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AWADmail Issue 402

March 14, 2010

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

From: David Brooks (brooksdr sympatico.ca)
Subject: Semiquaver
Def: A note having the time value of one-sixteenth of a whole note.

It's funny how a single word can instantly transport you back in time. The first (and only) time I ever heard the word "semiquaver" was sitting in the movie theater watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The alien ship lands and begins to communicate using basic tonal musical notes. One of the technicians observes "She sent us four quavers, a group of five quavers, a group of four semiquavers." I haven't heard of the semiquaver in nearly 33 years and then suddenly there I am again, a wide-eyed 12-year-old boy watching (and hearing) the landing of an alien mothership.

From: Sandra LaBarge-Neumann (sandralbn comcast.net)
Subject: semiquaver

This word needs (IMHO) a little expansion. This word is from British usage. Most US musicians, unless trained in the UK or trying to impress someone, will call this particular note a 16th note. This distinction is an important one, at least for US musicians who aren't trying to be snobs. Sometimes we might use it to be humorous, too, but mostly we just don't use it. :-)

From: Joe Browne (joedbrowne verizon.net)
Subject: semiquaver

Another definition for semiquaver that might apply: the sound of a 16-year-old boy's voice while asking a girl to be his date for the prom.

From: Kaye Hobson (kaye.hobson sdcounty.ca.gov)
Subject: Steenth
Def: 1. Latest in an indefinitely long sequence. 2. One sixteenth.

And I always thought steenth belonged to the fixed income financial markets! Back in the day I used to get bids on Fed funds separated by a steenth, as in "3 and a steenth" shorthand for "3 1/16%."

From: Julia Drake-Brockman (jules superfuture.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--steenth

Regarding aphesis, "Strine" for "Australian" (English), although this is really a case of dropping all the unstressed syllables, not just the first one. Must be said with a VERY Australian accent.

Email of the Week
(Brought to you by One Up! - Fun, Quick, Canny.)

From: Philip Stewart (stewart.phi googlemail.com)
Subject: Re: Aphesis

In French all of a lady's birthdays after 28 are the 'thuitieme' (vingt-huitieme; it can also stand in for trente-huitieme, quarante-huitieme, etc.).

'Thuitieme is very common in spoken French but rarely written down. It is probably commoner in the shorter form 'thuit, as in "Elle celebrait ses 'thuit ans'."

I googled "thuit ans" and got about 180 hits. This is a good one:

"J'ai trois enfants dont un mari. Bastien et Constance ont respectivement sept et quatre ans, Basile de Koch, thuit ans. En ce moment les trois en sont au même stade; ils perdent des dents."
"I have three children, of whom one is a husband: Bastien and Constance are seven and four years old respectively; Basile de Koch is 'ty-eight. At the moment all three are at the same stage; they are losing teeth."

From: Arnulfo Montano (arnmontano yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--steenth

...and in Spanish "gitano" (gypsy) comes from Egiptano (from Egipto).

From: Susan J Hawes (susan.j.hawes usps.gov)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--armageddon
Def: A decisive, catastrophic conflict.

For those of us in the Mid-Atlantic who have experienced, at least in the Washington DC area, the snowiest winter on record, we have coined a new term. Our back-to-back-to back snowstorms are now referred to as "snowmageddon".

From: Beth Storheim (beth.storheim gmail.com)
Subject: Armageddon and Carl Sagan

I liked how you combined the definition of "Armageddon" with a quotation from Carl Sagan, who, while bringing the "Cosmos" inside living rooms across the globe, also championed the cause of global nuclear disarmament, at a time when the end of the Cold War seemed unreachable.

Terrorism and global warming have overshadowed the threat of nuclear winter in the public mindset, but the danger of nuclear waste, former nuclear test sites, and both active and inactive nuclear power plants (including the barely contained radioactive remains of Chernobyl) will remain with us for many generations to come.

The future of humanity is less certain than ever. But like Carl Sagan, I remain optimistic in my hope for a future where we can avoid destroying ourselves and this "pale blue dot" we call Planet Earth.

From: Yuval Kfir (eitheladar gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--armageddon

On the last day of the year 2000, the main event of a sci-fi conference was scheduled to take place right at Mount Megiddo, so that hundreds of sci-fi aficionados would be able to witness Armageddon itself - if, as predicted, the End of the World was really due at the end of the 2nd millennium.

However, a few months earlier the 2nd Intifada (Palestinian uprising) broke out, and the security situation in Israel scared off many potential guests, including prominent author Larry Niven. So, eventually, Armageddon was cancelled because of... security concerns.

