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AWADmail Issue 459

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

Evolutionary Babel was in Southern Africa

Weak Evidence for Word-Order Universals

From: Paul Douglas Franklin (pdf6161 paulfranklin.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--denouement
Def: The final resolution of the plot of a story or a complex sequence of events.

How funny! We usually look to the denouement to tie up the loose ends.

Paul Douglas Franklin, Yakima, Washington

Email of the Week - (Brought to you by Comeuppance - Get yours now!)

From: Richard Tomaselli (tmslbwrs earthlink.net)
Subject: Denouement

Thanks for detailing the etymology of the word denouement. Now I understand why the Spanish equivalent is desenlace (familiar I'm sure to all you "noveleros" out there). This word comes from the verb desenlazar (cf. Real Academia Espanola), meaning literally to untie. In Spanish language telenovelas (at least those I've seen) the desenlace typically occurs in the penultimate episode. The ultimate episode? A happy ending, of course!

Richard Tomaselli, Berkeley, California

From Gary Glasser (gt.glasser gmail.com)
Subject: Gordian
Def: Highly intricate; extremely difficult to solve.

Might one say one cuts the Gordian knot with Occam's razor?

Gary Glasser, Burbank, California

From: Brian McCarthy (brian_w_mccarthy fpl.com)
Subject: Gordian Knot

Beautifully illustrated Ashley Book of Knots provides boys with days of entertainment, including making a Gordian Knot. I think that the technique requires separating the three strands of a rope, forming a one-strand knot then laying the tail of the strand into its own groove. The technique was similar to the method of bumpless joining called a long splice.

Brian McCarthy, Miami, Florida

From: H. Gordon Havens (gordonhavens hotmail.com)
Subject: Gordian Knot

Brings back less-than-fond memories of playground taunting, when my silly antics got me dubbed the Gordian Nut.

H. Gordon Havens, Independence, Missouri

From: Aarefa Johari (aarefajohari gmail.com)
Subject: Gordian knot

Alexander the Great's 'solving' of the Gordian knot by cutting it off with a sword sounds like nothing but the impulsive action of an aggressive macho male who is all brawn, no brain, and proud of it! He never really 'untied' the knot, he just destroyed it. Don't know why they call him Great...

That was just my impulsive, feminist reaction...

Aarefa Johari, Mumbai, India

From: Margaret Dark (mdark telkomsa.net)
Subject: Gordian knot

My grandmother would not have approved of Alexander the Great. She displayed endless patience when untangling a tangled string. Had she been God she would have added an Eleventh Commandment, "Thou shalt not sever a knot."

Margaret Dark, Merrivale, South Africa

From: Mike Connelly (mconnell telcordia.com)
Subject: Gordian

I can't hear this word without thinking of this classic exchange from the old Hollywood Squares game show:

Peter Marshall: In Greek mythology, what happened when the Gordian knot was cut?
Charley Weaver: Gordian's pants fell down.

Mike Connelly, Fenton, Missouri

From: Ken Knaggs (KenKnaggs aol.com)
Subject: Knaggy
Def: Knotty; rough; rugged.

Curious word of the day considering my last name. While at school I was known as knaggy. Interestingly, knag is also used to refer to the handles on a ship's wheel.

Ken Knaggs, Guisborough, UK

From: Esther Friend (estherfriend copper.net)
Subject: knots

This week's subject brings back fond memories of my father teaching me all the knots I needed to know for my Girl Scout badge in the 1930s. He had learned them from his father who had grown up on a farm in Prince Edward Island and was so good with knots that he had been elected Master Rigger when the local church needed to have its new bell hoisted into the church belfry. Now, 80 years later, I still use a square knot (secure in the knowledge that it is not a "granny") to close my garbage bags, make a bowline-on-the-bight at the end of the cord I use to drag my laundry basket, and whip a couple of half-hitches around anything that needs to be secured with string or rope.

Esther Friend, Lewes, Delaware

From: Paula Meier (bflymoon aol.com)
Subject: Knotty

I often use this word as a pun. I make and sell hand-tied Celtic knotwork jewelry. I often sell at Renaissance Faires and as part of my sales pitch I tell the crowds "I am a Knotty girl. I like to tie one on, in public! Which is not to say tie one up but that can be fun too." This often gets the attention I seek.

Paula Meier, Pasadena, California

From: Gary Muldoon (gmuldoon muldoongetz.com)
Subject: Knotting

As I recall, an old Red Skelton comedy skit was entitled, "Much Ado About Knotting".

Gary Muldoon, Fairport, New York

From: James Downie (james assetbase.co.za)
Subject: Joke about knots

Surely you have heard the story about three pieces of string who go into a bar. The first piece of string orders the drinks and the barman says, "We don't serve strings in here." The second piece of string fails as dismally. The third piece ties himself up, fluffs out his ends and saunters up to the bar. "Three beers and make it snappy!" he shouts. The barman turns around and looks puzzled. "You're a string, aren't you?" he asks.

The string says, "No, I'm a frayed knot!"

James Downie, Cape Town, South Africa

Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people. -William Butler Yeats, poet, dramatist, essayist, Nobel laureate (1865-1939)

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