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AWADmail Issue 488

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

From: Helen Hileman (hhileman woh.rr.com)
Subject: chintzy, but proud
Def: 1. Decorated with chintz. 2. Cheap; gaudy; inferior. 3. Stingy.

I am 79 years old but I can vividly remember wearing the chintz feedsack skirts made from the feedsack material our animal feed came in. They may have been chintzy to some, but we loved our new clothes and we whirled around so our gathered skirts would whirl too.

Helen Hileman, Eaton, Ohio

From: Griselda Mussett (mussetts btinternet.com)
Subject: Chintzy

'Chintzy' is not necessarily a negative when it comes to interior design. It describes a very recognisable traditional style of furnishing in English households, with fabrics ornamented in floral designs derived from Indian patterns following our colonial associations with the sub-continent. Slightly old-fashioned now but a perennial favourite and, I would say, rather up-market rather than cheap.

Griselda Mussett, Faversham, UK

From: Janet Cole (rajillcole gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--chintzy

Oh! Now I know how to translate the Harry Potter book I read in Spanish. It referred more than once to a chair of printed cotton fabric. Now I know they meant a chintz covered chair. (link)

Janet Cole, Paso Robles, California

From: Simon Jarvis (simon_jarvis talk21.com)
Subject: Chintzy

There is a lovely example of chintz fabric on some furniture in Queen Victoria's bedroom in Osborne House -- her beloved holiday home -- on the Isle of Wight, UK. Looking carefully, you can see that both her and Prince Albert's profiles are cleverly printed onto the fabric as plant tendrils. Definitely not cheap, gaudy or inferior!

Simon Jarvis, Isle of Wight, UK

From: Bernice Colman (beecolman earthlink.net)
Subject: Chintzy

It is curious that a word describing a fabric that was one of the most labor intensive to produce should come to mean the opposite.

Chintz was also one of the biggest players in the European industrial revolution. Its import caused a panic and prompted all sorts of sumptuary laws.

True it was less costly than woven silks or wools from India but it caused a great stir. Nothing chintzy about it.

Bernice Colman, Venice, California

From: Keith Albans (keith.albans mha.org.uk)
Subject: Chintzy

We have an alphabet on our wall at home using letters my daughter made when she was young. Arranged in rows A-F, G-L, M-R, S-X and then Y and Z under S and T. Chintzy is the longest word you can make tracking from a letter to those above or below or diagonal.

Keith Albans, Derby, UK

From: Marc Chelemer (Mchelemer att.com)
Subject: Pinstriped
Def: 1. Having a pattern of thin parallel lines. 2. Formal, conventional, or conservative: relating to the attitudes and opinions of people typically in such dress, for example, those in the legal or financial professions.

Of course, for the millions of people in the New York, New York area, "pinstriped" also has a highly local meaning: of or belonging to the New York Yankees baseball team, who have worn white uniforms with narrow blue pinstripes for decades. Example: "Contract negotiations with X ballplayer have succeeded, ensuring that X will remain pinstriped for the next five years."

Marc Chelemer, Tenafly, New Jersey

From: Robert Fuhrel (robert.fuhrel csn.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pinstriped

Pinstriping refers also to a type of often curlicued narrow lines on customized cars.

Robert Fuhrel, Las Vegas, Nevada

From: Sue Weisman (sweisman stfranciscollege.edu)
Subject: 11111

I really appreciate your posting the word pinstriped on the day of 1s (Nov 1, 2011). Very amusing!

Sue Weisman, New York

From: Barbara Conrad (bdjcconrad comcast.net)
Subject: flannelmouth
Def: A smooth-talker, a flatterer, or a braggart.

My dear departed good-Republican father-in-law would be asked to leave the movie theater at news time when Eleanor Roosevelt would come on and he exclaimed "old flannelmouth" quite a bit above a whisper. Thanks for that memory.

Barbara Conrad, Murphy, California

From: Umber (via Wordsmith Talk forum)
Subject: flannel

Flannel is used in the UK to describe plausible untruths:
"You are speaking a load of flannel."
"That person's a flanneler."
I believe the expressions were prevalent during the war years.

Richard Brown, Bromley, UK

From: Stephen Lindsley (petrichor5 yahoo.com)
Subject: dirty linen
Def: Private matters that could be embarrassing if made public.

I find that the word of the day is often synchronistically appropriate for whatever is making headlines that day, and sometimes functions as a kind of personal horoscope, relating to something going on in my life. I often wonder if they are chosen for that purpose, since it is clear that the quotation for the day is often topical. I know, however, they are a part of a pre-determined theme for the week, which makes the whole thing more interesting.

With Herman Cain's sexual indiscretions now on the verge on scuttling his presidential campaign -- as similar revelations have dashed so many other candidates' hopes -- Dirty Linen seems a perfect phrase for today.

Stephen Lindsley, St. Louis, Missouri

Email of the Week (Courtesy Smart Pills - A Daily Dose of Intelligence.)

From: Ken Levin (ken edmunds.com)
Subject: crepehanger
Def: A gloomy person; a pessimist.

When I was a young securities lawyer, we used the term "hanging crepe" to mean adding risk factors to a stock prospectus, or adding additional cautionary language about some aspect of the company's business. We all saw one of our principal roles as serving as crepehangers to reduce the chance investors would have a cause of action if their investment declined in value.

Ken Levin, Santa Monica, California

From: Phyllis McGuire (phyl.hil gmail.com)
Subject: fabric names

There is a man in San Diego who names his restaurants after fabrics: Searsucker in downtown, Burlap in Carmel Valley, and soon Herringbone in La Jolla. He explains the meaning behind the name Burlap in a video.

Phyllis McGuire, San Diego, California

From: Judy Epstein (jepstein mail.com)
Subject: cotton pickin'

Just a word of warning -- I have only recently realized that this is a back-door way of committing a racial slur. When I used to use the phrase (picked up God knows where) "Keep your cotton-pickin' hands off X" -- it meant black hands, to put it less explosively. Because who picked cotton, after all?

Not sure about woolly-headed -- maybe better ask Gov. Rick Perry about that one!

Judy Epstein, Port Washington, New York

Compared to the drama of words, Hamlet is a light farce. -Anatoly Liberman, professor (b. 1937)

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