Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 461

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

Book on Words Has a Lot to Say
The Seattle Times

The Case for Cursive
The New York Times

From: Stanley Dickes (doccadee999 cox.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--flathat
Def: To fly close to the ground.

I believe that I saw the ultimate flathat in Feb of 1945. Standing on the top of the tower of Pisa a fighter plane of the Army Air Force flew by so close and so low that we were able to look down into the cockpit. That took guts.

Stanley Dickes, then 1st Lt. with the 249th Ordnance Battalion, Sun City West, Arizona

From: Pete Saussy (bujinin netzero.com)
Subject: flat-hatting

"Flying close to the ground" is severe understatement for this term. I believe it described extremely risky behaviour by pilots, "showing off" buzzing the tower, "burning the chickens out of the barnyard" as Gen. Buck C. Turgidson phrased in Dr. Strangelove. Doing it led to the early death of many a hot pilot. "There are old pilots and there are bold pilots but there are no Old Bold pilots". Also see skylarking and smokestacking.

Pete Saussy, Pawleys Island, South Carolina

From: Bud Rosenthal (rockbud aol.com)
Subject: flathat

I first encountered this word in 1961, when I hitched a ride on an old B-17 bomber being ferried to London for use in the movie, The War Lover, based on John Hersey's novel about Flying Fortress pilots in WWII. Our Australian pilot told us he was going to flathat at one point over the Atlantic in order to check his unreliable altimeter. He took the plane so close to the deck that we were getting ocean spray in the forward gun turret. Fortunately, we were only flathatting and not doing 'touch-and-go's!

Bud Rosenthal, New York, New York

From: Jim Barborak (barborak aol.com)
Subject: flathat

Flathat is also the name given to the emblematic hat worn by personnel of the US National Park Service since 1920. I am a specialist in national parks and have just come from from a workshop at Yosemite National Park in California. One of the staff members even referred to his "flathat" which is worn by personnel at all levels of the park service from ranger to director of the agency. See here for a picture and more history.

Jim Barborak, Gainesville, Florida

From: Harry Clar (hclark6 cox.net)
Subject: flathat

When I joined the Navy in 1957 the flat hat was still part of the uniform. It is the style that Donald Duck wears. We were required to wear it during the winter in certain parts of the country. I don't remember what the official name for it was.

Harry Clar, Lafayette, Louisiana

From: J. Murali Krishnan (murali97 gmail.com)
Subject: Flathat

It is interesting to note the arguments related to "Flat Hat" wages way back in 1933. Please read the article titled Flat Hat Wages at page 6.

J. Murali Krishnan, Chennai, India

From: Michael Brewer (mbam dsl.pipex.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--flathat

In the UK, a flathat is often used to describe a car driver wearing a cap (occasionally smoking a pipe) and driving down the middle of the road at 20 miles an hour. It also refers to some souls in parts of the country where a cap was non-wearable by the upper classes and consequently denoted someone of the lower orders (so thought at least).

Michael Brewer, Osbaston, UK

From: Bob Worsley (bob.worsley gmail.com)
Subject: Flathat

More common in Australia is flatchat -- going very fast, flat out. And in the North of England a flathat is a cap, usually said flat-at.

Bob Worsley, Chapel Hill, Australia

From: Don McDowall (donsmcd slingshot.co.nz)
Subject: turncoats
Def: Someone who changes allegiance and joins the opposite side.

This reminds me of the gangs in New Zealand. They have a habit of wearing gang patches usually emblazoned on the backs of their jackets. If the occasion arises (although rarely), they hide their true colours by turning their coats inside out. In Wanganui (now Whanganui in some circles) about a year or two ago, gang patches were banned from public view on the grounds that they were intimidating. The gangs seemed to comply, at least in public view. I wonder how many coats are turned inside out when the police are around?

Don McDowall, New Zealand

From: Jean-Pierre Causse (johnpeter.causse2 gmail.com)
Subject: turncoat

In French we have "retourner sa veste", to turn one's coat inside out.

