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AWADmail Issue 598

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

This is the Twistiest Tongue Twister Ever, Says Science
The Week

'Valley Girl' Talk Is, Like, Totally Spreading Among Young Dudes
International Business Times

From: Joe Wander (jdwandersr gmail.com)
Subject: inoculate

Inoculate is a common term in microbiology, meaning to introduce an organism (inoculum) into a growth medium or culture.

Joe Wander, Panama City, Florida

From: Patricia Breault (pbreault43452 gmail.com)
subject: palpable

I have a great memory of using this word. In my American Literature class in high school, we were required to write essays. In one essay I used the word 'palpable'. Incredibly, my teacher marked me down because she said it was not a real word. I guess dictionaries were in short supply in our high school in the 60s. Fortunately, I was able to locate one and pointed out this was a real word, used in the proper context, so she reluctantly allowed it. I continued to use 'palpable' in every essay I wrote, she would continue to mark it as not a real word, I would continue to prove my case. Finally, she allowed it in my essays so I did not have to use it in every essay anymore.

Patricia Breault, Port Clinton, Ohio

From: Dave Campell (museumofdave gmail.com)
Subject: palpable

As is so frequently the case, the less common word conjures up a scene from Shakespeare, here in Hamlet's final dueling scene. As the prince and Laertes square off in a duel, the latter armed with a poisoned rapier, Hamlet scores a hit disputed by King Claudius; Hamlet asks the toady Osric for more objective judgement: "A hit", replies Osric, "a very palpable hit."

Dave Campbell, Chico, California

From: Jane Lomax-Smith (jls196 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--skint

I can't think of the word skint without the word boracic popping into my mind. Where I grew up you were 'boracic', short for 'boracic lint' rhyming with and meaning skint.

Jane Lomax-Smith, Adelaide, Australia

From: Priscilla Diamond (pkatediamond gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--skint

Are you sure that the following usage example isn't a typo for "scant" or something? Probably not, but my brain keeps wanting to read it as scant. Habit, I suppose.

"Much of the information contained in the early reports was ambitious in tone but skint on detail."

Priscilla Diamond, Lexington, Massachusetts

Now that you mention it, the word scant does fit better in the above sentence.
-Anu Garg

From: Alison Huettner (pondalorum aol.com)
Subject: pratfall

And of course the word "prat" still means butt in British English, and is used to describe people the way Americans might call someone an "ass". I'm still laughing at a description of the reception one "Randy Pratt" (American) received on a lecture tour in England!

Alison Huettner, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pratfall

The word "pratfall", for me, conjures up the engaging slapstick antics of the early comedic silent film (Chaplin, Keaton, W.C. Fields, et al) and vaudeville eras, where broad physical comedy was often a staple of both entertainment forms. The early 'boomer' generation, which includes yours truly, grew up with such comedy fare as the wacky histrionics of The Three Stooges, goofy Red Skelton, the brilliant Sid Caesar, and the young, and zany Jerry Lewis.

All these aforementioned performers incorporated the "pratfall", or the almost cliched tumble, slipping on a banana peel, in their comic repertoire. Of course, with the Stooges, the antics went far beyond just the pratfalls, and included a lot of simulated violence, including face-slapping, head-butting, eye-poking, noggin conking, and the like. (Not good role models for the young and impressionable kids of the day.)

Sadly, with veteran comedian Jerry Lewis, now well into his 80's, seemingly one too many deliberate pratfalls in his life... mostly in film, or onstage, severely damaged his lower back and neck, giving him chronic, excruciating episodes of pain over his later years; to the point where he had a new-age pain-minimizing device surgically implanted in his lower back several years ago, which he can remotely control, and activate when he feels major back pain coming on.

Hmm... comedy isn't always a barrel of laughs... or, a well executed pratfall.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Jim Bickford (jcbick gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--inoculate

The Grace Hopper quotation was one she used from John Augustus Shedd.

Jim Bickford, Arvada, Colorado

Email of the Week (Courtesy ONEUPMANSHIP -- Bring out the Darwinian worst in everyone this Christmas!)

From: Graham Barlow (steeleye mweb.co.za)
Subject: Foot heads arms body

This quotation reminded me of what I regard as one of Private Eye magazine's funniest front page illustrations. It showed a simple black and white photograph of Michael Foot ambling down a London road, and the caption read: 'Foot: a leg end in his own lifetime.' It doubled me up then, and still does so whenever I think of it.

Graham Barlow, Cape Town, South Africa

From: Dave Roberts (swecdave gmail.com)
Subject: Foot Heads Arms Body

One of my favourite occurrences of a sentence that was correct, but sounded all sorts of wrong, went "welcome back to our coverage of the second test. The batsman's Holding, the bowler's Willey."

Dave Roberts, Bunbury, Australia

From: Glen Morgan (glen.morgan education.wa.edu.au)
Subject: Xmas cheers

As a (proud) English teacher, I just want to thank you so much for your wonderful word a day. For me, it's not so much about learning new words, it is more about learning of the Greek, Latin, and French roots of these words. Your website has prompted me to enjoy the English language in so many more ways. Thank you! Merry Xmas to you all.

Glen Morgan, Perth, Australia

A language is never in a state of fixation, but is always changing; we are not looking at a lantern-slide but at a moving picture. -Arthur Lloyd James, phonetician (1884-1943)

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