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AWADmail Issue 399

February 21 2010

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

From: Andrea Pluhar (ninthplanet comcast.net)
Subject: billingsgate
Def: Vulgar, abusive language.

Well, here I am in a small seaside town in Massachusetts which was once called Billingsgate. Theoretically it was called such because of the enormous quantity and variety of the seafood available in its waters. At some point, however, the town fathers decided that the name cast the good citizens thereof in a bad light and so we became Wellfleet

From: Maryvonne Lumley (maryvonnelumley hotmail.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--billingsgate

Your word for today reminds me of a time when a fishmonger friend sent me a crate of his fish from Aberdeen. I had to pick it up from the old Billingsgate market at about 5.00 in the morning, the best time to drive through London. The workers at Billingsgate were absolute gentlemen -- obviously wrongly maligned.

From: John Deegan (quetzal1 earthlink.net)
Subject: Billlingsgate - fishwife

In Portuguese fishwife translates to peixeira with all of its negative connotations.

From: Dick Oswald (ddoswald verizon.net)
Subject: Star Chamber
Def: A court or group marked by arbitrary, oppressive, and secretive procedures.

The Star Chamber was located in the original Westminster Palace, which burned in 1834 and was replaced by the present structure in the picture featured with this word.

From: Leo Braudy (braudy usc.edu)
Subject: Fleet Street
Def: The British press.

Here's Jonathan Swift's description of Fleet Street when it was Fleet Ditch:
"Sweepings from butchers' stalls, dung, guts, and blood / Drown'd puppies, stinking sprats, all drench'd in mud, / Dead cats and turnip-tops come tumbling down the flood." Hasn't changed much.

From: Christopher Castellani (chris grubstreet.org)
Subject: Greetings From Grub Street
Def: The world of impoverished journalists and literary hacks.

How cool to see "Grub Street" as the Word of the Day on Feb 18, 2010! I am the artistic director of Grub Street, a Boston-based non-profit writing center that has become the literary hub of Boston since opening in 1997. Our founder, Eve Bridburg, was inspired by George Gissing's novel NEW GRUB STREET and wanted to create a place that welcomed aspiring writers of all genres and ambitions, that offered workshops based on craft and not identity, and had a zero-tolerance policy for posturing and snobbery. Funny thing, though: most people in our community didn't know the origin of our name until your email, and have contacted us to say they're worried they've become associated with a place that considers them "hacks". I've had to tell them that, while we understand the negative connotations of the word, we focus on the hard and constant and thankless WORK that hacking your way through fiction, non-fiction, and poetry requires; we admire the hack's ability to get up every morning and find something to write about; and we encourage everyone to remember that writers who've been called hacks (Trollope and Dumas, among many others) have created some of literature's most important and enduring texts.

Thanks for choosing us!

Christopher Castellani
Artistic Director / Interim Executive Director
Grub Street, Where Boston Gets Writing

(Email of the Week - Presenting One Up! - The Perfect 10 for Mental Olympians.)

From: Suzanne Legault (legaultindc yahoo.com)
Subject: bedlam
Def: A scene of wild uproar and confusion.

I used to include this in sound change/word formation exercises, since almost everyone got some credit and bright students usually went for a trifecta.

1. Like the rest of this week's words, it represents antonomasia, the generalization of a proper noun.

2. In the loss of a syllable, it represents syncope.

3. Two kinds of assimilation ('becoming like') occur: The loss of the syllable puts a weak voiceless interdental fricative "th" [?] next to the much stronger voiced alveolar "l", causing the "th" to match the "l" in position and voicing as a "d".

An analogous case is Magdalene to Madeleine to maudlin.

Antonia White describes her ten-month experience in Bedlam in 1923 in her autobiographical novel, Beyond the Glass (1954) and a later short story, Surprise Visit, describing her visit to it when it had become The Imperial War Museum.

From: Gail Gilchrist (gailngilchrist hotmail.com)
Subject: bedlam

I've always been impressed that the English located their Imperial War Museum in a former insane asylum. They at least know the proper setting to house a museum chronicling the history of 20th century warfare.

From: Kent Eldridge (kent kenteldridge.com)
Subject: bedlam

Also the name of the sports rivalry (link) between the University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma State University. Say bedlam in Oklahoma and any one knows what you are talking about.

From: Hilary Pannack (straight.talking virgin.net)
Subject: Capital of Britain

London is the capital of England. I think the Scots and the Welsh would be horrified if you said their capital was London. See this link.

A word after a word after a word is power. -Margaret Atwood, poet and novelist (b. 1939)

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