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AWADmail Issue 469

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

Webster's Lays Down the Law
The Web of Language

Children Learn Language in Moments of Insight, Not Gradually Through Repeated Exposure

From: Dan Hope (dan.hope icg-uk.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--golgotha
Def: 1. A place or occasion of great suffering. 2. A burial place.

Anyone reading any of R. Scott Bakkers "Prince of Nothing"/"the Aspect Emperor" series of books would recognise the name Golgotterath instantly. As Bakker is known for his love of words and language, many of his other place names and people have strong meanings behind their roots, and this seems no different; Golgotterath was no doubt a place of extreme suffering, as armies crashed against its walls and prisoners were chained, netted, and gored on its gargantuan walls (maybe even crucified; ah! meaning come in droves!).

Dan Hope, Stourbridge, UK

From: Gary McCalden (gary.mccalden intecgroup.com.au)
Subject: Calvary
Def: 1. A place or occasion of severe trial, anguish, or suffering. 2. A sculptured depiction of the crucifixion.

Here in Adelaide, South Australia, we have a hospital called Calvary. Based on the first definition, I sincerely hope it doesn't live up to its name.

Gary McCalden, Adelaide, Australia

Email of the Week - (Brought to you by One Up! - Are you wicked/smart?)

From: Evelyn Falkenstein (evfalkenstein yahoo.com)
Subject: calvary/cavalry

In France, the word calvaire is used all the time as in, "O, O, c'était le calvaire, le calvaire, je te dis!" and everyone knows "it" was a miserable experience, even those who have not been anywhere near the physical object since they were seven.

Evelyn Falkenstein, Davis, California

From: Sam Boskey (sboskey total.net)
Subject: Calvary

In Québec French, where much profanity is based on religious rather than scatalogical terminology, "calvaire" is a common all-purpose expression used to denote frustration, dissatisfaction, etc.

Sam Boskey, Montreal, Canada

From: Robin Brown (RobinBrown knology.net)
Subject: Calvary

My local newscasters cannot distinguish between calvary and cavalry. So when the local armored division of our US troops deploy it is always reported that the Calvary is leaving for Iraq, Afghanistan, or whatever. Drives me crazy.

Robin Brown, Knoxville, Tennessee

From: Lorie Vallejo (loredith_joy yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: babel
Def: 1. A confused mixture of noises or voices. 2. A scene of noise or confusion.

One of the most notable details in Douglas Adams's book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is the existence of the babel fish, a small, yellow, leech-like creature, which, when a person sticks it into his ear, enables him to instantly understand everything said to him in any form of language. The babel fish is a universal translator which simultaneously translates one spoken language to another.

It was not a good thing for the main character, Arthur Dent, when he had a babel fish in his ear while a Vogon recited poetry. Vogons are popular for being poetasters.

Lorie Vallejo, Manila, Philippines

From Beverly Smith (bevjsmith earthlink.net)
Subject: Isaac Babel

Your love and presentation of words is a daily wonder for us, and I can never thank you properly for A.Word.A.Day. But today's word, babel, brought to my 80-year-old mind... Isaac Babel. After setting out to read ALL the classics (yes, har-har!), having gotten pretty well along, I only recently discovered Isaac Babel. He is so superior a writer, that it took me ages to learn what it was he did (yes, another har-har!) -- which was to work and work at making everything as clear and event-imaging as he could. I am totally in love with him, and recently heard his superior "You Must Know Everything" read on NPR.

Beverly Smith, Cottonwood, Arizona

From: Betsy Rosenberg (betsy netvision.net.il)
Subject: aceldama
Def: A place of bloodshed.

I first heard the word aceldama while performing as a chorus member in the operetta "Patience" with the Oberlin Gilbert and Sullivan company. Bunthorne, the parodic pre-Raphaelite poet character (played then by the great actor John Lithgow) recites:

"Oh to be wafted away
From this black aceldama of sorrow
Where the dust of an earthy today

Is the earth of a dusty ---- tomorrow"

I loved that, but it was only thirty years later, here in Jerusalem where I live, that somebody pointed out the actual Aceldama to me, a mere ten-minute walk from my house.

Betsy Rosenberg, Jerusalem, Israel

From: Tim Johnson (tjohnson0610 gmail.com)
Subject: Friday thought of the day

Friday's thought of the day has become dated.

It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English -- up to fifty words used in correct context -- no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese.
-Carl Sagan, astronomer and writer (1934-1996)

See this article.

Tim Johnson, Evergreen Park, Illinois

From: Barbara Hertenstein (bhertenstein yahoo.com)
Subject Thought for the day for June 24

Re: the dolphin quotation, here is an interesting thought from author Douglas Adams:

"...on the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much -- the wheel, New York, wars, and so on -- whilst all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man -- for precisely the same reasons."

Barbara Hertenstein, Lebanon, Illinois

Cut these words and they would bleed; they are vascular and alive; they walk and run. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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