Wordsmith.Org: The Magic of Words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 387

November 29, 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: The gift of words

This holiday season, why not make a gift of words? Here are five suggestions:

A Word A Day
Another Word A Day
The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two

"Just the thing if romping with words is what you want to do."
-The Washington Post

A.Word.A.Day Premium

"The most welcomed, most enduring piece of daily mass email in cyberspace."
-The New York Times

A.Word.A.Day is now in its sixteenth year.

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

USC professor creates an entire alien language for 'Avatar'
LA Times blogs

In Greek, this bird's name indicates it's French; its Arabic name implies it's Rome; in Turkey, it's from India. What bird is it?

From: Wendy Carter (wendy.carter optusnet.com.au)
Subject: doggo
Def: Still and quiet (used in the form: to lie doggo).

In Australia, the word "doggo" also refers to the worst shift in any organisation, eg, hospitals, mining, etc where the business is operating 24 hours a day and rosters are established to cover those periods. There are usually three shifts per 24 hours -- morning, evening, and doggo -- and doggo usually refers to the 10pm - 6am (approx) period. It may be called "doggo" because it is so tiring and unpleasant, that it is something "you wouldn't do to a dog" or because on this shift, you become "dog tired".....I don't know for sure but thought you might be interested to hear these comments.

From: Scott Andrews (sandlab prodigy.net)
Subject: cap-a-pie
Def: From head to foot.

Thank you. "Lock, stock, and barrel", "Alpha and Omega", and "Heaven and earth" are examples of a figure of speech called a merism. Now I can add cap-a-pie to the list.

It is a creative way of naming the bookends, and in so doing, emphasizing that the unstated "everything in between" is included.

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Cap-a-pie

At various times, and during different periods of history, medieval knights did not always wear full armour. The chain mail, for example, was simply a shirt woven of interlinked small metal rings.

When they were fully clothed in plate armour, helmet, cuirass ("lapp'd in proof", as Ross says of Macbeth), they were said to be dressed cap-à-pé. Thus to Hamlet's query regarding the appearance of his father's ghost, Horatio replies: "A figure like your father, / Armed at point exactly, cap-à-pé."

And somewhat further, on perceiving young Hamlet's persistent skepticism ("Arm'd, you say? ... From top to toe?"), Marcellus and Bernardo elaborate: "My lord, from head to foot." (Hamlet, Act I Scene 2)

From: Ollie Haffenden (Oliver.Haffenden rd.bbc.co.uk)
Subject: videlicet
Def: That is; namely; to wit. (used to introduce examples or details)

The abbreviated form of this word, viz "viz", is the title of an adult comic here in the UK, which happens to be celebrating its 30th anniversary this month. For me the comic strikes a perfect balance between surrealism, toilet humour, and satirical social commentary.

According to Wikipedia, even the editor, Chris Donald, claims not to remember the reason for the title. The existence of the spin-off "Roger's Profanisaurus", a dictionary of exotic swear words, suggests to me that Donald is a secret wordlover.

From: Buddha Buck (blaisepascal gmail.com)
Subject: Apropos
Def: adverb: 1. In reference to. 2. Appropriately; relevantly. adjective: Appropriate.

My first introduction to the word apropos was when I first learned the UNIX operating system. The manual for UNIX is traditionally available online, and accessible using the "man" command. One could type "man foo" to find out what the foo command did, for instance.

The trouble comes in the reverse; many commands are obscure abbreviations (like "man" for manual) and are hard to figure out without knowing ahead of time what they might be.

The "apropos" helped with that, allowing you to type "apropos foo" to find all the manual entries which might have something to do with foo. On my system, "apropos manual" lists 37 commands, including man (an interface to the on-line reference manuals) and apropos (search the manual page names and descriptions).

From: Cal Christie (calc sentex.net)
Subject: adverbs

As teens we had a game for adverbs calling them "Tom Swifties" (of the Tom Swift novels).
Example: "That's the last time I'll feed an alligator," said Tom off-handedly.

From: Grace Godino (ecarg.onidog gmail.com)
Subject: Thanks

Your words have cheered me through hard times and increased my happiness in the easy times. I have a lengthy collection of quotations from you. I feel part of a world-wide community of word lovers because of your dedication and love of language. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

You have to fall in love with hanging around words. -John Ciardi, poet and translator (1916-1986)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith