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AWADmail Issue 392

January 3, 2010

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: Email of the week

A Happy 2010 to all!

Starting this year we'll select a reader comment every week as Email of the Week. The selected readers will receive an "I'd Rather Be Grammatically Correct" (or another T-shirt of their choice), courtesy Uppityshirts.

You can send your comments as usual via:
Email: words at wordsmith.org
Bulletin board: Wordsmith Talk
Web: Feedback form.

This week's Email of the Week is from Doug Finner (see below).

From: Jeffrey Mei (jeffreymei ihug.co.nz)
Subject: Re: Beldam
Def: An old woman; a hag.

Interestingly, this "evolution" of meaning is also found in the Taiwanese dialect word for "old hag", which is "obasan" (oh-BAH-san), which comes originally from the Japanese word for grandmother as well. I have always thought it was a result of Japanese words taking on a ruder meaning as a result of the Japanese occupation of Taiwan in the early 1900s.

From: Wm. Roentgen (roentgen1 juno.com)
Subject: Re: beldam

It occurred to me that when there was a murder in the nuthouse they *blamed the beldam in Bedlam*.

From: Daphne Ma (cd4halcyon sbcglobal.net)
Subject: beldam

I love receiving your emails daily; however, today is the exception. Words have weight. Why perpetuate the perception that "old woman" equates to hag? You would never (and rightfully so) use the word "nigger", (we understand that this objectifies a group of people and was used to devalue their worth, their humanity). Why is it okay to use demeaning terms to describe old women?

From: Margaret Cox (mocox1 cox.net)
Subject: Beldam, Prude (hag, crone, shrew)

I think you could fill this week's theme using only words that once were laudatory towards women and now are derogatory. I find it really astonishing, and yet I do take pride in reclaiming many of these words. Eleven years ago I had a "croning", a wonderful ceremony which made it much easier for me to accept being sixty (what a child I was!). I love A.Word.A.Day! Thank you.

Email of the Week (Courtesy Uppityshirts)

From: Doug Finner (stonehusky gmail.com)
Subject: quantum
Def: 1. A quantity or amount. 2. A portion. 3. A large amount. 4. The smallest amount of something that can exist independently.

In physics, here are two kinds of changes, continuous and quantum. Continuous changes happen across a range of values, think moving a rock from point A to point B by sliding it across the floor. A quantum jump, on the other hand is from A to B without ever being in the middle. When one speaks of a quantum change, the intent is that something major has happened; we go from employed to unemployed in the blink of an eye.

From: John A. Laswick (johnalene comcast.net)
Subject: quantum

Thanks for noting the fact that the scientists' definition of quantum is different from that used by the general public. A quantum jump is special because it is not a continuous transition, but instantaneous, with no intermediate stages. It might be thought of as moving from the first to the third floor of a building, without ever being at the level of the second.

From: Julie Jaycox (jjaycox hotmail.com)
Subject: quantum comment

Shipping via UPS can engender an email to the recipient that contains the tracking number for that particular package. They title the email you receive "UPS Quantum View". This sounds to me like a small piece of the whole, not a large portion.

From: Elizabeth Miller (hopefulnebula gmail.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--meticulous
Def: Extremely careful, precise, or thorough.

Well! Now T.S. Eliot's "politic, cautious, and meticulous" J. Alfred Prufrock has a second meaning, one that fits even better with Prufrock's character.

From: Polly M. Law (pmlaw buttonwoodart.com)
Subject: The Word Project on kickstarter.com

I have a project up on kickstarter.com called "Publish 'The Word Project'". Some of you longtime AWAD users may remember my "Word Project: Odd & Obscure Words- Illustrated", artwork combining words- many originally from AWAD- with my bricolage artwork. Well, it should be published and with the help of many wonderful kickstarter backers, it will be- if I make my goal by the deadline. I invite all linguaphiles to visit the site, watch the animated video and, if you like what you see, pledge.

Words are the soul's ambassadors, who go / Abroad upon her errands to and fro. -James Howell, writer (c. 1594-1666)

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