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AWADmail Issue 432

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

From: Peter Seyler (peter.seyler gmail.com)
Subject: Nepotism
Def: Favoritism shown to relatives and friends, especially in business or political appointments.

Reminds me of the time many years ago when I was working in Sri Lanka where the pre-eminent Political Party -- the UNP (United National Party) -- was known in local parlance as the "Uncle Nephew Party".

From: Hugh Knight (hughknight telkomsa.net)
Subject: nepotism

In South Africa, "deployment" is used extensively by the ruling party to indicate that a member has been placed in a particular job.

From: Alex Gay (alex.gay nhs.net)
Subject: Nepotism

This reminds me of a demotivational poster that I have seen: "We promote family values nearly as often as we promote family members."

Email of the Week - (Sponsored by One Up! - Smart is good.)

From: Christiana Mollin (christiana19119 yahoo.com)
Subject: nepotism

In all the years since the beginning of the Kennedy Administration in early 1961, I have never once heard it suggested that President Kennedy's appointing his younger brother to the post of Attorney General of the United States was nepotism. And I have always wondered why. What better example of this practice do we have? Can it be that we think this kind of action is nepotism only when the relative appointed has no talents? In the case of Robert Kennedy, whether one agreed with his goals and his methods, nobody ever said he was stupid or uneducated. Perhaps that is the difference.

From: Carol Polk (carolpolk gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nepotism

Surely I won't be the only person to call to attention one of Robert Browning's great character poems, The Bishop Orders His Tomb at St. Praxed's, at the beginning of which he calls on people to gather closer and says, "Nephews -- sons mine ... ah God, I know not," followed by a memory of their mother.

From: Brian Pasby (pasby embarqmail.com)
Subject: nepot

I was interested to see that nepotism derives from the ancient root nepot, for either a grandson or a nephew. Genetically, on average, you contribute 1/4 of your genes to either. Thus your genetic relationship is the same to both, which is important in terms of inheritance.

From: Robert Bendavid (rbendavid sympatico.ca)
Subject: nepotism

It is of interest that the Italians seldom realize that there is no way to distinguish, in the Italian language, between a grandson and a nephew! With a friend, since we are both in the right age group, if he speaks of his nipote, I must ask every time in English, "Your grandson or your nephew?"

From: Christine Lehmann (clehmann pnc.edu)
Subject: nepotism

We've always thought nepotism was okay as long as it was kept in the family.

From: Philip Armit (parmit optusnet.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nepotism

Definition of nepotism, which I once read in a Reader's Digest: Putting on heirs.

From: David Warnick (deadrat0 msn.com)
Subject: cozen
Def: To trick or deceive.

In Spanish, the word for brother-in-law is cuñado. Along the Texas-Mexican border, it is used as a verb, meaning to cheat someone, esp. using a shill, e.g. your brother-in-law.

From: Greg Corbett (corbettgreg hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: Avuncular
Def: In the manner of an uncle, in benevolence, affection, or good humor.

I was first introduced to the word "avuncular" in the TV show "Curb your Enthusiasm" (and I have to admit I had to look it up in the dictionary!). A beautiful woman says to Larry David that she likes him, because he reminds her of her college history teacher, to which Larry responds, "Was he an avuncular bald Jew?"

From: Marianne Brorup Weston (mbrorup citywest.ca)
Subject: avuncular

What an interesting post! I am Danish and we take such things as naming our close relatives seriously. Curiously we have a word for mother's mother (mormor), father's mother (farmor), mother's sister (moster), father's sister (faster), father's father (farfar) and mother's father (morfar). Yet for uncle we have onkel.

From: Bob Mornington (bob.mornington gmail.com)

Subject: Avuncular
How interesting that a slang use of avuncular would be "like a pawnbroker". In French, faire un tour chez ma tante (pay a call on my aunt) means going to visit the famous Crédit Municipal which is the French pawnbroking institution. Maybe French aunts were historically more generous than the uncles?

From: Paul Morgan (PFMorgan aol.com)
Subject: cater-cousin
Def: An intimate friend.

