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AWADmail Issue 548

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

A Copy Editor's Twelve Days of Christmas
The New Yorker

Tracing the Origins of "the Whole Nine Yards"
Yale Alumni Magazine

Poll: What Word Should Be Banished in 2013?

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Dispatches from India - part 3

This is third in a series of travel reports (part 1, part 2).

Forging Airline Tickets for Fun and Public Service

After a week in India attending a wedding, I was ready to head home to Seattle. As I approached the entrance to the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi, I had my passport and my travel cheat-sheet out. I knew you need a passport and a copy of your itinerary even to enter an airport in India. The security guard at the entrance inquired, "Passport and ticket?"
I handed him my passport and cheat-sheet on which I cram all my travel information (itinerary, frequent flier numbers, phone numbers, addresses, and other travel information), all on a single sheet. I may have to reduce margins, but I make sure that everything fits on no more than one sheet of paper.

The security man ignored the passport and pored through the flight info on the sheet and asked, "Where's the passenger name on the ticket?" I told him that it had the flight info, but no need to add my name to the sheet as I already knew my name.
"Sir, I can't let you in without your name on this."
"But I have traveled in the past without any problem."
"Sir, we have to follow the rules." Apparently security had been tightened.

I tried to reason with him that he needed to focus on the passport, not on some random printout that anyone can make up, but the security guard wasn't ready to budge.

I pushed my luggage trolley away and decided to try my luck with the security guard at the next entrance, about ten feet away. The second guard was as insistent that that piece of paper have my name.
"You can go to the e-ticket printing counter and have them print your ticket," he offered helpfully.

He pointed to a counter that had the sign at one end: "E-Ticket Printout Rs 30" (about half a US dollar).

This station had a printer and a computer managed by an employee.

"Do you have your e-ticket in your email?" he asked. "You can log in here and print your e-ticket."
I did have my itinerary in my email but I hate using random computers, many of which have malware installed as bored employees surf for porn in their slack hours.
"I don't have my ticket info in my email," I said.

Meanwhile a Russian passenger behind me was getting impatient. It appeared his itinerary was printed in the Russian language and the airport security wasn't trained in Russian.
"Do you have your e-ticket in your email? You can log in to your email and print your e-ticket," the printing clerk repeated to the Russian.
"Yes, I do, but that's exactly the same stupid information I have here in my hand," the Russian was beginning to get annoyed.

"Look, anyone can print any itinerary with any name on a sheet of paper. They really need to focus on verifying the ID," I said to the printing clerk.
"I know, but I can't do anything about it. The security guards have to follow the rules." he said.
"How about I type up the info with my name and print it?" I offered without any expectation that it would be accepted.

To my surprise he agreed to my proposal. I reached behind the counter and fired up Notepad on the computer. With my cheat-sheet next to me I typed
Passenger: Anu Garg
Flight number 918
Flight number 1123

I felt this three-line long "e-ticket" wasn't going to cut it with the security guards back at various doors. It had to have a whole page's worth of jargon. I brought up an airline website on the computer and copied and pasted random information from their web page on my "e-ticket" on Notepad, filling the page.

"How does it look?" I asked the printing clerk.
"Very good."

I hit the print button, the printing clerk fed a single sheet of paper to the printer, and out came my shiny new "e-ticket" complete with "Untitled" at the top and "Page 1" at the bottom as Notepad is wont to do. I paid the printing clerk Rs 30 and he made an entry in his logbook.

As I got up to leave the printing counter the Russian passenger's downcast face came into my frame. I figured a little public service might be in order. Besides, it never hurt to foster international relations between a former superpower and what's touted to be the next superpower.

"What's your name?" I asked the Russian. He handed his itinerary to me. As it turned out, his name and airline name were in English even though the rest of the paper was in Russian. I replaced my name with his and my flight info with his in Notepad. Anatoly's "e-ticket" was ready.

Hit the print button again. The printing clerk fed a single sheet of paper into the printer and out came the ticket to Moscow.

"Thirty rupees, sir," the printing clerk asked Anatoly.
Anatoly fished his pocket but his net haul was only two coins worth Rs 10 and 5 each.
"That's all I have," he shrugged his shoulders.

I knew the economy is down, but didn't know things were quite so bad in Russia.

I reached into my pocket to pay the balance of Russian debt, but then pulled my hand out on second thoughts. I was beginning to get perverse pleasure in these Kafkaesque rules of Indian bureaucracy. I really wanted to see how this situation would unfold if left to its own devices. Perhaps the ever-helpful printing clerk would just let it go. What's a single sheet of paper worth, after all?

"I have to account for every single sheet of paper they give me," he said as he showed me his print log that had the following columns:
Serial number, Date, Time, Passenger name, Amount received.

