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AWADmail Issue 413

May 30, 2010

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

From: spaggis (via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Subject: Unrelated meanings

When I first saw your opening statement, I immediately thought of a great quotation from Robert Heinlein:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

I doubt this week's words are THAT diversified, but still... grin.

Thank you, again, for so many great words and great quotations.

Email of the Week (Brought to you by Uppityshirts - Dad to the Bone.)

From: Jody Anderson (jodyand me.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--jactitation
Def: 1. A false boast or claim that is intended to harm someone, especially a malicious claim by a person that he or she is married to a particular person. 2. Involuntary tossing and twitching of the body and limbs.

Did you know I was once married to George Clooney? Woops, there go my limbs.

From: Kibbe Fitzpatrick (kibbef msn.com)
Subject: Re: jactitation

The Roman historian Suetonius quoted Caesar as saying alea iacta est (the die is cast) in 49 BCE when he crossed the Rubicon, the boundary between France and Italy, with his legions. Caesar knew that this act would plunge the Roman world into civil war. His utterance was defiant and meant that he had reached the point of no return. This, of course, is exactly how we use the phrase "the die is cast" today.

From: Lisette Fernandes (lisetteonline gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bagman
Def: 1. One who collects or distributes money from illicit activities, for example, in a protection racket. 2. UK: A traveling salesman. 3. Canada: A political fundraiser. 4. Australia: A tramp; swagman. 5. Golf: A caddie hired to carry a golf player's clubs.

Bagman: Any male accompanying a female when she shops.

From: Graham Mays (maysg callnetuk.com)
Subject: Bagman

Here in the south of England, a baglady is a down-and-out woman of no fixed abode who carries all her belongings in supermarket carrier bags. But strangely, men of a similar disposition are not referred to as 'bagmen'.

From: Joseph M. Schech (schechj dir6.nichd.nih.gov)
Subject: bagman, baglady

Baglady is commonly used to mean a homeless person who carries their belonging with them in a variety of shopping bags. Usually implies they're more than a little unhinged in the brain as well. Although I've heard "baglady" quite frequently, I've never known anyone to apply "bagman" to a similar male character. Another bit of sexual inequality in the US? Or do the homeless men prefer shopping carts?

From: Barbara Jackson LeMoine (bjlemoine comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bagman

When I worked in the Pharmacy, I used to carry around large bank bags with drugs in them. I went to a doctor once and when he walked in the door, he pointed and said, "You're the bag lady!"

From: Iain Harrison (iain hairydog.co.uk)
Subject: Bagman

It's not just in golf that a bagman carries stuff. In the UK, morris dance sides often have a bagman, who is responsible for equipment: as far as I know this involves more than just carrying it.

From: Thad McIlroy (thad thefutureofpublishing.com)
Subject: bagman

I don't think that your attribution "political fundraiser" should be Canadian per se.

In Canada a political bagman is by default an honest fundraiser (if that is not a contradiction!) although I suspect that has more to do with a less-well developed pattern of political corruption in this country than with the meaning of the word. In Canada the criminal sense of the word is also used. (link)

From: Jack Shoemaker (jshoe alum.mit.edu)
Subject: bagman

I'm not sure that definitions 1 and 3 are really that different. It is interesting to note the Canadian use of the term. I guess they just call a spade a spade up there.

From: Shakambharee Chandrasekaran (shakambharee gmail.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--bagman

Yet another word that reminds me of Harry Potter! Ludo Bagman, Department of Magical Games and Sports, shows a lot of interest in gambling and betting. Every time I know the way she has named characters (like Severus, Minerva) it makes me marvel at her flair for writing.

From: Marvant Duhon (mduhon bluemarble.net)
Subject: bagman

In the US Armed Forces, it is forbidden to solicit funds from a subordinate, even for a sanctioned charity like Navy Relief. Nor was the senior allowed to know who had contributed how much. When there was an official charity drive (twice a year when I was in the Marines), a very junior enlisted man or woman would be appointed bagman for each unit. He or she also had to be capable of keeping records, honest, and very persuasive.

From: Thomas Brucks (tomtimm mac.com)
Subject: Bagman

In the 1950s I worked in a grocery store in Houston, Texas as a "bagboy". The job consisted of putting groceries into paper bags and often taking them to the awaiting car of the shopper. Plastic wasn't an option yet, and girls did not do the job. Later, things changed and "plastic or paper?" and baggirls hit the scene. The job category evolved into "baggers" and lost a lot of its appeal to many workers in the grocery store business. Thanks for bringing back fond memories with bagman. So, another possible meaning, allowing for the fact that one must be a boy before becoming a man.

From: Judith Paul (ianpaul worldonline.co.za)
Subject: meiosis
Def: 1. Understatement for rhetorical effect. 2. The process of cell division in which the number of chromosomes per cell is reduced to one half.

The British are the masters of meiosis. It can confuse other nations who may not be aware of this. I travelled with one such person who thought a particular Brit was rather simple until I explained the British use of the understatement, i.e. "a trifle hot" really means it is extremely hot.

From: Griselda Mussett (mussetts btinternet.com)
Subject: tabby
Def: 1. A domestic cat with a striped or brindled coat. 2. A domestic cat, especially a female one. 3. A spinster. 4. A spiteful or gossipy woman. 5. A fabric of plain weave. 6. A watered silk fabric. 7. A building material made of lime, oyster shells, and gravel.

The biography of the six daughters of King George III reveals from their diaries and letters that 'tabby' definitely signified a spinster or unmarried woman. Their devotion and duty to their father meant they led very cloistered lives. Only one (the oldest) married while he reigned, the others mournfully waited for marriage, or had clandestine affairs, or actually died -- none were in robust health. Maybe their frustration made them spiteful.

From: Charles Baldwin (charles.baldwin morganstanley.com)
Subject: Words with diverse meanings

One of my favorite such words is the word jack. I'm amazed at the number of diverse meanings, from an electrical connector to a mechanical lifting device to the small metal game piece (jacks) to a playing card etc. I even use it colloquially when I tell my colleagues they "don't know jack"...

From: Max Bennun (maxben iafrica.com)
Subject: Ockham's razor

To answer Dean Barnard's question in AWADmail 412, Medical students in South Africa are not taught that hoof beats are more likely from horses than zebras. We were told that a small bird seen on a twig was most probably a sparrow and far less likely to be a canary. Hence a rare and seldom encountered condition became known as a "canary".

A word is dead / When it is said, / Some say. / I say it just / Begins to live / That day. -Emily Dickinson, poet (1830-1886)

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