On the subject of cousins, there is a common expression in Hawaii, "calabash cousin". It came from the idea of someone who is not directly related by birth but that shares a common poi bowl or calabash. In the indigenous Hawaiian culture a family unit would eat their poi (starch staple) out of one large calabash. There are two meanings in Hawaii depending on who you talk to. One is that it is a close friend who has become like part of the family and the other is that it is a cousin by marriage, a relative of a spouse, as the two families are joined into one.

From: Meredith Buch (meredithtn hotmail.com)
Subject: cater-cousin

In German, "kater"(cat) refers to a hangover. The word evolved as a homophone from the word katarrh, an inflammation of the mucous membranes. Perhaps, a cater-cousin is the kind of friend you can share a hangover with.

From: R Womer (ruwomer cox.net)
Subject: Dutch Uncle
Def: Someone who advises or criticizes frankly and sternly.

Thanks for finally explaining this term clearly. My mother always used to tell me that my father talked to her sister like a "Dutch uncle" when she wanted to divorce her husband. I got the gist but have it fully verified now.

From: kah454 (via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Subject: Dutch Uncle

In the Tlingit culture of Alaska, young boys usually about age 3-4 would be taken from their parents and be given to their uncle to raise as it was believed the uncle would be better at bringing them up in a more strict atmosphere.

From: Gene Wolfe (genewlf aol.com)
Subject: Dutch Uncle

"If that don't beat the Dutch" was a favorite expression in my boyhood. In full: "If that don't beat the Dutch, and the Dutch beat the Devil."

From: Paul Sackley (paul.sackley gmail.com)
Subject: Dutch Uncle

It reminded my of an old college friend, who used to describe breaking wind under the bed covers as a "dutch oven".

From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr (RRosenbergSr accuratechemical.com)
Subject: Re: A thought for today (October 7th, 2010)

Speaking of statisticians and averages... Three friends go duck hunting: a doctor, a dentist, and a statistician. A duck flies up. The doctor shoots and misses left. The dentist shoots and misses right. "We got it!" exults the statistician.

From: Andrew Kay (noseeum invisibules.org)
Subject: average of averages

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY: It is not necessarily true that averaging the averages of different populations gives the average of the combined population. (Simpson's Paradox) -Edward H. Simpson, statistician (b. 1922)

What he's saying is, basically,

sum{P in U} ( sum{i in P} x(i) / #P ) / #U

is not in general equal to

(sum{P in U} sum{i in P} x(i)) / (sum{P in U} #P)

where U is a set of populations P, and the P are disjoint sets of people, i, with characteristics x(i). Well, obviously it isn't!

Hope that clears it up.

From: Carol Williamson (williamson sapo.pt)
Subject: cater-corner

For most of my childhood I assumed that 'cater-corner' (or 'catty-corner' in Pennsylvania) was so called because the family who lived catty-corner to us had a cat. My younger brother said they lived on 'Fluffy-corner', after that particular feline.

From: Jim Tang (mauijt aol.com)
Subject: The sexist fatwa

Reading Grace Cameron's fatwa regarding the all-inclusive "he": I am reminded that the legal profession has been converting over for at least 20 years, instead using "she" for the non-specific subject. Which gives rise to yet another example of the law of unintended consequences. Despite the overwhelming disparity in crimes committed by males versus females, the books still refer to the putative criminal defendant as "she".

From Harshal Madhavapeddi (harshal_madhavapeddi yahoo.com)
Subject: young subscriber (Re: AWADmail 431)

I am 11 years old and I subscribed three months ago. This website is interesting because it's so cool to see all these words take up lives of their own. Take for example, plutocracy. It sounds like someone is colonizing Pluto (dumb thing to do!). But since pluto- means "wealth", we see a different side of a similar-sounding word.

From: Karen Field (kfield2 verizon.net)
Subject: Youngest user

One of my 2nd grade students, eight years old, signed up last year and we discussed the words many days. Perhaps his mother registered him.

The greatest masterpiece in literature is only a dictionary out of order. -Jean Cocteau, writer, artist, and filmmaker (1889-1963)

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