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AWADmail Issue 535

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

From: Stephen Harvey (ten.rajhsifllehs shellfishjar.net)
Subject: Crepitate
Def: To make a crackling or popping sound.

This is a word that I did not know directly, but rather through the medical term crepitus. I was not a medical student myself, but I remember clearly one of my medical student friends explaining that crepitus was the sound of the fractured ends of a broken bone grinding together, particularly where the break was a greenstick fracture. Immediately after being taught this term, the instructor told them the golden rule which has stuck in my mind ever since: "Never test for crepitus."

Stephen Harvey, Wellington, New Zealand

From: Ann Hiemstra (hiemstra.ann gmail.com)
Subject: Crepitate

Your absolutely delightful daily A.Word.A.Day is like a kindly neighbour knocking on the back door every morning for a quick cup-a, thanks! 'Crepitate' (to make a crackling or popping sound) was one of the first words that we, as fourth year med-students way back when, had to get to learn and, more importantly, learn to get to know the sound when auscultating (also a new word then) the chest of a patient with pneumonia with our shining new stethoscopes. To recognise the crackling sound was an achievement for the student but bad news for the very ill patient.

Ann Hiemstra, South Africa

From: Johnnie Godwin (johnniegodwin aol.com)
Subject: crepitate

I've become so decrepit that my bones crepitate each morning when I do my exercises. Somehow the idea of being decrepit doesn't seem to snap, crackle, and pop with vitality; but I find myself more lively when I go ahead and crepitate doing exercises.

Johnnie Godwin, Gallatin, Tennessee

Email of the Week -- (Brought to you by One Up! -- Sick of Scrabble?)

From: Noelle Tomco (noelletomco msn.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--crepitate

I love to crepitate my knuckles. It's more sound than feeling. Makes me feel like I'm getting something done. :)

Noelle Tomco, Heber City, Utah

From: Miles Jordan (boogiewoogie mindspring.com)
Subject: Crepitate

Have you heard of the Crepitation Contest that was recorded in the 1940s? Most amusing.

Miles Jordan, Chico, California

From: Augusta Bartlett (rab2831 sover.net)
Subject: crepitate

Probably you know this one:

There once was a man from Calcutta
Who covered his tonsils with butter.
Thus he changed his snore
From a crepitant roar
To a thick, oleaginous mutter.

Augusta Bartlett, Marlboro, Vermont

From: Mary Day (mary 2days.karoo.co.uk)
Subject: Yoda

As a (now retired) psychologist I used Yoda's saying to help clients re-frame. It's a question of framing your intention much more specifically and in such a way that you know whether you have achieved it or not. "I will work at my essay for a couple of hours straight after lunch", rather than "I will try to finish my essay." 'Try' carries with it the seed of failure. If you phoned, in advance, for a taxi to get you to the airport for a particular time and the chap said he would try you would almost certainly phone a different one.

Mary Day, Beverley, UK

From: James Witchell (james sjbw.co.uk)
Subject: Ameliorate
Def: To make or grow better; to improve.

The art of silvering glass to make mirrors was traditionally cloaked in secrecy. I had to purchase the recipes and know how from a retiring practitioner. Reading through his carefully typed instructions I came to the heading Ameliorator. I realised that those secret ingredients were likely to make my mirrors endure.

James Witchell, Gloucester, UK

From: Chris Adams (cadams35 rocketmail.com)
Subject: ameliorate

I first learned this word from the site Not Always Working, specifically this story in question.

Chris Adams, Tuscola, Illinois

From: Grace Chew (grchew gmail.com)
Subject: decorticate
Def: To remove the outer layer, such as the bark, husk, rind, etc.

In medicine, decorticate is an adjective, used to describe a certain posture people with brain injuries adopt as a response to stimulus/pain. It forms one of the components of the Glasgow Coma Scale, and is characterised by flexed elbows and hands. This is compared to decerebrate, which is characterised by extended elbows, and signifies more serious brain damage. Many medical students would have practised the arm postures in efforts to remember the difference!

Grace Chew, Singapore

From: Dewitt Spencer (zillad tds.net)
Subject: decorticate

This word reminded me of William Boyd's An Ice-Cream War in which a decorticator to thrash sisal and produce hemp is Temple Smith's pride and joy. Had never heard of decorticate till I read that fine book.

Dewitt Spencer, Vardaman, Mississippi

From: Cheryl Garabet (cherylgarabet1 rogers.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--decorticate

The timing is uncanny... My mum passed away yesterday afternoon. Your "thought for today", which I've shared with my siblings, will help us get through this first day without our phenomenal mum. Your work has always added something to my mornings...now it adds a little something to our spirits. Thank you, Anu + team. PS: She was Sylvia Garabet and she was awesome!

Cheryl Garabet, Toronto, Canada

Our heartfelt condolences.
-Anu Garg

Arguments over grammar and style are often as fierce as those over Windows versus Mac, and as fruitless as Coke versus Pepsi or boxers versus briefs. -Jack Lynch, English professor, author (b. 1967)

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