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AWADmail Issue 458

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

Future of French Language to be Decided in Brussels

Millions Watch Twin Baby Boys Babble: Are They Truly Talking?

The "Nonplussed" Problem

From: Robert Wilson (robwilsonit yahoo.it)
Subject: soubrette
Def: 1. A maidservant or lady's maid in a play or an opera, especially one who displays coquetry and engages in intrigue. 2. A young woman regarded as flirtatious. 3. A soprano who sings supporting roles in comic opera.

Here in Italy, a "soubrette" is generally understood to be an attractive young lady who stands (usually without talking) next to TV presenter, supposedly adding glamour to an otherwise boring show. The same applies even to the weather forecast (in which they have to talk) and sports programmes (in which you can't stop them from talking).

Robert Wilson, Pordenone, Italy

From: Jodi Lipsitz (jodi.lipsitz ctnd.net)
Subject: Soubrette

Perhaps one of the best examples of a soubrette is Dorine in Moliere's Tartuffe. I played her in high school and had a lot of fun with the part.

Jodi Lipsitz, Atlanta, Georgia

From: Mary Bristow (mf57902 bellsouth.net)
Subject: beau geste
Def: A gracious, but often meaningless, gesture.

How can you possibly define "beau geste" without mentioning the 1926 novel of that title by Percival Christopher Wren! No doubt sadly dated these days, but a favorite of my youth (no, I'm not THAT old, it was already dated then). Grand gestures, the French Foreign Legion, the Sahara Desert, Fort Zinderneuf!

Mary Bristow, Tullahoma, Tennessee

From: Chris Andrle (candrle verizon.net)
Subject: A Thought for Today

I wonder if Solzhenitsyn was aware of the more well-known version, "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, nothing ain't worth nothing but it's free" by Kris Kristofferson and made famous by Janis Joplin in the song Me and Bobby McGee, her only number one single and only the second posthumous number one single in rock & roll history.

Chris Andrle, Buffalo, New York

Email of the Week - (Sponsored by Comeuppance - Just Desserts in a Can.

From: Gene Oubre (ejoubre aep.com)
Subject: gris-gris
Def: A charm, amulet, or fetish.

In South Louisiana, the term is used to describe a "hex" or bad luck curse you would like to put on someone, or to explain their bad fortune. If shooting pool with a friend, you would wave your hand over the intended shot, and say "gris-gris", thus condemning him to miss.

Gene Oubre, Texarkana, Texas

From: Harvey Landry (harvey.landry gmail.com)
Subject: Gris-gris

In South Louisiana, a gris-gris is a hex. See Vince Vance's gris-gris on the other team.

Harvey Landry, Baton Rouge, Louisiana

From: Dave Carson (zephyrwind69 gmail.com)
Subject: Gris-gris

When I saw the definition for gris-gris I thought that it was an alternate spelling for a grigri. I've used a grigri many times although in combination with a gris-gris I might have more luck!

Dave Carson, Houston, Texas

From: Griselda Mussett (griselda1 btinternet.com)
Subject: Gris-gris

I was very surprised to see myself on the list this week. My friend Georgia who studied art in Italy for many years explained that Italians create nicknames from the first three letters of a person's name, so she calls me Gri-Gri and I call her Geo-Geo.

Griselda Mussett, Kent, UK

From: Mary Civille (coquies earthlink.net)
Subject: French/Romance languages

Once I tried to explain to a Spaniard why so many American girls thought Spanish, and by extension, French, Italian, Romanian, Catalonian, Portuguese, etc. were not only "idiomas romances", but "idiomas románticos". He thought we were all a little crazy. For me, Portuguese wins hands down.

Mary Civille, Avondale Estates, Georgia

While language is forming, writers are applauded for extending its limits; when established, for restricting themselves to them. -Isaac Disraeli, writer (1766-1848)

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