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AWADmail Issue 547

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: Interesting stories from the net

Utopian for Beginners
The New Yorker

Darkness Visible: Lucus a Non Lucendo
The Chronicle of Higher Education

Churning Out "Books" by Thousands

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Dispatches from India - part 2

This is the second in a series (part 1, part 3) of vignettes from my recent travels.

Cellphones cellphones Everywhere, Not A Drop of Quiet

I believe there is a clause in the Indian Penal Code that mandates that when a cellphone rings it must be answered immediately. In my trip to India earlier this month, I witnessed a priest answering his cellphone in the middle of conducting a wedding. I was seated at the lunch table when the new bride answered her cellphone while having her first lunch after the wedding with the groom's family.

I also think there's a subclause that the cellphone must be answered while in company. Leaving the group to chat on the phone is prohibited.

You might see an airline check-in agent answering her cell phone while checking in your suitcases. You might see a barber answering his cellphone while clipping hair. And you might see a grocer answering a cellphone in the middle of a selling you tomatoes. I haven't had the misfortune but I have heard it's common for a doctor to interrupt her visit with a patient to answer a cellphone. And why not, if a patient can answer a phone in such a setting, why not a doctor?

Then there are cell phone tones. It's as polyphonous as it gets. When a cell phone rings in India, it's an even bet that the tone might be from one of the Bollywood musicals or devotional music or a Mozart composition. Some of the extra-religious people have even changed the familiar trin-trin tones that the caller hears to chants from Hindu scriptures. Why deprive your caller of the opportunity to attain nirvana?

India mostly skipped the landline phase. There used to be a multi-year wait to get a land-line under the government-controlled telecom monopoly. With the opening of the economy came the cellphone revolution. Cellphones are everywhere and minutes are cheap. It's not unusual to see people carrying two cellphones or at least two SIM cards. Fair pricing helps too: only the caller pays the dime. That has resulted in many creative ways to use it, for example, missed call.

It's called a 'mobile' in India, but it's as dear to its user as a 'celular' is to a Latin American, a 'handy' to a German, a 'keitai' (literally, portable) to a Japanese. Being connected is one of our deepest needs. Anything that helps to stay in touch can't be all that bad, no matter what social norms govern its use.

See more travel reports (part 1, part 3).

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: This week's theme: Yours to discover

This week your challenge was to figure out how I had selected the five words of the week. The answer is that together these words use all letters of the alphabet except the letter L. There's no el. Noel. The word Noel is from French noël (the Christmas season), from Latin natalis dies (birth day [of Jesus Christ]), from nasci (to be born). Joyeux Noel!

The first reader to figure out the contest was Ryan Smith of Redmond, Washington (ryansmithee gmail.com). He sent his correct answer within a few minutes of receiving the first word on Monday. Kudos to Ryan!

A reader randomly selected from all correct entries, Anais Fritzlan of Toronto, Canada (anais under-the-weather.ca), wins the T-shirt AWAD to the wise is sufficient. Thanks to all for participating and sending your creative entries.

A number of readers claimed that this week's words contained every letter in the alphabet. Here's the distribution of letters in the five words this week:
0: L
1: B C D F G H J K M P Q V W X Y Z
2: S T
3: I O
4: A N R U
8: E

Words are also actions, and actions are a kind of words. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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