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AWADmail Issue 470

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

Books and Other Fetish Objects
The New York Times

Underestimate the Oxford Comma at Your Peril
The Globe and Mail

Why Do Some Americanisms Irritate People?
BBC News

From: Lisa MacDonald (macdonald alphacomm.net)
Subject: Chandler and Granger
Def: 1. One who makes or sells candles. 2. A dealer or supplier in other goods, for example, a ship chandler.

After retiring, my husband and I started a small farm market business selling vegetables, herbs, and apples. I also have a side hobby of making and selling soap and candles at arts and crafts fairs. I guess you could say we're a perfect granger-chandler couple.

Lisa MacDonald, Drummond Island, Michigan

From: Millie Webb (millie-webb sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Wainwright
Def: One who builds or repairs wagons.

My host brother in Germany (I was an exchange student in high school, many years ago) is a master wainwright (in effect - Stellmacher actually translates to wheelwright) in Northern Germany today. For a while, our family despaired he was ever going to find a career that suited him. This was perfect! There are only a few such positions left in the whole country, and one apprenticeship opened up at exactly the right time for him. He loves it, and has worked on carriages for the royal families of Europe, including England. The detail-work is amazing.

Millie Webb, Madison, Wisconsin

From: Mark Newlands (mark.newlands northtyneside.gov.uk)
Subject: Wainwright

The Lake District National Park in the UK contains some of the world's most beautiful mountains (more commonly called fells). The principal fells are known as wainwrights after the famous writer Alfred Wainwright who produced the legendary hand-written guide books to the Lake District fells. So here in the UK a wainwright describes multiple nouns and is also an eponym.

Mark Newlands, Tyne & Wear, UK

From: Steven Frais (steven.frais objet.com)
Subject: wainwright

Probably the best known incidence of the use of the word wain for wagon is in John Constable's 1821 painting The Hay Wain.

Steven Frais, Rechovot, Israel

From: Tom Priestly (tpriestl shaw.ca)
Subject: wainwright

We see signposts to Wainwright AB frequently, and when I have someone in the car who may not know, I ask whether they know what the word means: typical behaviour from a linguistic show-off! The town, in Eastern Alberta, is frequently in the news because it is the site of a Forces Base. It was named after General William Wainwright, a vice-president of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railroad which passes nearby. Did the good general know the meaning of his surname?

Tom Priestly, Edmonton, Alberta

Email of the Week - Sponsored by Old's Cool - It's wasted on the young.

From: Lillian Rodberg (lillian.rodberg verizon.net)
Subject: Colliers and Wainwrights
Def: 1. A coal miner. 2. A ship for carrying coal.

In the days when charcoal, not coke made from mined coal, was used in making iron from bog ore, "collier" referred to those who produced the charcoal. Logs were piled into "ricks" (perhaps a corruption of "racks") and "smoked" to burn off impurities. It was a tricky business as the wood had to char but not burn, and colliers often trained "fire dogs" to detect an impending "burnout". The bog iron industry of New Jersey's Pine Barrens supplied half the arms for the American Revolution and is the setting for To Tell Me Terrible Lies and its sequels by "Katherine St. Clare" (full disclosure: me). I named the ironmaking family in these books Wainwright because of the name's association with iron fabrication.

Lillian Rodberg, Allentown, Pennsylvania

From: Francis Jeffers (jeffers59 windstream.net)
Subject: collier

Collier also refers to those who make and trade in charcoal. Mineral coal only came in as an inferior substitute for charcoal when population growth made charcoal too expensive. Charcoal had been the premium fuel of the human race for 10,000 years and indeed, collier has been said to be the world's second oldest profession.

A number of 'less developed' countries today still have charcoal as their main energy source. In some, like Haiti, population pressure plus the depredations of countries that forced unequal exploitative treaties on it, have deforested the island. But charcoal isn't the real culprit although vested interests in the US will claim loud and long that it is. Haiti's charcoal supply, carried by renewable (wind powered) freighters points the way to the future.

Francis Jeffers, Winterville, Georgia

From: Brad Beam (b.beam suddenlink.net)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--granger
Def: A farmer.

Well, of course, this word would come up the same day that the fictional character Hermione Granger makes her last film appearance in the "Harry Potter" movie series. (And I'm sure "potter" was too obvious a choice.)

Brad Beam, Belle, West Virginia

From: Peter Bradford (peterjb1 yahoo.com)
Subject: Professions that exist mainly as surnames

Putting "collier" in this category rather astounds me. There are literally millions of colliers still working around the world. China, alone, employs over five million (source: UNDP). Many western nations have thousands of colliers employed.