As Larry Niven himself put it, "Armageddon has been called off account of Apocalypse."

From: Tim Weiner (tweiner med.unc.edu)
Subject: trichotillomania
Def: A compulsion to pull out one's hair.

Trichotillomania compels me to point out my most lasting and important contribution to the scientific literature, entitled Beware of the Flaming Hairball. Someday I hope to see it referenced on a News of the Weird or Urban Legend website and my professional life will be complete.

From: Harry Grainger (the.harry gmail.com)
Subject: Trichotillomania

A bezoar is a sort of mass of something which partially or wholly obstructed the gut. Bezoars were sought as they were thought to be a universal antidote to poison. One formed from hair is called a trichobezoar and was used in The Sandman comicbook to buy the muse Calliope. It's essentially a hairball which may be brought about by Rapunzel Syndrome -- trichophagia.

From: Chris R Palmer (crp10 medschl.cam.ac.uk)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--trichotillomania

Loved the 16-letter word to finish the sexdecennial anniversary week. It lends itself to a self-defining anagram "til to claim no hair"!

From: Marc Dagan (mdagan intersil.com)
Subject: trichotillomania

OK, I'll tug, what does trichotillomania have to with the number 16...?

The word is 16 letters long. Agreed that the connection with this week's theme is tenuous, but it was hard to find interesting words with the theme of 16 this week. A better choice would have been a word suggested by reader John Daniel: foursquare (forthright, firm).
-Anu Garg

From: Sukhjit Sungha (sukhjit.ss gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--trichotillomania

With their heartbeats in semiquaver, looking at this Lincolnesque word, afraid of Armageddon, reading it for steenth time, not counting its letters, many will report of trichotillomania.

From: Larry Sadler (ls onfc.on.ca)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day's 900 k subscribers

Although it is a first approximation, 900,000 readers is about the number of words in the OED .

From: Corinne O'Flynn (oflynns comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--semiquaver

Congratulations on sweet 16! What a fabulous endeavor to have started, I love AWAD!
Tidbit: 16 signifies Enthusiasm in the I Ching.

From: Donna Beth Joy Shapiro (dbjs charm.net)
Subject: Pi Day

You started A.Word.A.Day on Pi Day (3.14), so your comment "Our circle has grown to ... " was all the more delightful.

Happy Pi Day and see you 'round!

Donna Beth Joy Shapiro

From: Ruth Kulerman, Ph.D. (siriusrmk aol.com)
Subject: My subscription and happy 16th Wordday

In my salad days when I was 50, someone proclaimed that as I grew older my mental ability would diminish. My immodest reply? "Half my brain cells could die and I'd still be smarter than most of the world's population." At the brink of my 8th decade, however, I came to realize I needed to renew my life-long love affair with words, their meaning, sound, images, emotions. The precise word was slower in coming. Since I detest dime-store-bought phrases, the need to keep the verbal synapses alive led to your site. There is a spot on my computer filled with a thousand+ Wordsmith entries, many of which are reviewed daily. Most of which I already knew. Some are indeed new. But mostly the site is a unique way to keep my vocabulary spicandspan and at immediate recall. Wordsmith also brought an unexpected benefit: a realization that there is a world-wide community of word lovers, of which I am the ancient, not mariner, but matriarch. Thank you for helping me to keep language alive and thriving.

From: Hari Krishna (harimocherla gmail.com)
Subject: Zephyr

Congratulations to Wordsmith on completing sixteen years. The teenage years are supposed to be the best period and phase in our lives.

I am rather thrilled to see the word zephyr which was discussed by you as the first word of AWAD. I have a flashback to share with you which dates back to 1958. My uncle, an eminent personality in Ford India, who did his MS at the University of Michigan, owns a car called Zephyr, imported from Ford (a 1950 model, we can see it even today in his fleet of cars). Whenever we visited my uncle's house in Madras (now Chennai), we had the privilege of travelling in that car. The actual meaning of zephyr is a breeze from the west; a gentle breeze.

My uncle, now aged 86, still keeps this car in ship-shape condition and cherishes the car. Thanks for making me relive my childhood with your first A.Word.A.Day, which came like a gentle breeze in this hot summer. I wish you many more happy returns.

From: Lydia Carreras (lydiacarreras hotmail.com)
Subject: Happy anniversary

Perseverance and/or stubbornness, you may call it as you want, is something I admire and envy sometimes. It's also dedication, capacity of standing on your feet every day, sometimes wondering what for, some others feeling powerful but still keeping your hands busy. Congratulations!

Words are the small change of thought. -Jules Renard, writer (1864-1910)

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