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AWADmail Issue 415

June 13, 2010

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

From: Gord Evans (gord.evans gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--taxis
Def: 1. Movement of an organism toward or away from a stimulus. 2. Order, arrangement, or classification. 3. The manual repositioning of a displaced body part to its normal position, in a case of hernia, for example.

However, though unrelated as taxi(cab) is from this word, isn't it interesting and perhaps ironic that the main purpose of a taxi(cab) is the "movement of an organism [passenger] towards or away from a stimulus [the departure or arrival point]?"

From: John D. Laskowski (john.laskowski mothman.org)
Subject: Taxes and tropisms

As a biologist I've always loved examples of taxis and tropism. For all of you who are plagued with various insects that "crowd around" at your house in the fall (Marmorated Stink Bugs, Ladybird Beetles, and Box Elder Beetles) -- they all utilize thigmotaxis where they tend to "hug" each other. In plants a similar situation occurs with the tropism of many vines to "hug" a surface as they climb upward in their growth aspect. Surprisingly, some "hug" clockwise and others counterclockwise as they twine upward! Look for these in your enjoyment of nature's never-ending amazing displays of behavior.

From: Sam Brewster (sambrewster kc.rr.com)
Subject: Words that appear plural

Ya'll must be crazy. Who'd ever think that are great state of Taxis was anything but singular! And unique! Really now!

From: Chris Reid (chrisr mrchrisreid.co.uk)
Subject: Shambles
Def: 1. A state of great disorder. 2. A scene of carnage. 3. A slaughterhouse.

I come from Yorkshire, a large county in the north of England in the UK. The county town, York, is an ancient city, originally Roman but becoming important in the middle Ages. One of the streets is called The Shambles, a narrow street of overhanging medieval houses. It was the former home of many butcher shops, and although these have all disappeared, many of the twee tea-rooms and tourist shops that have replaced them still have butcher's hooks hanging outside.

From: Frank Brown (frank.brown travelport.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--shambles

In Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels (notably "Wee Free Men" and "A Hatful of Sky"), a shambles is a magical device used by a witch to focus her concentration and reveal the unseen causes of a current situation or perhaps the future consequences of current events or actions. It is constructed by creating an unorganized collection of string and other small available objects such as buttons and pins and at least one living thing such as a fertilized egg or an insect, and manipulating it until the desired information is revealed. The term shambles reflects the disarray of its various components.

From: Jeff Ayers (jeff.ayers clarkbuildersgroup.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--shambles

1 Corinthians 10:25 "Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake."

The context that defines the word is meat sold in a marketplace.

From: Bret Sutton (wefour cablespeed.com)
Subject: kudos
Def: Praise, honor, or credit.

> ..chances are over time kudo will drop the black mark on its reputation...

As will its synonym, prai. <grin>

Email of the Week (Courtesy One-Up! - Are you game?)

From: Fred McGunagle (fmcgoo roadrunner.com)
Subject: kudos

Kudos is what Achilles and Hector fought for on the plains of Troy. I used to tear out what hair I had left at "kudo". I would tell people "Pathos are what I felt at the misuse. If this continues, chaos are going to result."

From: Jeff Sconyers (jeff.sconyers seattlechildrens.org)
Subject: Plurals or Not

Your theme for the week reminds me of a peculiar difference between US and British English -- the "collective plural" construction. Brits treat a word in the singular form, but which stands for a collective, as a plural -- so this week, as the World Cup gets underway, Americans will say "England IS going to lose to the US", while Brits will say "England ARE hopeless wankers on the soccer pitch."

From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr (RRosenbergSr accuratechemical.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Words that appear plural but aren't

When my mother Frieda arrived in Belgium from Germany, she walked in a department store and saw scissors on sale for BF. four per pair. In German, it is a Schere, singular, not a pair. So, mother gave the saleslady two francs and asked that she be sold "one Scissor", what did she need with a pair?

A lively discussion ensued.

From: Fran Kirby (frankirby01 yahoo.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--taxis

An Aussie classic is Weet-Bix, a popular breakfast cereal, where a single one inevitably becomes a Weetbick.

From: Robert Payne (dziga68 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Words that appear plural but aren't

In my travels (such as they are), the singular term most often mistaken for plural is "Homo sapiens", the Latin species name for modern humans. This tendency to mistake the term as plural is perhaps exemplified by Pete Shelley's 1981 song Homosapien ("And I'm homosapien like you/And we're homosapien too"). In Latin, "Homo sapiens" means "wise man". Given our penchant for such dubious accomplishments as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the subprime lending mess, maybe a different species name is in order.

From: Dale O. Klipfel, DDS (dokdoc aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--kudos

The week's theme reminds me of the word caries which can be defined as the decay of the teeth, bone, or tissues. There is no "singular form". Once a physician not familiar in his scholarship asked me if there was a cary in a specific tooth. He would have been more correct to modestly use the word decay than to commit a solecism no dentist would ever do.

From: Joel Mabus (joel.mabus pobox.com)
Subject: words that sound plural

I offer up my favorite word that sounds plural, but is both plural and singular. It is the tiny, often bothersome, insect named thrips.

Because thrips usually appear in large numbers, the plural usage often applies. (As in "Oh, no! I've got thrips in my greenhouse!) But many a gardener will insist on calling an individual a "thrip" (as in "How do I kill a thrip?")

But the declension is, properly, one thrips, two thrips, or a whole mess of thrips.

"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra." -Lewis Carroll, mathematician and writer (1832-1898)

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