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AWADmail Issue 442

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

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

In 500 Billion Words, New Window on Culture
The New York Times

Here's how often last week's five words have appeared over time:
Ngram Viewer

From: Eileen Saks (eileensaks gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--exogamy
Def: Marriage outside one's tribe or a similar social unit.

Human beings have also used exogamy to avert or appease the ill feelings of conflicts between tribes or nations. Consider all the alliances created by European royal families inter-marrying.

From: Ron Greenman (rongreenman gmail.com)
Subject: Theo

A roommate of mine used to be enamored of a young lady across the street named Theo. When a stray showed up at our house one day the dog became mine but he named her Theo. This was so he could stand on the porch calling out the name of both the dog and his amour in a credible imitation of Marlon Brando calling for Stella. The irony is that the dog took off one day and as I chased her she was caught by a young woman who eventually became my wife. That was thirty-seven years ago.

From: Russ Talbot (russted internode.on.net)
Subject: Intro to this week's theme (Words made with combining forms )

Your intro reminded me of one of my favourite jokes:
Q. What's a dyslexic agnostic insomniac?
A. Someone who lies awake all night wondering if there really is a dog.

From: Murf Murphy (murphym doacs.state.fl.us)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--exogamy

I had to laugh at your comment about meeting people while walking your dog. Recently the theocratic government of Saudi Arabia passed a law making it illegal for men to walk their dogs in public. It seems it was contributing to the decline of morals because the men were using the dogs to meet women on the street. Can you say chick magnet in Arabic?

From: Fran Gillespie (gillespi qatar.net.qa)
Subject: ventifact
Def: A stone shaped, polished, or faceted by windblown sand.

I live in Qatar, where large areas in the centre of the peninsula are covered in ventifacts: three-sided pyramidal-shaped wind-polished pebbles in many colours; the remains of stones carried by a river 30 million years ago, and rolled for aeons by the dry desert winds. They are known to geologists as dreikanters: the German for 'three sides'.

From: G. St. Onge (ger.s rcn.com)
Subject: ventifact

Your description of a ventifact reminded me of a trip I took to the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. There were huge wind eroded stones which looked for all the world like Henry Moore sculptures.

Email of the Week - (Sponsored by One Up! - A Snow-Day Staple.)

From: Keith Laurie (klaurie alaska.net)
Subject: Ventifact

Many years ago, I spent some time in southern Argentina, an area known for its constant fierce winds. My weekends were devoted to exploring the Patagonian desert collecting fossils, petrified wood, geodes, and other natural oddities. In areas exposed to some of the strongest winds it was not uncommon to find open areas covered with thousands of sandblasted pebbles. What made these particularly interesting to me was that the upper sides were highly polished while the under sides were rough and rather plain. My most unusual find was a small collection of petrified wood ventifacts. It is humbling to imagine these rocks lying undisturbed for thousands of years slowly being turned into ventifacts.

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

I presume that erosion of stone by the wind is ventifaction. I first came across this in Scotland about 50 years ago where I observed that wind erosion of the local sandstone was so severe that frequently the stone used for walls was eroded to the depth of several inches, the grain in the stone being rendered highly visible. Probably the same phenomenon was going on in west Cornwall, with which I was much more familiar, but with the predominant building stone in Cornwall being granite, the effects were much more subtle.

From: Christopher Blanford (christopher.blanford chem.ox.ac.uk)
Subject: tautology in xkcd
Def: 1. Unnecessary repetition of an idea, especially in different words, 2. In logic, a compound statement that is always true, irrespective of the value of its components.

A favourite comic strip illustrating tautology: xkcd.

From: Lane L Reynolds (lane.l.reynolds navy.mil)
Subject: tautology

During the murder trial of O.J. Simpson, the prosecution stated, "the murder weapon is either in Chicago, or somewhere else." What a revelation. Until today I didn't realize that that statement was a tautology. Thank you for giving me a term other than "stupid" to describe that statement.

From: Fred Pflantzer (efpe verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tautology

I saw a sign at a club in NYC that stated: Members and Non-Members only.

From: Lucas Brown (lucascbrown gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tautology

I can't tell you how many times I cringe as a sports fan when one of the announcers spits out a gem like (as I heard on this past Monday Night Football) "Either team A is going to win it on a big play or team B is going to take the game." Now really? How incisive!

