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AWADmail Issue 534

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

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

What's in a Name (of a Political Candidate)?
The New York Times

Baboons and 4-Letter Words Point to Origins of Reading
New Scientist

Dictionary Translates Ancient Egypt Life
The New York Times

From: Pam Kaatz (kaatz airmail.net)
Subject: incommodious
Def: Inconvenient or uncomfortable.

As a young student of Spanish back in the late 1950s, I remember learning the word cómodo meaning "comfortable". We teenagers made jokes about how it sounded like "commode" as in the bathroom -- the toilet. Then it hit me -- DUH! -- of course, the commode was one of the greatest "comforts" of our modern lives! As a Spanish teacher, I taught my own students that connection. Life without the commode would be very incommodious indeed!

Pam Kaatz, Denton, Texas

From: David Scoins (david scoins.net)
Subject: incommodious

When I first came across 'incommodious' was about the same time I visited school-chums in pre-war terraced housing where the sanitary facilities were 'down the garden'. I thought incommodious housing meant it had an outside loo, locally called a 'netty'. Many families would share the bath -- a tub you filled with water heated on the fire -- and I have a friend who describes being 7th of 11 as "9th in the bath". It was the height of luxury to have an equipped, plumbed-in bathroom.

David Scoins, Qingdao, China

From: Linda Parkes (brokendrum 29ah.co.za)
Subject: Mendacity
Def: 1. The quality of being untruthful: a tendency to lie. 2. A lie.

Reminded me of the lovely line in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof -- 'Big Daddy' comments that there is "a smell of mendacity" in the room.

Linda Parkes, Centurion, South Africa

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

From: Chip Prince (chipprince mac.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--marmoreal
Def: Resembling marble or a marble statue, for example, in smoothness, whiteness, hardness, coldness, or aloofness.

What a marvelous word, and perhaps more useful in my workplace than you'd think: I'm a musician with the tour of Mary Poppins, and there is a scene in which several marble statues come to life and dance about. A funny moment is when the Park Keeper notes that one statue has left its plinth (another great word) and Mary replies, "So you've lost your marbles?"

The actors make themselves look marmoreal by dressing in skin-tight costumes of painted fabric and making their faces up with a gray-and-blue marble pattern. They must put this on during every show and then remove it immediately following the park scene so that they can return a few minutes later as other -- less stony -- human characters. Is it coining a word to say that they must be demarmorealized?

Chip Prince, New York, New York

From: Christina Szirmai (christinaszirmai gmail.com)
Subject: Marmoreal

Reminds me of a Malaysian fairy tale that was read to me countless times by my parents. The story is of Marmol, a beautiful princess who is bewitched on her 16th birthday. It seems the king and queen forgot to invite a mighty mountain spirit who became offended. Marmol and the entire kingdom are turned to stone, awaiting the worthy man to come and wake her with a kiss.

The description at the end of the book said that the folktale predated the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty, and there are still people who search in Malaysia for the lost city of Marmol, or marble.

Christina Szirmai, Murun, Mongolia

From: Jenka Guevara (guevaraj gmail.com)
Subject: Marmoreal

In Mexico, pan marmol, pastel marmol, or panque marmol, or, pan marmoleado, pastel marmoleado, or panque marmoleado, refer to two toned bread or cake. (images)

Jenka Guevara, Mexico City, Mexico

From: Evelyn Pollock (evelynpollock hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--marmoreal

Being an opera singer, this word reminds me of course of the famous scene in Mozart's Don Giovanni, when the title character facetiously invites the statue of the Commendatore to dinner, and the statue nods his head "yes". Both Don Giovanni and Leporello exclaim,

Colla marmorea testa,
Ei fa così, così!

With his marble head
He goes like this, like this (nods)!

Evelyn Pollock, St. Gallen, Switzerland

The strength of a language does not lie in rejecting what is foreign but in assimilating it. -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, poet, dramatist, novelist, and philosopher (1749-1832)

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