give a cob house good boots (foundation) and a good hat (roof), and it will last forever!"

In the US, in the past 15 years, there has been a huge revival of interest in cob and other traditional, earthen materials (like adobe, from the Arabic, Al-toba, meaning "the brick"), rammed earth, light-straw clay, and the modern hybrid straw-bale, which is, at best, straw protected with a thick layer of mud plaster.

It makes sense. We all know how to make mud pies, and when you work with mud, architecture reverts to its traditional roots, which are sculpture and playful nest-making. For more info, try digyourhandsinthedirt.net, or look up The Hand Sculpted House, at chelseagreen.com, or just look up "cob" on the web! A mud house won't burn down, the bugs can't eat it, and it's dirt cheap (if you make it yourself)! Mine took just 700 hours, and it cost me less than a thousand bucks.

A different language is a different vision of life. -Federico Fellini, film director and writer (1920-1993)

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