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AWADmail Issue 53

October 21, 2001

A Weekly 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: AWADnews

Latest issue of AWADnews is now available. It includes list demographics, stats (shortest, longest email addresses, etc.), newest countries on the list, and other regular features.

From: Rebecca Ewing (rebecca_ewingATatlmug.org)
Subject: blue rinse

There's a good reason for blue rinse. As we age, a yellow film develops over the eye, making colors look dull and muted. This is why the stereotypical old opera goer will wear bright red rouge and lipstick and a loud dress. To her eye, the red makeup looks pink.

White or gray hair will look brassy to her eye. With a blue rinse, the hair looks silver or white instead.

One older client phoned me after cataract surgery. She'd always thought her appliances were almond, when, in fact, they were white.

From: Jane Ross (janevwrossAThotmail.com)
Subject: Bluenose

In Canada, the word "bluenose" has a very positive meaning. Our internationally acclaimed "Bluenose" is the clipper ship that adorns our 10 cent piece (our dime). She was an international racing ship -and she won every race she sailed. She hails from Halifax and consequently those who live in Halifax are called "Bluenosers" (aside from being called "Haligonians").

From: Sherilyn Lee (sherbearATix.netcom.com)
Subject: Regarding "Blue Rinse"

While flying to Ireland this summer, I sat next to a man from Cork. I asked him for some suggestions of places to visit and we struck up a conversation. Upon my mentioning some well-known Irish tourist attraction, his eyes sparkled as he said, "You don't want to go there, it's been washed with the Blue Rinse. You want something authentic."

It turns out that something in Ireland that has been washed with the Blue Rinse means that it has been completely "Americanized."

From: M. Sorensen (msorensen7AThome.com)
Subject: Re: Blue

With your clever samples demonstrating the various meaning in words and phrases using the color blue, you suggest: "Even a computer would go crazy trying to make sense of this." I found this especially amusing, being a computer geek by trade. Ever since the early days of Windows, when the operating system crashes ("goes crazy trying to make sense of things"?), it displays only a simple text error message in white lettering on a blue background. This condition is almost always "fatal", meaning that the system must be restarted. When this occurs, we say that the system "bluescreened", or displayed the Blue Screen Of Death (or BSOD). The term is so prevalent in the industry that Microsoft's Knowledge Base uses "bluescreen" as a common search keyword.

From: Tandy Solomon (tanssoloATaol.com)
Subject: Re: blue rinse

In American English these folks are generally known as "blue hairs." The theatre community uses the phrase to denote the type of audience typically found at matinee performances; "How will that scene play with the blue hairs?" is a common query.

Meanwhile, among those who wait tables, "the blue hairs" are -- rightly or wrongly -- thought to be the worst tippers. No one wants to take a table of blue hairs. Speaking of the waiting profession, in the late '80's, we came to be gender-non-specifically called "waitrons," which was phased out in favor of the current "servers."

From: Carolyn Bryant (carolyn_bryantATca.cgugroup.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--blue rinse

Perhaps, it's just the circle I run in, but I've always used the phrase "blue hairs", to speak of elderly women. Not all elderly women, but the type that drive at slow speeds, with one blinker flashing and need a booster seat to see past the steering wheel, or those that count out pennies at the cashier when there's a huge line up behind them. The groovier one's are Old Girls. I hope to be an Old Girl myself one day.

From: Joe Mulholland (joeATpiderit.com)
Subject: blue rinse

And in Brazil when you're feeling blue it means everything's great (tudo azul)!

From: Grizelda (mussettsATaol.com)
Subject: headline

Reading through the AWAD bulletin reminds me of a headline from the Eastern Daily Press, a wonderfully laconic newspaper which serves East Anglia, a mainly rural area, whose villages have quaint names deriving from very early English. (A lot of these village-names end in '-ing', an interesting area of discussion for AngloSaxon historians and place-name experts). The headline was in the Recent Weddings section: "Little Snoring Man Marries Seething Woman".

From: Vicky Tarulis (be_well_vickyATyahoo.com)
Subject: What's the opposite?

This morning at breakfast while watching Good Morning America my husband noticed that Dr. Tim Johnson was pronouncing antibiotic "antibotic" dropping a syllable. We learned from AWAD that an epenthesis is when a person adds a syllable to a word. My husband would like to know what is the word for when a person drops a syllable?

    The word is haplology. A good example is "aluminium" which in the US is known as "aluminum". It all depends which side of the pond one happened to be on: Britons accuse Americans of haplology while the latter believe it is the former who are committing epenthesis. I'm partial to aluminium -- it conforms to others, such as potassium, and magnesium. -Anu

From: Jim Bofenkamp (jimbofenkampAThotmail.com)
Subject: Blue rinse definition

You have spelled "gray" with an "e." Gray is American usage; grey is British usage. Since you use "color" instead of "colour" in the same entry I am assuming that these entries are supposed to reflect current and correct American usage. Just thought you might want to know.

