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AWADmail Issue 398

February 14, 2010

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

Will Americans Really Learn Chinese?
The New York Times

Mother of All Typos:
BBC News
[See the priceless coin]

From: Sudhanva D V (sudhanva.d-v capgemini.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--castigate
Def: To criticize or chastise severely.

A nightmarish memory etched in my mind is of the episode with my stern and severe English lecturer... . She was a devil in the disguise of a woman. During the first quarter of my 9th Grade, she picked on me for the synonym of the word 'chastise'. She was from the league of lecturers who believed every question had but a single unique answer. My attempts at answering included -- scold, abuse, shout, chide, holler, reprimand, lambaste, rebuke... With every answer I was given a healthy dosage from the list above. Finally at the end of the firing, she said she had expected the word 'castigate'. I'm not too sure she liked me much.

From: Lawrece Schweitzer (poptyrone aol.com)
Subject: prevaricate

Varus is not the term for knock-kneed. That's valgus. Varus means 'bow-legged' or bent towards the midline. A fracture or bony deformity could be described as varus or valgus referring to the direction of the angulation... towards or away from the midline. As an orthopedic surgeon, we use these terms routinely.

Medical use of the word varus is, in fact, opposite of the etymological sense of the word. For a good discussion of the issue, see this article.
-Anu Garg

From: Sally Stretch (sestretch mweb.co.za)
Subject: disport
Def: To divert or amuse (oneself).

My most memorable association with this word is its appearance in a limerick (one of my favourite forms of poetic expression):

In the Garden of Eden sat Adam
Disporting himself with his madam
She was filled with elation
For in all of creation
There was only one man -- and she had 'im!

[Google the first line to see variations.]

From: Angela Lloyd (alloyd iafrica.com)
Subject: Re: Affranchise
Def: To make or set free.

How suitable to have chosen this word today -- 11th February -- exactly 20 years to the day since Nelson Mandela was set free from prison. However, I don't think A Long Walk to Affranchisement has quite the same ring as A Long Walk to Freedom!

Email of the Week (Introducing One Up! - The Perfectly Civil War of Words.)

From: David Rubenstein (bulkmail thoughtful-action.com)
Subject: obnubilate quotation - provocative phrase
Def: To cloud over, obscure, or darken.

The origin of this use of the "body odour of race" appears in a poem which seems to spotlight French-Canadians racist feelings against English-Canadians. In the poem, a rally speaker suggests that French-Canadians were sending their sons to war while English-Canadians were dishonorably avoiding their responsibilities. See the very long and convoluted (one might say obnubilous) explanation here (pdf).

From: Julie Montoya (jbmontoya att.net)
Subject: Thought For The Day

I LOVE your Thoughts For The Day! They give me hope, and affirm my convictions, putting into new words, new nuances of meaning, each day what is so hard for me to articulate.

Time changes all things: there is no reason why language should escape this universal law. -Ferdinand de Saussure, linguist (1857-1913)

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