A.Word.A.Day -- AWADmail Issue 526
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AWADmail Issue 526

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

From: Peter Jennings (peterj benlo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--betimes
Def: 1. Sometimes; on occasion. 2. In good time; early. 3. Quickly; soon.

Betimes elicits an immediate association in my mind with the wonderful diaries of Samuel Pepys and what I remembered as his almost daily use of the word (15 times in Sep 1663).

"Up betimes and to my office,"...

A quick check of the full text revealed he "only" used it 444 times in the decade.

The word was most popular by far in the 1660s, as shown by this Google Ngram, but that may reflect multiple counting of the diary itself.

There was a brief resurgence in the 1690s, but it has been downhill for that word ever since.

Methinks betimes we should bring it back to life.

Peter Jennings, Stoney Lake, Canada

From: Gordon Havens (gordonhavens hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: incognito
Def: Having one's identity concealed.

Reminded me of Ralph Waldo Emerson's satirical (and still relevant) definition:
"A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking." --Journals, 1831

H. Gordon Havens, Independence, Missouri

From: Gail Rendle (renrdg nep.net)
Subject: agee
Def: To one side; awry.

This was a memory-jogger -- I'd forgotten that my grandfather, a farmer who hired out to handle horses for other farmers and do their plowing, used "gee" for right and "haw" for left. Perhaps that's one reason the show "Hee-haw" sounded like "old-home-week" to many older listeners! Grampa never had, or learned to drive, a car or a tractor, but was considered an expert at "following the plough".

Gail Rendle, Nicholson, Pennsylvania

From: Jamie Spencer (jspencer stlcc.edu)
Subject: agee

I know I won't be the only one to write about "agee" and connect it to a line from Gilbert and Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance. The self-important major general Stanley is searching for a rhyme for "strategy" and all he can come up with is, "You'll say a better major-general has never sat agee." (It works better with the music.)

Jamie Spencer, St. Louis, Missouri

From: Lee Anne Bowie (bowie.la gmail.com)
Subject: larruping
Def: adverb: Very. adjective: Excellent.

Whoa! I like this meaning more than the noun that existed in my family. "Young lady, you are cruising for a larruping!" I somehow knew it was a whipping even though no one ever got more than a verbal one. :-)

Lee Anne Bowie, Seattle, Washington

From: Dee Kerr (dkerr burlesontx.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--larruping

I never knew this was a real word. My mom used to say it when referring to homemade biscuits and gravy or some other Texas delicacy. Banana puddin' and Mexican cornbread were "larruping good" and tasty enough to "make you want to slap your pappy!" I always thought it was just some made-up word my grandfather thought of. Thanks for bringing back some good memories.

Dee Kerr, Burleson, Texas

Email of the Week brought to you by Old's Cool -- Stand up straighter.

From: Jim Laughlin (jim ligplaymakers.org)
Subject: larruping

Baseball fans and historians may recall that one of several nicknames for Yankee immortal Lou Gehrig was Larrupin' Lou. This sobriquet must have relied on the word's original sense of delivering a beating or a heavy blow, exactly what Gehrig's powerful bat did to ball with tremendous consistency over a then-record 2,130 consecutive games played -- a feat that earned him his most famous nickname, The Iron Horse. Gehrig must have appreciated the former nickname since he applied it to his barnstorming teams of 1927 and 1928, the Larrupin' Lous, who toured the country off-season playing Babe Ruth's team, the Bustin' Babes. The teams were actually comprised of local amateur ballplayers, giving fans who lived in remote areas of the country the chance to see the two fabled ballplayers in action.

Sportswriters are usually responsible for the clever nicknames, while teammates dish out the coarser designations, as when the Yankee players, taking note of Lou's unusually thick legs, christened him Biscuit Pants. Historians can find no evidence that Gehrig ever considered an alternative name to splash across his team's uniforms: The Biscuit Pants Bombers. (Check out this classic photo.)

Jim Laughlin, Maynard, Massachusetts

From: Steve Yastrow (steve yastrow.com)
Subject: Your quotation today

Your Czech proverb today, "The big thieves hang the little ones", reminds me of Shakespeare in King Lear: "The usurer hangs the cozener."

Steve Yastrow, Deerfield, Illinois

From: Jim Ellis (ellis law.unm.edu)
Subject: adverbs

Adverbs have a central place in the study of Criminal Law. When enacting criminal statutes, legislatures must select which mental state the prosecution must prove in order to obtain a conviction. The Model Penal Code establishes a taxonomy of adverbs for this task: "purposely", "knowingly", "recklessly", or "negligently". (The higher in that list a particular law is, the heavier the burden that the prosecution must bear in individual cases.) As a result, first year law students find, often to their surprise, that the selection and interpretation of adverbs are crucial topics in their studies.

James Ellis, Professor of Law, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque

The finest words in the world are only vain sounds if you cannot understand them. -Anatole France, novelist, essayist, Nobel laureate (1844-1924)

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