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AWADmail Issue 477

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

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Carvings as Memorials to Alphabets in Peril
The New York Times

Fa Ke You, River Crab
The Economist

Language Forensics
The New York Times

From: Catherine Bolton (translations bolton.it)
Subject: This week's theme (words with multiple meanings)

I loved your story about the lemonade stand. Folks, raise your hand if you didn't do that ... lemonade, Kool-Aid, and even plain water, but with plenty of ice cubes. So I was particularly upset to read this recent story in what was my backyard until I moved to Italy years ago.

Lemonade stands ARE the backbone of enterprise. Take it from someone who has spent the last 30 years in a country where a lemonade stand would raise most eyebrows. Entrepreneurship is not part of the lifestyle here, and it's something I miss.

Catherine Bolton, Bastia Umbra, Italy

From: Nancy Ratliff (nanrat bellsouth.net)
Subject: coronary/corona
Def: 1. Of or relating to the crown. 2. Of or relating to the heart. 3. Of or relating to the arteries or veins of the heart. 4. A heart attack. 5. The office of a coroner.

As a Latin teacher, I am always fascinated with words and the way they can be used and confused. Supposedly Michelangelo, when he was carving Moses for Pope Julius II's tomb, confused the words corona (crown) and cornua (horn). Thus when he read in the Bible that Moses came down from Mount Sinai with a crown of light on his head, Michelangelo thought it said Moses had horns on his head; and so we see the magnificent statue in Rome with the horns.

Nancy Ratliff, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

From: Susan Wall (s.wall earthlink.net)
Subject: Coronary

In an excellent series of murder mysteries by the British author Bernard Knight, the protagonist is a former Crusader, Sir John de Wolfe, who is one of England's first coroners during the reign of Richard I. In the novels, he's referred to as Crowner John.

Susan Wall, Boston, Massachusetts

From: Steve Henigson (m1911a1 rockisland.com)
Subject: Coronary

My favorite line from Hamlet is: "And the crowner shall sit upon her..."

Although it refers to the coroner calling a coronary jury to determine whether Ophelia has committed suicide, the image I get from it has to do with a high prelate perched upon the body of a woman whilst placing the royal diadem upon the head of the king.

Steve Henigson, Eastsound, Washington

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Coronary

In addition to having multiple meanings, coronary is also an example of nominalization, i.e. an adjective used as noun, the meaning of the latter understood without actually being stated. E.g coronary arteries, coronary thrombosis, coronary bypass operation, and the like. Other instances abound.

A dirigible as an airship whose movement can be directed; a deductible is a portion of a benefit shouldered by the beneficiary. Most famously, there is the portable, which can be a pension, an insurance, a classroom, or a toilet, with the choice having career-defining implications. Especially as it's pronounced in certain dialects as potable, leading to further complications.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Bill Richardson (kymrbill aol.com)
Subject: Fugue

The flight meaning of fugue induced me to make sure you are aware of the Terrafugia flying car. The prototype has flown successfully and received clearance from both the FAA and highway safety administration.

Bill Richardson, Orange, California

From: Pat Hutley (pat.hutley arcor.de)
Subject: Marrow
Def: 1. The soft fatty tissue in the interior of bones. 2. The inmost, best, or essential part. 3. Any of various squashes in green or creamy-white colors. 4. A helper, co-worker, friend, or a spouse.

The German for bone marrow is Knochenmark and since "Mark" also translates to "pith" or "pulp", it has a culinary application to describe a fruit sauce or "coulis". Once I was amused to read an English translation in an Austrian menu offering the rather unappetizing-sounding "Sorbet with strawberry marrow".

Pat Hutley, Kelkheim, Germany

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

From: Michael Oakes (mondaycrusade1013 yahoo.com)
Subject: talus
Def: 1. A bone of the ankle joint, also known as the anklebone. 2. A slope, especially a sloping mass of debris at the foot of a cliff.

Another name for talus, or tali (Latin plural), is the Greek astragalus, the heel bone of a hoofed animal, such as a deer, calf, sheep, or goat used as dice for gambling, found in excavations in Egypt as long ago as 1320 BCE. The bones had four sides, typically scored, 1, 2, 4, 5.

Michael Oakes, Roselle, New Jersey

From: Roberta Robinson (robbie.r.robinson shaw.ca)
Subject: Talus

My grandson's name is Talus, but pronounced with a short 'a'. Their dog's name was Shale. And I was grateful that the next child's name was not Scree.

Roberta Robinson, Calgary, Canada

From: Elizabeth Hannan (skywayliz gmail.com)
Subject: Billet
Def: 1. To lodge or to be quartered. 2. A civilian place (as a private home) where soldiers are lodged temporarily. 3. An official order directing someone to provide lodging for soldiers. 4. A short letter or a note. 5. A job appointment. 6. A chunk of wood, suitable for fuel. 7. A metal bar or ingot.

This word gave me a major flashback. World War II, as a child in England, we had two Welsh soldiers billeted with us for a while. In our small home, believe they slept on the floor in our living room. From that experience I remember the words for "Go to Bed" in Welsh.

Elizabeth Hannan, Tellico Plains, Tennessee

From: N. L. Zalokar (ndunwody aol.com)
Subject: billet

Billet is also the name of the strap(s) on an English saddle to which the girth is attached. Check the billets on your saddle a second time before putting your foot in the stirrup.

N. L. Zalokar, Stafford, Virginia

From: Hope Bucher (hopebucher gmail.com)
Subject: billet-doux

Because of its French origin, the religious order, R.S.H.M, in Tarrytown, New York, had a custom of gathering all of the nuns together for a "billet-doux" reading every spring. Since it was the next year's assignment and could mean that a nun was being sent to a convent in South Africa or Brazil, it was often not considered a "sweet note". The gasps and screams, as each "billet-doux" was read from the auditorium stage, approached those heard at a horror movie. The vow of obedience left no choice but to pack and leave.

Hope Bucher, Naperville, Illinois

From: Shivani Suresh (shivanisuresh yahoo.co.in)
Subject: Thank you!

I've been subscribing to a variety of word a day programs over the past few months in an attempt to extend my vocabulary which is (supposedly) going to be helpful in my SATs.

Out of all those, I've found yours to be by far the most interesting and effective. I like that your language isn't all complicated and set to impress people, rather to impress upon people, the words you are sharing with us. It's very useful and it actually works! I know what "coronary" means now! haha

I just wanted to extend my sincere thanks to you. I never thought expanding my vocabulary could be so enjoyable!

Shivani Suresh, Kigali, Rwanda

A language is never in a state of fixation, but is always changing; we are not looking at a lantern-slide but at a moving picture. -Arthur Lloyd James, phonetician (1884-1943)

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