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AWADmail Issue 597

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

Sponsor's message:
Calling all Capitalists... introducing our completely original, cutthroat money game, ONEUPMANSHIP -- which the literate and lucky Email of the Week winner Christine Madsen (see below) will get hot off the press. And as a sort of "insider deal", we're offering first dibs on the first edition of this soon-to-be classic to all AWADers -- just use coupon code "lagniappe" and save 10%! Sale ends when we feel like ending it, so hurry up...

From: Pat Hankins (claypath earthlink.net)
Subject: Leah Palmer Preiss' illustrations

Oh joy! Leah's illustrations are back for another week. She can make the least appealing words funny with her clever renderings. I laughed out loud at the malingering monkey!

Pat Hankins, Meansville, Georgia

From: Felicity Allman (felicityallman gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--felicitous

Bearing in mind my name, this is a word I can't get away with using too often. As it happens, I was actually a particularly grumpy child, and my parents often declared me the least felicitous Felicity out there. Fortunately (or felicitously) I'm much more cheerful now that I'm older.

Thanks for the daily words and please keep them coming!

Felicity Allman, London, UK

From: Nalini Sankaranarayanan (nalsanka cisco.com)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--felicitous

Again, this reminds me of the potion in the Harry Potter Series "Felix Felicis" whose effect can be viewed here (video). It makes the drinker happy, lucky, and right in everything they do that day!

Nalini Sankaranarayanan, Bangalore, India

Email of the Week (Introducing ONEUPMANSHIP -- Are you a yellow-belly?)

From: Christine Madsen (cterpmadsen comcast.net)
Subject: disprize

Your word of the day "disprize" didn't surprize me. I had a running battle with my 10th grade English teacher over the spelling of "surprise" about "surprize", after she marked that alternative spelling incorrect on a friend's paper. I argued my friend's case passionately, and made a lifelong friend of the teacher, Karen Vespignani, who still teaches near my hometown in New Jersey. I even took her to my 40th high school reunion. Our crowning achievement in that 10th grade class was for several of us to rewrite portions of The Scarlet Letter in couplets.

Christine Madsen, Olympia, Washington

From: Raphael Barousse (raphbar catholic.org)
Subject: ineluctable

Many years ago I had a teacher of Greek who was a German monk who spoke many languages, not all of them idiomatically. We came upon a Greek word whose meaning no one in the class knew. Fr. Shwiekert translated for us: unfightagainstable i.e ineluctable.

Raphael Barousse, St. Benedict, Louisiana

From: Barry Bedrick (barryrb post.harvard.edu)
Subject: ineluctable

I first encountered this word over 50 years ago when studying Joyce's Ulysses in college and the quotation has stuck in my mind, in part because it was so baffling. Stephen Dedalus, in an interior monologue, refers to "the ineluctable modality of the visible."

Barry Bedrick, Arlington, Virginia

From: Dave Zobel (dzobel alumni.caltech.edu)
Subject: Ineluctable fate

Though it never appears in the text, the word "ineluctable" always reminds me of Frank R. Stockton's 1882 short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?", in which a king sentences his daughter's secret lover to choose between two identical doors. Behind one waits a lady (not the princess but one of her rivals), whom the condemned man, if he chooses that door, must marry on the spot. Behind the other stalks a ferocious tiger (with all that that en-tails).

The suitor thus has a 50-50 chance of becoming somebody's husband or somebody's snack. The princess, knowing what lies behind each door -- and that she must lose her beloved forever either way -- indicates one of the doors to him, which he unhesitatingly opens ...

In a sense, the lead roles in the story are played not by any human character, but by Chance and Fate: the one "impartial and incorruptible", the other ineluctable.

Dave Zobel, Los Angeles, California

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

Malingering is a term initially used in connection with soldiers and sailors who wished to avoid military and naval duties. E.T. Luscombe, in "Practical observations on the means of preserving the health of soldiers in camp and in quarters" (Edinburgh, 1820), observes that "Formerly, it was ulcers of the legs, which were most usually produced by artificial means by soldiers..disposed to malinger." Regrettably, I do not know what then became currently used excuses for skiving.

Michael Tremberth, St Erth, UK

From: Lily Huang (lyh1124 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--malinger

What about feigning wellness to go to work?

Lily Huang, Chatham, New Jersey

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

For some reason, I can't read or hear this word without these lines from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" coming to mind:

"And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep ... tired ... or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me."

M Henri Day, Stockholm, Sweden

From: Gloria Dannevig De Molnar (gloria.molnar sanandres.esc.edu.ar)
Subject: nimiety

I was surprised by the meaning of nimiety as the same word in Spanish has the opposite meaning (small, insignificant). This let me to look it up in the Real Academia Española dictionary and it has a second meaning: excess; and a third: neatness/detailed. Fascinating because nimiedad in Spanish is its own antonym. Is there a similar case in English?

Gloria D. Molnar, Buenos Aires, Argentina

There are dozens of contranyms in English. See here and here and here and here and here.
-Anu Garg

From: Margaret Neunborn (maneunborn yahoo.co.uk)
Subject: Words are a mirror

of their times... dear Anu somewhere this weekend I picked up that "selfie" is being allowed into a dictionary! Pushing the boundaries of human endeavour indeed! Thank you and your team for the little daily window into a wider world as I sit in a very beautiful but isolated place.

Margaret Neunborn, Karkloof, South Africa

Every word was once a poem. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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