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AWADmail Issue 493

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

Everyone Speaks Text Message
The New York Times

Help Wanted: Whales Need Translators
Daily Crowdsource

From: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews (kjmatthews btopenworld.com)
Subject: baldachin
Def: 1. A rich embroidered fabric of silk and gold. 2. A canopy.

Baghdad gave its name to the town of Baldock in North Hertfordshire (England). Founded by the Knights Templar in the 1140s, it was originally known by the Old French form of the name, Baudac, but by false etymology (Middle English bald (bare) + ok (oak)) gained an internal -l-.

Surprisingly, the place hasn't been overrun with Dan Brown fans!

Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Hitchin, UK

From: Rita Richter (info greysands.com.au)
Subject: Baldachin

My parents were from northern Italy, and in their dialect a baldachin meant a small shed...very basic. Could be lived in.

Rita Richter, Australia

Email of the Week (Brought to you by Wit Happens)

From: Elio Schaechter (mschaech sunstroke.sdsu.edu)
Subject: baldachin

The granddad of all baldachins is that of the celebrated sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini in Saint Peter's basilica. St. Peter's baldachin is rather bigger than a mere canopy, with four helical columns 20 meters high.

Elio Schaechter, San Diego, California

From: Anna L. Santos De Dios (alsdd_2 hotmail.com)
Subject: Baldachin

Like Edinburgh, Washington, DC hosts an annual Fringe Festival that showcases performing arts of an unorthodox bent. The social center of our Capital Fringe is the Baldacchino Gypsy Tent Bar, an outdoor venue that exists only for the duration of the festival. Until this week, I assumed Baldacchino was a character akin to Harlequin, but now I know better!

Anna L. Santos de Dios, Arlington, Virginia

From: Jean Mensch (jean hardscrabbleroad.com)
Subject: baldachino

While I found the etymology interesting, I found the example unusual. I noticed that the writer was German though his religion was not given. German Jews have tended to avoid Yiddish even when of Hebrew origins. Your canopy most often seen by me with a "qu" rather than a "ch" is usually related to churches. What that rabbi married those folks under was not a baldachin; it was a chuppah.

Jean Mensch, New York, New York

From: Anthony Irwin (anthony.irwin christie.com)
Subject: Babylon
Def: A place of great luxury and extravagance, usually accompanied with vice and corruption.

It is also a slang word for the Police in certain parts of London UK. (link)

Anthony Irwin, Devon, UK

From: James LeGros (james.legros yahoo.fr)
Subject: A thought for today

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY: For every prohibition you create you also create an underground. -Jello Biafra, musician (b. 1958)

The Spanish say: "Hacer la ley - hacer la trampa" -
Make a law and you make (create) the crime.
James LeGros, Velizy, France

From: Ben Miami (bfmi inorbit.com)
Subject: Muslin
Def: A plain-woven cotton fabric made in various degrees of fineness.

Muslin is used in cloth backgrounds in the photography business.

Ben Miami, Toronto, Canada

From: Karen Field (kfield2 verizon.net)
Subject: Muslin

Muslin is used by dressmakers and has been for hundreds of years. It is used for pattern making before using more expensive fabric and finding that the garment either didn't fit or just didn't work.

Karen Field

From: LukeJavan8 (via Wordsmith Talk discussion forum)
Subject: Muslin

It seems very strange for me to see Marie-Antoinette wearing a dress made of muslin. How times must change. My mother made sheets and pillow cases to support our family's income when I was a boy. And I remember its being very stiff, even after washing before sale. Of course more washings made it more pliable, but seeing the queen wearing it did give me the shivers.

LukeJavan8, Omaha, Nebraska

From: Mark L. R. (address removed)
Subject: feedback re Iraq

I've lived and practiced human rights law in Iraq, and I don't agree with the war as conducted either, however, your personal one-sided opinion on an otherwise complicated matter comes across as ill-informed and naive. More importantly, it detracts from the purpose of your service and adds nothing positive to your reader's experience. Why include this?

Mark L. R.

From: Jeff Kahn (jeffreymkahn yahoo.com)
Subject: This week's theme

Thank you for your thoughtful choice of themes this week, which recognizes the horrendous human and material costs exacted by the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and for which editorializing I assume you will take a lot of flak. As a US Army specialist in international relations who retired in 1993 after 20 years of service, I fully appreciate the morally dubious and geopolitically arrogant nature of our military intervention and the enormity of the ideological blindness that led to it. We need constant reminders, such as the one you have provided us this week, of the follies we have committed in order to have any chance of avoiding repeating them. Sadly, given our country's history over the past 50 years, we have a poor track record of learning from our mistakes.

Jeff Kahn, Atlanta, Georgia

From: Charlie Martin (arcmartin aol.com)
Subject: War

Politics (both sides) be damned, was drafted out of college to attend that crazy Asian war, to stem the flowing tide of communism? As president, I would NOT commit youngsters to ground (or any other) combat unless... I know what death and killing are. My own personal history lesson. Too bad our politicians, presidents are/were unaware.

1st Lt. Charlie Martin, ABN / Ranger, Now a model citizen

From: Gert Storms (gert.storms psy.kuleuven.be)
Subject: word meanings

A couple of years ago, some researchers in Flanders, Belgium, started with a large scale study of semantic memory in humans. The goal of this study is to find out how the meaning of words is stored in memory. We gathered data through the internet using a task that takes just over five minutes. By spreading a call through email and social networks like Facebook, we were able to reach over 80,000 participants in Flanders and in the Netherlands.

Lately, several American and British university professors expressed interest in gathering a similar dataset for the English language. We would like to ask you whether it's possible to put a call on your website to recruit participants for this study. The task is as simple as this: users are presented with 15 common words of the English language and are asked to write down the first words to come to mind after reading the cue words. The task is not long and most people enjoy doing it. It is important that we reach large numbers of participants in order to make the study representative for the whole English-speaking population, that is, from different nationalities. We try to reach as many people as possible by sending similar email to students, societies related to language, etc. The success of the enterprise depends on the willingness of societies like yours to spread the call.

The task is fully automatic and can be started by clicking here.

Prof. Gert Storms, Department of Psychology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Words are timeless. You should utter them or write them with a knowledge of their timelessness. -Kahlil Gibran, mystic, poet, and artist (1883-1931)

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