Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 463

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

New Words in the Official Scrabble Dictionary for the UK
The Independent

Death to High School English

Grandparents, Rebranded
The New York Times

From: Eugene Seegers (ezee.za gmail.com)
Subject: Anomia
Def: The inability to recall names of people or objects.

This reminded me of a joke: Two elderly gentlemen are sitting on the porch. One says to the other: "My wife and I went out recently to a lovely restaurant. It has great atmosphere, fantastic food, and it's not too expensive."

The other gentleman asks: "What's it called?"
The first chap says (clearly suffering from anomia): "I can't recall ... What do you call that pretty flower that has thorns?"

The other gentleman says: "A rose."
"Great!", says the first one. "Rose! What was the name of that restaurant we went to the other day?"

Eugene Seegers, Bloemfontein, South Africa

From: Christopher Bray (chris.bray omg.co.nz)
Subject: anomia

And what's the word for when you can't recall that word you learned for when you can't remember someone's name?!

Christopher Bray, Argyll East, New Zealand

From: Brady Richards (richards.brady gmail.com)
Subject: Anomia

There's a terrific Anomia card game that came out last year, made by a guy who has turned forgetfulness into a pretty entertaining competition. My friend who likes to play always calls it "that ammonia game"...because he can't remember the word anomia.

Brady Richards, Brooklyn, New York

From: Margaret Roman (teragram gwi.net)
Subject: Anomia---a new use?

You've just given me a good idea. Surely, I'm not alone in resenting the term: "senior moment" and lonely efforts to introduce the option of "middle-aged moment", have not succeeded. But maybe there's another choice to cover all ages. Since I understand that May is; "National Older Americans month", please join me in trying the following.

The next time any of us can't remember a word for something, perhaps we could just say; "I'm so sorry, I'm having an anomia moment"! It's a safe bet that we'll produce more than a moment of stunned silence and possibly our audience will be somewhat embarrassed, instead of us.

Apologies, I forgot my name!

Margaret Roman, Portland, Maine

From: Lee Anne Bowie (bowie.la gmail.com)
Subject: anomia

My father called every male he referred to "George" and every female "Sarah". He would say, "I gave it to George." Or "When is Sarah supposed to get here?" I don't think he knew anyone actually named Sarah, and fortunately the only George lived in Saudi Arabia. It was confusing enough without wondering if it really was "George" or "Sarah" for real.

Lee Anne Bowie, Seattle, Washington

From: Dean M. Laux (dlaux6 comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--poetaster
Def: An inferior poet.

You probably know about the poetaster who, when he arose in the morning, went from bed to verse.

Dean M. Laux, Englewood, Florida

From: Coral Sheridan (coralsh northwestern.edu)
Subject: poetaster

So one should not call Mike Wallace or Barbara Walters broadcasters, as neither is an inferior female.

Coral Sheridan, Orange, California

From: Adam Fuqua (ambrosetallis yahoo.com)
Subject: Poetaster

In Douglas Adams's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, there is an alien race known as the Vogons. They are widely known for their bureaucracy and for having the third worst poetry in the universe. The main characters face almost certain death in hearing the poems of Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz, a true poetaster if ever there was one.

Adam Fuqua, Manila, Philippines

From: Alison Huettner (pondalorum aol.com)
Subject: subitize
Def: To perceive, without counting, the number of objects in a small group.

When Henry David Thoreau worked in a pencil factory, he was always able to grab the exact right number of pencils for a box (fourteen? twenty? I don't remember) without counting them out. And when I was a child and made to set the table, I rather prided myself on being able to grab exactly seven paper napkins from the pack, without counting. (Mom, Pop, four siblings and me.) Who knew there was a word for that?

Alison Huettner, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

From: Bernie Beswick (bbeswick tpg.com.au)
Subject: subitize

When I was doing my master's we found true examples of young girls who could subitize up to 38 sheep in a paddock while driving by. Please don't ask me to find where this was in the literature.

From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr. (RRosenbergSr accuratechemical.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--subitize

Evaluating the number of sheep by counting the legs then dividing by four. There must be a name for this!?

Rudy Rosenberg Sr., Westbury, New York

From: Anirudh Sreerambhatla (anirudh.s2005 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--subitize

The word subitize reminds me of Kim Peek, popularly known as the Rain Man, an autistic savant, who had an uncanny ability to perceive the number of things without counting. In the Oscar-winning movie Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman plays on the role of Kim Peek. The scene goes like this:

Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman go to a restaurant. Tom Cruise asks for toothpicks after finishing his meal. The waitress goes in and fetches a box which contains 250 toothpicks. The box falls down and the toothpicks fall randomly on the floor. Tom Cruise agrees to pay for 250 toothpicks, but Dustin Hoffman objects by saying that there were only 246 toothpicks on the floor. Ergo, he needn't pay for all of them. The waitress finds only four toothpicks inside the box. Result: Tom Cruise was completely nonplussed after he had seen Dustin Hoffman's subitizing skills.

Anirudh Sreerambhatla, Hyderabad, India

From: Rich Mayo (rmayo100 yahoo.com)
Subject: subitize

This word reminded me of something my wife (the pharmacist) told me. In Pharmacy school they actually teach the students to "sub-subitize" I guess you could call it -- when you need to fill a prescription of 35 pills (for example), the fastest way to count out the required number is in groups of four, which you can learn to spot very quickly.

