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AWADmail Issue 509

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

A Picture of Language
The New York Times

Book Captures Uniquely American Lingo

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

From: Steve Kirkpatrick (stevekirkp comcast.net)
Subject: discomfit / desconfit
Def: 1. To confuse or embarrass. 2. To thwart the plans of.

Here's a story about a related word, confit.

At a wedding celebration dinner, the main course included duck confit. My daughter immediately piped up "Duck feet?". Father knowing better, I assured her "No, they said confit." The waiter informed us that duck confit is essentially the fat of a duck.

Tonight, seeing that discomfit comes from the Old French desconfit, I had to look up confit. The main ingredient is: leg of duck. She was in the right vicinity!

Steve Kirkpatrick, Olympia, Washington

From: Bram J Amsel (bja164 gmail.com)
Subject: begrudge
Def: 1. To envy or resent someone's good fortune. 2. To be reluctant to give.

I've never come across an antonym for begrudge in English. In Dutch and German, in contrast, it exists as gunnen or gönnen, respectively. Begrudge in these languages requires a negative "niet" or "nicht" before the verb.

Bram J Amsel, Edegem, Belgium

From: Michael Tremberth (michaelt4two googlemail.com)
Subject: avulse
Def: To pull off or tear away.

Avulsed teeth appear to be a fairly frequent consequence of barroom fights, street brawls and torture, as well as, regrettably, domestic violence.

Michael Tremberth, St Erth, Cornwall, UK

From: Stephen Kirkpatrick, DDS (stevekirkp comcast.net)
Subject: avulse

Success varies for intentional re-implantation of an avulsed tooth. Length of time out of the mouth and the type of storage medium (solutions, such as milk, saliva, Save-a-Tooth, Hanks Balanced Salt Solution, etc.) affect the viability of the periodontal ligament (PDL) fibers. If the PDL fiber cells don't survive, then bone will attach directly to a root, and the tooth will eventually undergo resorption, much the way that bone remodels itself. Except that we don't want our roots remodeling themselves. That leads to tooth loss.

With the high success rate of dental implants, re-implanting an avulsed tooth is becoming a poor-risk treatment, except under ideal circumstances. It's still worth bringing the avulsed tooth to the dentist immediately. Don't scrape the root or or let it dry out, or store it in plain water. Be ready, though, for the dentist to suggest an implant.

Stephen Kirkpatrick, DDS, Olympia, Washington

From: Allison Byrum (jakb centurytel.net)
Subject: Avulse

I was working in a shop when I came across an old tape measure that was no longer working. I thought I'd be clever and take it apart to see why it was sticking.

Little did I know that tape measures have a spring loaded mechanism, and if you open them up, the forty odd feet of spring steel inside will try to straighten itself out instantly.

Fortunately, instead of losing a limb or an eye, I just lost a chunk out of my knuckle. As I went slightly into shock and had to be escorted to the health center for a tetanus shot, I vaguely remember the nurse explaining that this type of wound was called an avulsion. The scar has mostly faded, but I will always remember what caused it!

Allison Byrum, Pottsville, Arkansas

From: Patrick D'Addario (pdaddario laguardiafoundation.org)
Subject: avulse

In the twenty-five years that I have spoken Portuguese as a second language, I have come across a few Portuguese words with English cognates that I didn't know they had. "Avulso" is the latest. In Brazil, single cigarettes sold on the street are avulso, or separate, with the implied sense of having been taken from a set.

Patrick D'Addario, New York, New York

From: Eric Marchbein (emarch333 verizon.net)
Subject: Machinate
Def: To plot or scheme.

In literature and theater, deus ex machina is a plot device where the action is carried forward by divine Intervention. It is often seen as a cheap ploy when the author is unable to contrive a scenario whereby the characters resolve an impasse without the need for external interference or a lucky coincidence.

Eric Marchbein, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

From: Paul Geller (pxgeller yahoo.com)
Subject: Verbs

I like what you say about verbs including, "Take it out and the sentence comes crashing down." As usual, there are some exceptions. Here's a cute one: "This sentence no verb."

Paul Geller, Marina del Rey, California

From: Craig Nielsen (rcn3312 aol.com)
Subject: Verbs

When I saw this week's subject, I immediately harkened back to this old saw: "While cavemen were creating the first language, they suddenly found they got more done after inventing verbs."

Craig Nielsen, Dallas, Texas

If you know only one language, you're a prisoner, stuck in the tyranny of that one language. -Andrew Cohen, professor of linguistics (b. 1944)

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