From: Al Beebe (abeebe10 comcast.net)
Subject: tautology

Bridge players, after bidding to an iffy contract, are wont to say "It either makes or it doesn't."

From: Greg Corbett (corbettgreg hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tautology

While reading your example sentences for the word "tautology" I remembered a line from the Tarantino movie "Reservoir Dogs", where Mr. Blonde says (regarding the fate of Mr. Brown) "Either he's alive or he's dead... or the cops got him... or they don't!"

From: M Henri Day (mhenriday gmail.com)
Subject: Re : tautology

The Scandinavian languages have lovely phrases for this trope - here in Sweden we say "tårta på tårta" (cake on cake), but I prefer the Norwegian "smør på flesk" (butter on pork).

From: Larry Wood (elarry4 charter.net)
Subject: tautology

Does the constant praising of athletes for their "athleticism" on TV by the sports commentators also fit that category? It should be a given.

From: Curt Harler (curt curtharler.com)
Subject: tautology

You term "tautology" as saying something like: a good-looking beautiful woman. In my experience, that is called flattery -- and to be successful with a woman, that phrase should be a good-looking successful kind-hearted talented beautiful woman. After you order her the pinot grigio, you can continue with the flattery...but NEVER mention the word tautology.

From: Chris Papa (doxite verizon.net)
Subject: tautology

W.S Gilbert rhymed this word with many others in one of the very first patter songs he wrote in "The Sorcerer". It starts with "My name is John Wellington Wells":

Barring tautology,
In demonology,
Mystic nosology,
Spirit philology,
High-class astrology,
Such is his knowledge, he
Isn't the man to require an apology.

From: Tim Eaton (teaton ahla.com)
Subject: Tautology

One of my favorite tautologies comes from Lewis Carroll:

'You are sad,' the Knight said in an anxious tone: 'Let me sing you a song to comfort you.'
'Is it very long?' Alice asked, for she had heard a good deal of poetry that day.
'It's long,' said the Knight, 'but very, very beautiful. Everybody that hears me sing it -- either it brings the tears into their eyes, or else -- '
'Or else what?' said Alice, for the Knight had made a sudden pause.
'Or else it doesn't, you know.

From: Allen McCorstin (mccorstin yahoo.com)
Subject: Tautology

From A.Word.A.Day: A tautology is, to define it in a tautological manner, to repeat the same thing twice in different words.

Response: In this case, "to repeat the same thing twice" would mean that the same idea would NOT be offered two times in a sentence, but rather three times -- once, then the TWO repeats.

From: Christopher Shea (crshea rcn.com)
Subject: leptorrhine
Def: Having a long narrow nose.

The opposite of "leptorrhine" is "platyrrhine", (broad-nosed) which in zoology also refers to the group of New World monkeys. Old World monkeys are designated as "catarrhine" (for their downward-pointing nostrils).

From: Bruce Schoenberg (bruce schoenberg.net)
Subject: lepto-

I suppose that the compulsive exercisers I see at the gym must be lepto-maniacs!

From: Deric Behar (dericbehar gmail.com)
Subject: Ontology
Def: The philosophical study of existence and the nature of being.

A few months ago, I visited my mother in the hospital, who was suffering from the ravages of chemotherapy. As I entered the hospital, the security guard asked where I was headed. Without thinking, I said "10th floor, ontology." It is only when I got into the elevator that I recognized the significance of this parapraxis.

From: Carla Horowitz (carlahorowitz earthlink.net)
Subject: ontology

A related word is a strong memory from my elementary school. A wonderful science teacher taught us in fifth grade that "ontogeny recapitulates philogeny", that is, each individual in its development goes through earlier stages of being -- we develop gill-like structures in embryo because our ancestors lived in the ocean. Unfortunately, it turns out not to be accurate which is a shame because the memory has been treasured for seven decades.

From: Gregory_Carothers (gregory_carothers toyota.com)
Subject: combining forms

You can think of them as the Legos of language.

Isn't it more like the Legos of logos?

Words are chameleons, which reflect the color of their environment. -Learned Hand, jurist (1872-1961)

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