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AWADmail Issue 481

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

Why Some Languages Sound So Fast

Computer-Generated Writing
The New York Times

From: Mike Murphy (mike.a.murphy faa.gov)
Subject: Iridescent
Def: Displaying a rainbow of colors that change when seen from different angles.

I have loved the look of iridescence from the first time I saw the residue of gasoline on the surface of the water outside my grandfather's filling station. My youngest daughter recently gifted me with a mollusk shell of some sort she had brought back with her from a trip to the lake. I was as fascinated as she was.

Michael Murphy, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Email of the Week - (Sponsored by One Up! - Sintellectual soup in a can.)

From: Bruce McGuffin (mcguffin ll.mit.edu)
Subject: heterodox
Def: 1. Different from established beliefs or opinions. 2. Holding unorthodox opinions.

On of my favorite quotations, attributed to (among others) John Quincy Adams, is "Orthodoxy is my doxy, heterodoxy is your doxy." I doubt Mr. Adams meant us to hear it this way, but in Shakespearean English a doxy is a mistress or prostitute. That is certainly a different way to look at the relationship people have with their religious beliefs.

Bruce McGuffin, Lexington, Massachusetts

From: Geoffrey Kidd (e_w_bear ix.netcom.com)
Subject: heterodoxy

From Poul Anderson's short story Esau, reprinted in The Van Rijn Method by Baen Books:

A good manager is a very high-powered man, and we need a lot of him. But in his bottom, he is a routineer; his aim is to make things go smooth. No, for the wild places you need an innovator in charge, a man what likes to take risks, a heterodoxy if she is female -- somebody what can meet wholly new problems in unholy new ways -- you see?

BTW, those are not errors -- they are Nicholas van Rijn's normal English. In this case, I can speak with some authority, since I was the first-pass proofreader for The Van Rijn Method.

Geoffrey Kidd, Berkeley, California

From: Elizabeth D Anderson (elizabeth.d.anderson balboainsurance.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--kleptocracy
Def: A government by the corrupt in which rulers use their official positions for personal gain.

This sounds like a society ruled by the principle of compulsive stealing. With all the bonuses paid to CEOs whose companies lose billions of dollars under their watch, perhaps that isn't far from the truth.

Elizabeth D. Anderson, Irvine, California

From: Barbara T Kelly (BTKelly07 gmail.com)
Subject: Kleptonomy

Kleptonomy is a neologism I invented and it was published in UrbanDictionary.

Barbara T Kelly, Lansing, Michigan

From: Joseph Pearson (jpearson redplc.com)
Subject: Necropolis
Def: A burial place, especially a large and elaborate cemetery belonging to an ancient city.

I work in an office which is situated in the centre of (reputedly) Europe's largest cemetery. This originated back in the middle of the 19th century because London was running out of space to bury its dead and the London Necropolis Railway was formed with the sole intention of ferrying the dead from London to Brookwood. I wouldn't call London an ancient city!

Joseph Pearson, Woking, Surrey, UK

From: Jeremiah Reedy (reedy macalester.edu)
Subject: necropolis

My colleague was in Athens with a small group of students, and they decided to visit the necropolis. He got into one taxi with half the students, and he told one of the others to say to their driver Necropolis. As his taxi was pulling away he heard the student say Necrophilia.

Jeremiah Reedy, St. Paul, Minnesota

From: Lee J Rickard (berezowska comcast.net)
Subject: portmanteau assembly

Given that you are assembling words this week, will you be doing a sequence on portmanteau words? My personal favorite is Sanskrit: satyagraha, Gandhi's term for his political movement, created by combining satya (truth) and agraha (persistence). In fact, I've coined my own Sanskrit term for a modern political movement: avidyagraha. It uses the word avidya (ignorance) in place of satya, and means the practice of closing your eyes, putting your fingers in your ears, and going 'lalalala...', or the mental equivalent of the same. I've always felt we needed a word for that.

Lee J Rickard

From: Preston MacDougall (preston.macdougall gmail.com)
Subject: Linguistic atoms

I teach a course on thesis writing to Chemistry graduate students, and always refer students to AWAD for daily inspiration. The "Some assembly required" joke gave me an unoriginal idea as well.

Your atomic analogy for the theme of the week resonated with me. The following extract is from a public radio commentary on chemistry and words. I thought you might find it amusing: While the sizes, shapes, and functionalities of molecules are infinitely variable, just as a mouthful of words can be strung together to form a two-word matrimonial confirmation, or a dizzyingly long soliloquy, there are rules of bonding that constitute a molecular grammar. For instance, "I do!" and "Do I?" will elicit vastly different emotional responses, but "He do." is not allowed. Correspondingly, the three-atom chains chlorine-oxygen-hydrogen and oxygen-chlorine-hydrogen are allowed, but have quite different chemistries, whereas chlorine-hydrogen-oxygen is not allowed. The entire commentary is online.

Preston MacDougall, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

A lexicographer's business is solely to collect, arrange, and define the words that usage presents to his hands. He has no right to proscribe words; he is to present them as they are. -Noah Webster, lexicographer (1758-1843)

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