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AWADmail Issue 443

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

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

Poll: 'Whatever' Most Annoying Word

BaQa' -- Or Is It Humbug?
The Wall Street Journal

Cherokee, Apple partner to put language on iPhones
The Seattle Times

Email of the Week - (Sponsored by One Up! - The Cure-All for Cabin Fever.)

From: Lyle D. Gunderson (lyle mac.com)
Subject: No El

When traveling on our way from Northern California to Salinas, just south of the San Francisco Bay area, we would pass right by San Jose Steel. They had a big neon sign that was very prominent to travelers on the freeway, each letter on its own square sign:


Every year around this time, they'd turn off some of the letters:
__N _O__ __E_L

We always thought that was cool.

From: Pat Street (patstreet aol.com)
Subject: No El

Years ago, I sent handmade Christmas cards that said on the front in decorative letters, NOË -- and to my dismay, not everyone "got" it.

From: Dick Stacy (meeziedick montrose.net)
Subject: No L

When my kids were young, we were discussing Christmas carols and I told them that my favorite was entitled "The Typesetter's Lament" (No L). Several years later, the pastor of our church asked my eldest daughter the name of her favorite carol and she readily gave it, to the shocked silence, then laughter of the congregation !

From: Joseph C Mohen (josephcmohen comcast.net)
Subject: No el

About 1939 or 1940, the City of New York took down the elevated subway line on Second Avenue. I remember the newspaper "wags" in New York saying the Second Avenue merchants were singing "No el" as their Christmas song. The steel from the Second Avenue el was sold to Japan where it was recycled into wartime ordnance then used against the Allies including the US. The Third Avenue "el" came down in the 1950s.

From: Terry Dowling (morgan4four yahoo.com.au)
Subject: no el

I used to work with a chap whose name was Noel Collier. We gave him the nickname 'Three Els'.

From: Julia Mills (julia.m.mills hotmail.com)
Subject: No el

When I read this week's blurb about what the word adventure would be, I couldn't help but smile. My husband's family plays the No el game every year. His mother has ornamental letters that were meant to spell Noel, but they play hide the 'L' until it is revealed Christmas day (so literally there is no 'L'). You get to hide it if you get to it first, then only if you find it from its previous hiding spot. You let people know that it has been rehidden by rearranging the letters 'N', 'O', and 'E' into a different word than it was previously. And if you're the one to unearth it on Christmas day, because you were the last one to hide it and no one could find it, then you win!

From: Joseph Graham (sheila doncaster.ca)
Subject: Noel

My wife, who receives A.Word.A.Day, read me today's No el, and went on to explain that there were a series of words that used all but that one letter. I was half listening, hearing No el as No El, the term 'El' as in Elohim, El being the deity. I heard a much different message.

From: Madelaine Kirke (madelainekirke hotmail.com)
Subject: katzenjammer
Def: 1. Hangover 2. Distress; depression. 3. Confusion; clamor; uproar.

I did a German course in Vienna in the late 60s. After too much wine in a Heuriger one night, my friend (honest! It wasn't me!), did only one thing before our 9am lesson. She looked up the German for hangover. When asked why she had her head on the desk she replied "Ich habe eine Grosse Katzenjammer". The class included 13 different nationalities with no common language apart from our poor German. The teacher laughed. She wrote the word on the board and each student laughed in turn as each found it in their dictionary. I predict that every one of us still remembers that word even if every other shred of German has fled.

From: Norma Meyer (nsophm gmail.com)
Subject: katzenjammer

My parents were German immigrants and we had the original Katzenjammer Kids book. They were Max und Moritz, die zwei beiden konnt das Artig sein nicht leiden. Loosely translated from 70 years ago... Max and Moritz, those two, couldn't abide acting behaved.

