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AWADmail Issue 416

June 20, 2010

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

From: Marli R (lughnie hotmail.com)
Subject: Aeolian
Def: Relating to or caused by the wind.

What a lovely surprise to see "Aeolian" as the word of the day. The field of Aeolian research is fascinating to me. I thought you might be interested in a website I have created on this very topic.

From: Rhiannon Beech (randrbeech free.fr)
Subject: aeolien

In France, we have an upsurge of windmills to produce electricity. They are called éolienne.

From: David Grimmer (david.grimmer gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--aeolian

I'm currently on an oil drilling ship several hundred kilometres off the coast of Newfoundland awaiting the imminent arrival of 65-knot winds, so I'm feeling a bit pre-aeolian myself. This word immediately reminded me of this video.

Email of the Week (Brought to you by One Up! - Not for the faint of head.)

From: Walt Patterson (wpatters lander.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--aeolian

The word "aeolian" is used often in a musical context. A major builder of pipe organs of the 20th century in the US was Aeolian-Skinner. Pipe organs are basically powered by wind. The Aeolian Harp is also powered by wind and is not meant to be played by a person. And Aeolian is one of the modes used in music. The modes all bear Greek names such as Phrygian and Lydian. The Aeolian mode is what would be called today A-minor, all played on white notes on the piano.

Walter M. Patterson, III
Professor Emeritus of Mathematics
Lander University, Greenwood, SC

From: Harley Henry (harleyhen bellsouth.net)
Subject: aeolion harp

The aeolion harp was used by the British romantic poets as a metaphor for the mind swept by the external world (or ideas) by an external cause, in some usages the ultimate cause was God. Coleridge used the image in several poems (poetic utterances = music of harp) including "The Aeolian Harp". Coleridge, at least, found a philosophical basis for this in the works of both Berkeley and Hartley. These were also the names given to his first two children.

From: Chris Callahan (via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Subject: Aeolian Biome

Lawrence Swan devoted a good portion of his life studying what he called The Aeolian Biome. In his words:

I have discovered the most precarious ecosystem in the world. It is a biome beyond the alpine or the tundra where life lives on the manna donated by the wind. This Aeolian Biome is not often included in textbooks since few biologists do their research up beyond 20,000 feet, tolerating cold hands and fierce storms."

Swan's work is partially documented in the book Tales of the Himalaya, Mountain 'N Air Books, La Cresenta, CA 2000.

From: Alistair Fraser (alistair fraser.cc)
Subject: Re: virga
Def: Rain or snow that evaporates before hitting the ground.

Virga is indeed the centuries-old name for streaks of precipitation hanging below a cloud. But the more recent explanation that the streaks don't extend to the ground because of evaporation is false (at least for the vast majority of observations of virga). The streaks are snow; the snow melts; the resulting rain streaks do reach the ground; from a distance the rain is far more transparent than snow and so seems to vanish leaving the snow (virga) to hang aloft. Be that as it may, the basic problem lies with words or definitions with embedded explanations -- they are usually wrong. Dictionaries should stick to descriptions and leave explanations to others. Virga is as its etymology suggests: precipitation streaks below a cloud. The explanation of why it appears this way is another matter. For details, see: Is virga rain that evaporates before reaching the ground? by Alistair B. Fraser and Craig F. Bohren. Monthly Weather Review. (1992) 120, 8, 1565-71.

Alistair Fraser
Emeritus Professor of Meteorology
Penn State University

From: Anne Lane (makeboxes gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--virga

I used to teach calligraphy classes at Ghost Ranch, one of Georgia O'Keeffe's homes in New Mexico and source of much of the inspiration for her paintings. We would sit on the porch and watch the virga, known to the Native Americans as "walking rain", travel across the desert.

From: Beth Surdut (info bethsurdut.com)
Subject: virga

Virga -- a new word for our enchanting skies. Here in New Mexico, people say, "It's always raining somewhere, just doesn't hit the ground."

From: John Hench (jjphench yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--virga

More fun facts about the word virga: The cognate in French is virgule, or comma. If you look at picture of virga, they can indeed look like commas emanating from clouds.

From: Erlinda Panlilio (epanlilio mac.com)
Subject: El Niño
Def: A weather phenomenon characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific.

The Philippines has been experiencing swings from El Niño to La Niña -- droughts to heavy rain or typhoons. In September and October last year, we were plagued with La Niña, resulting in catastrophic floods. In the past five months, we've had dry weather -- El Niño -- resulting in parched rice fields and dangerously low levels of water in our dams.

