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AWADmail Issue 454

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

From: Roberta M. Eisenberg (bobbi alumni.nd.edu)
Subject: corniche
Def: A coastal road, especially one cut into the side of a cliff.

I have a widget on my computer that brings me a painting every day from the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. So yesterday's word was corniche and by a big coincidence, today's painting is Monet's La Corniche.

Roberta M. Eisenberg, New York

From: Steven Patterson (pattersons allentownsd.org)
Subject: corniche

Corvidae has contributed other words to the construction industry. Corbel is a supporting bracket, a crowbar is a prybar with a notch for pulling nails, and though less species-linked, the bird's mouth is a notch applied to a rafter to accommodate the supporting wall beneath.

Steven Patterson, Allentown, Pennsylvania

From: Jim Burns (indybones shaw.ca)
Subject: corniche

This word visually reminds me of the word "cornice" (KOR-niss), the architectural term for sculptural detail at a wall-ceiling interface in a room, or for the sculpted overhang just below the eaves of a building. Some examples of both may have a beak-like appearance, as you suggest. Cornices on early 20th-century buildings are quite common in my home town of Winnipeg. Skiers are familiar, too, with beak-like snow cornices in the mountains. To what feature, then, does the term "corniche" refer in the name of the Rolls Royce Corniche automobile? Its front end is hardly beak-like. Perhaps it is a (road-)cut above the rest?

Jim Burns, Edmonton, Canada

From: Jahn Curran (viator xmission.com)
Subject: Corniche

As an American, who studied French, I was surprised the first time I arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to see the popular coastal road called the "Corniche" when I knew that it was NOT a road cut into the cliff ... but as I traveled to other Middle Eastern countries (Dubai, Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, Oman, etc) and they all had a road called "the Corniche" which often had elaborate outdoor sculptures, restaurants, or were lined with palm trees, I was reminded that just as we in English have borrowed many words from other languages and made them our own, so too had the Arabs. Your word of the day brought back pleasant memories, and I went back to my photo albums to revisit the "corniches" that I had known.

Jahn Curran, Salt Lake City, Utah

From: David Frost (morganfrost yahoo.com)
Subject: Cynical dog?
Def: 1. One who believes people are motivated by self-interest only. 2. A person with a negative outlook, one disposed to find fault.

Ironic, is it not, that the dog is almost certainly the least cynical member of any household?

David Frost, Silver Spring, Maryland

From: E. Cox (ellen.cox maritz.com)
Subject: Cynic?

It would seem that the modern definition of a cynic is quite different from the original. Exactly when did it become entirely pejorative? As one who tends to cynicism, I like the following...

Idealism is what precedes experience; cynicism is what follows.
-David T. Wolf (b. 1943)

The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it.
-George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

E. Cox, St. Louis, Missouri

From: Sandi Raub (sandra_raub yahoo.com)
Subject: aegis
Def: Protection, support, guidance, or sponsorship of a particular person or organization.

Aegis is the name for the weapons system used by the US Navy, as well as several other navies worldwide. Named for Zeus's shield, it uses powerful computers and radars to track and guide weapons to enemy targets.

Sandi Raub, New Milford, Pennsylvania

Email of the Week - (Sponsored by One Up! - The Dumbed-Up Word Game.)

From: Thomas Blair (trwblair gmail.com)
Subject: Calvert Watkins on aegis

The great linguist Calvert Watkins has traced the aegis historically as a sort of sacred satchel carried in battle (which really makes more sense given the material). Since learning that, every time I hear the word aegis, I think "goatskin bag", which brings some lightness to the word's grandiose uses. (On the other hand, Watkins also discusses the likelihood that the golden fleece and the aegis are in fact the same thing.)

Thomas Blair, San Francisco, California

From: Alexa DiNicola (photosynthetic.430 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pedigree
Def: 1. Lineage or ancestry. 2. A distinguished ancestry. 3. The origin or history of a person or thing.

The word pedigree has one more meaning as a scientific and medical term. It refers to a particular type of chart used to track traits either known or suspected to be genetic. Pedigrees are useful tools for studying the genetics of a particular trait, particularly in organisms -- especially humans -- where it isn't possible to selectively breed for the trait of interest. Wikipedia has a quick introduction to the use of pedigrees, and the NIH's digitized textbooks include a more thorough one . Here's a good example of diagnostic pedigree use, coupled with a short guide to using them.

Alexa DiNicola, Columbus, Ohio

From: Vaughn Hathaway (pastorvonh bellsouth.net)
Subject: Pedigree

I've always enjoyed AWAD since being given a gift subscription by one of my sons. But, occasionally you come out with an exceptional post even when the word of the day is rather mundane. Thank you.

Vaughn Hathaway, Charlotte, North Carolina

From: Marian Ely Bo Ward (marianboward gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gazette
Def: 1. A newspaper (now mostly used in the name of newspapers) 2. An official journal of an organization, for example, a government journal listing appointments, promotions, etc.

My elderly aunt, Patty Getz, has published a quarterly newsletter with all the news on her huge and wide-spread family for many years -- you can guess by now what it's called? The Getzette, of course!

Marian Ely Bo Ward, Indianapolis, Indiana

From: Kenneth Brodey (kbrodey alice.it)
Subject: Gazette

Thanks for the lovely animal words! I think the guess about the origin of gazette is a good one -- to wit, the Venetian news sheet cost one gazeta. Today there is an Italian newspaper il Resto del Carlino, whose name means 'the change from the "carlino" -- an old Italian coin'. It's like saying with the pocket change from your euro, dollar, or carlino, you can buy our paper.

Kenneth Brodey, Lombardia, Italy

From: Raphael Barousse, OSB (raphbar catholic.org)
Subject: gazette

In the etymology for gazette it is mentioned that the paper may have been named for its price, the Venetian coin, a gazeta. The New Orleans daily newspaper, The Times Picayune, was indeed named after its price, a small French coin, a picayune.

Raphael Barousse, St. Benedict, Louisiana

From: Michael Rohr (michael_rohr_ab61 post.harvard.edu)
Subject: Quotation from Plutarch

The quotation from Plutarch is not original with him. As he acknowledges (Moralia, On Superstition 166C), he's quoting from Heraclitus (fragment 89 DK = VI Kahn). And while Plutarch is best known as a biographer, he was equally well known in antiquity as a philosophical essayist. The quotation from Heraclitus appears in his essay on superstition, in which he argues that a superstitious religion is worse than atheism.

From: Eric Shackle (eric.shackle gmail.com)
Subject: Leafy sea dragons

The leafy sea dragons you mentioned will be featured in a festival in South Australia next month. For more details, see here.

Eric Shackle, Sydney, Australia

Men ever had, and ever will have leave, / To coin new words well suited to the age, / Words are like leaves, some wither every year, / And every year a younger race succeeds. -Horace, poet and satirist (65-8 BCE)

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