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AWADmail Issue 6

Mar 28, 1997

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Samuel Lynn Brasington (samford.edu) <Now at versuteATaol.com>
Subject: words, what else?

Hi, I'm a senior at Samford U in Birmingham AL. Was searching around for anything on words on the Internet and stumbled upon your page. The idoneity of your page with my interest is very strong. Like yourself, I am a logophile, a verbomaniac. I don't care anything about my subjects, I'm majoring in Geography (I don't know why). Every time I go into the library to study my subjects, I end up in the Oxford Dictionary copying definitions of words, Oh- the "explanans" is the meaning of a word, while the "explanandum" is the word to be defined. This info just comes to me. I wish I could make a living out of this, I love it.

My affair with words began when I was a sophomore (wise idiot) in high school. I wanted to improve my verbal score on my SAT, so I purchased a vocabulary book designed to improve vocabulary. In three months I improved my verbal by 90 pts! Ever since, I have been keeping a folder, compendium of words I learn through reading. Unlike most people who stop there, I went to the lexicon itself and searched out unfamiliar words to enter into my collection. Nothing methodical, no "one-a-day", no beginning with A going to Z. No, a random selection of rare words I hope to enter into my working vocabulary. I copy the WHOLE definition-etymology, tenses, quotes, everything. I never took Latin or Greek, but Spanish. I probably can say I know more Latin and Greek than in three years of Spanish.

My problem with my love for words is summed up by this phrase - "It's hard to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by a bunch of chickens" - or something of that sort. Nobody around me cares that I know so many words. What is worse is this-even in college, which is supposed to foster learning and development, the use of fresh expression through the avoidance of the trite and banal, the platitudes and bromides, and old saws, is not encouraged. In my papers, I don't intentionally use pompous and grandiloquent language. I search for the 'mot juste' and use it. I do see their point when they say- "strive to be clear and simple", yes, it helps if the people you are addressing know what you mean, but come on, must I always cater to a lesser vocabulary when I have at my disposal a fresh and beautiful expression? Yes, periphrasis, tautology, perissology, pleonasm should be avoided; I guess the usual instance of elaborate speech IS some goof-ball trying to be a panjandrum. Oh yeah, do you hate that expression-"big words". This too is lazy-'nisus' is smaller than 'endeavor', 5 letters vs. 8 letters, and they mean the same thing, but some may call 'nisus' and big word.

I haven't much time now, this typing is very soporific, not saporous (saporific), or saponaceous. Hey, when people try to form new words capriciously, they engage in LOGODAEDALY, from (LLatin logodaedalia, fr. LGk logodaidalia fr Gk logodaidalos-skilled in verbal legerdemain daidalos-skillful, ingeniously formed)-The arbitrary or capricious coinage of words.

I will keep in touch, maybe I can share my wealth with you and everyone else, no one here cares about it.

    Dear Samuel, You have lots of company in AWAD world. You could call it a logocracy (where words rule), its citizens could be logolept (a word maniac), logologist (one who studies words), logomach (one who fights about words), logomaniac (one who is insanely interested in words). They could engage in logolatry (worship of words), be prone to logopandocie (readiness to admit words of all kinds), or even afflicted with logomisia (disgust of certain words). The only word missing from their dictionary is logophobia (fear of words). -Anu

From: Don Shannon (broward.fl.us)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--incubus -Reply

I wouldn't be a bit surprised if their selection of Incubus was intentional. More than likely the only reason they stopped marketing the shoe was because of a tirade of complaints from Women's groups who no doubt felt very insulted.

Let me give you another example of what I believe is intentional insensitivity. Are you familiar with the new abortion pill that is being pushed? Its called RU-486. 86 is colloquial for disposing of something. Therefore the name of the pill is a question... R U 4 86? Of course they are!

From: Michael Massey (aol.com)
Subject: Re: incubus

Says this marketing prof: If you believe that they didn't KNOW what incubus meant at the time of its new product introduction, then you probably believe that the first blade pulls the whisker out, and the second blade cuts it off [paraphrase of a "Saturday night live" mock commercial circa 1980's].

From: John Bockstege (shadow.net)
Subject: combinations....

If an incubus meets up with a succubus, does abiogenesis result?

From: Mitchel J. Schapira (alaska.net)
Subject: Re: things to look out for when buying a car

I once had a wonderful car manufactured by American Motors, the makers of Jeeps and Ramblers. It was called a Gremlin. I always thought that was a funny name for a car -- a gremlin being British WW2 slang for a mechanical malfunction!

From: Vinay L. Kashyap (harvard.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cassandra

Speaking of shoes that do not fit, GM has a car named 'Impact' (how reassuring)!

From: Joan C. Christman (reyrey.com)
Subject: Cassandra and other "incubus" words

I don't know--is naming your daughter "Cassandra" worse than naming them "Lilith"? (A beautiful sound, but come on--a child-stealing vampire?)

