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AWADmail Issue 482

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

The Britishism Invasion

How to Stop the Drop in Verbal Scores
The New York Times

Robots Invent Their Own Language

Email of the Week - (Sponsored by One Up! - It'll drive you bananas.)

From: Dave Zobel (dzobel alumni.caltech.edu)
Subject: Books can be threatening (Re: Banned Books Week)

Whenever I send a book by parcel post and the clerk at the post office asks me, "Is there anything dangerous in the package?", I'm always tempted to answer: "Yes -- ideas."

Dave Zobel, Los Angeles, California

From: Lesley Marshall (editline xtra.co.nz)
Subject: banning books

Each year on 15 November PEN's Writers in Prison Committee remembers writers around the world who are harassed, imprisoned, tortured, and even killed because of their writings. In New Zealand we call this day Courage Day in memory of James Courage and his aunt, Sarah Courage, both New Zealand writers who had their books banned and burned -- James's for their homosexual content, and Sarah's because they featured people in her local community who became deeply offended.

Lesley Marshall, Maungatapere, New Zealand

From: Mark Scheerer (markscheerer verizon.net)
Subject: vade mecum
Def: A book for ready reference, such as a manual or guidebook.

While watching a televised college football game the other day, I saw Stanford University quarterback Andrew Luck -- a favorite to win the sport's top award, the Heisman Trophy -- in the huddle, opening the Velcro cover of a wristband and reading from the list of plays inside before sharing the selection with his teammates. Luck is a true scholar-athlete, majoring in architectural design, so I marvel at how complex and numerous the team's offensive schemes must be. But, thanks to A.Word.A.Day, I don't have to be a Stanford undergrad to know the QB is consulting a vade mecum.

Mark Scheerer, New York, New York

From: David Micklethwait (micklethwait hotmail.com)
Subject: vade mecum

When the British authorities prepared a handbook giving details of towns in Northern France for use by the troops following the Normandy landings, it was given the title Invade Mecum (invade with me).

David Micklethwait, London, UK

From: Christina Squitieri (christina.squitieri gmail.com)
Subject: Vade Mecum

In the world of poetry, we often talk about "go to" poems -- ones that inspire you or help you get through a bad day. While a vade mecum seems to be more for reference purposes, it's nice to think that an ancient Roman carried Ovid's poetry with him to inspire his own writing or help him through the same things we used poetry to get through today: bad breakups, fights with friends, a lousy economy, the drama of politics.

Christina Squitieri, Brooklyn, New York

From: Jon Aalborg (jaalborg mac.com)
Subject: Vade mecum

Vademecum is a classic Norwegian trademark and brand name for a menthol and eucalyptus based mouthwash. The logic of the name is apparent from old commercials, where a young lady will gargle with a solution of a few drops in a glass of water - and then suddenly have someone special walk her home. :-)

The brand has been around since 1897 (!) and still sells in 25cl glass bottles of concentrate - strong enough to be used as a disinfectant in an emergency. The bottles have not changed significantly during my lifetime (the last 50 years). (There is now also a mouth spray and a version with fluoride.)

Wishing you all a breathtakingly fresh, sparkling day with Vademecum,

Jon Aalborg, Oslo, Norway

From: Amy Dolcourt-McElroy (adolcourt yahoo.com)
Subject: vade mecum

More years than I care to say ago I found this gem by Morris Bishop in a tiny book of poetry. I understood most everything, but "vade mecum" sent me to my mother's dictionary, which lived permanently on the kitchen counter.

I lately lost a preposition;
It hid, I thought, beneath my chair
And angrily I cried, "Perdition!
Up from out of in under there."

Correctness is my vade mecum,
And straggling phrases I abhor,
And yet I wondered, "What should he come
Up from out of in under for?"

Amy Dolcourt-McElroy, Fresno, California

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--enchiridion
Def: A handbook or a manual.

Probably the best known use of this word appears in the title of a small handbook of nostrums, -- somewhat akin to Zen And the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance -- by the Roman philosopher of Greek birth Epictetus.

Epictetus didn't suffer whiners lightly. "You complain there is running of noses in this world. What, slave, have you got hands for?!"

He had a limp. Evidently, while still unfree, some bully of a master started to twist one of his legs. "You'll break it," he cautioned. And then, "Didn't I tell you?"

As a result of this and other indignities, he was liberated from slavery, thus becoming a 'during-dinner' philosopher. "So they passed you by with your favourite dish. Don't fret, there'll be another serving."

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Thomas Briggs (tom1inrkdia att.net)
Subject: Enchiridion

Beilsteins Handbuch der Organischen Chemie (The Beilstein Handbook) is a classic reference to the vast literature in the field of organic chemistry. The 4th edition (1998) consisted of 503 volumes, with over 440,000 pages. A Handbook indeed!

Thomas Briggs, Arcadia, Oklahoma

From: zmjezhd (via Wordsmith Talk bulletin board)
Subject: enchiridion

There is also a rarish word: chironomy 'the study of hand gestures' or 'using hand gestures to direct vocal performances'.

Jim Bisso, Richmond, California

From: Billie J. Grey (billie.grey va.gov)
Subject: roman-fleuve
Def: A long novel, often in several volumes, that tells the story of an individual, family, or society across several generations.

Roman-fleuve doesn't quite cover the variety. Here are some others:

Non-roman-fleuve -
Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898
The Adams Women: Abigail and Louisa Adams, Their Sisters and Daughters
The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Robert A. Caro

Roman-bayou -
Game of Thrones. G.R.R. Martin
Slowly meanders through all of the bits and corners and eventually flows
into an epic unfolding story.

Roman-whirlpool -
Aubrey - Maturin Novels. Patrick O'Brian.
Good yarn. Well told. But the crises and situations seem to recur with slight differences. The over-all theme is not "flowing story" but "will he ever learn?"

But my favorite is the Poldark books by Winston Graham. The novels were written from 1945 to 2002 and one of the things which flows and unfolds is the author's skill. The later books really show the author's improved skill.

Billie J. Grey, Washington, DC

From: Bill Richardson (billwwr attglobal.net)
Subject: Omnibus
Def: noun: 1. A volume reprinting several works by one author or works on one theme. 2. A public vehicle designed to carry a large number of people. adjective: Including or dealing with many things at once.

I can't hear the word Omnibus without thinking of the British entertainers Flanders and Swann whose song "The Omnibus" is one of my favorites. They explain the word omnibus as "to or for by with or from almost anything" and continue with the merits of the "The big six-wheeler, scarlet-painted, London Transport, diesel-engined, ninety-seven horse-power Omnibus! ... Hold very tight please, ting-ting!."

Thanks for dredging up some wonderful memories.

Bill Richardson, Orange, California

From: Carol Forbess (cforbess metrocast.net)
Subject: words are like...

I visualize words as like fruit in a basket. Sometimes the easiest to use are the tasteless ones close by, but I love to hear someone speak or read from a writer who reaches for the kiwi or mangoes from the back or goes to the trouble of cutting open the pomegranate to get to the arils. Some words can take you from the black and white to the color in Oz.

Carol Forbess, Springvale, Maine

Words differently arranged have different meanings, and meanings differently arranged have a different effect. -Blaise Pascal, philosopher and mathematician (1623-1662)

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