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AWADmail Issue 52

October 14, 2001

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

From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

The 2,988 Words That Changed a Presidency: An Etymology

How Language Became a Struggle and May Change in Wake of Attacks:

From: Patricia Black (plhb01AThotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cecity

It seems somehow inappropriate that a word pronounced "SEE-sity" should mean blindness.

From: Gina Bodor (bodorfrATaol.com)
Subject: cecity

Cecity evokes the theme of blindness in that wonderful Canto XVI of Dante's Purgatory where vision and blindness interplay throughout the canto, here in the discussion of man's free will: "Frate,/lo mondo è cieco, et tu vien ben da lui...." "Brother,/ the world is blind, and you come from the world./You living ones continue to assign/to heaven every cause, as if it were/ the necessary source of every motion./If it were so, then your free will would be/ destroyed, and there would be no equity/ in joy for doing good, in grief for evil...." From Dante's Divine Comedy Purgatorio, translation by A. Mandelbaum, 1988 edition. G. Bodor.

From: Adina (dinarkATaol.com)
Subject: Re: Cecity

Caecum, the blind pouch found at one end of the large intestine, is undoubtedly related to the word cecity. In my undergraduate days, I had a mentor who was fond of quoting a professor of his, in what we sometimes see as establishing academic lineage, "You hide 'em; We caecum."

From: Michel Asboth (masbothATottawa.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lollygag

The word lollygag brings back many fun memories of my four year military stint in The Canadian Armed Forces Reserve with a infantry regiment of Governor General's Foot Guards based in my nations capital of Ottawa. As a recruit we were insulted and yelled at in many ways but never swore at in any foul language. The NCO's must have spent a little time coming up with lovely words to use, one of which was lollygag. As a recruit I was in awe at the power of these inane words. Other words used where gaggle, nimrod, fiddlehead (a maritime delicacy of edible fern sprouts) etc. Three years later as a junior NCO these words where passed down and came into use when I was assigned a section of new recruits for a Small Arms course.

From: David Banyas (banyasdATmindspring.com)
Subject: Lollygag memories

"Lollygag" sent me hurtling back to my days in the military, where jargon and dialect are definitive boundaries between enlisted and civilian people. Consistently accused of being lollygaggers, we frosh basic trainees were forced into a language that often left us confused. "Lollygag" is a perfect example of military talk meaning ineptitude. In fact, many of the other strange words of the military were synonyms for laziness, clumsiness, or just a total lack of ability. Words and phrases like "shammer" or sham artist" ("sham" has a formal definition meaning "lazy soldier"), "ragbag" (which means that a soldier looks as though he pulled out a dirty uniform straight from his laundry bag and put it on), and "ate up" (indicating that a soldier is so out of sorts, inept, and scruffy-looking that it appears as though he has actually been chewed upon by wild animals) are almost never used outside of the military but totally understood by almost any veteran.

From: Bill Macon (whmaconATaol.com)
Subject: lollygag

This happens to have been one of my father's favorite words, often accompanied by the word "fritter" as in: "You have frittered and lollygagged all weekend, and now you have no time left for your homework." Nice to know he wasn't just making these words up (although I wouldn't put it past him!).

From: Mary Perez (mperezATsyntroleum.com)
Subject: Chichi

One had best be careful when commenting on someone's chichi. The word is also common slang in Spanish for mammaries!

From: Javier Estrada (jestradaATpeinc.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--chichi

At least in México, chichi is a synonym for breast. Anyway, we have a married couple of friends. He's American, she's Mexican. A few years ago, a little after they had their first born, we visited them in the Dallas - Fort Worth area and went out one night to have Mexican food. Trying to impress us with the amount of Spanish he had learned, he ordered as his main course "chichi de pollo" (literally, the breasts of the chicken).

From: Alfred C Parker (alpark2ATjuno.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--chichi

I was shocked to see your word of the day. Know why? Because, in Japanese, it is the name for a woman's breasts. Korean too, since the Japanese occupied it so long.

From: Alistair Bairos (bairosa001AThawaii.rr.com)
Subject: chichi

In Hawaii chichi is slang for breast. A baby who wants to nurse wants chichi. Note this is not Hawaiian language, just local slang.

From: V Vasanth (vasanthATsankhya.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--chichi

Here, in South India, in my native Tamil, "chichi" (pronounced slightly differently as chee-chee) is an exclamatory remark meaning "its a bad choice/bad option" usually followed by a statement which agrees with this remark. Please note that this is only a colloquial usage. For example, one may say, "Chichi - The dress looks ugly on you" or "Chichi - Don't read this book, its not good".

From: Jack L. Yohay (jlyohayATnava21.ne.jp)
Subject: advocate

A credit union I've long belonged to (in the USA, not here in Japan, so foreignness of English no excuse) will have as a guest at its relocation celebration a "breast cancer advocate".

I didn't get along perfectly with my late paternal grandmother (of course she was maternal to my father and his brothers) but I would never have advocated breast cancer, of which she died at 61, as a way to rub her out.

From: Francis Barnett (fbarnettATkamloopslawyers.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tantivy

I've always thought that this word is imitative of the sound of the horn played at the beginning of an English hunt. The dictionaries do not seem to mention this, but there is a song which includes the line: "Tantivy, Tantivy, Tantivy, a-hunting we will go."

From: John Stifler (jstiflerATecons.umass.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tantivy

About "tantivy": If I remember correctly, the word was coined by British hunters as a vocal equivalent to the three distinctive hunting-horn notes played to rally the riders. On a piano you can get the effect by playing the notes C-F-A quickly three times in that pattern. Wanting to sing those same notes as if the horn call were a song, someone came up with "Tan-TI-vee, Tan-TI-vee, Tan-TI-vee."

From: Peirce Hammond (peirce.hammondATed.gov)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--horrent

So a guy with a bristly stomach is ab-horrent?

From: Lisa Keefe Scott (lkscottATaol.com)
Subject: Headlines

An addition to the Daily News headline observation in AWADmail: Not a Latin phrase, but my favorite headline ran in the Chicago Sun-Times about 10 years ago, over a story describing how prosecutors had worked to secure the testimony of incarcerated members of a local gang, the El Rukns, against bigger criminal fish by allowing them conjugal visits with girlfriends and looking the other way when drugs were delivered. The headline: "Sex, Drugs and Rukn Role."

From: Alan McLean (alan.mcleanATbuseco.monash.edu.au)
Subject: gambit

One of the questionable joys in life is listening to people use the wrong word in public. Some years ago in a radio interview the interviewee talked about experiencing "the whole gambit of emotions...."

Stability in language is synonymous with rigor mortis. -Ernest Weekley, lexicographer (1865-1954)

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