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AWADmail Issue 376

September 13, 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: Discover the theme

Last week's Discover the Theme contest challenged readers to identify the common thread among the five words featured: odious, asinine, cagey, arcadian, and devious. Several readers believed that these are all words that describe their ex-boy/girlfriend or ex-husband/wife.

About 1200 readers took up the challenge of whom about 150 sent the correct answer: All of these words can be pronounced as a sequence of letters and numbers: ODS, SN9 (or AC9, SE9), KG, RKDN, and DVS.

I'd feared that this puzzle might prove too difficult compared to the previous ones, but never underestimate the ability of a thousand brains working on a problem. The first person to send the correct answer was J L Anil Kumar (anil.jagalur philips.com) of Bangalore, India, who sent me the solution within minutes of the first word going out on Monday. He wins a signed copy of the book A Word A Day.

A second winner, randomly selected from all who sent correct answers, is Ada Payne of Delaware, Ohio, who opted to receive a signed copy of The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two as her prize.

Many readers surmised the common theme had something to do with the count or arrangement of vowels and consonants. 10Q to all who participated (on this theme a couple of books by the cartoonist William Steig you might enjoy: C D B! and C D C?. Also check out this video clip.)

Read on for a selection of some of the responses:

Perhaps in honor of Monday's Labor Day in the United States, this week's words describe our bosses. They don't describe my current boss, but so far (Tuesday) describe a recent one from a a few years ago. A pigeon got into our building's atrium one day and followed his bald head around like a forlorn suitor. Other than the pigeon, everyone else here under him would agree on these apt adjectives for him.
-Eileen McGuinness (eileen.mcguinness illinois.gov)

I believe this week's words describe the 9/11 terrorists as well as the act of terrorism they carried out nine years ago this week.
-Jackie King (jacqueline.king amwins.com)

Words that describe the activities of the protagonists in the financial meltdown, in honor of the one-year anniversary of the Lehman collapse (9/15).
-Marion Asnes (marion.asnes verizon.net)

I think the theme for this week's words is "words that describe my ex-boyfriend".
-Victoria Rutledge (vrutledge ca.rr.com)

It may B EZ 4 U -- LMNRE, even -- but B4 2day I had no idea. R they words that lend themselves to "textspeak"?
-Mark Borreliz (markborreliz msn.com)

You are describing president Barack Obama.
-Joyce Nichols (mymiraclemusic yahoo.com)

Well, I was pretty sure this week's theme was words to describe George Bush, but the word "arcadian" was throwing me off. Then, I re-read the definition and "simple" was in there. Now, it works, and I can submit my answer, with complete confidence.
-Sheri Scott (sscottcta aol.com)

Adjectives taken from Aug (and one Apr) 2009 newspaper articles.
-Virginia Ivy (ivyvl libbey.com)

Appears the theme is nostril notification.
-Patty Primm (wlpa99b comcast.net)

Each of the five words is an adjective describing a condition that will definitely get the personal attention of the perceptor, causing at least a moment's reflection and either a positive or negative reaction.
-Don Kladstrup (don39klad rochester.rr.com)

A D-V-S but a B-U-T of a theme.
-Sandor Soon (sandbox74 hotmail.com)

And my favorite response was from a reader who shall remain nameless:

The first syllable of each word sounds like the name of a letter of the alphabet: O-dious, S-inine, K-gey, R-cadian, D-vious.

If you liked this puzzle, try your hand at some of the earlier puzzles from AWAD archives: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

From: Susan Nielsen (snielsen1 earthlink.net)
Subject: (O-dee-uhs)
Def: Highly offensive; inspiring and deserving hatred.

I have always wondered what lapse fell upon the boardroom that approved the use of ODS as the common name of a health insurance company. On the other hand, they may have found it too archetypal to pass up.

From: Tom Zaremba (tzaremba wheelerlaw.com)
Subject: Asinine
Def: Extremely stupid; ridiculous.

Having had spent some "quality time" with a donkey, I can say that they are not stupid, but they can be very, very stubborn. I would say that that portion of the meaning of asinine is well deserved.

From: Beadie Locke (Beadielo aol.com)
Subject: Asinine

This word reminded me of my son when he was in high school. He offered his (unnecessary) opinion of an assignment as "asinine" and was sent to the office for swearing. The principal sent him back to class - I presume for using vocabulary above and beyond the teacher's.

From: Bob Pert (bjpert nbnet.nb.ca)
Subject: Arcadian
Def: Idyllically pastoral: simple, peaceful.

The origin of the designation Acadia is credited to the explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, who on his sixteenth century map applied the ancient Greek name "Arcadia" to the entire Atlantic coast north of Virginia (note the inclusion of the 'r' of the original Greek name). "Arcadia" derives from the Arcadia district in Greece which since Classical antiquity had the extended meanings of "refuge" or "idyllic place". The Dictionary of Canadian Biography says: "Arcadia, the name Verrazzano gave to Maryland or Virginia 'on account of the beauty of the trees,' made its first cartographical appearance in the 1548 Gastaldo map and is the only name on that map to survive in Canadian usage. . . . In the 17th century Champlain fixed its present orthography, with the 'r' omitted, and Ganong has shown its gradual progress northwards, in a succession of maps, to its resting place in the Atlantic Provinces."

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

The write stuff
The New York Times

Montreal bus driver throws English-speaking passenger off her bus
The Language Log

Expand your vocab daily
The Star
[Thanks for the article, Kiran. The number of AWAD subscribers has now passed 800,000.]

Words form the thread on which we string our experiences. -Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)

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