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AWADmail Issue 503

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

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

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Promethean
Def: adjective: Boldly creative; defiant; audacious. noun: A person who is boldly creative or defiantly original.

Is there one more greatly endowed with the Promethean spirit than the inventive genius, defiant innovator, mischievous monster, heroic adventurer, uncompromising rebel, ardent lover of mankind: Ludwig van Beethoven? No wonder that he was obsessed with the theme he had originally composed for a ballet called The Creatures of Prometheus. Subsequently it served him as the main idea for a set of variations for piano, ultimately triumphing in the exalted Finale of his "heroic" Third Symphony.

Beethoven gave of himself in unselfish abundance, with ceaseless sacrifice on the incandescent altar of that creative urge which is our greatest inheritance from antiquity and even further back, from prehistoric times: namely the ability to make music. (The word music of course comes from Muse, in Greek mythology one of nine goddesses of artistic inspiration.)

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Rachel Shaw (saltaredeluna gmail.com)
Subject: Gods and Goddesses

I just wanted to point out that the Greek and Roman pantheons are still well and alive in the worship of pagans and wiccans. My deity of worship is Artemis, the huntress and Goddess of the moon. I was slightly offended to read that they are thought of as just myths, long forgotten except in mythology. Many pagans "adopt" a god/dess from a wide variety of cultures -- Norse, Celtic, Native American, etc. We pray to them, make offerings, and direct our energy to and from them.

Rachel Shaw, Byron, Georgia

From: Ron Seiden (ronseiden email.com)
Subject: promethean

Prometheus was punished by the gods for bringing fire to Man. The name "Lucifer" means "fire bringer" and we use that name for another theological outcast.

Ron Seiden, Grove City, Pennsylvania

From: Cashman Kerr Prince (cprince wesleyan.edu)
Subject: Promethean

According to the ancient Greek poet Hesiod, Prometheus (meaning "forethought") had a brother, Epimetheus ("afterthought"). We all have afterthoughts, although perhaps none so dramatic as regret over Pandora, but there is no suitable adjective "Epimethean" in our vocabulary today.

Cashman Kerr Prince, Norwood, Massachusetts

From: Arthur Silverstein (arts jhmi.edu)
Subject: Promethean

You might be interested in the application of 'Promethean' (and his brother Titan 'Epimethean') in the field of immunology. We recognize two mechanisms of defence against disease: a germline mechanism acquired over longtime evolution (the 'innate system') and an 'acquired system' (appearing suddenly in vertebrates) able to protect against newly developed germs and viruses. The former has been called by an immuno-philosopher "Epimethean evolution" (backward-looking) and the latter "Promethean evolution" (forward-looking).

Arthur Silverstein, Falmouth, Massachusetts

From: Robert Payne (dziga68 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Prometheus

The subtitle of Mary Shelley's 1818 novel "Frankenstein" was "The Modern Prometheus".

Robert Payne, Los Angeles, California

From: John D. Laskowski (john.laskowski mothman.org)
Subject: Promethea Moth

The root word Prometheus is the basis for the naming of the liver-red female Promethea Moth, Callosamia promethea, one of the large Saturniidae moths. This moth species, with its camouflaged brown coloration, exhibits "warning coloration" to potential predators with the "snake head" of bright eyespots on the curved ends of the forewings when stimulated to flop their wings. If these predators (usually birds) see these large eyespots they strike them, thinking they are the vulnerable body part, and hit the wingtip with little damage to the fleeing moth. See more beautiful moths on a two-sided poster on mothman.org.

John D. Laskowski, Halifax, Pennsylvania

From: David Minster (david.minster gmail.com)
Subject: Promethean

Check out The Prometheus Society for modern Prometheans.

David Minster, Johannesburg, South Africa

From: Magdalena Georgieva (georg20m gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dionysian
Def: Uninhibited; undisciplined; spontaneous; wild; orgiastic.

It's funny that this was today's word of the day because on February 14th we celebrate wine and vine growers in Bulgaria. Happy wine day!

Magdalena Georgieva, Cambridge, Massachusetts (I am originally from Varna, Bulgaria)

From: Dennis Major (dmajordude msn.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dionysian

Way back when I was but a mere lad, I had researched to find that my name is a derivative of Dionysus. Of course, most of the other kids tried to make me believe it was a derivative of Dennis the Menace.

Dennis Major, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

From: Don Williams (don.williams park.edu)
Subject: Dionysian

As a botanist and amateur enologist, Dionysus makes for interesting reading and discussion. I have been using Michael Pollan's book, The Botany of Desire, as a supplementary reading assignment for my botany students. Periodically, after they have had a chance to read an assigned chapter, we then come together and discuss both the botanical as well as the cultural and intellectual aspects of his book. I have quite enjoyed the way he has juxtaposed Dionysus and Apollo throughout his book. Surprisingly, I have found that many students are unaware of these Greek characters.

Don Williams, Kansas City, Missouri

From: Asa Goodwillie (asag rcn.com)
Subject: Apollonian
Def: Serene; harmonious; disciplined; well-balanced.

An Apollonian gasket is the name for a beautiful fractal composed of ever-shrinking, mutually tangent circles. It's named for a Greek mathematician, Apollonius of Perga, whose work on conic sections gave us the names of some more common mathematical objects: the ellipse, the hyperbola, and the parabola.

Asa Goodwillie, Watertown, Massachusetts

From: James Barrick (jbarrick nyc.rr.com)
Subject: Malapropism

I subscribe to A.Word.A.Day and love it. Thank you! It helps me with my avocation as a cruciverbalist. I needed a few things for dinner last night, among them salad ingredients, and so went to the market. See what I found.

malapropism for mesclun salad 'mescaline_salad'
James Barrick, New York, New York

Every word was once a poem. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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