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AWADmail Issue 384

November 8, 2009

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language

From: John Evans (btradish earthlink.net)
Subject: acnestis (ak-NEES-tis)
Def: The part of the body where one cannot reach to scratch.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm flexible enough to scratch any part of my back, and I haven't even had any gymnastic training.

From: David Anders (anders andersusa.com)
Subject: acnestis

The presence of the acnestis - that area of the back which cannot be scratched - can be helpful to dermatologists trying to diagnose patterns of rashes or redness which appear on the back. Sometimes it is the absence of a finding, i.e., the absence of redness at the acnestis, that gives dermatologists a valuable hint as to why the other area has become irritated (as the result of scratching). In Sherlock Holmes's story Silver Blaze, it was the absence of the dog's barking in the presence of the criminal that tipped Holmes off to the identity of the guilty party. "The Sign of the Silver Blaze" at the acnestis continues to help diagnosticians today.

From: Janice Brien (hjbrien hotmail.com)
Subject: daymare
Def: A terrifying experience, similar to a nightmare, felt while awake.

We have a folkloric myth here in Newfoundland called 'the hag' in which one sees an old woman and one is paralysed to move or call out. It happens during the night but one feels this phenomenon happens when we awake. I've had it happen to me and while I did not 'see' the old woman I certainly saw a shadow of one moving down the hallway. I couldn't scream, make a sound, or move a muscle. It lasts for a a few seconds and then our bodies just melt and all rigidity passes, as does the terror. Well-known in these parts!

From: William Schmidt (BSchmidt727 yahoo.com)
Subject: Daymare

Interesting. Don't know that I've ever had a daymare. I have experienced a night stallion. Not my term, but one I saw written by Piers Anthony, a fantasy-fiction writer. Believe the night stallion oversees all the nightmares. Occasionally the night stallion will take a mare's place to deliver a really bad night-time experience.

From: Meredith McQuoid (mcquoidm si.edu)
Subject: lentiginous
Def: Covered with freckles.

The photo that accompanied lentiginous is a beautiful face! Why oh why did you select a usage example that portrays the beauty of freckles in such negative light? Aren't we beyond the need to portray such superficiality as covering up what one is born with? My mother is a redhead with lots of freckles and thus suffered as a child in the 1940s from teasing about her freckles, as did several archetypical characters from books I read as a young teen in the 1970s. It seems there was a time when having freckles meant open season for bullies. Wanting my daughters to avoid feeling such torment and loss of self-esteem, I told them both when they were young that each freckle came from an angel's kiss. If they ever got teased about their freckles, at least they had an automatic retort to counter the insulter. Because girls spend so much time worrying about what they look like, and given how many teens read AWAD as part of their education, your example sentence unfortunately continues to propagate the notion that their natural selves are at best not good enough. That is a shame. I'm sure the cosmetics industry is ecstatic.

From: Ken Brodey (kbrodey alice.it)
Subject: lentiginous

I've been an American in Milan for nearly 25 years now. I remember when I first started stumbling along in Italian how I had the sensation that the Italians were, well, kind of, pompous. The reason is that many common words in Italian -- but certainly not all -- are Latin in origin, and many of these words also appear in English. When in English however, they have a snooty feel about them. For example, the Italian 'lentigginoso' would best be translated by 'freckled' or 'freckly' and not by the high-falutin' 'lentiginous'.

From: Hillary Rettig (lifelongactivist yahoo.com)
Subject: nihilarian
Def: One who does useless work.

In the activist world a nihilarian does what the late, great animal activist Henry Spira called "hyperactivism", meaning "busy work" that is done in the absence of a strategic plan, and therefore highly unlikely to result in social change.

From: Sean Parker (metsgotows comcast.net)
Subject: spurtle
Def: A wooden stick for stirring porridge.

I never knew spurtles were for porridge. My mother used hers for spanking.

From: Frank Griffin (ftg roadrunner.com)
Subject: Spurtle

Cooking show host Graham Kerr (the Galloping Gourmet) was fond of this tool, and used and referred to it on TV often. I believe his Galloping Gourmet line of cookware included one.

From: Eric Hoy (eric.hoy utsouthwestern.edu)
Subject: Spurtle

I remember my first visit to Scotland, some 20 years ago. At breakfast I bravely worked my way through haggis and blood sausage. On the table, I discovered a canister that contained discs that had the appearance and flavour of building material. The waitress explained to me that these were oat cakes, and gave me some Marmite to spread on them. She said that the combination improved both Marmite and oat cakes. She was right. They went from inedible to merely awful, but I was determined to eat a real Scottish breakfast, so I forged ahead. By this time, however, the porridge had congealed. I was poking at it with my spoon when the waitress came by and introduced me to today's word. However, she used it as a verb. "Don't just spurtle around there. Put some cream and sultanas in the porridge." Since then, whenever I encounter a thick mass that requires stirring, I spurtle it.

You live a new life for every new language you speak. -Czech proverb

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