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AWADmail Issue 448

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

In This Judge's Decisions, You Never Know Who Will Crop Up
The New York Times

How Words Get the Message Across

English Adopts More Chinese Phrases
China Daily

From: Jessica Chaiken (jchaiken heitechservices.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--benthic
Def: Of or relating to the bottom of a sea or lake.

Since 1989 I thought the name of the ship in The Abyss was Bendix Explorer. Now I know it was Benthic Explorer. That makes so much sense. And mad props to James Cameron for using such a great name!

Jessica Chaiken, Washington, DC

From: Julie Mida Hinderer (midaj umich.edu)
Subject: benthic

As an ecologist working in the (North American) Great Lakes, I was pleased to see "benthic" as the word of the day. I spent some time a few summers back working on a research vessel, and one of my duties at each station was to collect benthic samples. I learned some new words doing this. We grabbed samples from the lake bottom using a device called a ponar, which I found out is actually an acronym of the last names of the five scientists who invented it. Once we had pulled up our ponar grab, we dumped it into a large metal basin and separated the organisms from the muck using a hose and a filtering sock of sorts. This process is called elutriation, a word whose root means "to wash".

On the ship, I did not envy those on the day shift who got stuck elutriating ponars from Green Bay...peee-eww!

Julie Mida Hinderer, Ann Arbor, Michigan

From: ShastriX (shastrix gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--guerdon
Def: A reward or recompense.

The quotation:

human wandering through the zoo / what do your cousins think of you. -Don Marquis, humorist and poet (1878-1937)

reminds me of a chimp asking another about his zoo worker:

Am I my keeper's brother?

Srinivas Shastri, Bangalore, India

From: Peter Fayers (p.fayers abdn.ac.uk)
Subject: procumbent
Def: 1. Lying face down; prone; prostrate. 2. Of a plant: Growing along the ground without putting new roots.

Procumbent? As a keen cyclist, it is incumbent on me to mention that I have a recumbent bike. Although unusual, there are a few recumbent bicycles on which the rider lies procumbent.

Peter Fayers, Aberdeen, UK

From: Jack Hockel (jacklhockel mac.com)
Subject: Procumbent

Funny that the dental usage wasn't included. In orthodontics we call teeth that are tipped forward procumbent. Recumbent means tipped backwards. Protrusive, on the other hand refers to the jaw position. So teeth that are projecting forward can have two causes: dental or skeletal.

Jack Hockel, Walnut Creek, California

From: Don Wright (wright.don sbcglobal.net)
Subject: inosculate
Def: To join or unite.

Thus it can be said that when two people osculate, they thereby inosculate!

Donald Wright, San Jose, California

From: Arthur Lewis (artlewis00 gmail.com)
Subject: Inosculate

In reference to inosculate, there's an interesting related Latin word, osculetur, used in the Old Testament's "The Song of Songs" aka "The Song of Solomon": "Osculetur me osculo oris sui" / "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth."

Orlando Lasso, a Renaissance musician, composed a motet starting with that text, and then, based on the motet, a mass: Missa osculetur me. In my classes this was informally translated as Missa kiss me baby. Adding to that, Dufay's Missa se la face ay pale, Missa if the face is pale, the cause is love, it can be seen that there's a certain amount of fun to be found in many of the Renaissance masses.

Art Lewis, Atlanta, Georgia

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

From: Terry Dowling (morgan4four yahoo.com.au)
Subject: isograms for codes

Many years ago, my father explained a trick he used when he ran a small-town shop. He was able to code purchase costs onto the price tags of objects so he could easily determine his ability to discount without making a loss.

He did this using a 10-letter isogram (he chose 'cumberland') with each letter representing the digits 1, 2, 3... 0. So, 'cud' = 120.

These days I use the same system, but different words, to remember my PINs and passcodes.

Terry Dowling, Australia

From: Corliss Baines (cb cassiday.com)
Subject: Words with non-repeating letters

Did you note that "Wordsmith", too, does not repeat any letters?

Corliss Ann Baines, Chicago, Illinois

From: Al Reynolds (ajr-misc bat400.com)
Subject: Place names with no repeated letters

Here in Devon, UK, we have several place names with no repeated letters. Plymouth has a meagre eight, Ilfracombe is more well-endowed with 10, and Buckfastleigh weighs in with a 13 distinct letters.

I wonder if any of your readers know of any place names with more than 13 letters where none appear more than once?

Al Reynolds, Exeter, UK

From: Maya Bar-Hillel (msmaya math.huji.ac.il)
Subject: Writing with self-imposed constraints

The famous economist Paul Samuelson wrote an entire three-page paper (pdf) ending thus: "No need to say more. I've made my point. And, save for the last word, have done so in prose of but one syllable." Samuelson, P.A. (1979) Why We Should Not Make Mean Log of Wealth Big Though Years to Act Are Long. Journal of Banking and Finance vol. 3 p. 305-307.

Prof. Maya Bar-Hillel, The Center for Rationality, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel

From: Robert Wasko (RMwasko aol.com)
Subject: This week's theme

This week's theme reminded me of the lipogrammatic novel by Georges Perec written in French under the title "La Disparition" and translated into English by Gilbert Adair under the title A Void. Both versions of this 300-page novel contained not a single "e".

Years ago, when I told my then middle-school-aged daughter about the book, she tried her hand at a school essay without using the letter "a". Her essay was published in her school's literary magazine. Unfortunately, a clueless editor changed my daughter's carefully worded "the month following December", used to describe the birth month of the subject of her essay, to "January", thus introducing the letter "a" twice in one word and destroying the lipogram.

Robert Wasko, Brooklyn, New york

From: tiberall (Via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Subject: writing with constraints

If you are interested in constraints in writing, Douglas Hofstadter wrote a phenomenal book called Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language. Starting with Clement Marot's 28-line poem in French, he explores the constraints on poetic translation which leads to all sorts of examples of lipograms and everything else. A must read.

From: Robert A. Barbato (brbarbato yahoo.com)
Subject: Benthic

Your introduction citing Never Again reminded me of a poem I read about. It was written in Latin by Hucbald (ca. 850-930) in praise of bald men. Called the Ecloga de calvis, it is 146 verses long. The amazing part is that every single word in this poem begins with the letter c (in Latin, of course, calvus means bald). I tremble at the idea of doing such a thing in English.

Robert Barbato, Santa Ynez, California

From: Barbara Carey (careyb coned.com)
Subject: Writing with constraints

When I was in college, confronting multi-syllabic words on a regular basis, my friend Susannah and I would from time to time try to talk in one-sound words. Think it's not hard? Think one more time!

Barbara Carey, New York, New York

What word has st in the middle, in the beginning, and the ending?
(Hint: It's an anagram for 'kind ants'.)

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