From: Cassandra Extavour (uam.es)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--cassandra

Great to see my name in print! I've had to explain what my name means, countless times to various people, and now maybe some of them will believe me that I wasn't just making it up.

    Or maybe they'll not... -Anu

From: Jean Peterson (uiuc.edu)
Subject: snollygoster

I've known many words in my life. I've eschewed the notion of "true love," a perfect, exclusive, committed, and enduring relationship with only one word. Now I must acknowledge that I have been wrong. I am deeply in love with "snollygoster." No other word is so provocative, so seductive, or so much FUN. I humbly thank you for the introduction.

    Linguaphiles! Send us about your most favorite word, and most disliked word. Look for the Top 10 lists from this survey next week. -Anu

From: Chris Johansen (main.nc.us)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--snollygoster

Growing up on the North Shore of Massachusetts (north of Boston), I heard lobstermen refer to particularly severe nor'easters (storms) as snollygosters. Probably from the storm's ability to blow away "poultry and children", at least the small ones!

From: Daniel Eldridge (aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lolita

I suppose it all depends on how deeply you read into Nabokov but the OED defines Lolita as: about a precocious schoolgirl seduced by a middle aged man, used to designate people and situations resembling those in the book.

1975 Listener 6 Mar. 305/I Chaplin had an uncontrollable infatuation with young girls... but his Lolita-like relationships in real life rarely matched the spiritual purity of love on the screen.

From: Mike Lingle (mdc.com)

Another pangram I like, although not ideal:

"Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz."

From: Matt Gallagher (ifusion.com)
Subject: Pangram rebuttal

For clarification, I would like to know what vex't means and what dictionary you transcribed this conjugation and/or contraction.

Otherwise, the other words are real and offer a modicum of grammatical sense, which in the case of pangrams is usually defenestrated.

From: Martin Putnam (netcom.com)
Subject: Cwm fjord bank glyphs vext quiz.

I'm not sure that it _is_ cheating, nor am I sure that "vex't" needs an apostrophe. Consider,

And that same night, the night of the new year,
By reason of the bitterness and grief
That vext his mother, all before his time
Was Arthur born. . .
(Tennyson, _Idylls of the King_, "The Coming of Arthur")

Is this not English? This very poem is, after all, one of the authorities relied upon by the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary to establish standard usage (see OED Index), although they don't happen to quote the above-cited passage in the articles on "vex" and "vexed." I am sure that you will agree, on sober reflection, that "Cwm fjord bank glyphs vext quiz" is a pangram above reproach.

From: Fred Baube (kaarina.fi)

Here's one that does it in 27 and is decipherable too :-)
Nymphs vex, beg quick fjord waltz.
(found in the classifieds of a free rag in DC)

From: Debora Von Essen (aol.com)
Subject: Father Mick Burns

Do you have Father Burns' email address? It seems that corresponding with others might help him overcome his "dual challenges," as he so pithily describes.

    Many others have also expressed interest in writing to him. He welcomes your letters at frmickATibm.net. -Anu

From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: Your messages

Thanks to everyone for writing. It is a delight to read your messages with anecdotes, comments, and interesting tidbits about words. May I request that when your send your comments,

  • do not include the whole posting in the reply
  • put a meaningful subject line in the message
  • sign your messages (especially AOL users)

From: Danielle Jimenez (uchsc.edu)
Subject: Enquiring minds

Also, there seems to be some confusion over a word in my office. Producer Saul Zaentz said, at the Oscars, "My wife has taught me the meaning of exoriousness." Please correctly spell and provide a definition of "exoriousness."

    [Also asked by Joe Masters (autodesk.com), and W. Keith Wingate (htc.com)] I didn't watch the broadcast but it appears he meant "uxoriousness" (being excessively submissive to one's wife). -Anu

From: Raymond Velchek (aol.com)
Subject: Coinage of the Week

dejanesia (noun) : the feeling that I've forgotten this before

From: Paul Fox-Hughes (bom.gov.au)
Subject: Re: Coinage of the Week - AWADmail Issue 5

I was particularly intrigued both by the coinage of the week (below)

    From: Parol Radhakrishnan (strath.ac.uk)
    Subject: Coinage of the Week

    industerilisation (noun) : stifling of industries by over regulation.

And by my own guess at its meaning, before I read the "official" meaning given by Parol Radhakrishnan. I surmised that it would mean "a reduction in fertility due to over-exposure to industrial chemicals"! An example, I guess, of how one's worldview shapes one's use of language and vice versa.

    Also noted by Russ Leefer (jupiter.com), Helen E. Jensen (utexas.edu), and David A. Rintoul (ksu.edu). -Anu

A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers. -Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

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