Jean-Pierre Causse, Sete, France

From: Richard Platt (richard.platt.sm.55 aya.yale.edu)
Subject: shirty
Def: Bad-tempered, irritable.

My mother always used to say, "Keep your shirt on", meaning don't get annoyed or carried away.

Richard Platt, Milford, Connecticut

From: Lim Soe Chin (synical gmail.com)
Subject: pantywaist
Def: noun: A weak or effeminate man; adjective: Weak; cowardly; effeminate.

I thought getting this word in the inbox today was (un)timely, as one of the major brouhahas happening in Malaysia was the sissy boot camp happening in one of the conservative states and the subsequent reactions from everyone.

Lim Soe Chin, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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

From: Sharon Smith (mainelyneuropsych gmail.com)
Subject: legal briefs fit better than a pantywaist?

In the usage example for this word, I love the visual image of Mr. Creel feeling more comfortable in legal briefs than a pantywaist!

Sharon Smith, Canaan, Maine

From: Harry Grainger (the.harry gmail.com)
Subject: Bootstrap

Back at the dawn of (computer) time I remember having to use the keyswitches on the front panel of a PDP 8 or 11, or a General Automation SPC-16, to toggle in a very rudimentary program of no more than 6-10 computer words. This would then be executed to read in, either from a paper tape reader or, later, from a boot sector on a hard disk, a longer program which could then be executed to really get the machine started. Nowadays, it's all hidden from the users, but we still talk about booting and rebooting.

Harry Grainger, Poole, UK

From: Adam Sales (adam.sales gmail.com)
Subject: Bootstrapping in Statistics
Def: verb tr.: To help oneself with one's own initiative and no outside help; noun: Unaided efforts; adjective: Reliant on one's own efforts.

In statistics, the Bootstrap, or bootstrapping, is a revolutionary and now very popular technique due to Brad Efron. The idea is to learn more about a sample by treating it as a population and using a computer to draw many random samples from the original sample. This is also known as "resampling".

From: Stanley W. Brown (stanley.w.brown dartmouth.edu)
Subject: bootstrap

Begun in 1948, an ambitious industrialization program in Puerto Rico was named Operation Bootstrap (Operacion Manos a la Obra). By the time I spent some months there as a kid in the mid-50s, it was quite successful.

Stan Brown, West Lebanon, New Hampshire

From: Topi Linkala (nes iki.fi)
Subject: Burqa

A couple years ago there was a very bitter winter here in Helsinki, Finland. A friend of mine was walking down one of our main streets wearing a woolen ski mask, which only showed his eyes. In front of him walked two women with burqas. A police car stopped my friend and asked him to roll up the ski mask as there is a law that you cannot appear masked in public. He argued that they should address the two women also, but they only threatened to throw him in jail if he wouldn't obey them. I hope they ban burqas here in Finland so that we get equal treatment.

Topi Linkala, Helsinki, Finland

From: Brian Porter (brian.bwp wanadoo.fr)
Subject: Burqa veil (in France)

I'm British, been living in France for 30 years now. I thoroughly agree with the principles you give. Very fine ideas, but when a person's face is totally covered, making it impossible to identify him/her (even, man or woman sometimes?), what should we do? Anybody who's never seen this in the street or in a shop (or even a photo or film) really should before pronouncing; it's quite disturbing, weird, and asocial. The French are doing it their way. Other communities have other responses. What would be better?

Brian Porter, France

From: Zainib Ahmad (zamustang msn.com)
Subject: Says who?

I usually enjoy AWAD, especially the quotations. I am irritated to see you mention that the burqa is a symbol of oppression, while at the same time you insist that people should have the right to wear what they choose. If dressing decently, be it a burqa, shawl, or scarf is a symbol of oppression, then wearing half nude clothes as is common in this culture, must be a symbol of prostitution. I am ashamed to say it but I will. As a modestly dressed Muslim, when I see young girls forced by the culture to dress and act as would befit a prostitute, I feel repulsed like no burqa can repulse anyone. Can we give women their dignity, their humanity and stop treating them as objects? It is about time we realized that vulgar dress is a sign of something worse than oppression. Have you ever asked a veiled woman why she dresses the way she does?

