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AWADmail Issue 379

October 4, 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

Thinking Literally
Boston Globe

Use It Or Lose It? Study Suggests The Brain Can Remember A 'Forgotten' Language

The New York Times

From: Joel Mabus (joel.mabus pobox.com)
Subject: feet and hands words

I thought for sure this week you would include "chiropodist" -- a word and profession that employs both feet and hands. Then I could quote my favorite Groucho Marx joke:
Do you know the song about the Irish chiropodist? "Your feet is in my hands!" Of course Groucho pronounced "feet" in his best pseudo-Irish brogue as "fate".

From: Lynn Mancini (mancini dtcc.edu)
Subject: This week's theme

My all-time favourite word fits this week's theme...A sesquipedalian is someone who uses long words. Etymologically speaking, the words are a foot and a half long. I love the quasi-auto-referentiality of the term. Unfortunately, one has to be around sesquipedalians in order to use it and expect to be understood.

From: Paul Farrar (paul4r canby.com)
Subject: prestidigitation
Def: 1. A sleight of hand. 2. Deceitfulness, trickery.

If analog clocks have hands, why don't digital clocks have fingers?

From: Yuliya Krizhanovskaya (krizh2000 yahoo.com)
Subject: antipodal
Def: 1. Situated on the opposite side of the earth. 2. Diametrically opposite or completely opposite.

I've recently moved to London from New York and discovered that the (good) coffee scene here is dominated by Aussie- and Kiwi-owned (and run) cafes. The natives of Australia and New Zealand are known as antipodeans, hence the name of the high quality product they're selling -- antipodean coffee.

From: Joseph Drake (j.f.drake hotmail.com)
Subject: Antipodal

A related word to antipodal is antipodeans. Augustine in his "City of God" agreed with the Greeks that the world was an orb, but said that there could not be people on the other side because the antipodeans would fall off. Pre-Newtonian physics. So antipodeans, hold on tight to the earth.

From: Tony Jarrett (tonypbjarrett yahoo.co.uk)
Subject: Legerdemain
Def: 1. Sleight of hand. 2. A display of skill.

I recall reading that the UK Census of 1919 (or thereabouts) had a final occupational category, which included Metallurgists, and Professors of Legerdemain. Times change.

From: Stu Tarlowe (STarlowe earthlink.net)
Subject: expediency
Def: 1. Consideration of what is advantageous or easy or immediate over what is right. 2. The quality of being suited for a purpose.

I've always liked the army adjective "field-expedient", meaning "improvised" or "put together from materials at hand", as a more sophisticated way of saying "jury-rigged", "jerry-rigged", "Okie-rigged", "hillbilly-rigged", or other variations of same.

From: Joyce Greene (jgreene cs.hmc.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--mortmain
Def: 1. The perpetual ownership of property by institution 2. The stifling influence of the past on the present and the living.

As an attorney, I was aware of the mortmain statutes and was taught that their purpose was to prevent overreaching by the clergy upon those on their deathbed. The thought being that if a penitent, dying man turned over his property to the church, he would be granted leniency upon death - a small price to pay for a better afterlife. However, such agreements thwarted the heirs of their rightful inheritance and lands, throwing the heirs into poverty with no means to sustain themselves. To prevent such heavy-handed abuse, the statutes were enacted so that the heirs could attack and nullify such transfers made within a certain period before death. I just thought you would be interested in knowing the other reason for these statutes, although I am sure the king was not pleased with so much land (and tax base) going to the church (a purpose I had not considered).

From: Charles Coleman (charles_coleman innovations.com.au)
Subject: the writer's "boss"

Your statement is the same for musicians. If the "boss" doesn't like something you've done, be it a song or your behaviour, they can easily fire you by not being a part of your very public art.

Someone once said to me that we were in control of newspapers because it is within our power not to buy them. The editors really do owe us, the public, more than they believe.

From: Filmore Fox (filmore velocity.net)
Subject: Opinions

Feel free to state any opinion at any time even if I don't agree. I will keep reading.

By the way, I am always right so this is a huge allowance on my part.

For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change. -Ingrid Bengis, writer and teacher (b. 1944)

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