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AWADmail Issue 504

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

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Shakespeare Banned in Arizona
Tucson Citizen

Regional Dictionary Finally Hits "Zydeco"
The New York Times

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

From: Manfred Kroger (kv7 psu.edu)
Subject: graffiti
Def: Words or drawing made on a wall or other surface in a public place.

The most famous and most widely distributed of all graffiti in human history must be Kilroy was here which I first encountered as a 12-year-old while American soldiers in April 1945 passed through my hometown in Germany and then those of other nations occupied houses there. I have followed discussions about it ever since. The best site devoted to this now almost 70-year-old cultural icon seems to be this.

Manfred Kroger, University Park, Pennsylvania

From: Brad Beam (b.beam suddenlink.net)
Subject: graffiti

The last time I visited New York, I noticed signs in the subway prohibiting both graffiti and scratchiti. While it would seem redundant, given the derivation, there is a distinction between the two. Scratchiti seems to refer to using knives, keys, etc. for such purposes, where graffiti would literally paint with a broader brush.

Brad Beam, Belle, West Virginia

From: Charlie Cockey (czechpointcharlie gmail.com)
Subject: graffiti

Ever since my first visit to Italy years ago I cannot think of the word or scribblings of spray-can graffiti without thinking of the much more eloquent and permanent facade work known as sgraffiti -- the etymological connection is obvious, the artistic oftimes less so.

Charlie Cockey, Brno, Czech Republic

From: Bob Richmond (rsrichmond gmail.com)
Subject: viscera
Def: 1. The internal organs located in the main cavities of the body, especially those in the abdominal cavity. 2. The interior parts.

"Viscus" is still a fairly common word in formal medical usage. "The patient's symptoms suggested perforation of a hollow viscus." "Viscera" is also in common use, and retains its plural sense in medical usage.

Bob Richmond, Knoxville, Tennessee

From: Donald N. Smith (mnr.dns verizon.net)
Subject: this week's theme

I think you are being a little abrupt in saying that this week's words are "now used" as singulars. Aside from "truce", which is certainly a fine example, "insignia" seems to me more often plural in construction; "graffiti" is generally treated as a singular-or-plural, though this seems illiterate to an old pedant like me; and as for "viscera", I certainly hear this as a plural -- and indeed your two examples do not really show a singular use. I wonder what tomorrow Friday will bring!

Bravo though! AWAD is a fabulous thing and I have been admiring you and it for years.

Donald N. Smith, Brooklyn, New York

From: Elizabeth Vaughn (elonvon hotmail.com)
Subject: paraphernalia
Def: 1. Articles and equipment related to an activity. 2. Personal belongings.

In the law enforcement world, the possession of drug paraphernalia is a serious offense. It doesn't have to be a crack pipe. It can be as simple as a straw or piece of aluminum foil.

Elizabeth E. Vaughn, Henderson, Kentucky

From: Jonathan Rickert (therickerts hotmail.com)
Subject: This Week's Words

This week's theme of words whose singular form has completely or largely disappeared, with the original plural form taking its place, brought back memories. When I was a boy during World War II and very interested in US military insignia, I recall my grandmother, a retired school teacher, admonishing me that "insignia" was plural, while the correct singular was "insignium". According to AWAD, she was no more than half right.

Nevertheless, an interest in correct singulars and plurals has remained with me ever since. My two pet peeves in contemporary (mis)usage are "data" and "media", on which even prominent writers and major newspapers seem unable to agree, i.e., "the data is correct" and "the media is prejudiced". Had Marshall McLuhan's famous book been titled The Media Is the Message, I wonder if anyone would have noticed.

Jonathan Rickert, Washington, DC

From: John P Junke Sr. (junkelaw charter.net)
Subject: plurals

Don't forget the words that look like a plural, but aren't -- so reverting to their "singular" allows for a strange twist on humor. One person plays the harmonicum -- takes two for the harmonica. One person lives in Iowum -- two may inhabit Iowa. Singles attend the spum; couples take in a spa. If enough people are there, you have a quorum; otherwise, it's a quora (something got a double reverse in there). Quorum, of course, is the genitive to start with, which really messes things up declinationally speaking. I could go on and on, but you see my point, so take it from here (there).

John P Junke Sr., Walla Walla, Washington

From: Richard Stallman (rms gnu.org)
Subject: Another plural form used as singular

Another plural form used as singular is the name of my extensible text editor, Emacs. "Emacs" originally stood for "Editing macros".

Dr Richard Stallman, President, Free Software Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts

From: Vince Higgins (vinguy rogers.com)
Subject: plural

I remember an old Wayne and Shuster skit on Julius Caesar. Man enters a bar and asks for a martinus. The bartender asks if he meant "Martini". The reply was, "If I wanted two I'd ask for them." (video)

Vince Higgins, Toronto, Canada

From: Diane Roark (dmr1109 aol.com)
Subject: renewal

I had not been online for at least two years, so I had over 4800 emails waiting for me. I unsubscribed from everything in order to wade through the detritus of the build up. However, I soon began missing my word of the day!

Diane Roark, Flint, Michigan

Standard English is a convenient abstraction, like the average man. -George Leslie Brook, English professor, author (1910-1987)

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