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AWADmail Issue 516

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

Italian University Switches to English
BBC News

The Living Word
The New York Times

An Eponym/Toponym Celebrates Its 250th Anniversary
BBC News

From: Jim Distelhorst (JSDistelhorst post.harvard.edu)
Subject: triangulate
Def: verb tr.: 1. To position between two extremes, for example, in politics to appeal to both left and right wings; 2. a. To make triangular; b. To divide an area into triangles; c. To determine a location by measuring angles to it from known points; adjective: Composed of or marked with triangles.

The most common one to me as a family physician -- from Wiktionary: "to pit two others against each other in order to achieve a desired outcome or to gain an advantage".

Jim Distelhorst, Vashon, Washington

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

From: William Stanley (valcouns earthlink.net)
Subject: triangulation

Whether in relationships, business, or politics, triangulated communication means A complains to B about C, when the direct communication is that A should talk with C. When marriages and families resort to this, communication breaks down and anger and hurt feelings erupt. I see this frequently in family counseling.

William Stanley, Issaquah, Washington

From: Riva Soucie (rsoucie gmail.com)
Subject: One more side to that triangle!

There is just one more side to that triangle. Triangulate is also used in the social sciences as a term to describe the use of multiple research methods to study the same problem.

Using more than one method provides multiple ways of 'seeing' a problem. Each of these many perspectives can either confirm, transgress, or help to reinterpret each other.

So, we always say that there are three (at least) sides to every story!

Riva Soucie, Ottawa, Canada

From: Jonathan Speelman (jonathan speelman.demon.co.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--triangulate

In chess we use the verb triangulate (and the noun triangulation) to describe a manoeuvre, normally in king and pawn endings, when it happens to be advantageous to put the opponent on move in a position where it's initially your turn.

In order to "put them into zugzwang" (i.e. a position where the compulsion to move is harmful), your king describes a triangle while the enemy king for some reason or other is unable to do so. You thus "lose a move" by the triangulation (they've gone backwards and forwards while you've made three king moves) and they end up having to move and in zugzwang.

The point of the triangulation is that you get exactly the same position as a few moves earlier, but this time it's not your turn to move but his and anything he does will make things worse for him: zugzwang.

Jonathan Speelman, Grandmaster, London, UK

From: Janet Rizvi (janetrizvi gmail.com)
Subject: triangulate

One of the major achievements of the British in India was the Great Trigonometrical Survey, the triangulation of the entire subcontinent, from Cape Comorin to the Himalaya.

Among the many other stupendous intellectual feats of the 19th (or any other) century, this one may have been unique in involving a practical endeavour lasting more than half a century with the co-operation of thousands of surveyors, working in conditions from the tropical, to the quasi-arctic to construct triangles on the basis of inch-perfect measurements. When the first phase, a 'spine' stretching 1600 miles up the peninsula from south to north, known as the Great Arc of the Meridian, was completed some 40 years after its inception, the discrepancy in the link-up of the last two series of triangles was a mere 6.395 inches.

This feat made possible the precise calculation, not only of the height of the mightiest mountains in the world, the peaks of the Himalaya and the Karakoram; but also of the exact curvature of the earth.

Janet Rizvi, Gurgaon, India

From: Nancy Brandon (nancy.brandon gmail.com)
Subject: Foursquare
Def: adjective: 1. Firm; unyielding; 2. Frank; forthright; 3. Square in shape; adverb: In a firm or forthright manner.

Foursquare also refers to a classic American house design, especially popular in the 1920s - 1930s. It is a classic style that immediately identifies its neighborhood as belonging to the era of the Arts and Crafts/Craftsman architectural period. For a more in-depth description, along with pictures, see this article.

Nancy Brandon, Richmond, Virginia

From: Winsome Brown (teawhina gmail.com)
Subject: foursquare

Foursquare is also a ball game which consists very simply of a large square painted on the playground which is itself divided into four squares. four players have a square each, the person in square one bounces a large ball then pats/slams it into another square, then that player lets it bounce once then pats or slams it with the hands into another square and so on. If you send it out of a square or miss it when it comes to you, you're out and everyone below you moves up a square and the first person in the line joins in at square number four. The object is to get to square number one and stay there as long as possible or until the bell rings for the end of break time. It sounds a bit tame, and it's surprisingly hard to describe something so simple, but it's a time-honoured game and can get very competitive!

