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AWADmail Issue 565

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

Four Things Most Native English Speakers Don't Know About English
Matador Network

An Exit Interview With the Man Who Transformed the Oxford English Dictionary
Also see the transcript of our chat with John Simpson from a few years ago.

Why Translators Are the New Blacksmiths
Huffington Post

From: M Henri Day (mhenriday gmail.com)
Subject: bombilate

And the genus to which the bumblebee (earlier known as the humblebee, so named because it hums as it flies) belongs is Bombus, from the Latin term for the buzzing sound that bees make when flying.

M Henri Day, Stockholm, Sweden

From: Catherine Bolton (translations bolton.it)
Subject: bombilate

I love this word! The interesting thing is that the Italian word for bumblebees is "bombi" (singular: bombo).

Catherine Bolton, Bastia Umbra, Italy

From: Michael Tremberth (michaelt4two googlemail.com)
Subject: bombilate

If cicadas bombilate, then bees stridulate. They don't in my garden!

Michael Tremberth, St Erth, Cornwall, UK

From: Sonya Resnick (ssmith_csi hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bombilate

I had an experience with bombilation just this morning. I had cleaned and refilled one of the hummingbird feeders and was holding it just out the window, low enough for my son to fill the ant moat, when a ravenous hummingbird dive-bombed it. (Rather, he tried to light on it to have a sip. But have you ever heard a hummingbird up close? They are surprisingly loud.) I let out a yelp of surprise that I hope will not prevent him from coming to drink again.

Sonya Resnick, Raleigh, North Carolina

From: Moria Feighery-Ross (MFRoss pharmatechassociates.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cachinnate

If we're talking onomatopoeia, I really think cachinnate might better represent the sound of a cash register. Or if it must be laughter, the sound of suppressed or muffled laughter.

Moria Feighery-Ross, Ione, California

From: Richard Alexander (alexander triton.net)
Subject: brouhaha

It's been nearly 44 years since the surrealistic comedy troupe Firesign Theater released an LP featuring, on the B-side, "The Further Adventures of Nick Danger", but I still can't see or hear "brouhaha" without recalling this exchange:

Catherwood: (a door opens) What's all this brouhaha?
Nick Danger: Brouhaha? Ha ha ha.
Catherwood: Ha ha ha ha ha. (the door closes).

Richard Alexander, Grand Rapids, Michigan

From: J. Michael Keating (jmk2009 free.fr)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--brouhaha

Indeed from the French (in the case of English). My Historical French Dictionary states that it was first noted as a noun in 1552 -- and that the most probable origin was from barukh habba (bechem adonai) used in prayers, which would have been deformed by those who didn't understand Hebrew to describe a "noisy situation". This is reinforced by the Italian Arezzo barrus caba and other Italian words borrowed from Hebrew prayers: Badanai, Badananai from Be adonaio. First used as an interjectional phrase, an attribute of the devil supposed to inspire terror, then as a noun from 1552.

J. Michael Keating, Villereau, France

Email of the Week (Brought to you by One Up! -- Letter-perfect fun.)

From: Craig G Clark (cgcsf redshift.com)
Subject: onomatopoeia

One of my favorite jokes: Fellow goes to the doctor. After an extensive exam, the MD consults with the man.

"Well," he says, "You've got high cholesterol, acid reflux, and onomatopoeia."

The guy says, "I understand the cholesterol and the heartburn, but what's onomatopoeia?"

"It's just what it sounds like."

Craig G Clark, California

From: Bill Johnson (jwjobx earthlink.net)
Subject: Onomatopoeia

Ancient Greek contained some wonderful words imitating sounds. My favorite is "Pompo-fuga-po-flasma": bubbles rising from the depth of a body of water and breaking on the surface. Probably the most famous was the chorus of frogs in Aristophanes's play: brek-ke-ke-kex-koax-koax.

Bill Johnson, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

From: Raymond Schlabach (crdutchman gmail.com)
Subject: onomatopoeic words

In Spanish a crash goes cho. But that takes a back seat to Kham in Nepal. Here are a few. (From David Watters, At the Foot of the Snows, 2011, pp. 197-8). In Kham all sorts of events have associated sounds. A cavern goes dwang dwang, a growl is ngarr ngarr, and fluffy wool goes gwaa gwaa. Stiff joints go khagara khogoro. Salty food makes your mouth go chachata, and lemons make it go chyachyar chichur. The sound of embarrassment is zuu zuu.

Strangulation is kik kik (yes, I can imagine kicking), and when an animal skin becomes brittle it goes kyanggya kyengge. Tossing a blanket is hya hyi and an earthquake goes chanaa-chanaa.

Raymond Schlabach, Heredia, Costa Rica

From: Morgan Crane (morgan.crane gmail.com)
Subject: Onomatopoeia

Why is it that onomatopoeia is not an onomatopoeia?

Morgan Crane, Arcata, California

English usage is sometimes more than mere taste, judgment, and education -- sometimes it's sheer luck, like getting across the street. -E.B. White, writer (1899-1985)

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