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AWADmail Issue 609

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, Sonya Cashdan (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

Like, OMG! "Like" Is, Like, Totally Cool, Linguist Says
The Millions

The Number of Words Children Hear in Early Life Determines Their Success
The Economist

From: Dileep Pargaonkar (dileep bww.com)
Subject: surgeon (Re: manumit)

As a lifelong linguaphile, I have been an AWAD addict ever since its inception. I was intrigued to learn that the word surgeon (archaic spelling: chirurgeon) is derived from Greek chiro- (hand). Interesting to note that the word for surgeon in Russian is khirurg.

Dileep Pargaonkar, Atlanta, Georgia

From: Charlie Cockey (czechpointcharlie gmail.com)
Subject: HAND words

Interestingly, several languages still use the older form for "surgeon" -- for instance, Czech, where the word is "chirurg".

Charlie Cockey, Brno, Czech Republic

From: Marek Boym (marekboym walla.com)
Subject: Surgeon

I did not know that it had ever been spelled "chirurgeon" in English. However, in Polish it is chirurg, as it is in German, Dutch, Russian, and probably other languages. In French it's chirurgien, in Italian -- chirurgo, and so on and so on. In Scandinavian languages, the "ch" in the beginning of the word is replaced by "k". I assume that the archaic spelling derives from the French form.

Marek Boym, Raanana, Israel

From: Robert Kleemaier (robert dnvtranslations.ca)
Subject: chirurgeon

The archaic spelling 'chirurgeon' can still be found in the Dutch word for surgeon: chirurg.

Robert A. Kleemaier, Kelowna, Canada

From: Henry Willis (hmw ssdslaw.com)
Subject: Hands and feet

Podiatrists are also hand-workers, like surgeons and chiropractors. Or at least that is what I understand from the old riddle:

What did the Irishman say to the podiatrist?
Me fate is in your hands.
(My wife has barred me from repeating this old chestnut in her presence.)

Henry Willis, Los Angeles, California

That's why podiatrists are also known as chiropodists.
-Anu Garg

From: John A. Laswick (johnalene comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--chiral

A lingering mystery for scientists is the nearly total absence of "right-handed" amino acids in earth's inhabitants (the designation of right- and left-handed is arbitrary). Although we now catalogue the chiral molecules that produce today's lefties, no plausible hypothesis of their origin explains an unequal mix. Neither does any accepted hypothesis explain the disappearance of the "wrong" half, if it ever existed.

John A. Laswick, Springfield, Illinois

From: Melanie Kacin (melaniek19 gmail.com)
Subject: Chiral

I was studying for my organic chemistry final (or I was supposed to be) and was pleasantly surprised to find this word in my inbox. Chirality is something we've been studying (so maybe I don't have to feel too guilty about this study break).

Which brings me back to the etymology of the word. My professor, when trying to explain chirality and enantiomers, stuck out her hands and showed us that while similar, they are non-superimposable. Little did I know that her example was so close to the actual etymology! What a lovely way to connect two of my favorite things: words and chemistry.

Melanie Kacin, New York, New York

From: Richard Chamberlin (kingart cox.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--chiral

The word "chiral" is confusing even with the usual picture of two hands astride a mirror plane because a critical element is implied but not totally obvious: a "real" hand has a palm and a back, and that is critical to non-superimposability. If you just look at the cartoon, it looks like folding it like a book through the mirror plane perfectly superimposes one mirror image onto the other. But if you add a label to each side of each hand, when you try to superimpose them you quickly realize that it's not possible because when the gross two dimensional shapes are superimposed the palms and backs aren't.

The concept is actually easier to understand when expressed slightly differently: if an object does not fit into a glove designed for its mirror image, the object is chiral. Hands are chiral because a right hand does not fit a glove for the left hand, but a head is achiral because it and its mirror image both fit the same hat. I have taught organic chemistry for many years, and this concept is central to understanding much of biochemistry -- amino acids, proteins, DNA, RNA, neurotransmitters, membrane lipids, drugs, steroids, and practically everything we are made up of are all chiral. It is also one of the most difficult concepts for new students to really understand, in part because it usually isn't explained very well.

Richard Chamberlin, Professor of Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences, and Pharmacology; Chair, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Ardent A.Word.A.Day Reader, University of California, Irvine

From: Kirti Manian (kirtimanian gmail.com)
Subject: Re: handsel

Each year at the beginning of Chinese New Year, you need to give lai see to everyone you know and this can be anyone whether office colleague or building concierge. The amount of money depends on factors ranging from age to marital status to if they perform a service for you. There are even guidelines that you can find online which indicate who should be paid how much cash.

You are not supposed to use coins and the local banks typically put up signs saying when they will start giving out notes. Quite an interesting custom that we have adopted after moving to Hong Kong three years ago.

Kirti Manian, Hong Kong

From: Earl Sampson (esampson post.harvard.edu)
Subject: handsel

There is (or was) a Greek tradition of giving the children in a family a handsel (in Greek kalo chairi or "good hand") on New Year's Day. All the adults would hide a silver dollar (or a folded dollar bill when silver dollars became harder to come by) in their palm and call the children to shake that hand to get the dollar and wish them Chronia Polla (many years).

Earl Sampson, Boulder, Colorado

From: Michael Keating (jmk2009 free.fr)
Subject: Mano a mano

Also Italian (a mano a mano) for bit-by-bit -- the song by Riccardo Cocciante is one of the saddest I know. Helps if you speak Italian. (video, 4 min.)

Michael Keating, Villereau, France

From: Mario Nunez (kpit2002 gmail.com)
Subject: mano a mano

In Spanish, if you said 'un mano a mano', as a noun, it would mean one versus another, but if you use in another context , for example, 'trabajar mano a mano' (work hand in hand) it means the opposite, to work together, helping each other and going for the same objective.

Mario Nunez, Jerez de la Frontera, Spain

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

From: Sonya Cashdan (SHCashdan aol.com)
Subject: palmer

How vividly do I recall learning this word at age 13, reading Juliet's first breathless words to Romeo as he takes her hand after crashing the Capulets' ball! When Romeo suggests that his lips are "two blushing pilgrims" who would kiss her hand to soothe his rough touch, she replies, "Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much/Which mannerly devotion shows in this; For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch/And palm to palm is holy palmers' kiss." Still think it's some of the best flirting on the planet! (text; video, 3 min.)

Sonya Cashdan, Paso Robles, California

From: Raymond Mendez (rm britcap.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--palmer

Palmer is also a fly-tying technique, where one winds a hackle around the hook shank. Fly fishing has been described as "standing knee deep in water waving a stick."

Raymond Mendez, New York, New York

From: David Ferrier (ferrierd shaw.ca)
Subject: eye to eye

You said: "Although a chiropractor and a surgeon may not see eye to eye, they do have something in common."

Opticians, optometrists, and ophthalmologists often see eye to eye.

David Ferrier, Edmonton, Canada

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

Language is an anonymous, collective, and unconscious art; the result of the creativity of thousands of generations. -Edward Sapir, anthropologist, linguist (1884-1939)

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