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AWADmail Issue 582

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

From: Lynn Gold (lyngold04 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bluebeard

Bluebeard: fiction. Henry VIII: fact.

Lynn Gold, Quebec, Canada

From: Phyllis Charney (charnyllis nyc.rr.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bluebeard

Bluebeard! You mean like Drew Peterson?

Phyllis Charney, New York, New York

Email of the Week (Brought to you by One Up! -- 92.87% funner than Scrabble.)

From: Steve Robinson (spr lawrobinson.com)
subject: bluebeard

[A Tetrastich In Time]

"O ye, of little faith"
. . . Should be roundly cheered
: A match made in Heaven - -
A black widow and a bluebeard.

Steve Robinson, Glendale, California

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Bluebeard

It is interesting to note how legends of the past may return to haunt us as symbols of the present. The Bluebeard story has inspired such diverse applications as the American critic George Steiner's analysis of modern culture, titled Bluebeard's Castle, published in the late twentieth century, and the one-act opera of the same name by the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok from an earlier part of the same century. Sarcastically, Professor Steiner, in his wide-ranging essay, actually refers to "a good deal of classical music" as "the opium of the good citizen". After all, as the title of the public radio music series suggests, "Who Is Afraid of Bela Bartok?"

One must not make light of this, however, since both work (each in its own way) and raise serious questions about modern man's preoccupations and preconceptions, beyond the sense of building fortifications for himself where evidence of uxoricide and other brutalities may be concealed.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Monica Seelman (bvmnewsdw aol.com)
Subject: Procrustes

In the '60s I taught in Butte, Montana, my first teaching assignment. Our Supervisor, Sister Mary Joseph Cecilia, used the myth and illustrations of it to show teachers that children do not all learn the same, that we had to adjust to their needs. I can still picture the person on the bed, whether stretched out or with his legs cut off; that image stayed with me throughout my teaching career.

Monica Seelman, Chicago, Illinois

From: Alan H. Schulman (alan.schulman helsinki.fi)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--procrustes

The word is often used in statistics -- Procrustes analysis is a technique to compare two data sets, where one or other may have a systematic bias: e.g., individuals who rate a set of objects 0-->10, where some shift everything upwards or downwards but keep the same relative distribution between the objects.

Alan H. Schulman, Helsinki, Finland

From: Richard Stallman (rms gnu.org)
Subject: Procrastes

There was also the myth of Procrastes, who would stretch every task to fit the time period available.

Dr Richard Stallman, Boston, Massachusetts

From: Yitzhak Dar (yitzhakdar gmail.com)
Subject: Procrustes

The same bad/bed-story is found in the Talmud, the central text of Rabbinic Judaism (written in the 3rd century). The Talmud deals with the people of Sodom, who were sentenced to death by God, because of their sins. The Talmud gives an example of their bad ways.

A guest who stayed in town was given a bed to sleep on. If his legs were longer and stuck out of the bed, they were cut to fit. If the guest was shorter, he was stretched. When we say in Hebrew "It's a Sodom bed", we mean that the person faces a decision between two bad options.

Yitzhak Dar, Haifa, Israel

From: Claude Galinsky (cmgalinsky gmail.com)
Subject: Procrustes

In computing, procrustean assignment refers to truncating or padding a data string with spaces in order to fit it into a fixed-length variable. Back in the olden days, programmers knew their Greek mythology!

Claude Galinsky, Westford, Massachusetts

From: Tim Miller (tkmiller000 hotmail.com)
Subject: Gorgon

A favorite New Yorker cartoon shows Medusa looking in a mirror and contemplating a can of Rogaine as her snakes slither away on the floor.

Tim Miller, Ithaca, New York

From: Caron Morales (camorale)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Dr. Strangelove

One of my all-time favorite movie lines, "Gentlemen. You can't fight in here. This is the War Room!" (video)

Caron Morales, Indianapolis, Indiana

From: Joseph Hughes (ivy512 hotmail.com)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--Dr. Strangelove

Uda hadda been in the USAF to know jest how close to reality that movie was. The depiction of the bomber crew was rite on. Readin' the Playboy while on automatic pilot, casual attack profile, ready for war at a moment's notice, General's god-like attitude,... Ah, the gud ole days was truly gud,...

Father Joseph, USAF(RET)

From: David Ferrier (ferrierd shaw.ca)
Subject: Dr. Strangelove defn.

Thank you for the Dr. Strangelove item! However, I did not fully agree with the definition given. Necessarily it was brief, and IMHO did not completely capture the meaning of the term. You might find of interest the exposition here.

David Ferrier, Edmonton, Canada

From: Tom Nelligan (nelligan ix.netcom.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--Dr. Strangelove

Back in the 1960s there was a professional baseball player named Dick Stuart who was known as a good hitter and a terrible fielder. His legendary lack of prowess at catching balls headed in his direction coupled with the Kubrick movie led to the nickname "Dr. Strangeglove".

Tom Nelligan, Waltham, Massachusetts

You have to fall in love with hanging around words. -John Ciardi, poet and translator (1916-1986)

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