Zainib Ahmad, Lino Lakes, Minnesota

From: Devaguptapu Seshagiri Rao (dkdsr1947 gmail.com)
Subject: burqa

I don't think you understand why they wear the burqa. This is done under oppressive compulsion. In Saudi Arabia they expect even the non-Muslims to wear this under police law. If not, they beat the husband of the woman. Do you mean to say that these woman are happy wearing it? You should have flown to the West from any of the cities in Saudi Arabia. As soon as the flight takes off they remove their burqas. This dress originated in dusty deserts to protect one from the harsh hot environment from top to toe. Protect, it hardly does, as women are identified with the color, and the black is just not suitable for the hot climate there. This is made out to be a religious symbol which is absurd. I wish you knew of some of the atrocities that take place under the burqa to these poor Muslim women. France had the guts to do this. Hail France.

D.S. Rao, India

From: Bill Siegler (billsie covad.net)
Subject: burqa

Please clarify your statement regarding oppression. Does a nun wearing a habit represent oppression? An Orthodox Jew's side curls or tzitzit? Do they symbolize oppression? Or a Sikh's turban, etc.? I agree that all people should be able to dress any way they want, but I think there is a fine line between tradition/religious custom and labeling them oppressive. We may not agree, but, to repeat myself, labeling something as oppressive does not add to an acceptable discourse.

Bill Siegler, New York, New York

As far as I know, if a Sikh decides not to wear a turban, that's his business (same goes with the other examples you give). No one comes to arrest him, let alone arrest a non-Sikh for not wearing a turban. As a contrast, try being a woman and going out in a pantsuit in Saudi Arabia and some other countries. They would rather let schoolgirls die in a fire than let them escape without "right" dress.
-Anu Garg

From: Jan Kennedy (kennedyjl26 hotmail.com)
Subject: burqa

I agree that the burqa should have been left in the Middle Ages, but it wasn't. As a US diplomat, I've had a camel hair whip "tickle" my forearm where the abaya had slid up while shopping in a souk. Western women are not exempt from the dehumanizing dress rules imposed on women in Muslim countries. Only the government will have enough moral imperative to reject these horrible, man-made rules. Women do not make these rules, men do, and they affect women deeply from childhood. Just my opinion.

Jan Kennedy, Cedaredge, Colorado

From: Richard Stallman (rms gnu.org)
Subject: Banning more than burqas

The law in France does not ban only burqas. It bans any covering of the face in public. If face recognition software becomes reliable (and a report says Google is making big advances), lots of people regardless of religious views may decide to cover their faces in public so that cameras can't build a database. France has struck a preemptive blow on Big Brother's behalf.

Dr Richard Stallman, President, Free Software Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts

From: Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer (rebbezev new-tzfat.com)
Subject: Pharisees (Re: AWADmail 460)

"Pharisees are no more so we can perhaps get away with using the word." Not correct! Jews today still consider themselves Pharisees, perhaps not formally, but certainly in uninterrupted direct line of descent. It was the Pharisees of 2000 years ago who formed Judaism as we know it today and whose rulings on matters of Jewish religious law remain the norm. Let it also be noted that almost all the epithets which the Gospels record Jesus as hurling against the "Pharisees" were expressions which various schools of Pharisees hurled against each other. But let it also be noted that, strident as their arguments were, those arguments were confined to the academy; at the end of the day, they socialized together on the warmest of terms.

Rabbi Zev-Hayyim Feyer, Claremont, California

From: Eric Shackle (ericshackle bigpond.com)
Subject: theme - clothes

Fifty years ago, smart clothes worn by young women walking past building sites attracted drawn-out wolf-whistles from construction workers. Is whistling a lost art? It's far from lost if last week's world whistling championships in Louisburg, North Carolina are any guide. For details, see here.

Eric Shackle, Sydney, Australia

The English language is rather like a monster accordion, stretchable at the whim of the editor, compressible ad lib. -Robert Burchfield, lexicographer (1923-2004)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith