Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 608

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

Sponsor's Message: Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Calling all double-domes, especially this week's Email of the Week winner, Kevin Gleig (see below) -- we're offering an unbeatable cabin-fever cure for word lovers: One Up! -- The Wicked/Smart Word Game. A real steal at $15; and shipping is absolutely FREE. Quick, snap two up now.

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

How a Dialect Differs From a Language
The Economist

Linguist Charles Fillmore Dies

From: Steven G. Kellman (kellman1 gmail.com)
Subject: Escutcheon

The most memorable use of the word "escutcheon" occurs in the final lines of an Emily Dickinson poem:

How pomp surpassing ermine,
When simple you and I
Present our meek escutcheon,
And claim the rank to die!

Steven G. Kellman, San Antonio, Texas

From: Eleanor Richardson (nielandeleanor roadrunner.com)
Subject: escutcheon

That word makes me think of a horrible song I learned at camp long ago. It begins "We are villains, we're dirty rotten villains", and includes a line that I originally thought was "We're a blotch/ On our family of Scotch." Later I found that it was, "We're a blotch on/ Our family escutcheon." (A little stretch for a rhyme, and a new word for me.) [See mondegreen. -Ed.]

Niel Richardson, Maple Heights, Ohio

From: Karan Chhabra (krchhabra gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--escutcheon

Medical tidbit -- escutcheon is also used to describe one's pubic hair distribution (since it sorta looks like a shield)!

It's triangular in females and diamond-shaped in males. An abnormal escutcheon (given one's gender) can be the sign of an endocrine disorder!

Karan Chhabra, New Brunswick, New Jersey

From: Patricia Day-Lollini (daylollp pacbell.net)
Subject: Escutcheon

Escutcheon has another meaning in animal husbandry, referring to the area of upward hair growth on the backside of a cow, which is said to reflect the milk productivity of the cow.

Patricia Day-Lollini, San Carlos, California

From: Mary Burdette (burdette roadrunner.com)
Subject: Crural -- in context

After the judge sentenced the defendant to stand on one leg for 60 days, the press pronounced this to be crural and unusual punishment.

Mary Burdette, Hammondsport, New York

From: Lola Fields (thisoldwoman gmail.com)
Subject: crural

Couldn't resist.

"What do you mean, no refund?" she snarled, setting aside the sampler she'd been working on, clenching the needle and repeatedly stabbed him in the thigh, inflicting accrual cruel crewel crural pain on her accountant.

Lola Fields, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From: Kathleen Beattie (kathleenbeattie1302 gmail.com)
Subject: crural

I have hoped over several years as a subscriber to A.Word.A.Day to see a derivation of "crural" show up. Back in the day when the friends who introduced my husband and me would facilitate our courtship by holding parlour game evenings, we played a wordplay amusement whereby each player finds a difficult term in a dictionary and the other players would have to guess its meaning from a mix of two or three made-up definitions and the real one. To increase the challenge, we would use an archaic dictionary from the early 1800s.

One evening I fooled the opposing team with the word "inter-crurals" by making up the definition "between the ears", thinking that they would think 'crural' related to 'cranium', not legs. Ever since that time (1982) we have often bid good-bye with the parting phrase, "Keep your inter-crurals warm!", an especially apropos farewell this long, snowy Nordic winter in the mid-latitudes of North America where I live! Incidentally, within a few years of that wordplay night, Canadian actor Laura Robinson would make a fortune inventing the board game "Balderdash", perhaps based on the old parlour game.

Kathleen Beattie, Neustadt, Canada

Email of the Week (Courtesy One Up! -- Blizzard, Schmizzard.)

From: Kevin Gleig (kevingleig gmail.com)
Subject: quinary

In UK, bingo games have prizes for completing a card of numbers -- called a "House" -- or a single "Line". Here in France, the equivalents are "Carton Plein" and "Quine", the latter because a line has five numbers. The game itself is called Bingo in UK; in France it is officially called Loto, but the French regions have various names for the game -- it is often called Quine, or Loto-Quine; some areas call it Rifle (pronounced "ree-fler"); and, bizarrely, in the Corrèze region, it is called poule au gibier, roughly meaning the female of a game bird; but everywhere, a line is a quine (pronounced "keen").

Kevin Gleig, Felines Minervois, France

From: Bob Wilson (wilson math.wisc.edu)
Subject: Bi-quinary

There are probably not too many of us still around who ever programmed the IBM 650, a very early sort-of-mass-produced computer. It wanted to appear to the user as decimal, i.e. base 10, rather than binary or octal or hexadecimal. (Of course internally circuits either did or did not have a voltage on them, i.e. binary, but they were connected to act as decimal.)

The display, and some of the internal workings, were bi-quinary.

Bob Wilson, Oregon, Wisconsin

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

Emilie, Annette, Yvonne, Cecile and Marie -- a quinary array of French-sounding given names, non? But not just any random names with a decidedly Gallic twist.

These were the given names of the famed French-Canadian Dionne quintuplets, born May 28, 1934 in rural Ontario, Canada -- the first quintuplets, on record, to have survived and actually thrived beyond birth.

Sadly, this astounding multiple birth phenomenon, coming in the midst of the Great Depression, devolved into a freak-show of sorts, when the infants, only after four months of initially being with their parents, were declared "wards of the King", essentially the Province of Ontario, taken away, and for the next nine years put, almost daily, on public display as a curious entertainment, not unlike the circus's bearded lady, the sword swallowing fire-eater, or the man with the lizard skin.

By the time the girls had reached official adulthood at 18, they all eventually left the family home, and tried to lead individual, so-called 'normal' lives. But the memories of those formative years as reluctant celebrities, and exploited kids, apparently haunted them for the rest of their lives. Today, I believe only two of the quints are living. Thankfully, the Ontario government, some years back, did award each still-living quintuplet an undisclosed financial compensation for the indignities that they were forced to endure as mere innocents. IMHO, no sum of money would have assuaged the emotional pain of that tawdry sideshow those sweet children, and later adults, had to cope with.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Irving N. Webster-Berlin (awadreviewsongs gmail.com)
Subject: Song based on this week's words

Here are this week's AWAD Review Songs (words and recordings) for your listening and viewing pleasure.

Irving N. Webster-Berlin, Sacramento, California

There are some who only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts. -Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith