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AWADmail Issue 436

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

From: Kiko Denzer (potlatch cmug.com)
Subject: aesthete
Def: Someone who has or affects high sensitivity to beauty, especially in art.

This modern back-formation grows out of the equally modern notion that "art" is ruled by feelings (Greek "aisthesis"). As Ananda Coomaraswamy points out, however, the ability to feel is a trait we share with all other animals; we are more likely to become human by thinking about what we feel. Art, from this perspective, is not an object, but a method by which (traditionally, at least) we clarify and share ideas and truths. An "aesthetic", on the other hand, is merely a reaction, rather than a value or a standard by which to judge what is "art" and what is not. Coomaraswamy, who was curator at the Boston MFA, said "A real art is one of symbolic and significant representation; a representation of things that cannot be seen except by the intellect." And; "the appeal of beauty is not to the senses, but through the senses, to the intellect." If intelligence came to us through our nerve endings we certainly wouldn't need A Word A Day! (more here.)

From: Peter Mish (phmish hotmail.com)
Subject: buttle
Def: To do a butler's work.

Originally, a butler was in charge of the wine. Earliest recorded use: 1867.

It's a good thing this changed, something is lost saying: "The sommelier did it!"

From: Joel Mabus (joel.mabus pobox.com)
Subject: buttle

The entry on "buttle" made my mind immediately leap to Ogden Nash, who once wrote:

The cute little baby,
Once all milk and spittle
Turns into a Hitler,
And boy, can he hittle!

From: Laurie Kincaid (lauriechef juno.com)
Subject: buttle

And of course there's the butler in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the prison cell next to Joseph who had a bad dream that needed explaining:

First the butler, trembling took the floor. Nervously he spoke of what he saw:

Butler: There I was standing in front of a vine. I took some grapes and I crushed them to wine. I gave some to Pharaoh who drank from my cup. I tried to interpret but I had to give up.

Joseph: You will soon be free, my friend. So do not worry any more. The king will let you out of here, You'll buttle as you did before.

Not such good news for the baker, but go see the show, it's great fun!

From: Robert Cook (geoduck42 hotmail.com)
Subject: Buttle

My favorite use of the word "buttle" comes from the English author P.G. Wodehouse, where Bertie Wooster comments that while the omni-competent Jeeves is normally Bertie's personal valet rather than a butler, "If the call comes, he can buttle with the best of them."

From: Michael Tremberth (michaelt4two gmail.com)
Subject: buttle

I find it amusing that while the English language derived butler (and hence buttle) from bouteilleur, it has allowed the last term to be superseded by the upstart sommelier, which etymologically goes back to the transportation of general supplies on pack animals such as horses or donkeys.

From: Joe Fox (joe webcruiser.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--emote
Def: To express emotion in an excessive or theatrical manner.

I think emo (the angsty teenager look) is an even further back-words version of the same etymology.

From: Sally Stretch (sestretch mweb.co.za)
Subject: Back-formations

In my student days I attended a concert and found myself sitting next to a charming elderly lady. She was clearly enjoying her evening out, and told me that it was her birthday, and she had spent the day 'frivolling'. I assume it was her own invention, and found it as charming as she was!

From: Jon Von Gunten (jon globescope.us)
Subject: Back-formations

Here's our favorite back-formation. It's from the movie Private Benjamin with Goldie Hawn. The drill sergeant is advising his all-female boot-camp recruits about a field exercise they'll soon be in.

He says ominously, "You will encounter land mines. Many of them are inert. Some of them are ert!"

Email of the Week - (Sponsored by One Up! - Are you wicked/smart?)

From: Mike Henderson (mike easterninformatics.com)
Subject: Back-formation

Great theme this week. Reminds me of the old story about 20th-century sportswriter Dan Daniel who was wont to employ obsolescent verb forms and even to invent back-form verbs. Baseball biographer Warren Corbett writes:

The subjects of Daniel's stories didn't just say things; they 'exuberated' and 'vehemed'. When Daniel began pontificating in the press box, [contemporary sportswriter Frank] Graham would tell him, 'Oh, Dan, stop veheming.'

Of himself, Daniel said: "Nobody was ever afraid of me ... "I wasn't going around derogating people."

From: Susie Elins (sbelins hotmail.com)
Subject: back-formations

The nine-year-olds in my class use an interesting one, 'verse', as in, "I'll verse you at Snap", meaning to play against. I can only assume they have back-formed this from the word 'versus', which they are familiar with when one football team is playing versus another team.

From: Peretz Rodman (peretz alumni.brandeis.edu)
Subject: back-formations

The founding president of Brandeis University, Abram Sachar, retired from that position in 1968 after 20 years as president, and was appointed to the newly created position of chancellor. Whenever he was asked what a chancellor does, he would reply with a twinkle in his eye, "He chancels." -Peretz Rodman (Brandeis BA '75, MA '83)

A chancellor is, literally speaking, a doorkeeper. The word comes from the railing or chancel (screen) where an usher stood before the altar of a church.
-Anu Garg

From: Chuck Cole (SeeCee111 aol.com)
Subject: back-formations

I don't suppose my wife's word, boneful, will make your list. But it's really the best term to use at the butcher's when you don't want boneless chicken. They usually do a double-take when she says it, then they either immediately interpret it correctly, or she explains herself. I'm hoping it eventually enters common use.

From: Lawrence Crumb (lcrumb uoregon.edu)
Subject: Re: Morse Code

The beeps at the end of each episode of the TV series "Inspector Morse" is the word Morse in Morse code.

From: Tom Reel (tom.reel cox.net)
Subject: Morse code

Your note about SOS (...---...) reminded me of my favorite Morse Code representation. The letter V (5 as a Roman numeral) is ...- as an homage to the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven with its famous opening and rhythmic motif of three short notes going to a long note. At least I have heard that explanation and I'd like to think it is true.

From: Steve and Robin Perez (perezfam84 frontier.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--comminate

How strange that nature does not knock, and yet does not intrude! -Emily Dickinson, poet (1830-1886)

Well I don't know about that... Emily, I'd like you to meet the woodpecker who has knocked and intruded upon my sleep most mornings this fall.

From: Tyler Kenney (tyler.kenney mattel.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--comminate

I think there are a few people in Indonesia who might beg to differ with Ms Dickinson.

From: Hsin-ya Liao (hsin_ya hotmail.com)
Subject: A THOUGHT FOR TODAY for Nov 5

"Because we don't understand the brain very well we're constantly tempted to use the latest technology as a model for trying to understand it. ...and now, obviously, the metaphor is the digital computer." -John R. Searle

The mandarin word for computer 電腦 (at least here in Taiwan) literally means "electronic brain".

Words are a commodity in which there is never any slump. -Christopher Morley, writer (1890-1957)

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