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AWADmail Issue 410

May 9, 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: Interesting stories from the net

Shanghai Is Trying to Untangle the Mangled English of Chinglish
The New York Times
Also see: Chinglish samples, book

Yiddish in Movie Titles
The New York Times

Email of the Week (Courtesy Uppityshirts - Man Up!)

From: Alexandra Halsey (alexandra.s.halsey gmail.com)
Subject: Re: asseverate / severus
Def: verb tr.: To affirm solemnly.

ETYMOLOGY: From Latin asseverare (to declare in earnest), from severus (serious).

So *that's* where J.K. Rowling got her character Snape's name!

Her nomenclature throughout all the Potter novels is brilliant, from proper names to spells, from items to activities. She obviously knew her Latin.

From: Ronald R Erickson (ronholog gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--scarper
Def: To flee, especially without paying one's bills.

Just yesterday, I observed a gentleman having lunch near the restaurant entrance. As I was enjoying my lunch, I looked up and noted that person calmly get up and leave the restaurant. It was only the distress of the waiter that let me know that the person was a scarper, having not paid for the meal.

From: Bruce Bevitz (drbruce2 earthlink.net)
Subject: imbricate
Def: Having overlapping edges, as tiles on a roof or scales on a fish.

In Obstetrics, we use imbricate to refer to a technique used in cesarean sections. We imbricate the second set of stitches in closing the uterus, but this refers to placing a second set of stitches slightly distal to the first and bringing this tissue together, causing the first layer to be covered over, hiding it.

From: Yvonne B. Truhon (yvonne1228 triad.rr.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--batten
Def: verb: To fatten or to grow fat; noun: A long strip of something; verb: To fasten or secure using battens.

Being a community theater volunteer (backstage), I wanted to call attention to another usage of "batten" (probably related to the nautical origins of your second and third definitions). In the theater, a batten is a long steel pipe used for suspending lighting instruments, soft goods (i.e., curtains), scenic pieces or other theatrical paraphernalia above the stage. Some of the battens are bare, but the four designated for the electrics have permanently attached cables and plugs at marked intervals; they are all counterweighted so that the people on the fly rail can raise and lower them as needed when we attach scenery and hang lights for our shows. The scenery can be flown in and out to indicate changing locations during a show.

Battens can be used for other special effects, as when we put on "Jesus Christ Superstar" and had to stage Christ's Crucifixion and Resurrection. That took some very accurate work with the counterweights -- it wasn't good enough just to have things balanced so the batten wouldn't fly in or out on its own. The volunteers under the stage who were waiting for the cue from the Stage Manager to remove the weight when the actors had "nailed" Jesus to the cross and were ready to lift it up had to be on their toes, as did the people on the fly rail. Come to think of it, our Judas hanged himself from a batten after the betrayal as well (he had a special harness under his costume so there was no actual tension on the rope around his neck -- after all, we needed him for the next performance!).

From: Linda Owens (lindafowens netzero.net)
Subject: verbs animals dislike

In 1995, I was lucky enough to go to Australia with my chorus, the Cranston (RI) Choral Co. We sang at the Sydney Opera House twice, then toured around. I loved the Sydney Zoo, but it was at a koala park that I saw the following sign: "Please Do Not Annoy, Torment, Pester, Plague, Molest, Worry, Badger, Harry, Harrass, Heckle, Persecute, Irk, Vex, Disquiet, Grate, Beset, Bother, Tease, Tantalize, or Ruffle the Animals. Do NOT Touch, Either!" I have since seen a few of these verbs, not all, quoted at a local zoo.

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: asseverate

"I asseverate from experience that some of my correspondence opponents do make use of a program."
Peter Gibbs; Pastimes: Chess; Birmingham Post (UK); Oct 9, 2004.

Only too true. The International Correspondence Chess Federation (ICCF) finally had no choice but to legalize the use of playing programs in tournaments, since there was no way to prevent their employment. Most of the players who take advantage of this concession contend that such practice merely enhances the quality of the games, but does not detract from the mental input required to conduct them. I wonder. I have seen game scores which showed that the two sides were playing "push-button chess" to the bitter end, by allowing their engines to keep making moves until the fifty-move rule kicked in, producing an automatic draw as the resulting outcome.

I wonder what sort of pleasure people find in this kind of activity.

What have they done to our song? Or, as a late Hungarian grandmaster once remarked: "We had a good pastime -- and we had to spoil it."

His words, like so many nimble and airy servitors, trip about him at command. -John Milton, poet (1608-1674)

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