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AWADmail Issue 60

December 9, 2001

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

From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: Online Chat

This Thursday, we have invited Richard Lederer, author, speaker, punster, columnist for a live chat in our virtual auditorium. Join him for some realtime wordplay on December 13, 2001 at 8 PM Eastern (GMT -5).

From: Peps Turler (buturlerAThotmail.com)
Subject: Eponyms

This week's theme - eponyms - is very topical here in the UK. It was all over the news on Monday that the eponym "Delia" has made it into the Collins English Dictionary. Delia Smith is a well-known cookery writer, and expressions such as "doing a Delia" are now part of the language:
news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/uk /newsid_1688000/1688790.stm

From: Cary Hobbs (caryhobbsATearthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Potemkin village

A wonderful word just in time to be used in conjunction with the Winter Olympics being staged in Utah. The usual restrictions on the Utah population (strange liquor laws, blue laws, curfews, travel restrictions, discrimination) are being conveniently waived for a few weeks to create a Potemkin Village for the benefit of "the world" who will be visiting. Now we know what to call it!

From: Dagny Haug (dagnyATvisi.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Potemkin village

Along the DMZ of the North/South Korean border, the two countries have erected Potemkin villages, visible through binoculars from the visitors area. Presumably to demonstrate to their brethren on the other side and international visitors.

Here's a snippet from someone's travelogue:
Also see, walkingadventures.com/brochures/asia2002/page11

From: Jim Brittain (jimbrittainATncaddnj.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Potemkin village

In the early 1980's, U.S. President Ronald Reagan was expecting a visit from a number of (I believe) middle-eastern dignitaries. They were to land at one of the New York airports, and travel through the South Bronx, a neighborhood full of abandoned high-rise buildings. Reagan had many of the windows of these buildings (the ones facing the major roads) covered with shades on which were printed designs of windows, with curtains, shades, lamps -- I even seem to remember some with a cat sleeping on the sill (many were still in the windows years later). It is pleasant to think of Reagan making the entire South Bronx into a Potemkin Village.

Also noted by Nancy Pemberton (nspembertonATearthlink.net).

From: Lois Racz (lorozATwebtv.net)
Subject: Potemkin village

This morning I received the AWAD definition of a Potemkin village. Only hours later I was reading the late wunderkind physicist Richard Feynman's book section about the Presidential commission studying the fatal shuttle accident of the Challenger.

He is not happy with the NASA briefings, redundancy, tours, etc., and writes, "I get this picture of the czarina coming to a Potemkin village: everything is all arranged, they show us how the rocket works and how they put it together. It's not the way to find out how things Really work."

From: Simon Rumble (srumbleATpilatmedia.com)
Subject: Potemkin

I suspect Potemkin may well be more famous for the battleship named after him and the ensuing groundbreaking film. Still, it's not as cool as having an eponym.

From: Robert Godden (rgoddenATspeakmans.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--furphy

Thanks for using a great Australian Word - Furphy. However, its general usage in a bit more specific in Australia. A furphy is a general belief that has no basis in fact - for example, the rising crime rate in Australia is widely accepted, but is a furphy - our crime rates are actually going down.

Furphies are a favourite of politicians and our recent federal election proved very fertile for furphies. By the way, today's Adelaide Advertiser (a very dull name) called Imelda Marcos an "eminence grise". I guess they must be subscribers, too.

From: G. Kent Andersen (spotonATjuno.com)
Subject: furphy and cask

Wordsmith wrote:
"Scuttlebutt was an OPEN cask of drinking water . . ." Yes it was a cask. However is was not open. In many cases, a butt was a barrel-like container of 126 gallons of drinking water. While at sea, the last thing a mariner would want is precious drinking water sloshing about the deck. In addition, if the cask were open it would be subject to contamination due to sea spray. Access to the water was usually though a petcock.

"Bung Up And Bilge Free" was a phrase used in the stowage of casks. It means that the bungs (bungs are sort of like a wooden cork) should be up and that the cask should rest on skids so as to raise the bilge or middle of the cask clear of the deck. (Bungs was also a shipboard slang for the cooper who constructed casks.)

Captain G. Kent Andersen, Professional Mariner
Pacific Chair, International Society of Maritime Etymologists

From: Lily (qaATdbg.com.cn)
Subject: Kowtow

It was the first time that I found a Chinese word in English such as kowtow. It is an old decorums in china. I remembered that was a Tomb-sweeping Day. I was only ten years old. My family went to pay our respects to my grandfather at his tomb. After setting off one string of firecracker, my father asked my sister and me kneeled down and kowtow toward my grandfather's tomb. At the same time my mother said that wished my grandfather under the earth could bless us lucky and happy.

Now I am working in a city which is very far away from my hometown. I never kowtow after I grew up.

From: Harley F. Laing (hlaing8709ATaol.com)
Subject: wordjones

I am troubled by misuse of English in advertising. I wonder if there might be a place in Wordsmithing for a daily or, perhaps more realistically, weekly example of such misuse. The problem's worst effect is, of course, on young people. How many of them now believe that "You've got mail," is correct, for example. (The first versions of AOL said "You have mail/" as I discovered when I bought a used laptop with AOL 3.0 on it. When I told the rep that I wanted to keep using it for that reason she thought I was a kook and explained that it would no longer work properly. They should at least offer an option. ('Wordjones' was my way of drawing your attention to this misuse, perhaps a bit weak; the opposite of wordsmithing).

From: Michael Catone (mcatoneATbcbsde.com)
Subject: Why I signed-off

Here is my reply to your unsubscription survey: I wasn't happy when I posted a comment and never saw it posted on the AWADmail Issues, it made me feel unloved.

    Of more than a thousand messages that reach my mailbox every week, only a dozen or so can make it to AWADmail. Please know that I read all messages and my inability to post your message in AWADmail is no reflection of my regard for you. So keep those letters coming, with your stories, anecdotes, suggestions, and complaints -- they do make a difference. -Anu

By words the mind is winged. -Aristophanes, dramatist (c. 448-385 BCE)

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