Peter Bradford, Baltimore, Maryland

From: Carol Williamson (constantlyknitting gmail.com)
Subject: smith

I have known three women named Elizabeth (or Liz) Smith in my life, and in the eight years that we've lived in Portugal, I've come across three ladies named Isabel Ferreira, which translates as ... Elizabeth Smith.

Carol Williamson, Algarve, Portugal

From: Jo Ann Lawlor (jal_573 yahoo.com)
Subject: Occupational Surnames

I'm really enjoying this week's theme, since occupational surnames have always fascinated me. Chuck Yeager would be Chuck Hunter if his ancestors hadn't come from Germany. And I know a family named Klingonsmith. Nope, nothing to do with Star Trek -- if the first half of the name had also been translated from the German, they would be the Ironsmiths.

Jo Ann Lawlor, San Jose, California

From: Bob Speziale (rpinelodge verizon.net)
Subject: Occupational names

Like this week's topic as it pertains to my last name -- Speziale, which everyone assumes means "special" in Italian. In fact, it does mean "special" in German, but in Italian, the language it comes from (my great grandparents were from Abruzzi), it means pharmacist or apothecary.

Bob Speziale, Phillipsport, New York

From: Janet Rizvi (janetrizvi gmail.com)
Subject: occupations as surnames

I particularly liked this week's theme for the reason that my maiden name was Clarke (Clark, Clerk) and my mother's was Smith. As well as your examples of Baker, Gardener, and Cook, people continue to follow the calling of Mason and Farmer, even Fisher and Shepherd, while there remain but few professional Carters and Thatchers. Most obsolete of all as a profession is perhaps Fletcher [also see fletcherize]. No enormous demand for arrow-featherers these days, unless possibly the makers of arrows for archery as a sport continue to be identified by the term?

Janet Rizvi, Gurgaon, India

From: Enita Torres (enitatorres gmail.com)
Subject: surnames

I especially love this week's topic. When I found out that my Spanish surname meant "Towers" in English, I often wondered if one of my ancestors was a mason who built towers or worked as a prison guard in one. More likely, one of my ancestors resided there long enough to get the nickname.

Enita Torres, Houston, Texas

From: Meher Pestonji (meherpeston gmail.com)
Subject: Professions as Surnames

Parsis still use professions as surnames, e.g. Lawyer, Engineer, Doctor, Daruvala (dealer in alcohol) Batlivala (dealer in bottles) and dozens of other wallas.

Meher Pestonji, Mumbai, India

From: Gregory B. Gregory (gregorgb sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Words from surnames

"Can you imagine people having names such as John Driver or Jane Plumber or Mary Firefighter?"

Well, I can imagine Minnie Driver and Christopher Plummer -- and as for Firefighter, it's not her surname, but a lady named Firefighter Owens appeared in the US on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart".

Gregory B. Gregory, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

From: Ron Turner (ron lastgasp.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--collier

If you have a weak candidate and a weak platform, wrap yourself up in the American flag and talk about the Constitution. -Matthew Stanley Quay, senator (1833-1904)

This reminded me of a British magician friend, Martin Lewis, who always carried an American flag in his suitcase of tricks. I asked him why (he was a third generation Brit magician) he did this. This was about 1974 or so in San Francisco. He said: "We call the American Flag: Old Sure Applause! Because if your act is failing, you can whip it out and always get applause from an American audience. He said this was a carry over from vaudeville days.

Ron Turner, San Francisco, California

From: Dave Wade-Stein (davewadestein gmail.com)
Subject: Re: AWADmail Issue 471

In issue 471, BM wrote:

"This week we've picked five such words. Each of these words has meanings as different as black and white. Call them contranyms, heteronyms, janus words, two-faced words, words with split personalities, or coin your own word."
How about schizophrenisms?

Unfortunately, this email perpetuates the incorrect definition of schizophrenia that lingers in our collective consciousness.

Years ago, when I began my graduate work in psychology, one of the professors used to begin his first lecture of Introductory to Psychology with "If you only learn two things in this course, they should be that schizophrenia is not multiple personality, and negative reinforcement is not punishment."

Dave Wade-Stein

From: Eric Shackle (ericshackle bigpond.com)
Subject: chamberlain

Australian adventurer Don McIntyre is a modern chamberlain. He's cruising the Pacific seeking hidden gold, and donating 20% to a British charity. For details, see here.

Eric Shackle, Sydney, Australia

First, there is nothing unique about English's "openness" to words from other languages. Second, there is no logical conception of "proper" grammar as distinct from "bad" grammar that people lapse into out of ignorance or laziness. -John McWhorter, linguist, author, and commentator (b. 1965)

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