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AWADmail Issue 532

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

From: Darlene R. Ketten (dketten whoi.edu)
Subject: the Apostrophe Apostle

Clearly, the fellow with the sign is "possessed".

Darlene R. Ketten, Boston, Massachusetts

From: Emanuela Ughi (ughi dipmat.unipg.it)
Subject: crow's feet
Def: Wrinkles in the skin around the outer corners of the eyes.

In Italian it corresponds to "zampe di gallina" = "hen's feet".

Emanuela Ughi, Perugia, Italy

From: Claude Généreux (CGenereux cupe.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--crow's feet

Ah! Languages. I'm a Francophone. When I take French leave most of your readers take the equivalent English leave (in French). Oddly enough we often resort to different animals to describe the same phenomenon. In today's case (aging showing at the outer edge of our eyes), we refer to geese as in "goose's feet" instead of your crow. Seems to me that they leave quite a different footprint. I'll take your crow for my (not golden) goose.

Claude Généreux, Montreal, Canada

From: Heber R. Da Cruz (HeberRdaCruz gmail.com)
Subject: Crow's feet

Curiously, in Brazil pés-de-galinha "chicken's feet" has the same meaning.

Heber R. Da Cruz, Maceió, Brazil

From: Henrik Nielsen (hsnielsen hn-metrology.com)
Subject: Crow's feet

The Danish term for crow's feet is somewhat more gentle and puts a more positive spin on it. The term is smilerynker, literally smiling wrinkles. You get them from a long life, where you have lived and laughed.

Crow's feet, on the other hand, kragetŠer, literally crow's toes, is handwriting like mine that is uneven and hard to decipher and looks like the tracks left in the snow by birds hopping about.

Henrik Nielsen, Indianapolis, Indiana

From: Agneta Sandelin (mail asandelin.com)
Subject: crow's feet

In my language - Swedish - this expression is used for handwriting that is almost illegible, a child's (or a doctor's).

Agneta Sandelin, Stockholm, Sweden

In English, that sort of handwriting is called "chicken scratch".
-Carolanne Reynolds
(gg wordsmith.org)

From: Marvin Berkson (bingo1939 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: crow's feet

Years ago when our granddaughter, Samantha, was about four years old, she sat on my wife's lap and was gently rubbing my wife's face, around her eyes and accompanying crow's feet. Samantha lovingly said, "Grandma, I love your pleats."

Marvin Berkson, Foster City, California

From: Lawrence Schweitzer (Poptyrone aol.com)
Subject: Crow's feet

As an orthopedic surgeon, I cannot let pass this opportunity to mention, for the record, the bird part, dear to my specialty. It's the pes anserinus, or goose's foot. Located just below the knee, this structure represents the confluence of three tendons, likened to the three-toed configuration of a goose foot. A nearby bursa (sac) can become inflamed causing the painful pes anserine bursitis.

Lawrence Schweitzer, MD, Danbury, Connecticut

From: Joe Dorrance (jdorrancejr msn.com)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--crow's feet

A crow's foot is also the mark a carpenter uses to mark his measuring tape, you start the mark at the correct measurement on the tape and angle it slightly to the left and a second mark angles slightly to the right. Looks like a crow's foot.

Joe Dorrance, Parker, Colorado

From: Joe DiFernando (joe difernando.net)
Subject: Crow's Feet

Crow's feet (plural of crow's foot) is also a term in the American English tradesman's vernacular for an open-end socket wrench attachment (images) that can get the job done in tight work areas where a regular wrench or socket just won't do!

Joe DiFernando, Norfolk, Virginia

From: Ken Kirste (kkkirste sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Crow's Feet

Within the conventions of comic book lettering, crow's feet describes the marks used to indicate a human sound that accompanies the in-taking or expelling of air. Also called breath marks, they are usually three small dashes stacked vertically (and at slight angles) on each side of the sound that the character is making (such as a whew, gasp!, cough, sputter). Here's a panel from the "Silk Spectre" comic book showing the use of crow's feet in a dialog balloon.

Ken Kirste, Sunnyvale, California

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Writer's block

Unblocking writer's block, according the lexicographer and essayist Samuel Johnson: "Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully."

This adage was also used as the opening line of the celebrated 1949 movie Kind Hearts and Coronets in which the redoubtable Alec Guinness multitasked no fewer than eight roles, one of them a woman. As the convicted serial killer, played by Dennis Price, awaits sentencing, he sets out to write an account of how he contrived to inherit the fortune of his wicked relatives.

Then he receives the happy news: because of insufficient evidence, he is found not guilty. Only after leaving the jail does he realize to his utter dismay that he had left behind the manuscript of his written confession, the memoir he was working on for the preceding two weeks which contained a detailed description of his murderous campaign.

