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AWADmail Issue 394

January 17, 2010

Email of the Week (Courtesy Uppityshirts)

From: Julie Gill (julie peacefulbend.com)
Subject: vatic
Def: Of or related to a prophet or a prophecy: prophetic.

My sister and I were putting together an Abraham and Moses jigsaw puzzle when we started to notice a strange crackling sound coming from upstairs. We paused our assemblage for a moment and strained our ears: this wasn't just white noise. After several moments of intense listening, we managed to decipher the message:

"A few years from now, you will relate this story to a word you receive in your email."

We couldn't make much sense of it at the time, but never again will I question vatic attic static.

From: Glenn Glazer (gglazer ucla.edu)
Subject: Re: Canonical
Def: Authorized; recognized. ...

The word 'canonical' always reminds me of the hacker usage of the term and the story told at The Jargon File. Readers interested in how subgroups form their own jargon may find the entire jargon file an interesting read.

From: Jane Fleming (jane98 aol.com)
Subject: canonical

Your various meanings omitted the usage in the Domain Naming System that is used to resolve computer names.

From: Barb Prillaman (barbwire sprintmail.com)
Subject: musical definition of "canonical"

Being a bit of a music geek, I have to point out that while your musical definition of 'canonical' is spot-on, your example isn't.

A classic example of a musical canon from the Western (ahem!) canon is "Row, Row, Row Your Boat". However, Pachelbel's "Canon in D", alas, isn't a canon at all. Its structure is of a form known as a passacaglia -- it's the same melody repeated over and over, usually in the bass voice, with one or more countermelodies overlaid.

From: Emily O'Chiu (whylime13 gmail.com)
Subject: canonical

Outside of religion the only place I have encountered the word canonical is among comic book fans. Events and characters from an original series are part of the canon and some fans monitor spin off series and fan works to make sure they remain canonical.

From: Floyd Kermode (judgefloyd gmail.com)
Subject: Canonical

Canonical has a new life, associated with meanings 3 and 4 on your list, meaning that an instance of a serial character counts for hard-core fans. For example, a popular companion of Doctor Who is a shape-changer who chooses to live as a penguin. However, because Frobisher was invented in Dr Who comics, he would not be canonical for many hard core fans. Similarly, if you wrote a Star Trek musical and made up a new character, or killed off one of the established ones, the new character or the death might not be seen as 'canonical' by fans.

From: Russell Juelg (russelljuelg comcast.net)
Subject: Religion

I was surprised by your sweeping generalization about religion, indicating that it "best serves as a tool to divide people". This opinion is so widely held, it is often treated as a truism by some. But while organized religions seem to have been a basis of division among people throughout history, is religion, per se, really more of a divisive thing than, say, socio-economic status? And don't people also typically say, "My race is better than yours... My political party is better than yours," etc.? In other words, one might argue that humans have a strong tendency to segregate themselves, and will use a wide variety of differences to justify these divisions. But some religions actually are based on values and principles that can help us overcome these tendencies. Perhaps "true religion" is the cultivation of virtues that indeed help to bind us together.

From: Jeane Harris (jeaneharris61 yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sacerdotal

Guy Harrison's book sounds interesting. I once heard a comedian define holy war like this: My imaginary friend is better than your imaginary friend.

From: Granville (teacupfarm comcast.net)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--sacerdotal

I appreciate the thoughts you share, along with the words. In this case, I'm reminded of a bumper sticker I saw on a car when I was stuck in a traffic jam. It read:


I loved it as it sums up my philosophy. I'm not into "spreading my message" and thus don't put bumper stickers on my cars. That didn't, however, keep me from smiling when I saw it.

From: Max Montel (maxmontel yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sacerdotal
Def: Of or relating to priests: priestly.

I'm already looking forward to this week's newsletter as you begin to wade directly into controversy. In my experience, the topic that will provoke argument quickest is not religion, nor politics, but linguistics. Challenge people's prejudices about the way they speak and that person will be instantly ready to fight. Point out that a dialect used by lower-class speakers of their language is just as legitimate and capable of communicating ideas as their own and they take it as a personal insult. Note that a word they find insulting used to be complimentary or neutral (and therefore has no inherent power but the power we give it) and they feel you have personally slurred them. Of course, religion is a biggie too. So congratulations on tackling the top two. I for one am ready to join in the fun.

From: Bev McNeilly (mcneilly hdo.net)
Subject: God=Allah

What if the only word for God in your language meant MY god? See CNN.

From: Jim Cosgrove (jcosgrove.law verizon.net)
Subject: Quote 1-14-10 attributed to Chris Hitchens

Regarding "What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof" attributed to Christopher Hitchens). Actually this is not original to CH, but instead derives from the Latin maxim, "Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur." An elegant formulation of which is: That which is alleged without proof may be dismissed without explanation.

From: Ron Frazier (ronfraz verizon.net)
Subject: Palindromic Dates

Concerning palindromic dates... I did write a small BASIC program to generate all palindromic dates and count the days between successive dates. Both ways of writing dates have 366 palindromic dates in the years between 0001 - 9999, but the distributions are quite different and have interesting patterns. The complete list is here.

The last palindromic date of the 10th millennium will be: 09/29/9290! The last date of our (the 3rd) millennium will be: 09/22/2290.

Prolonged study of the English language leaves me with a conviction that nearly all the linguistic tendencies of the present day have been displayed in earlier centuries, and it is self-evident that the language has not bled to death through change. Vulgarity finds its antidote; old crudities become softened with time. Distinctions, both those that are useful and those that are burdensome, flourish and die, reflourish and die again. -Robert W. Burchfield, lexicographer (1923-2004)

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