From: Ken Kirste (kkkirste sbcglobal.net)
Subject: katzenjammer

My heart jumped for joy when I saw the word "katzenjammer" in A.Word.A.Day as we have a framed original "Katzenjammer Kids" Sunday strip from Nov 7, 1948 on our wall. While it is definitely the longest-running strip, the implication is that "The Katzenjammer Kids" has run continuously since December 12, 1897. In fact, the creator, Rudolph Dirks had suspended the comic for a short period in 1898 while he fought in the Spanish American war. Nor was the strip titled "The Katzenjammer Kids" for the entire time. During World War I, anti-German sentiment resulted in the strip's being renamed "The Shenanigan Kids", with Hans and Fritz becoming Mike and Aleck and a nationality shift to being Dutch. (These changes all reverted in 1920.) None of this diminishes the fact that this strip has entertained millions in three different centuries.

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Quotation from Don Quixote

The quotation in Thought for Today (Dec 20, 2010) alludes to a scene in Cervantes's novel in which a young poet "wannabe", protégé of the hostess, entertains the guests at a banquet given by a duchess. Though the don is treated respectfully, nobody takes him seriously. Under the guise of his supposed backwardness, he offers a great deal of wisdom; in this instance, to a would-be artist who thinks uncritically highly of his talent.

From: Julie Lipkin (julon comcast.net)
Subject: quixotic
Def: 1. Absurdly chivalrous, idealistic, or impractical. 2. Impulsive, unpredictable.

This word is famous in our family, but not for its meaning. Our Pop-pop called us late one night, nearly apoplectic, to announce that he had just earned 254 points playing that word in Scrabble along the top, hitting both triple-word squares, and with the X on the double-letter square.

From: Karl L. Seligman (kseligman socal.rr.com)
Subject: quixote

Here in the Palm Springs area of southern California, there are now miles of humongous windmills. Driving along the highway, one sees these multi-story high giant machines and feels that the imaginations of Don Quixote of "giant windmills in the distance" are now a reality. Either we are taking a step into the past, or he was a dreamer and visionary.

From: Rudy Rosenberg (rudyrr att.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--quixotic

The Belgian songwriter and actor Jacques Brel made quite a splash with the French version of the musical "Man of La Mancha".

That is the reason why an exact replica of that statue of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza can be found overlooking the Grand Place in Brussels; Jacques Brel forever jousting with the world in his quixotic quest.

From: Phil Jans (phil.jans co.chelan.wa.us) Subject: Quixotic I've always thought the word should be pronounced "kee-ho-tik". Why would the word be Anglicized, but not the title of the book or the name of the character?

Since Quixote is a name, we go with its native pronunciation (kee-HO-tay), however, quixotic is an English word so it takes its pronunciation on English language terms (qwik-SOT-ik).
-Anu Garg

From: Marta Fields (mfields seagen.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--divagate
Def: To wander or digress.

And here I thought divagate referred to a scandal at the Metropolitan Opera!

From: Richard Lewis (rl rlconsulting.biz)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nyctophobia
Def: An abnormal fear of night or darkness.

And I would've guessed the definition as a reasonable fear of New York City!

From: Grady Clarkson (gclarkson6425 charter.net)
Subject: nyctophobia

Of course, there's the obscure definition of nyctophobia, meaning "fear of big apples". I'm surprised you didn't list that.

From: Phyllis R. Charney (phyllis.charney ropesgray.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nyctophobia

I adore darkness! For me it's a luxurious cloak of comfort. No, I'm not a vampire -- I just love the dark, :) So that would make me a nyctophile?

From: Sarah Records (sarahirecords gmail.com)
Subject: frowsty
Def: Musty: having a stale smell.

See this illustration of the word.

From: John D. Laskowski (john.laskowski mothman.org)
Subject: New category of words?

On the Glenn Beck radio program yesterday he discussed the word "gossip" and attributed the origin of the word to the command of King George to his troops to frequent American pubs to spy and listen in on conversations and "go sip" with them to learn their goings on. If this is true is there a category of words formed from such a combination of other words ?

Like almost everything else that comes out of Beck's mouth, his story of the origin of the word gossip has no basis in reality. The term gossip came from Old English godsibb (sibb: related) meaning godparent. From there, the word took a downward journey to the sense of one who is a familiar acquaintance, to one who engages in idle talk, to the talk itself.
-Anu Garg

Arguments over grammar and style are often as fierce as those over Windows versus Mac, and as fruitless as Coke versus Pepsi or boxers versus briefs. -Jack Lynch, English professor, author (b. 1967)

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