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AWADmail Issue 437

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

From: Henry Willis (hmw ssdslaw.com)
Subject: Vitiate
Def: 1. To impair or spoil the effectiveness of. 2. To corrupt.

The California Legislature enacted a series of legal maxims over a century ago. My favorite has always been Section 3537 of the Civil Code: "Superfluity does not vitiate."

This maxim is a jewel: compact and definite, as clear as can be. And it tells us to go out and do just the opposite, using three words where one will do. Poor Maupassant would have gone crazy sooner than he did if he had had to share his world with lawyers.

From: Kit Powell (powell.kit gmail.com)
Subject: vitiate

How good to learn what 'vitiate' means. I've known this word ever since my parents read me Kipling's "Elephant's Child" (reinforced by my own reading of it to our children and grandchildren) without really having known exactly what it meant, although it was clear that it meant something bad:

Then the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake came down from the bank, and knotted himself in a double-clove-hitch round the Elephant's Child's hind legs, and said, 'Rash and inexperienced traveller, we will now seriously devote ourselves to a little high tension, because if we do not, it is my impression that yonder self-propelling man-of-war with the armour-plated upper deck' (and by this, O Best Beloved, he meant the Crocodile), 'will permanently vitiate your future career.'
That is the way all Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snakes always talk.
("Just So Stories", Rudyard Kipling)

From: David Millstone (millstone valley.net)
Subject: parsimonious
Def: Excessively sparing or frugal.

You reference to "Silent Cal" brought to mind a famous story about him. Here's how the Whitehouse website tells it:

His wife, Grace Goodhue Coolidge, recounted that a young woman sitting next to Coolidge at a dinner party confided to him she had bet she could get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at her he quietly retorted, "You lose."

From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr (RRosenbergSr accuratechemical.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--parsimonious

There were these two friends, both parsimonious, who went to church and bet who could make the lowest donation on that Sunday.

Jim gave half a penny!
John said: That is for the two of us!

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

From: Joni Parman (joni.parman gmail.com)
Subject: Majordomo
Def: 1. Someone whose job is to make arrangements or organize things for another. 2. A steward or butler.

Here in the southwest, a mayordomo is the manager of the community irrigation ditch or acequia. For a total description of the life of living along the acequias and farming in the southwest, please read Stanley Crawford's Mayordomo, Chronicle of an Acequia in Northern New Mexico.

From: Lyan Porto (fireworka gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--majordomo

What a strange little word for Portuguese speakers. To us, it sounds and looks like a portmanteau of "major" and "mordomo", the first being the military rank, as in English, and the latter being "butler", so it's a mixture of a traditionally high, respected post, and a lower one. Funny considered how butlers often do much more than majors for the welfare of people.

From: Lynn Mancini (mancini dtcc.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--majordomo

A majordomo is also a program that handles email list subscriptions and distributes posts to subscribers. (But then, as the creator of AWAD, I'm sure you would already know that!)

From: Ian Gordon (awad ipgordon.me.uk)
Subject: Fatuous
Def: Foolish or inane, especially in a complacent and smug manner.

The Latin origin word for fatuous is still in occasional use -- the swamp phenomenon known as will-o'-the-wisp is also known by the term "ignis fatuus" or foolish fire.

From: Hope Bucher (hopebucher gmail.com)
Subject: Shades of Meaning

One of my favorite reference books and sources of entertainment, is called "Shades of Meaning - Reflections on the Use, Misuse, and Abuse of English" by Samuel R. Levin, Professor of English and Linguistics. Dr. Levin describes not only the distinctions among frequently misused terms but also the linguistic roots of those distinctions and the psychological factors that motivate our errors.

From: Dannie Walker (huskstang mindspring.com)
Subject: American Hyphen Society

I think that you will enjoy this clever little bit or meretricious persiflage: The American Hyphen Society is a community-based, not-for-profit, grass-roots consciousness-raising/education-research alliance that seeks to help effectuate the across-the-board self-empowerment of wide-ranging culture-, nationality-, ethnicity-, creed-, gender-, and sexual-orientation defined identity groups by excising all multiculturally-less-than-sensitive terminology from the English language, and replacing it with counter-hegemonic, cruelty-, gender-, bias-, and, if necessary, content-free speech.

The society's motto is "It became necessary to destroy the language in order to save it."

Its headquarters are in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

From: Ann Kelly (annm.kelly hotmail.co.uk)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day

A.Word.A.Day was a gift to me from a lovely friend. This is one of the most wonderful gifts that I have ever had. Thank you very much for what you have produced.

So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with. -John Locke, philosopher (1632-1704)

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