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AWADmail Issue 530

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: Dispatches from Scandinavia - part 4

This is the fourth of a series (1, 2, 3) of vignettes from my travels this past month.

A Walking Tour of Copenhagen

The first thing that you see as you step out of the Copenhagen central train station is a sea of bicycles parked around it. As you continue your walk, you notice a bicycle lane wide enough for bidirectional bicycle traffic. And you see people happily bicycling away, to work, schools, stores, and who knows where. In suits, in dresses, and other sartorial combinations, with stuff in baskets, with children on cargo bikes.

That's the thing with bicycles. You don't need a parking lot the size of a football stadium to accommodate thousands of bicycles. You don't need to worry about pollution from bicycle exhaust. After a bicycle ride, you don't need to go to a gym to spend an hour on a stairmaster. You do need to fill a bicycle with air from time to time, but you don't need to import it from a Middle Eastern country where a woman is worth half a man.

For visitors, the city has a public bicycle program in which you pick one of hundreds of specially-designed bicycles. When you reach your destination you leave it out and someone else can ride away on it. Rinse and repeat. When you are done with your business, you pick another bicycle and go on your way. Bicycling is the second-best way to see a city, in my opinion.

The best is walking. I took a guided walking tour of Copenhagen with an American expat, Richard Karpen. Richard dresses up as Hans Christian Andersen. It's a most delightful tour taking you through the streets of Copenhagen and the history of Denmark.

As part of the tour we stopped at a cathedral called Church of Our Lady. My daughter told me she saw a man in a pew, deeply studying a book she thought was the bible. When he got up, it turned out he was reading Rick Steves's guide to Scandinavia.
"Well," I said to my daughter, "It is the bible. For travelers." We too made much use of our copy of the Rick Steves guidebook and by the end of the trip we fondly referred to him as Ricky as in, "What does Ricky say about this museum?"

In the beginning, as we were waiting for the tour to begin, the tour guide, Richard, to my great surprise, spoke to me in fluent Hindi. It turned out he had lived in India for many years when he went there to learn to play the sitar.

A tour of Copenhagen given by an American who speaks fluent Hindi. The world is a small place.

Read more: part 1, 3, 4

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Vowel Movement
The Slate

Family Tree of Languages Has Roots in Anatolia, Biologists Say
The New York Times

How America Swears
The Atlantic

Email of the Week -- (Brought to you by One Up! -- Doubledomes Unite!)

From: Richard Stamp (dixholt gmail.com)
Subject: wiseacre
Def: One who obnoxiously pretends to be wise; smart-aleck; wise-guy.

There is a delightful story about Ben Jonson, at the Devil Tavern in London's Fleet Street, in which he said to a country gentleman who boasted about his estates, "What care we for your dirt and clods? Where you have an acre of land, I have ten acres of wit." The landed gent retorted by calling Jonson, 'Good Mr. Wiseacre.'

Richard Stamp, Bendigo, Australia

From: Chris Brown (chris.brown laposte.net)
Subject: naff
Def: 1. Very unstylish or unsophisticated. 2. Useless; of poor quality.

One of my favourite British sitcoms from the 1970s was called Porridge. It was set, as the name suggests, in prison. The writers avoided profanity by using such expletives as "Naff off!" This, of course, was repeated in all the school grounds in Britain and is still used by people of my generation.

Chris Brown, Amboise, France

From: Ian Gordon (awad ipgordon.me.uk)
Subject: Naff

Probably the most famous instance of its use was when Her Royal Highness Princess Anne told the assembled press to "Naff off! at the Badminton Horse Trials in the 1980s.

Ian Gordon, Surrey, UK

From: Roger Miller (rdustymiller yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--naff

My father was a private in the British army during WWII. He used the word "naff" to mean stuff, usually clothing, that was pretty ordinary. Although the spelling is suspect, I do believe it derives from NAAFI, which stands for Navy, Army, Air Force Institutes, a government entity that served the lower ranks with stores and canteens throughout the world. It was not known for high quality.

Roger Miller, New York, New York

From: Janet Nelson (jen micross.co.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--naff

Scienceshirts sells a design that says "Sodium Fluoride is NaFF."

Janet Nelson, Ross-on-Wye, UK

From: Evelyn Falkenstein (evfalkenstein yahoo.com)
Subject: naff

When I lived in France, a popular line of clothes was called Naf Naf. Naff reminded me of something my teenage daughter might have wanted in her wardrobe, not necessarily shoddy, but I might have thought it so.

