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AWADmail Issue 382

October 25, 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

Non-traditional Names Linked to Teacher Discrimination
The Local

In Chinatown, Sound of the Future Is Mandarin
The New York Times

From: Thea E. Smith (thea.e.smith gmail.com)
Subject: otiose
Def: 1. Superfluous. 2. Futile. 3. Indolent.

The word otiose reminds me of a game my parents played, wherein they'd try to think of words that contained silent -- or otiose (as in "lacking use or effect") -- letters. E.g., subtle, gnu, knife, and many more-interesting ones that I can't think of right now.

From: Christer Norrlof (christlof hotmail.com)
Subject: otiose/otium

In Scandinavian languages, we don't use the form otiose, only the word that it derives from -- otium. It is typically used concerning retirement age, when you, after a life full of hard work, can enjoy doing the things that you always wanted to do while you were still working and not able to do it. The expression in Swedish is "njuta sitt otium", meaning enjoy/relish one's otium", to have a good time (when being retired).

From: Dannie Walker (huskstang mindspring.com)
Subject: otiose

Years ago the mini-donut shaped, oat-based breakfast cereal, Cheerios, was invented and became a huge success. One wonders what other names were considered for this morning repast. One also can be fairly certain that "Oatey Os" was summarily rejected forthwith!

From: Hal Collard (hal.collard ucsf.edu)
Subject: mendicant
Def: A beggar.

Mendicant is one of my favorite words. When I was a boy, my father would meticulously record expenses. One day, looking at his notes, I saw "gift to mendicant" and asked what that meant. He explained and I remember thinking how nice it was that he had given money to someone in need. Only later did I learn that "gift to mendicant" was his code phrase for my allowance!

From: Linda Owens (lindafowens netzero.net)
Subject: mendicant

We had a stray cat named Qutals, and he was always begging, since he'd nearly starved as a kitten. Of course, we called him "The Mendicat". He also had a bad habit of vomiting on things, so we used to give him "degrees of difficulty in cleaning" points for items like the fringe of a rug, down a stack of records, etc. He also enjoyed spraying on my art portfolio, so I called him "my art critic". Nevertheless, my kids loved him, so he lived with us for over 10 years. What was I thinking?

From: Paula D. (via Wordsmith Talk, bulletin board)
Subject: Mendicant as a type of chocolate confection

Regarding the word mendicant, meaning beggar and also referring to four Catholic monastic orders. Mendicant (French: Mendiant) is also the name of a small disk or bar of chocolate which has been sprinkled with dried fruit or nuts. In France, chocolate mendicants are part of the 13 desserts of Noel. From the site Chocolate & Zucchini:
"Among these are the four 'mendiants' (beggars), symbolizing four mendicant monastic orders and the color of their robes: raisins for the Dominicans, hazelnuts for the Augustins, dried figs for the Franciscans, and almonds for the Carmelites."
Also see Wikipedia.

From: Hari Krishna (harimocherla gmail.com)
Subject: encomium
Def: Glowing praise.

Encomium is a wonderful soothing enzyme. Generally when an employee is being relieved on transfer or retirement, all his superiors and colleagues indulge in 'customary exaggeration' of the abilities of their outgoing colleague and shower profuse encomiums. Perhaps on that day only they remember how good a worker he had been during his tenure.

From: Kathleen Beattie (kathleenbeattie1302 hotmail.com)
Subject: peremptory
Def: 1. Dictatorial. 2. Expressing command or urgency. 3. Not admitting any question or contradiction.

When selecting jurors in Canada and, perhaps, in other jurisdictions, the peremptory challenge allows the defence and Crown to reject an equal number of potential jurors without having to give a reason. The other type of challenge stipulated in our Criminal Code, the challenge for cause, requires a reason to be given such as deeming the potential juror not to be impartial.

From: Gregg Farrier (gjf mindspring.com)
Subject: gimcrack
Def: Something cheap and showy, of little use.

The old song De Blue Tail Fly comes to mind. There has been much debate over the meaning of "Jimmy Crack Corn". To note, in the original version the lyrics read "Jim crack corn". "Jim crack" has traditionally been used in reference to shoddily built items. Additionally, "corn" is considered an American euphemism for "corn whiskey". Other possibilities include:
"Gimcrack corn" cheap corn whiskey; That it refers to "cracking" open a jug of corn whiskey;

A man who uses a great many words to express his meaning is like a bad marksman who, instead of aiming a single stone at an object, takes up a handful and throws at it in hopes he may hit. -Samuel Johnson, lexicographer (1709-1784)

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