    Yes, my roots are showing. I was born and raised in India, spelling words as colour, aluminium, etc. After moving to the US, my spelling has undergone change but the traces remain. I still have a bias for "learnt" instead of "learned", for example. While we are on this topic, I understand the effect of US English is spreading even on people who don't live in the US. According to a report, more British children spell color rather than colour now. How are things in other countries? Drop us a line. -Anu

From: Bob Burr (burrresearATaol.com)
Subject: Glad we're not a black and white world

Blue may be a wishy washy color in our language but black and white are not. In our subtly racist mother tongue, nearly every thing associated with white is "good" while, to an even greater degree, nearly everything associated with black is bad (Black hat, blackhearted, blackball, blackmail, black cat crossing our paths, etc.). I wish black and white were as confusing as blue.

From: LJ (ljbtsATsecurenym.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--brown study

Certainly every language has its own way of using concrete colors to express abstract concepts. No less so Mandarin Chinese. To refer to something as the 'Blue Root' means it's the original work, or the source on which other works are based. You can informally refer to a young lady as a 'Yellow Flower Girl,' identifying her as a maiden or a virgin. But if the book you're reading or the movie you're watching is 'Yellow,' then that means it's obscene, even pornographic. A fellow's wife might enjoy thinking back over the 'Pink Memories' of their courtship days (i.e., romantic memories), but if on the other hand he's 'Wearing a Green Hat,' then that means she's been very seriously cheating on him. A 'Black Man' is an unregistered resident, and if the local officials are taking in 'Gray Income,' then they've been accepting money under the table.

No doubt the color red is paramount to the Chinese, in both ancient and modern history. The last generation sang of their great leader, 'The sun is crimson red, and Chairman Mao is most beloved'; and to be 'Red-Hearted' was to be fully devoted to the revolution. Red also from ancient times has denoted, among other things, honor and favor, such as when you give an esteemed older friend or teacher a red envelope for Chinese New Year, which contains gift money. In a similar way, if a boss gives a favored employee 'the Red Envelope,' then that person is getting a special bonus, and may even be called 'Red Man' by his co-workers, indicating the preferential treatment he's receiving. And if your name shows up on the 'Red Board,' that means you made the honor roll.

But beware of a disgruntled acquaintance telling you that he's "going to give you some color to look at." That's the Chinese way of saying, "I'm going to teach you a thing or two!"

From: Maria Victoria Go (maria_victoria.goATroche.com) Subject: Re "blue rinse"

This colorful metaphor to refer to a specific group of people reminded me of a local/regional (Philippines) phrase circa late 1950's - 1970's.

The phrase is "blue seal": referring in general to an American or anything made in or imported from the USA. Also used to refer to contraband/smuggled merchandise (from the US bases - Subic & Clark). The origin of the phrase is the "blue" band/seal on cigarette packs from the United States. People used the actual phrase "blue seal" even when they were speaking in any of the dialects/languages, not just in English. It was commonly used in an admiring sense, infrequently as a derogatory term.

From: Doug Greenwood (dougATmitre.org) Subject: Brown Study

I was delighted to see "brown study" show up yesterday as the word of the day, which immediately triggered thoughts of my first encounter with the term, in grad school at Chapel Hill in Louis D. Rubin's course on Literature of the South. The term's so central to John Crowe Ransom's "Bells for John Whiteside's Daughter" that I've never forgotten it--or the poem--which begins:

    There was such speed in her little body,
    And lightness in her footfall,
    It is no wonder her brown study
    Astonishes us all.
"Brown study" appears again in the last stanza:
    But now go the bells, and we are ready,
    In one house we are sternly stopped
    To say we are vexed at her brown study,
    Lying so primly propped.
As the father, now, long after finishing my Ph.D. in American literature, of a ten-year-old daughter and a six-year-old son, I can tell you that I have played with them on many occasions, and watched them run and yell and jump in the backyard on many more, and have been thrust back--sternly--more than once into the innate poignancy of that poem.

From: Eve Sander (evenedenATgol.com)
Subject: Re: AWADmail 52 - Headlines

One of my favorite headlines -- A travel agency was being sued for failing to deliver on advertised features of a group junket to Ireland: "Tour Allure a Lie". Of the _un_intentional kind, in teaching Japanese businessmen how to decode English headlines, my all-time fave is "British Left Waffles on Falklands Islands". I always picture British soldiers carefully laying down lines of crisp waffles step by step as they walk backwards toward troopships in the harbor! (Of course here "left" is a noun and "waffles" is the verb.)

Words form the thread on which we string our experiences. -Aldous Huxley, author and critic (1894-1963)

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