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AWADmail Issue 508

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

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter
The New York Times

The New Science of the Birth and Death of Words
The Wall Street Journal

From: Donald Blair (dcblair gmail.com)
Subject: doxy
Def: 1. A mistress or a promiscuous woman. 2. Opinion or doctrine.

Doxy is the frequent abbreviation in Infectious Disease circles for the antibiotic doxycycline that is effective against some venereal diseases. Hence, one can be in the position of treating a doxy with doxy.

Donald Blair, Syracuse, New York

From: Hugh Rawson (hugh.rawson charter.net)
Subject: doxy

The doxy-orthodoxy quotation in The Guardian is by no means original. The observation seems to have been made first by Bishop William Warburton (1697-1779) in reply to the Earl of Sandwich, when his lordship confessed to some puzzlement about the difference between orthodoxy and heterodoxy. Quoth the Bishop, according to Joseph Priestly's Memoirs (1831): "Orthodoxy is my doxy; heterodoxy is another man's doxy."

Hugh Rawson, Roxbury, Connecticut

From: Steve Benko (steve.benko gecapital.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--doxy

This reminds me of a favorite Tom Swiftie: "'You mean you've been carrying on with two mistresses at once?' she asked paradoxically."

A small group of other AWAD subscribers and I have found each other over the years and formed our own little word play forum. For years we were mad for Tom Swifties and came up with many hundreds of originals (to the extent one can be sure something hasn't been thought of before; but from our standpoint, at least, they were original).

Hafter having squeezed out as many as we could possibly think of, we moved on to Velveteen Rabbis (so named for the first of the genre we heard about through a Huffington Post blog), where you drop one letter of a famous book, movie, TV show, or play to form a different but still grammatical title, and attribute a new meaning to it that's preferably related in some playful way to the original. (In this case, "a young Jewish child grows up and discards her faith.") We got over a hundred of those before the flow recently slowed to a drip. A few more examples:

"Let's Make a Dal" - Monty Hall emcees a curried lentil cook-off.
"The DaVinci Cod" - Trawlers bring up a fish with a mysterious smile that leads them on a wild adventure to uncover the ancient secrets of King Neptune.

Steve Benko, New York, New York

From: Dave Alden (davealden53 comcast.net)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--doxy

Doxy is also used as shorthand for dachshound. My godparents had a dachshound they named Doxie. At age eight, I didn't think much about it. At a much greater age, it seems to show a startling lack of originality. But they were good godparents regardless.

Dave Alden, Petaluma, California

From: Dr Janet E Hildebrand (jehildebrand aol.com)
Subject: The Doxy,p> The Doxy, also known as the biting fairy, is a "small, fairy-like creature, sometimes mistaken for a fairy". You can find this edifying information, along with a picture and details, here.

Dr Janet E Hildebrand, West Monroe, Louisiana

From: Jenni Blaisure (luvpumpkns hotmail.com)
Subject: enceinte
Def: adjective: Pregnant. noun: Fortification around a fort, castle, or town; area so enclosed.

This brings back memories of one of my favorite episodes of one of my favorite television shows, I Love Lucy. The episode where Lucy tells Ricky she's pregnant was titled Lucy is Enceinte. She was the first television character/actress to ever be pregnant on TV and the network heads were nervous about it -- so nervous in fact, that they wouldn't even allow the show to use the word 'pregnant' in the title of that particular episode. They felt 'enceinte' meant 'expecting' and was thus a nicer word than 'pregnant'.

Jennifer Herring, Aiken, South Carolina

From: Michael Klossner (klossner9 aol.com)
Subject: enciente

The similarity of "impregnable" and "pregnant" was the basis of a joke in the British farce film Carry on Cleo (1964). In ancient Rome meek British slave Hengist Pod is mistakenly credited with killing several assassins and is hailed as an invincible warrior. Roman, "You're impregnable!" Hengist, "No, my wife and I simply decided not to have any children."

Michael Klossner, Little Rock, Arkansas

From: George Cowgill (cowgill asu.edu)
Subject: bravo
Def: interjection: Used to express approval, especially to applaud a performance; noun: A villain, especially a hired killer.

In Spanish, as an adjective, brava/o doesn't mean courageous, but instead something like fierce or ill-tempered.

George Cowgill, Tempe, Arizona

From: Howard Goldberg (dad1121 aol.com)
Subject: bravo

When I used to ride the subway to work in the Bronx, there was a sign on the roof of a building that warned "perro bravo". I assumed it meant "wild dog", not brave dog, like Lassie or Rin Tin Tin!

Howard Goldberg, Brooklyn, New York

From: Carolanne Reynolds (gg wordsmith.org)
Subject: Bravo

Let's not forget the ladies! Brava! The feminine plural is brave. And if more than one (masculine or mixed), bravi!

