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AWADmail Issue 601

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

Sponsor's Message:
Introducing ONEUPMANSHIP -- a Machiavellian money game that's also an expensive and elitist lifestyle accessory/unsubtle political statement -- which the Email of the Week winner, Robert Maxwell (see below) will get hot off the press, whether he is a capitalist or not.

From: Kathy Holleman (kholleman bjc.org)
Subject: bleb

I first heard the word "bleb" used by a couple of world-renowned thoracic surgeons to describe lesions on the lungs picked up by CT scans and other x-rays. I was the junior person on the PR team at a major academic medical center at the time. The surgeons were seeing an increase in patients with these "indeterminate nodules" or blebs because the use of whole-body CT scans to discover early, undiagnosed medical issues was popular (and affordable) at the time. Since biopsies were more invasive, expensive, and only rarely did the nodules turn out to be cancer, the surgeons wanted to establish a clinic that would allow them to follow the patients with simple x-rays and allow them to step in with early surgery if a problem did crop up.

They needed a name for the clinic, but admitted that "Bleb clinic" wasn't particularly appealing and called in the PR team. I suggested they call it the "Surveillance of Pulmonary Indeterminate Nodules Clinic" -- the SPIN Clinic. To my surprise, they loved it! SPIN Clinic it was. It remains one of my favorite PR achievements.

Kathy Holleman, St. Louis, Missouri

From: Reimut Lieder (support thephonecounsellor.com)
Subject: This week's theme ~ short words

Great theme, and thanks! Sort of reminds me of something I heard once... or maybe I made it up...
"Never use a long word where a minimalist, diminutive, and unassuming expression sufficiently and comprehensively circumscribes and delineates the full connotations of the aforesaid utterance and adequately relays the exigent parameters being thereby elucidated."

Reimut Lieder, Vancouver, Canada

From: Richard Mann (rmann54 verizon.net)
Subject: Care for some pi?

Sorry, but I cannot help recalling what we said in junior high math class:

Pi r squared.
No, pie are round, cake are square.

Richard Mann, Hampton Roads, Virginia

From: Frank Camp (Frank751 verizon.net)
Subject: pi

My son claims he won many a bet that he knew pi to 20 places. He used this clever verse. I do not know the author.


Now I sing a silly roundelay
Of radial roots and utter lackaday
Euclidean results imperfect are my boy
Mnemonic arts employ.

Frank Camp, Potomac, Maryland

From: Kiko Denzer (potlatch cmug.com)
Subject: pi

One of my favorite stories about pi was in Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language, where (in a chapter called "shopfront schools") he describes an adult working with a group of kids on tree identification. They were trying to figure out if the trees they were looking at met the criterion for diameter, so the adult gave them a tape and told them to go measure. They quickly realized they couldn't get a diameter without cutting down the trees. This led to the fundamental question: "How many diameters in a circumference?" -- and then a series of experiments, first estimating by eye, then laying out circles on the ground and measuring, then trying to determine exactly how many diameters fit into a circle. "At that point, these five kids, ranging in age from nine to twelve, were within two one hundredths of discovering pi, and I was having a hard time containing myself."

That, I think, is what Aristotle meant when he said, "what we learn to do, we learn by doing." And a good example of Alexander's point, that "education" is properly a part of the work of the world -- not the separate, isolated, and typically boring activity that most kids have to suffer for most of every year.

Kiko Denzer, Blodgett, Oregon

From: Sherman George (sgeorge ucsd.edu)
Subject: Pi

Late in the 19th century the state of Indiana came close to defining pi as 3.2. see the full story here.

Sherman George, San Diego, California

Email of the Week (Introducing ONEUPMANSHIP -- For manly men only.)

From: Robert Maxwell (rmax304823 yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pi

The only thing I remember from a high school geometry class of 50 years ago is A = πr2. It gives you the area of a circle. I sampled three pizza franchises; found the areas of small, medium, and large pies; and divided by cost. Result: Large pies are by far the cheapest per square inch. Conclusion: Buy the large pies even if you throw some away.