From: Deanna Gaston (deannampg yahoo.com)
Subject: pluvial
Def: Of or relating to rain, especially much rain.

Coincidentally, this came a few days after Oklahoma City received record rain fall: 11 inches in 7 hours at my house. I think I will remember 'pluvial'! Soggy times.

From: Bhavna Jha (bhavnajha gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nimbus
Def: 1. A rain cloud. 2. A halo or aura around the head of a person depicted in a piece of art.

JK Rowling and Harry Potter shall be recurrent in our responses. The Nimbus 2000 was Harry's first broomstick (see specifications). This tiny little fact made sleepy Geography classes so much more bearable.

From: Carsten Kummerow (carsten.kummerow web.de)
Subject: Nimbus

In Germany, the term nimbus is used to refer to an aura of authority, integrity, or secret knowledge which surrounds a person or institution. More often than not it implies that the nimbus prevents us from judging objectively and that the assumed qualities are not really present. This nicely reflects both meanings of nimbus in the sense that halos can cloud our judgement.

From: Kathy Koons (kathykoons mail.com)
Subject: nimbus

Today's word fits your theme for the week as well as the theme here in the Orlando area. Today [Jun 18, 2010], Universal Studios officially opened The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Harry was given a Nimbus 2000 broom when he joined his house Quidditch team. I can see applications of both definitions of the word!

From: John Loder (kouj60 yahoo.com)
Subject: Etymology of nimbus

Here's another descendant of the Indo-European root nebh-. There is an instrument called a nephelometer and an associated area of scientific study called nephelometry. The broad area is the quantitative determination of particle density in a solution (cloudiness of the solution) and the nephelometer does the trick.

From: Ron Peters (rpeters telus.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--aeolian

The way I see it, weather is a state of mind. How gray one feels inside has little to do with clouds or what the thermometer reads."

This reminds me of Melville:
"Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off -- then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can."
[Moby Dick, page 1]

From: Robert Newport (theholodoc gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--aeolian

Actually, the external weather has more to do with mood than you allow, consider SAD or seasonal affective disorder, a kind of winter depression and summer hypomania especially prevalent in the Scandanavian countries, but also at a lesser rate here in the US.

Robert R Newport, MD

From: Linda Owens (lindafowens netzero.net)
Subject: weather

Ask anyone with arthritis and they will tell you they feel the low pressure in their joints. It runs in my family, plus I got it after a series of sports injuries in my 40s and 50s. So the glumness on people's faces may be from the weather or lack of sleep or pain or meds.

From: Richard Bailey (hms-rose comcast.net)
Subject: weather

Aboard square-rigged sailing ships, where the standing watch has little opportunity to cower 'indoors' or belowdecks during any kind of driving rain, blinding snow, concussive thunder, howling wind, &c., &c., one can only clip one's harness into the jackline, attempt to smile and encourage (or aggravate) the crew with a fragment of John Ruskin, "There's no such thing as bad weather, just different kinds of good weather."

From: F. Carr (fcarr alum.mit.edu)
Subject: Re: aeolian

"One could find cheerful people in an icy place like Alaska..."

Having grown up in Fairbanks, Alaska --- an unofficial suburb of Seattle --- I would like to kindly point out that the state is more than twice the size of Texas. Due to this hyper-exuberance of geography, it is quite possible in Alaska to get every imaginable sort of weather (icy or otherwise!) AT THE SAME TIME.

From: Frank Caccamise (frank8144 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--aeolian

As a University of Washington graduate I cannot agree with you more about Seattle weather and weather as a state of mind.

I grew up and now live in upstate NY, and as I have told many NY state friends over the years, in Seattle it thinks about raining for a long, long time and when it does rain, often it is a drizzle. As a graduate student at UW I often walked to my clinical assignment in sport coat and tie, enjoying the drizzle and dodging slugs.

Warm regards and sunny smiles whatever the weather may be.

From: Dan Green (dan.green lonelyplanet.co.uk)
Subject: Re: AWADmail Issue 415

Word of warning on Jeff Sconyers's casual use of the word "wankers". I can imagine many subscribers in the UK spluttering their morning cuppa out when reading this. It is a rather more grave swear word than our US cousins appear to understand.

It was notoriously used in the UK during an episode of The Simpsons a few years back, at the usual 6pm timeslot, and received quite a few complaints at the time.

(It should also be noted that this is not written in response to USA's extraordinarily fortunate equaliser on Saturday!)

There are some who only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts. -Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778)

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