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AWADmail Issue 474

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language

From: Pat Green (pat fitzgreenlaw.com)
Subject: hircine
Def: 1. Of or relating to a goat. 2. Having a strong odor. 3. Lustful; lewd.

When I was growing up in Oklahoma ('50s and '60s) one would hear someone say that they or someone else was "hornier than a wet goat in mating season". Much more colorful than saying that someone was "hircine".

Pat Green, Pasadena, California

From: Rama Kulkarni (drramakulkarni gmail.com)
Subject: anserine
Def: 1. Of or relating to a goose. 2. Stupid; silly.

Cutis anserina is the medical term for gooseflesh or goosebumps!

Rama Kulkarni, MD, Santa Clara, California

From: Colleen Weisz (colleenweisz aol.com)
Subject: anserine

I learned the meaning of this word the hard way. My doctor diagnosed the soreness below my knee as pes anserine bursitis after watching me walk goose-footed across the room!

Colleen Weisz, Solon, Ohio

From: Michael Tremberth (michaelt4two googlemail.com)
Subject: Anserine

Geese make excellent guards, and when it comes to instinctive understanding of the aerodynamics of flight, they are far from being silly or stupid. Like their cygnean (or cycnean: of swans, swanlike) cousins they adopt energy efficient V-shaped flight formations that really come into their own on long transcontinental migrations.

Michael Tremberth, Cornwall, UK

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

Back in the day, GPT, the amusingly named [in French: J'ai pété or I've farted] telecom company formed from GEC and Plessey launched a business-focussed Operator and Voicemail system which they called Anser. I knew some of the Marketing people involved in naming it. And I knew that they simply would not understand if I tried to dissuade them from this nomenclature. Mercifully, it sank without trace.

This remains one of my favourite animetaphors...

Harry Grainger, Poole, UK

From: Les Boston (BostonLesPaul roadrunner.com)
Subject: Bovine
Def: 1. Of or relating to cattle, especially a cow. 2. Dull; sluggish; stupid.

"The cow is of the bovine ilk;
One end is moo, the other milk."
(Ogden Nash)

Les Boston, Sherman Oaks, California

From: Evelyn Falkenstein (evfalkenstein yahoo.com)
Subject: bovine

I live near the University of California Davis, the former Ag school of the University of CA, and now a capital of oenology studies as well as large animal veterinary medicine. When Robert Mondavi and his wife donated the new Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts and the building for the oenology department, UCD named the street Beau Vine Road.

Evelyn Falkenstein, Davis, California

Email of the Week - (Brought to you by Comeuppance - Get it. Got it. Good.)

From: David Smith (dsmith nmsu.edu)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--bovine

When I was seven years old I went to spend the night with a friend I'd met in Sunday School. His family lived on a small dairy farm. I was astonished to be roused from bed before the sun came up to go out to help milk the cows. I remember my friend's father calling the cows to the milking barn. He called, "Hey boss, boss, boss!" Now I know who was boss, the Latinate bovines.

David Smith, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico

From: Tim Johnson (tjohnson0610 gmail.com)
Subject: Bovine

This word always reminds me of an episode of The Simpsons in which Lisa's class watches a documentary on how meat is made. Once the cows are ready to be slaughtered, the narrator, Troy McClure (voiced by the inimitable Phil Hartman), remarks that the cows are ready to "graduate from bovine university". When the documentary ends, the dim Ralph Wiggum declares: "When I grow up, I'm going to bovine university!"

Tim Johnson, Evergreen Park, Illinois

From: Duncan Hawthorne (hawthorneduncan gmail.com)
Subject: Bovine - vaccine

Here is another word that refers to cows: vaccine. It comes from vacca, Latin for cow, after inoculation prepared from cows.

I became aware of the etymology of this word a few years ago when talking to a student of mine. I teach English in Spain, and she was a doctor, so I thought she might be interested in a story I remembered from my primary school days, about the invention of the smallpox vaccine, by the English doctor Edward Jenner. He realised that dairy farm workers who contracted the non-fatal cowpox never caught the often fatal smallpox, and so decided to infect people with a mild dose of smallpox, in order to inoculate them. My student told me that the Spanish word for cowpox is 'viruela vacuna' -- 'vacuna' being the word for 'vaccination' as well as 'bovine'. That's when the penny dropped; of course, vaccination -- vacca -- vache (in French), vaca (in Spanish)!

Duncan Hawthorne, Barcelona, Spain

From: Liz Thomas (imagine2 macau.ctm.net)
Subject: pavonine
Def: 1. Of or resembling a peacock. 2. Vain; showy.

The other day we were sitting at our local cafe when a Chinese girl walked across the square -- her hair, hanging down her back, had been dyed with colours to resemble a peacock's tail feather.

Vain? Showy? Perhaps? But it looked wonderful and certainly attracted attention!

Liz Thomas, Macau

From: Prunella Barlow (prunella shaw.ca)
Subject: Peacock

Pavo is also Turkey in Spanish.

Prunella Barlow, Vancouver, Canada

From: Kim King (kimking nccn.net)
Subject: Are donkeys silly? Who are we to say...

Donkeys are decidedly not silly, nor are they asinine in the current sense of the word. They are highly intelligent, wise, and noble creatures. Many have a well-developed sense of humor too. They also have a well-developed sense of self-preservation, and are very cautious by nature. They don't panic and bolt, as horses do, but freeze and refuse to move when they feel threatened, which ignorant humans misinterpret as stubborn. I would stubbornly refuse to do something that looks like it might get me killed too, as would you, I am sure, but no one would call us stubborn or asinine. Silly humans...

Kim King, Nevada City, California

From: Al Williams (ypa comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--hircine

I love this week's theme. I've collected -ine words for many years and find them useful on occasion. One can be insulting in an obscure fashion (e.g., hircine/caprine morals, anserine intellect, porcine appetite, anguine charm, testudine celerity), but it can backfire if one's verbal opponent is a fellow Wordsmith devotee with an elephantine memory.

Al Williams, Mount Juliet, Tennessee

All slang is metaphor, and all metaphor is poetry. -G.K. Chesterton, writer (1874-1936)

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