Carolanne Reynolds, West Vancouver, Canada

From: Tim Sloat (tims701)
Subject: Bravo Zulu

Bravo is used in the Marine Corps/Navy phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charley, Delta, etc) to avoid confusion from letters (e.g. B and D) with similar sounds. Naval signal flags, used alone or in combination, have a variety of meanings; Bravo Zulu meaning Well Done.

Tim Sloat, Laguna Beach, California

From: Max Montel (maxmontel yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bravo

Ah! Now I actually understand Growltiger from T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. The poem about this fearsome killer pirate begins:

Growltiger was a Bravo Cat who lived upon a barge;
In fact he was the roughest cat that ever roamed at large.

When I was a boy, I had an illustrated book of the poem, but I can't remember if that came before or after I saw the musical Cats. In any case, I remember picturing Growltiger as the sort of cat other cats said "bravo" to, perhaps under threat of force. It struck me as slightly odd, but it made a kind of sense. Come to think of it, it still does. Maybe eight-year-old

reasoning isn't so bad after all!

Max Montel, Los Angeles, California

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Bravo

One is often tempted to engage the services of a bravo (or even a bravissimo, i.e. superior bravo) to silence self-indulgent patrons who interrupt performances with ostentatious shouts of bravo.

What's in a name? The word barbaros was used to describe foreigners whose incomprehensible language sounded to Greek ears as so much gibberish (bar-bar). A trace of this may be found in the name of the Berbers of North Africa. This kind of erroneous assumption caused the Slavs to call the Germanic barbarians nemets or dumb, since German speech was unintelligible to them. The similarity of the name Slav to the word slave, in turn, has given rise to nefarious racial slurs and racial theories. Other examples of self-aggrandizing semantic chauvinism abound in the course of history.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Paul Tarry (p.tarry zen.co.uk)
Subject: Bravo

Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse loved opera and today's word reminds me of a scene from one TV episode where Morse rose to his feet at the end of a performance by a female singer and called out "Bravo!" Andrea Camilleri's Inspector Salvo Montalbano would have called out "Brava!" because the end of an Italian adjective changes according to the gender and number of the word it describes. So, "Brava" for a prima donna, "Bravo" for a leading male star.

Paul Tarry, Bury, UK

Email of the Week -- (Brought to you by One Up! -- Hello doubledomes!)

From: Siegfried Heydrich (baron_siegfried yahoo.com)
Subject: Cant

The word cant is also used in heraldry to indicate a visual pun, much like a rebus. For instance, if you look at the arms of Oxford, it's 'Argent, an ox gules and a ford proper', which is a red Ox and a base with several wavy blue bars, symbolizing a ford, which is a shallow part of a river that may be crossed on foot.

Thus you have an Ox + a ford, or Oxford. You find the visual puns all throughout heraldry. There is also a saying, as heralds throughout history have been known (notorious) for quick wit and sadistic punning, "Heralds don't pun, they Cant".

See more examples here.

Siegfried Heydrich, Ft. Myers Beach, Florida

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

'Cant' is very likely the origin of the name of the county of Kent, being the edge of the main British island. We have also the city of Canterbury -- the 'burh' of the Cantware -- men of Cant. These words presumably date to the early post-Roman period when continental tribes began to move in. The place-names and hereditary practices of the tribes who settled here in Kent are more archaic than those of the Saxons and Angles who took on the rest of the territory -- what became known as England, land of the Angles. The law in Kent -- gavelkind -- was in many ways strikingly different from the rest of England, and prevailed until the 1920s.

Griselda Mussett, Faversham, UK

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

In filmmaking circles, shots where the camera is tilted -- not placed horizontal to floor level -- is known as a canted angle. This kind of angle for shots is usually used to suggest unease or anxiety (for example, in the 1960s TV show Batman, the villains' hideouts were usually shot with canted angles).

The camera angle is also known as a Dutch angle. I suspect that the angle got this name because it was often used by German directors in Hollywood, so Dutch would be an American corruption of Deutsch.

Robert Payne, Los Angeles, California

From: Dawn Balistreri (dawnbali sbcglobal.net)
Subject: pug

As one who lives with two pugs, I believe No. 7 should be No. 1. Nevertheless, meaning No. 3 "to make soundproof" made me laugh aloud. Pugs never sneak up on you because they make noise -- all the time. They snort, grunt, and wheeze their way through the day, then snore like jackhammers at night. We pug lovers think that noisy trait is just one of their many charms.

Dawn Balistreri, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

From: Barbara Dolgins (bs22d aol.com)
Subject: set vs run

In an article by Simon Winchester in The New York Times, he states that in the latest edition of the OED "run" has replaced "set" as the verb with the most meanings. Further in the article he claims "for the verb form alone of 'run' no fewer than 645 meanings. A record."

Barbara Dolgins, New York, New York

Words are the small change of thought. -Jules Renard, writer (1864-1910)

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