Evelyn Falkenstein, Davis, California

From: Jean Deklerk (j.t.s digisurf.net.au)
Subject: Suss
Def: To inspect, investigate, or to figure out.

In Australian English it is used an abbreviation of 'suspicious', as in 'That guy looks really suss. Better steer clear of him'.

Jean Deklerk, Perth, Australia

From: Martha Marsh (mmarsh spc.cc.tx.us)
Subject: lulu
Def: A remarkable person, idea, or thing.

A new sense of the word was introduced recently by Frank Popper, Rutgers and Princeton planning professor and proponent of the locally-controversial Buffalo Commons concept for land reform on the Great Plains, and is a more formal/technical/academic term for that which is in modern times known as NIMBY (Not In My Backyard).

The recently-coined acronym LULU denotes "Locally Unwanted Land Use" -- which is often a "lulu" in the traditional sense when it takes the form of something like a large landfill or industrial park.

Martha Marsh, Levelland, Texas

From: Donald Blair (dcblair gmail.com)
Subject: lulu

In the state of New York, whose dysfunctional legislature presaged the present Congressional state, a lulu is a perk, a position or title allowing the legislator politically allocated bonus money, with little effort. We have become so cynical about the legislature, that no one protests this arrangement any more. (origin)

Donald Blair, Jamesville, New York

From: David Lachmann (dlachmann hotmail.com)
Subject: lulu

An article (WebCite) about lulu in NY legislature:
"The most common way to acquire a lulu? By securing a chairmanship or ranking position on a committee or a leadership title within your political conference. These roles are distributed by party leaders to members of their own conference, both in the Senate and Assembly, with the highest positions and lulus going to majority members and lower ranking positions and lulus going to minority members."

The joke is that the legislature has its own version of the Lake Woebegone Effect (i.e. all the children are above average), to wit, all the legislators are members of the leadership, which is a slight exaggeration.

David Lachmann, Silver Spring, Maryland

From: Elisabeth Pean (epean chello.at)
Subject: lulu

In Austria kids say they need to go "lulu" when they need to go to the toilet.

Elisabeth Pean, Vienna, Austria

From: Srinivas Shastri (shastrix gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lulu

The first time I heard this lovely word was in this article in Reader's Digest:

The Best April Fool's Joke I Ever Pulled
"Thank you for your cooperation in the leg-pulling job on my Communications Officer. He went for the gag? hook, line and sinker. I've manipulated some lulus in my day; but, believe me, this is the best April Fool's joke I ever pulled."

Srinivas Shastri, Bangalore, India

From: Francis A. Jeffers (jeffers59 windstream.net)
Subject: jazz
Def: 1. A style of music characterized by improvisation. 2. Etcetera (in the phrase: and all that jazz). 3. Nonsense. verb tr.: 4. To enliven (in the phrase: to jazz up). 5. To exaggerate or lie.

I believe 'jazz' was another pronunciation of 'jass', a corruption of 'juice', which was maybe also corrupted into 'jizzem'. In the bawdy houses where black musicians often played in the years after the civil war, jizzem, or jass referred to ejaculate, which is what people go to bawdy houses for. With the disbanding of many regimental bands after the civil war making instruments dirt cheap, and the freeing of the slaves, there were a lot of black musicians looking for a place to play, and the money was green. (There was a house in New Orleans...)

Francis Jeffers, Winterville, Georgia

From: John C. Gebhardt (johngeb aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--jazz

I think you may have missed a meaning. I always thought that the lyrics to the old song "Jazz Me Blues" had a double meaning.

Jazz me!
Come on, Professor, and jazz me!
... more.

John C. Gebhardt, New York, New York

From: Daniel Driver (jerboadriver2 gmail.com)
Subject: jazz

This word reminded me of a story my brother brought back from Australia, where he was in the army during the Second World War. A GI went into town to a soldiers' club and asked an Australian girl for a dance. She said, "I'm sorry, but I'm knocked up. But you can jazz my sister." She thought she meant that she was tired but her sister would dance with him. He understood that she was pregnant, but that he could have his way with her sister. Two more meanings of the word jazz.

Daniel Driver, Albion, California

Bare lists of words are found suggestive to an imaginative and excited mind. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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