Rich Mayo, Eatontown, New Jersey

From: Sanson Corrasco (sansoncorrasco dotnet.net)
Subject: subitize

As a kid (over 50 years ago) I read in one of my father's issues of Scientific American of an experiment with hunters in a blind in a cornfield. Three hunters could enter the blind, two would leave, but the crows would stay away. Likewise four hunters and three would leave. Also five hunters and four. The crows were not fooled until the experimenters went to six hunters in and five out. The experimenters had finally found the limit of the crows' ability to subitize (but they use the word).

Sanson Corrasco, Denver, Colorado

From: Celia Mellinger (celia.mellinger gmail.com)
Subject: subitize

I credit my knowledge of this concept to Watership Down. The rabbits can count to four, and everything above that is "hrair" or "a thousand".

Celia Mellinger, Durham, North Carolina

Email of the Week - (Brought to you by Comeuppance - Humble 3.14 in a Can.)

From: Viv Brown (vivjbrown gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--philtrum
Def: The vertical groove below the nose and above the upper lip.

I discovered this word only last week in a BBC programme "Inside the Human Body". Watch this clip for a dramatic video demonstration of how the face fits together in the womb, joining seamlessly at the philtrum.

When this process fails to operate properly children can be born with cleft lip and/or palate. The full programme showed the work of a charity which sends facial surgeons to Third World countries to transform children's lives by repairing the cleft. See Operation Smile.

Viv Brown, Solihull, UK

From: Marc Williams (marc_williams comcast.net)
Subject: Philtrum

As an AWAD fan and dysmorphologist, I was impressed by the example of the association between a smooth philtrum and fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Technically this is a sign of FAS (an objective finding noted by the examiner) as opposed to a symptom (a description provided by the patient or caregiver). For examples, check out the Human malformation terminology site at NIH.

Marc Williams, LaCrosse, Wisconsin

From: Judy Epstein (jepstein mail.com)
Subject: philtrum

There is a Jewish folk-tale that babies, before being born, exist in heaven and know everything, and that just before they are born, an angel strikes them (not too hard!) on the upper lip to make them forget it all. This is the explanation for why they cry. Perhaps also for why we all repeat the same mistakes!

Judy Epstein, Port Washington, New York

From: Joan Schaengold (mtorab aol.com)
Subject: philtrum

When I was a small girl, I asked my mother what that dent in my top lip was. She explained that it was the place where God kissed me goodbye just before I was born. At age 86, I still choose to believe it.

Joan Schaengold, Cincinnati, Ohio

From: Adam Fuqua (ambrosetallis yahoo.com)
Subject: Philtrum

In Filipino mythology, one can recognize engkanto (enchanted beings similar to the European stories of the sidhe lords and ladies) by their great beauty and the lack of a philtrum.

Adam Fuqua, Manila, Philippines

From: Jim Tang (mauijt aol.com)
Subject: About that philtrum

What is most important about this word is its most useful, even life-saving, application. Barry Farrell, a writer of note who taught magazine writing one day per week at UC Santa Barbara in the '70s, drove 90 miles from LA to Santa Barbara at 0-dark-30 every Monday morning during the school term. The quintessential non-morning person, he claimed (and I have verified this in both cars and airplanes) that a driver who rests an elbow on an armrest and places the associated index finger in the philtrum (thus precariously balancing one's nose on the septum) cannot fall asleep at the wheel. Nodding off is incompatible with a finger painfully jammed up your nostril. Barry's trick, elegant in its simplicity, has kept me awake on many a lonely road and through many a dark and empty sky.

Jim Tang, Kula, Hawaii

From: Susan Lane (sulane40 verizon.net)
Subject: philtrum

If you ever suffer from painful cramps in your calf, strongly squeeze the philtrum and in less than 30 seconds the cramp will go away. An amazing phenomenon, but it works.

Susan Lane, Wyckoff, New Jersey

From: Joe Marshall (planetmarshall gmail.com)
Subject: UK, England, and Scotland

In AWADmail 462, Peter Hastings of Edinburgh complained that King James (as in King James Version) was not King of England, but rather the first King of the United Kingdom.

James was, in fact, King James VI of Scotland. From 1603 onwards, he was also King James I of England, but England and Scotland remained separate kingdoms (the tendency of the European monarchies to interbreed made this kind of multiple monarchy quite common). The United Kingdom was created over a century later in 1707, long after James's death.

In ordering the King James Version to be created, James was acting as head of the Church of England, so referring to him as King of England seems quite reasonable in the context.

Joe Marshall, England (and the UK...)

From: Steven Stine (scstine comcast.net)
Subject: Re: AWADmail Issue 462

Don Boylan's comment in AWADmail Issue 462 that a certain hand-written bible "is the first time the old methods have been used since the invention of the printing press" is not correct. The Torah scroll used in every Jewish synagogue or temple is made by a specially trained scribe on kosher parchment from an animal used for food, and hand lettered in a very specific manner using a particular type of quill. There are over 4000 explicit rules that must be followed strictly to the smallest detail in a process that takes more than a year. Any deviation, imperfection, or error makes that scroll invalid, and it must be destroyed.

Steven Stine, Deerfield, Illinois

Standard English is a convenient abstraction, like the average man. -George Leslie Brook, English professor, author (1910-1987)

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