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AWADmail Issue 383

November 1, 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

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's Acrostic:
Language Log

Disappearing Vowels 'Caught' On Tape In US Midwest:

From: Steve Fulton (cerberus40 hotmail.com)
Subject: (Re: Byronic) Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage in Comics
Def: Being melancholic, passionate, and melodramatic, and having disregard for societal norms.

In the notes for Byronic, you mention that Lord Byron's daughter, Ada Lovelace, was the first computer programmer, and she wrote programs for Charles Babbage's analytical engine. If you are interested in Lovelace and Babbage, you should check out Sydney Padua's 2D Goggles: Dangerous Experiments in Comics. It purports to be a steampunky comic with Babbage and Lovelace fighting crime using Victorian science and mathematics, but about 80% of the content is Sydney explaining the actual history behind the stories.

From: Matthew Male (male.matt googlemail.com)
Subject: Orwellian
Def: Of or relating to a totalitarian state in which citizens' activities are tightly controlled.

It's been observed that if Eric Blair had decided not to use a pseudonym, than a common way of describing a totalitarian surveillance state would be "Blairite" -- and the previous British Prime Minister would have been forced to change his name to get into power...

From: Robert Payne (dziga68 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Orwellian

My primary understanding of the word 'Orwellian' is to describe when benign or ameliorative language is used to obfuscate motives or effects, particularly those relating to a government, that may be considered less than benign; to call something potentially threatening other than what it ostensibly is in order to make it seem less threatening.

I think that the titles of some laws enacted in recent years by Congress have been given Orwellian names in order to befog understanding of what the laws actually entail. The USA PATRIOT Act, which curtailed some domestic liberties, is one such law, making it appear that if you didn't support these infringements, you were unpatriotic.

Of course, I think that this is doubleplusungood.

From: Graham Sutton (graham.sutton hpa.org.uk)
Subject: Manichean
Def: Of or relating to a dualistic view of the world.

The distinctive feature of Manicheanism is that good and evil are of separate creation -- God is not the sole creator, as religions such as Christianity would insist. The term is also applied to heretical sects (eg the Cathars) that held that belief, although their line of influence from the original Persian Manicheanism is debatable. Thus in chapter three of "Mill on the Floss" by George Eliot: Mr Tulliver believed that "rats, weevils, and lawyers were created by Old Harry. Unhappily he had no one to tell him that this was rampant Manicheism . . ."

From: Michael Wiesenberg (queue shaw.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--manichean

There are two kinds of people in this world, those who believe everything is Manichean and those who don't.

From: John DeCarli (johntdecarli gmail.com)
Subject: Machiavellian
Def: Characterized by cunning, deception, and expediency.

Interestingly, in Italian there are at least two adjectives related to Machiavelli: "machiavellico" (carrying the same negative undertones as the English "Machiavellian") and "machiavelliano" (meaning simply "of or related to the writing and thought of Machiavelli"). Having both terms is handy, particularly when talking about the man's often misunderstood later work.

From: Bob Lee (jandrlee shaw.ca)
Subject: Machiavelli

I don't think you are entirely fair in the description of Il Principe (given below). Craft, yes, deceit if necessary, but pragmatic sense always. If kindness and honesty will do the job, Machiavelli advises that direction. His book is intensely practical, tailoring behavior to the nature of the people you deal with. If they are crafty and deceitful, his advice is to fight fire with fire.

The Prince, a political treatise describing the use of craft and deceit to achieve political power.

From: Pascal Golay (pascal mcneel.com)
Subject: Draconian: Solon and his spider's web
Def: Unusually harsh.

This intrigued me,

It was Solon who said: Laws are the spider's webs which, if anything small falls into them they ensnare it, but large things break through and escape.

and so, digging around just a little before work, I found this which suggests that Solon was not the one who said this, but Anacharsis.

Thanks for the correction.
-Anu Garg

From: Olga Grovic (olgayaleo729 yahoo.com)
Subject: Thank you

I've enjoyed your emails for ages, encouraged my sons to read them. One won a full scholarship to his university, the younger stands to receive scholarships to about half a dozen -- both necessary as I've been unemployed forever -- so, thank you!.

A language is a dialect that has an army and a navy. -Max Weinreich, linguist and author (1894-1969)

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