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AWADmail Issue 378

September 27, 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

National Punctuation Day: 24-hour mark of our failure
National Post

Computer to grade English essays
The Guardian

Your brain on words
The Philippine Star

From: David Potterveld (potterveld anl.gov)
Subject: comstockery
Def: Overzealous censorship of material considered obscene.

I went to a Catholic prep-school where pages deemed "offensive" were torn out of books before they were distributed to students. In that climate, a courageous teacher taught the unexpurgated version of "Lady Chatterley's Lover" by D.H. Lawrence, a work once banned in the USA. That teacher helped shape my view of integrity, commitment, and life like no other.
Thank you, Becky.
Thank you, Anu, for this week's theme.

From: Ritu Mishra (ritu_mishra mcgraw-hill.com)
Subject: Comstockery

I wonder if it was deliberate, But you happened to choose the word for the day (September 21) on Comstock's death anniversary!

From: Ian Venables (ivenables bigpond.com)
Subject: Anthony Comstock

In Australia and perhaps other places Anthony Comstock would be known as a wowser. Considering his extreme wowserism there would probably be a few expletives added before the word "wowser" and maybe one or two after as well.

From: Cam Ellison (cam ellisonet.ca)
Subject: Bowdlerize
Def: To remove or change parts (of a book, play, movie, etc.) considered objectionable.

The word, bowdlerize, never fails to remind me of Byron's Don Juan, specifically Canto 44:

Juan was taught from out the best edition,
Expurgated by learned men, who place,
Judiciously, from out the schoolboy's vision,
The grosser parts; but, fearful to deface
Too much their modest bard by this omission,
And pitying sore his mutilated case,
They only add them all in an appendix,
Which saves, in fact, the trouble of an index;

From: Rob Busek (rbusek ridgeviewclassical.com)
Subject: Concern regarding this week's topic (nihil obstat, imprimatur)

I have to question your choice of the words "imprimatur" and "nihil obstat" on a list of words concerning censorship. Censorship itself is a loaded term, implying a desire to control or destroy intellectual development. The two words listed above are more about the development and preservation of Roman Catholic spiritual doctrine. I don't believe that they represent what most people see as censorship.

From: Robert Wilson (robwilsonit yahoo.it)
Subject: nihil obstat

Here in Italy, "nulla osta" is in everyday use in exactly this context.

From: kah454 (Via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Subject: grangerize
Def: 1. To mutilate a book by clipping pictures out of it. 2. To illustrate a book by adding pictures cut from other books.

My first job was working in a library. One of my duties was to repair books that had pages removed or damaged by patrons. This was particularly difficult if the book was out of print. We would obtain a copy from another library and proceed to photocopy the missing pages or material and then glue in the replacement pages to the spine of the book. Mind you this was in the day photocopies were negative images. The books did look strange. I guess you could say we were grangerizing that which had been grangerized.

From: Vaishali Kamath (vaishalikamath hotmail.com)
Subject: grangerize

Had this word been coined recently, it would have meant 'to read every book available in a place, for example in a library, after Hermione Granger (of Harry Potter fame) who is aware of almost every book in the Hogwarts library.

From: Jennifer Tatum (ciceronian gmail.com)
Subject: Library Nerds Appreciation

I am a master's student getting my degree in Library and Information Studies. Banned Book week is like a holy holiday to us bookworms, resulting in celebrations nationwide. We write papers on our favorite banned books and make it our priority to read something controversial. I was so glad to see this week's words and promptly shared the theme with my classes for the semester. Librarians everywhere certainly give this theme their nihil obstat!

From: Carol Broman (cbroman sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Library censorship

I live in West Bend, Wisconsin where two different groups have fought zealously for removal of some young adult books. I'm proud to say that our library board stood up to them and the books remain in the library. I'm sure that we haven't heard the last of them.

From: B. Fernandez (comlink8 gmail.com)
Subject: How to complain to a library circa 2009

About the "Uncle Bobby's Wedding" complaint letter. The person who objected did it all wrong. She should have taken a Flip video of some kittle child reading the book with a good voiceover and then sent it to Glen Beck for the evening news. It would have stirred a national firestorm and people would have threatened funding, jobs, reputation via a torrent of email and the book would have been removed. Gotta get with the times -- this letter and thoughtful response stuff is so 19th century.

From: Andrew Piziali (andy piziali.dv.org)
Subject: Re: A Right To Be Offended

I always look forward to your introduction to the words of the week because you convey insights few people are aware of. However, I have one small bone to pick with you regarding your claim in your September 20 message that "People have a right to be offended by any book." I would restate this as "People may choose to be offended by any book" in order to remove "right" from the sentence.

A true right does not infringe on another's right. A false right always does. Hence, things like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are true rights. Taking offense to a book, education, and health care are not because they conflict with the author's right to publish, the teacher's choice to teach or not, and the medical practitioner's right to practice or not.

Lastly, there are countless examples of individuals and groups assuming power over others by "taking offense" to one thing or another. Taking offense is a powerful tool in a world that tries to mollify everyone. I like my Dad's response: "I take offense to your taking offense at (fill-in-the-blank)!"

From: AJ Fett (ironpie030448 yahoo.com)
Subject: Uncle Bobby's Wedding

Thank you for the link to the librarian's response to the parent who objected to the book Uncle Bobby's Wedding being placed in the children's reading section of the library. As someone who has struggled with accepting himself his whole life and who went through a marriage to a wonderful woman -- and divorce from her -- before finding the courage to admit to himself and his family at age 48 (sadly, long after his parents were deceased) that his sexuality was not the "norm", I would like to think that the availability of this book might have helped me deal with who I was at a much earlier age. God bless the author. And you, for bringing it to our attention.

From: Vaishali Kamath (vaishalikamath hotmail.com)
Subject: Yesterday's quotation

"It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends."

I would like to suggest to J.K. Rowling that she adds 'relatives' to that. It is equally difficult to stand up to your relatives. Believe me!

From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr (RRosenbergSr accuratechemical.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--comstockery

The world is divided between the good and the bad people.
Who decides who is good, who is bad?
The good decide!

Language is an anonymous, collective and unconscious art; the result of the creativity of thousands of generations. -Edward Sapir, anthropologist, linguist (1884-1939)

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