The printing clerk had a big heart and a sharp mind though. He thought for a few moments and then asked "Have you saved the ticket on the disk?"
I had. (First rule of working with computers: Save early and often.)

"We can print his e-ticket on the back of this sheet," the printing clerk said as he removed some random memo from one of the files on the desk.
"And I can print the next passenger's e-ticket on the back of the earlier sheet."
I opened Anatoly's e-ticket in Notepad, printed it on the back of the memo, and sent him on his way.

I have saved the printout of my "e-ticket" as a souvenir of this trip. The back of the sheet has a stamped seal, a signature, and a hastily scribbled number: 18561. When the printing clerk said that every single sheet of paper was accounted for, he wasn't bluffing.

See travel reports (part 1, part 2).

From: Peter J. Maas (pjmaas sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Behoove
Def: To be necessary, worthwhile, or appropriate.

Was it a coincidence that "behoove" was featured on Dec. 24, the very day that reindeer would behoove rooftops over large parts of the world?

Peter J. Maas, Kalamazoo, Michigan

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

From: Elizabeth E. Vaughn (elonvon hotmail.com)
Subject: behoove

This is a word which strikes terror in my heart. I've never seen it in print. During "lectures" from my father, he would often begin with, "It would behoove you..." In that context it would get my serious attention and had far deeper meaning than the word a day definition! I think it meant, you had better listen to me and do what I say or else.

Elizabeth E. Vaughn, Henderson, Kentucky

From: Dave Ridings (dridings73 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ugsome
Def: Dreadful, loathsome.

Just add an extra G for the perfect comment about everyone's favourite boots.

Dave Ridings, London, UK

From: Mary Massirer (mary_massirer baylor.edu)
Subject: purlieu
Def: 1. A neighboring area. 2. A place that one frequents or has control; haunt.

Your use of the word purlieu reminded me of a Browning course many years ago when we read his poem, A Grammarian's Funeral. The grammarian has died and is being buried on a high mountain top. The speaker says, "Well, here's the platform, here's the proper place: / Hail to your purlieus, / All ye highfliers of the feathered race, / Swallows and curlews!" If you're near Waco, Texas, visit the Armstrong-Browning Library to see the beautiful stained glass windows, one of which is inspired by this poem.

Mary Massirer, Crawford, Texas

From: Tim O'Hearn (tjohearn aol.com)
Subject: Cumshaw
Def: A gift or a tip.

In the US Navy we had an alternate (though probably related) meaning for cumshaw. Whenever we needed supplies but could not get them through normal channels, we would rely on cumshaw. This was the practice of trading favors for whatever was needed, under the table. If the Navy runs on paper, it survives on cumshaw.

Tim O'Hearn, Albuquerque, New Mexico

From: Thomas Koehler (tvkoehler frontiernet.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cumshaw

When I was in the US Navy, back in the late '60s, I spent time in two different shipyards, either for overhaul or new construction. In both instances, cumshaw was a standard way of getting certain bits of outfitting which were not in the blueprints -- usually small lockers or other minor bits of outfitting. We would trade tins of coffee or canned sardines or other food items to the yardbirds in return for the wanted item for the ship. This was more of a trading process rather than one of gifting, I guess, but all involved called it cumshaw.

Thomas Koehler, Two Harbors, Minnesota

From: Barbara Daingerfield (daingerfield hotmail.com)
Subject: cumshaw

This word reminds me of one I learned as a child in Saudi Arabia: baksheesh, which can mean a tip given for service but also a handout given to a beggar. As a child, I could never resist the child beggars who looked at me with their beautiful, sad eyes and cried, "baksheesh, baksheesh" at the seemingly rich little white girl. I would empty my little plastic pocketbook of its contents into their eager palms and count myself blessed.

Barbara Daingerfield, Woodbury, Tennessee

From: (sophos.postmaster northtyneside.gov.uk)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--cumshaw

Inappropriate language has been detected within this email. Please review your email and remove any suspect wording. The offending word is kum

This email has been scanned for viruses, spam and inappropriate content by Mimecast Unified Email Management Services.

As we send out approximately a million emails every day, we receive all kinds of responses: out-of-office, mailbox-full, email-has-naughty-words, and so on. Above is an example.

What's ludicrous is that the word "kum" didn't occur at all in our email. Perhaps the email filter is too prudish to write the usual spelling "cum". Besides its slang meaning, the word cum has a perfectly innocuous everyday meaning, from Latin cum (with) as in sofa-cum-bed or cum laude, but why let facts stand in the way if you are a mindless email filtering service bent on protecting the morals of a government employee?
-Anu Garg

The words of some men are thrown forcibly against you and adhere like burrs. -Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

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