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AWADmail Issue 558

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

From: Padma Raju (praju cox.net)
Subject: gelasin

Many in our family are blessed with gelasins. However my daughter, when about five, ran into the corner of a table, developed a bruise, later a scar under the skin of her cheek. Now she has pseudogelasin to keep up with the rest of us.

Padma Raju, Topeka, Kansas

From: Karolyn Avery (nookcreek yahoo.com)
Subject: Gelasin becomes what?

And when we are older and there are wrinkles or lines instead of dimples what does a gelasin become? Agelin[e]s (nearly an anagram).

Karolyn Avery, Bellbrook, Australia

From: Jens Kaiser (voodoodoll t-online.de)
Subject: gelasin

The German word for this is Grübchen (diminutive of Grube, literally pit). It illustrates quite well the tendency we Germans have to use diminutive forms if we want to convey the smallness and/or cuteness of the thing we're describing, something that English speakers to my mind don't do nearly as often. Toddlers don't wear Hosen (trousers) or Schuhe (shoes) or Hemden (shirts), but Höschen and Schühchen and Hemdchen, and they don't sleep in a Bett but instead in a Bettchen. A very young cat would not be a Katze, but a Kätzchen. In fact, the word most people know instead of Diminutiv is Verniedlichung, which literally means something like cute-ification. German being a very Lego-like language, it is possible to create a diminutive of almost any noun by adding the suffix -chen or -lein (see book - Buch turns into Büchlein), often without changing the rest of the word at all. Often both forms are possible, for example with table! (Tisch can turn both into Tischchen and Tischlein). Whether or not the result makes sense is another story. Side note: The standard word for girl in German is Mädchen, itself a diminutive of Magd.

Jens Kaiser, Rudolstadt, Germany

From: Vaughn Hathaway (pastorvonh bellsouth.net)
Subject: Bread & Potato ties or clips

Were you aware that these gadgets are color-coded at least on bread? But, the color of bread ties are matched to the day of the week on which the bread is delivered. See: The twist ties on loaves of bread tell how fresh they are -- truth!

Bread is delivered five days a week and the bread maker puts a different-colored tie on to designate which ...

Vaughn Hathaway, Charlotte, North Carolina

From: Cynthia De Villiers (cyndev telkomsa.net)
Subject: Lowly bread clip

Here in Cape Town, South Africa, bread clips are collected in their thousands after which they are sold for recycling. The money raised goes towards the cost of wheelchairs. So far over three hundred chairs have been purchased and donated to the needy thanks to the lowly bread clip.

Cynthia De Villiers, Cape Town, South Africa

From: Peirce Hammond (peirce_hammond ed.gov)
Subject: sprezzatura

In my youth we would have called this coolth.

Peirce Hammond, Bethesda, Maryland

From: Jane Pope (janepope carolina.rr.com)
Subject: sprezzatura

Now I know what to name my next cat: Sprezzatura. Thanks for giving me the perfect word for a cat's seemingly effortless grace.

Jane Pope, Davidson, North Carolina

From: Larry Ray (callball bellsouth.net)
Subject: sprezzatura

Sprezzatura "from Italian" meaning 'effortless grace' is strange at best. It's a literary word for "disdain" -- more or less the same as "disdegno" in modern Italian. "Effortless grace" is obviously in the eye of the one doing the elitist disdaining it would seem. I consulted with a fellow translator in Italy and he also found the strange definition of sprezzatura to be quite puzzling, and also, "earliest documented use: 1957" to be most improbable.

Larry Ray, Gulfport, Mississippi

Sometimes words acquire a specialized sense when borrowed into another language. See some examples from French.
-Anu Garg

From: Adam G. Perl (adam pastimes.com)
Subject: Schadenfreude

There is a delightful song from Avenue Q called Schadenfreude which describes the joys that many experience at the misfortunes of others.

Adam G. Perl, Ithaca, New York

From: Carl Rosenberg (rosenberg.carl yahoo.ca)
Subject: Schaudenfreude

My father once had a friend, originally from Austria, who once said, according to my dad: "Schadenfreude ist die reinste freude" (Schadenfreude is the purest joy).

Carl Rosenberg, Vancouver, Canada

From: Heidrun Irre (heidrunirre aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--schadenfreude

I couldn't believe that it is used by English-speaking people. There is a famous German saying:
"Schadenfreude ist die größte [groesste] Freude." And this is soooo true.

Heidrun Irre, Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany

From: Will Donnelly (donnellyb gmail.com)
Subject: schadenfreude

This Boston Legal episode helps capture this perfectly.

Will Donnelly, Boise, Idaho

From: Claudine Voelcker (claudine.voelcker googlemail.com)
Subject: Palimpsest

Today's word made me think that we are all palimpsests, aren't we?

Claudine Voelcker, Munich, Germany

From: Carolanne Reynolds (gg wordsmith.org)
Subject: a haiku/maiku

Words as scales, stories
carapace covers
palimpsest of history.

Carolanne Reynolds, West Vancouver, Canada

Email of the Week (Brought to you by all us smart alecks and world-class enjoyers of life at Oneupmanship.)

From: Nancy Terselic (nancyterselic juno.com)
Subject: Palimpsest

As I read the first definition of palimpsest about reusing parchment I wondered how useful the word would be in modern life.

However, the second definition caught my attention. I immediately thought of the problem of burn-in in some video display screens -- displays that are used for static images for a long time can leave ghostly afterimages when the screens are re-purposed. I recall a "Tetris" video game console I played in college that had once been a "Pac-Man" machine; behind the falling Tetris blocks you could still see the walls of the Pac-Man maze.

With greater use of electronic devices like the Kindle that are used for reading books today (and can hold multiple books at once), perhaps the parchment part of the definition is not so far off after all!

Nancy Terselic, Hamilton, Ohio

From: Bruce Hubbard (bhubbardmd aol.com)
Subject: Palimpsest

In addiction medicine palimpsest refers to the memory lapse or blackout that occurs at the time a person is drinking heavily. That "wipes the slate clean" so to speak.

Bruce Hubbard, San Diego, California

From: H.M. Krisch (kriburg gmail.com)
Subject: palimpsest

Your definition of palimpsest captures only half of the story. One can often read, or at least get some idea about, the incompletely erased underlying text. This is often much more interesting than the overlying text. This second aspect of a palimpsest has recently been used in the field of evolutionary genomics to describe the remaining traces in a genome's DNA text of its distant evolutionary past. To reveal this faint underlying message sophisticated computer analysis is usually required. Thus your genome sequence not only defines you but is simultaneously a palimpsest of your species's past.

H.M. Krisch, Sierre, Switzerland

From: Dr. Alexis Melteff (alanmeredith42 hotmail.com)
Subject: palimpsest

This word reminds me of an apocryphal story that was popular during World War II: A man wanted to emigrate from Germany and to take his priceless Rembrandt, but he knew the Nazis would never let it out of the country. So he had an amateur artist paint a banal landscape over it. At his new destination, he took the canvas to a restorer and asked him to remove all the recent paint. The restorer called the next day and said, "I removed the landscape and the fake Rembrandt, what should I do with the portrait of Adolf Hitler?"

Dr. Alexis Melteff, Santa Rosa, California

From: Eric Shackle (ericshackle bigpond.com)
Subject: Schadenfreude

Many of us regard Cuba with schadenfreude. See the story.

Eric Shackle, Sydney, Australia

I have studied it often, but I never could discover the plot. -Mark Twain, author and humorist, on dictionary (1835-1910)

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