Robert Maxwell, Deming, New Mexico

From: Dr Anne Cooper (mcooper healthon-net.com)
Subject: pi

A 4th usage for "pi" was as a contraction for "pious". Commonly seen in English school stories of the first half of the last century, it was slightly derogatory in the sense of a "goody two-shoes". Sometimes combined in "pi-jaw" if the well-behaved one was berating a miscreant.

Dr Anne Cooper, Adelaide, Australia

From: Richard S. Russell (richardsrussell tds.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pi

The formula for the area of a circle is πr2, where r is the radius of the circle. This formula gave birth to the punny name of a cylindrical office building in Madison, Wisconsin: Pyare Square.

Richard S. Russell, Madison, Wisconsin

From: Margaret Crick (mcrick noos.fr)
Subject: yare

And don't forget the scene in The Philadelphia Story, where I learned this word. Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn are talking about a boat they had. And she says something to the effect "Oh, she was yare... I wasn't, was I?" (video, 34 sec.)

Margaret Crick, Paris, France

From: Steve Kirkpatrick (stevekirkp comcast.net)
Subject: AWAD: a yare vessel in a sea of words

AWAD has proven to be a yare vessel, navigating a sea of words. Thank you.

Many subscribers will recognize yare (or its variant, yar) from the stage play and 1940 film, The Philadelphia Story. In the film, Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn played former spouses C.K. Dexter Haven and Tracy Lord. They talked about their sailboat, the True Love.

C.K. Dexter Haven: My, she was yar.
Tracey Lord: She was yar, all right. I wasn't, was I?
C.K. Dexter Haven: Not very. Oh, you were good at the bright work, though.
(video, 2.41 min)

Taken literally, "good at the bright work" meant she did a good job polishing the boat's chrome. However, it's unlikely that she, an heiress, would have taken on that task. More likely, she could show elegance, such as when they had guests. Ultimately, the bright work does little to keep a boat or a marriage afloat.

Steve Kirkpatrick, Olympia, Washington

From: Andrew Barker (abarker icon.co.za)
Subject: Ruck

Also, don't forget the rugby ruck. Not only is it a mass of people (heavy-duty rugby players) but it can lead to many wrinkled and creased bodies and limbs.

Andrew Barker, Johannesburg, South Africa

From: Mark McSwain (mpm82 aggienetwork.com)
Subject: Ruck

In the military community, ruck has a verb sense, meaning to carry -- for better or worse -- heavy loads while afoot.

This can be a positive, as in a sense of getting healthy exercise. It can also refer to "learning experience" evolutions where punitive loads are carried on long or forced marches.

Mark McSwain, Bryan, Texas

From: Kibbe Fitzpatrick (kibbef msn.com)
Subject: short words

Short words is an interesting theme for this week because many seem strange, or of lesser importance since they are "only" prepositions or articles. The situation is the same in all other Latin, Slavic, and Germanic languages. And this is also true of all major Asian languages with one noteworthy exception: Chinese, in which nearly all syllables are actual meaningful words. To a Chinese studying English, an interesting theme would be the very opposite of this week's theme: long multisyllabic words (like multisyllabic!) which seem so natural to us.

Kibbe Fitzpatrick, New York, New York

From: John Whittier (johnrwhittier clear.net)
Subject: Short words

I'm not afraid of long words -- it can be more fun to say cogitate rather than "think" -- so I wasn't sure I'd warm up to this week's theme. Until I remembered a sentence that was once spoken in my ear in the midst of passion. It just wouldn't have been the same had she said, "Fornicate me intensely!"

John Whittier, Ellisville, Missouri

From: Peter Eskildsen (petereskildsen comcast.net)
Subject: Short words

As I am on Christmas vacation in Sønderjylland, Denmark, where I grew up, I am enjoying this week's short words. In our dialect here, we have a great sentence with each word consisting of a single letter. "E Æ U Å Æ Ø I Æ Å" or in standard Danish "Jeg er ude på øen i åen" meaning "I am out on the island in the Creek"

Peter Eskildsen, Woodinville, Washington

For every language that becomes extinct, an image of man disappears. -Octavio Paz, poet, diplomat, Nobel laureate (1914-1998)

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