Winsome Brown, Fernside, Canterbury, New Zealand

From: Mitch Schapira (mschapira gmail.com)
Subject: Square

S. Klein, the great department store in NYC, was located at Union Square on 14th Street. Their slogan played on this fact, as well as the sense of fairness: "S. Klein's -- on the Square."

Mitch Schapira, Anchorage, Alaska

From: Nathan Horowitz (toanke gmail.com)
Subject: Re: square

The humble square was ennobled by the German-born American artist Josef Albers, admittedly no hipster himself, in a series called Homage to the Square. These images are easy to take in at a glance, but spending time with them yields curious and beautiful effects like spatial fluctuations and color shifts.

Nathan Horowitz, Vienna, Austria

From: Sandy Untermyer (sandyu mac.com)
Subject: Re: Subject: A.Word.A.Day--triangulate

If you are old enough -- I am 68 -- you can remember when to be square or on the square was something to be proud of, not ashamed of. A person who was square was honest and fair-dealing, a moral person. Fictional detectives Phillip Marlowe and Sam Spade were square. This changed when squares became equivalent to local yokels or moldy figs (old folks; the sadly out of touch) sometime in the early to mid-fifties, with the advent of the Bop and Cool schools of jazz, which quickly replaced the previously popular, and danceable, Swing and Dixieland.

While Bop and Cool weren't danceable, that had been Swing's raison d'être; Swing eventually came to be replaced by Rock, and in the South, Beach Music. But those who refused to desert Swing for the new music styles, and stayed with their familiar Dorseys, Lawrence Welks, and Mitch Millers were now considered squares.

Sandy Untermyer

From: SarahRose Werner (swerner nbnet.nb.ca)
Subject: Trapeze and trapeza
Def: An apparatus consisting of a short horizontal bar suspended by two ropes, used in gymnastics and acrobatics.

A few decades ago, I went travelling in Greece with a good knowledge of the alphabet but pretty much none of the language itself except for what I could glean from roots of English words.

Of course, the first thing I needed to do was to find a bank and change money. I was tickled to realize that the Greek word for bank, trapeza, had almost certainly followed the same derivational path as "bank" itself.

Bank comes from Italian banca (related to bench), a moneylender's table. The table would almost certainly have been trapezoidal in shape (if not more precisely rectangular) so I figured that "trapeza" recalled the same table.

I greatly enjoyed my time in Greece, and figuring out the language was part of the fun for me.

SarahRose Werner, Saint John, Canada

From: Gwynne French (SongBirdMe aol.com)
Subject: trapeze

My daughter just asked if I could make a dress for her that she had seen that was described as a "trapeze" dress. After reading the explanation of the "trapezoidal" nature, now I can understand why the dress is called that. I had heard of the description of that kind of dress before but never really understood how it got that name. Here are some examples.

Gwynne French, Dakota, Illinois

From: Judy Gates (judyjane.gates gmail.com)
Subject: trapeze

I'd say "misusage" rather that "usage" is appropriate for quotations about trapeze. Seems to me the first one should read, "In my last year at the university, I felt like I had finally mastered walking the tightrope of my life, work, and academics." And the second use of "trapeze" makes no sense but I can't come up with an appropriate alternative: "Prime Minister and his advisers were hanging themselves in a trapeze of stale and false intelligence." Maybe "noose"?

Judy Gates, Marblehead, Massachusetts

From: Myron Bregman (mbregman mindspring.com)
Subject: Vicious circle
Def: A situation in which a problem causes other problems, which in turn make the original problem worse.

This is known to engineers as positive feedback. It is what makes the PA system squeal and your child swing higher.

Myron Bregman, Wayne, New Jersey

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Vicious circle

Roman soldiers, pillaging the city of Syracuse in Magna Graecia (Sicily), chanced upon Archimedes drawing circles in the sand, presumably intent on establishing a new geometrical postulate. Carried away by the taste of victory, the marauders made a hash (or square?) of the drawings, provoking the venerable old geometer to utter the impassioned outburst: Noli turbare circulos meos, which, in modern English, may be rendered as "Leave my circles alone!" For this, he was slain on the spot.

To vitiate an experiment, however circular, in such fashion is nothing if not vicious.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Alexander Nix (revajnix yahoo.co.uk)
Subject: Words with allusions to geometrical shapes

I'm sorry to lower the tone of your usually cerebral responses but couldn't resist sharing this with you after reading today's AWAD.

What's round and dangerous?
A vicious circle!

Alexa Nix, Cambridge, UK

No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous. -Henry Brooks Adams, historian (1838-1918)

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