Sometimes it's better to be blocked than to be led to the block (or in this case, gallows).

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Rudy Chelminski (rudychel gmail.com)
Subject: Writer's block

On the subject of writer's block, Rossini was indeed a speed composer. It is said that for the very lively La Pie Voleuse (The Thieving Magpie), his impresario locked him in his room 24 hours before the time of the opening and Rossini wrote the overture page by page, throwing the completed sheets out the window for his copyists to decipher and pass on for the orchestra to rehearse.

Rudy Chelminski, Fontainebleau, France

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

From: Sarah Lyon (slyon sewickley.org)
Subject: apostrophe

If this message earns the title: Email of the Week, does that mean I win A Post Trophy?

Sarah Lyon, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

From: Betty Feinberg (bgfeinberg cox.net)
Subject: punctuation misuse

It's not just apostrophes that sneak in where they don't belong. Visiting a college in West Virginia, which I had attended for a couple of years many years earlier, I saw a sign at the entrance to a parking lot that read "FACULTY" PARKING ONLY. I really hadn't thought when I was there that the faculty deserved such dismissive treatment.

Betty Feinberg, Tucson, Arizona

From: Toby Freeman (tobyfreeman.11 gmail.com)
Subject: Apostrophes

The T-shirt company 'redmolotov' has an excellent design for the Apostrophe Protection Society which I wear proudly.

Toby Freeman, London, UK

From: Steve Kirkpatrick, DDS (stevekirkp comcast.net)
Subject: Whose what: medical eponyms

Many medical eponyms originally had an apostrophe. Several decades ago, most of those were dropped. Down's Syndrome became Down Syndrome. Some retain the possessive, especially in common usage. The terms Parkinson's and Parkinson's Disease persist, even on parkinson.org. However, in medical literature, I suspect that the most punctilious authors avoid that punctuation, making it Parkinson Disease.

Stephen Kirkpatrick, DDS, Olympia, Washington

From: Nils Andersson (Nilsphone aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--crow's feet

Much worse is when you lose whether the possessor is singular or plural, because you can no longer trust that the writer knows the difference between "boy's" and "boys'". A particularly obnoxious example: I used to live in Ventura County, California. There were several signs such as in front of a liquor store: "Ventura counties largest selection of wines". One wondered how many counties there were in Ventura. My granddaughter in Henderson, Nevada, came home with a booklet where it said that "Obama is this countries current president."

Nils Andersson, Las Vegas, Nevada

From: Sue Frank-Gass (sfrank2 cfl.rr.com)
Subject: apostrophes

Years ago while working on humorous epitaphs in my English class, I wrote this one about myself:

Here lies Sue,
Didn't die from disease.
She died while teaching
The apostrophes.

Sue Frank-Gass, Titusville, Florida

From: David Russinoff (russinoff yahoo.com)
Subject: apostrophe

Here's another one for you. (photo)

David Russinoff, Austin, Texas

From: Janice Larson (janlarson charter.net)
Subject: Today's introduction

Love your intro to this week's words -- or should I say this weeks word's?

Janice Larson, Asheville, North Carolina

From: Betsy Habich (E.Habich verizon.net)
Subject: Net conservation of Apostrophes

In addition to net conservation of apostrophes documented in the AWAD of September 3, I've noticed that here in the Boston area, we often practice net conservation of 'r's.

Betsy Habich, North Reading, Massachusetts

From: Elizabeth Buchen (esbuchen gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--crow's feet

Curious how the hate movement has a propensity for grammatical errors (see teabonics, images). Could there be a connection to a lack of education?

Elizabeth Buchen, Albuquerque, New Mexico

From: Victoria Daskalova (victoria.daskalova gmail.com)
Subject: Re: apostrophe in plural

I could perhaps shed some light on the confusing use of the apostrophe in the poster. I live in the Netherlands and have had my fair share of struggles with the language of these lands. One grammatical peculiarity of the Dutch language is that in some cases you use "apostrophe + s" to form plurals (though most of the times you just add "en" or "s" to form the plural).

Here are some examples:

een pinda - pinda's (peanut, peanuts)
een cd - cd's (CD, CDs)
auto, auto's - (car, cars)
oma, oma's - (grandma, grandmas)

Perhaps the author of the poster was a Dutch speaker -- from the Netherlands, from Suriname, from the Netherlands Antilles, or from the Flemish-speaking parts of Belgium.

Victoria Daskalova, Tilburg, The Netherlands

Our expression and our words never coincide, which is why the animals don't understand us. -Malcolm De Chazal, writer and painter (1902-1981)

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