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AWADmail Issue 612

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 Ann Berry (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

Have We Hit Peak Punctuation?
The Atlantic

The Internet, Where Languages Go to Die?
Al Jazeera America

From: Joel Silbert (kandinsky2 aol.com)
Subject: acuity

This word has an alternate life in the language of the discipline of nursing, instead of the more appropriate "acuteness". It refers to how much a patient's current condition requires nursing intervention. And I must say it, its inaptness always bugs me!

Joel Silbert, Irvington, New York

From: Anthony Shaw (shawpas pacbell.net)
Subject: Acuity

Sadly, a perversion of the descriptive and useful noun, acuity, has been introduced into the Intensive Care Units of American and Canadian hospitals where it seems to have become firmly rooted in the categorizing and management of the sickest patients. ACUITY, the "new meaning" of which bears some relation to severity and morbidity, is now embedded in ICUs in the form of "Acuity Scores" (a measure of how sick a patient is and is likely to be). Under this system, operations also have their "acuity" rating. Resection of the pancreas, for example, is cited as a "high-acuity" operation, and the patient who needs such an operation may be a "high-acuity" patient. Who will cry out against the transmogrification of a word that serves us well in its traditional definition of sharpness of senses or intellect?

Anthony Shaw, MD, Pasadena, California

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

From: Ann Berry (eatberry1 gmail.com)
Subject: desuetude

My father had a merry sense of humor and loved words. Now and then he'd slip me a wink and tell Mother, not just that he was going to lie down for a nap, but that he felt the need to "embark on a state of innocuous desuetude." It seems he mispronounced the latter, but who cared?

Ann Berry, Raleigh, North Carolina

From: Gary Muldoon (gmuldoon muldoongetz.com)
Subject: desuetude

Desuetude is used in law. In Reading Law, by Scalia and Garner, it is defined as "The civil-law doctrine that if a statute or treaty is left unenforced long enough, it ceases to have legal effect though it has not been repealed. This doctrine has no applicability in common-law systems." The authors also assert that "A statute is not repealed by desuetude."

Gary Muldoon, Fairport, New York

From: Ellie Weld (ellieweld gn.apc.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--turgid

"Turgid" is a word in constant use in our household -- by my husband for books and plays he doesn't enjoy: Shakespeare, Chekhov, Ibsen for example (all writers I love). The first definitions (swollen, congested) seem quite irrelevant; the second set (pompous, high-flown) quite wrong when applied to these writers. I've tried to persuade him to choose another adjective (boring?) to describe his feelings, but he enjoys saying the word and feels that it sounds right even though it may not be. Isn't this a hazard encountered in using language, when the sound of a word indicates a meaning which does not fit into the dictionary definition?

Ellie Weld, Twickenham, UK

From: Sandeep Prasanna (s.a.prasanna gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--turgid

As a Latin student, I always used to get the words tumere and turgere confused. They actually mean the same thing -- to swell. But English "tumid" (from tumere, whence also "tumor") doesn't have the same secondary meaning of "highfalutin" as "turgid".

Sandeep Prasanna, Los Angeles, California

From: Oscar Franklin (oscar.franklin ageinternational.org.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sciolism

Surely knowing the definition of sciolism is in itself the definition of sciolism?

Oscar Franklin, London, UK

From: Steve Benko (steve.Benko gecapital.com)
Subject: This week's words

While you insist that this week's words were miscellaneous, to me they all appeared to describe a particularly annoying relative. As the week went on, I even built up the perfect sentence to describe him: "While other faculties fell into desuetude, the acuity of his edacity was exceeded only by his turgid sciolism."

Steve Benko, New York, New York

From: John Martin (john tellatale.eu)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day

Thank you for sending A.Word.A.Day for the last few years. I need to keep up with words in my 90th year. Best wishes in the good work.

John Martin, UK

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

I met, not long ago, a young man who aspired to become a novelist. Knowing that I was in the profession, he asked me to tell him how he should set to work to realize his ambition. I did my best to explain. 'The first thing,' I said, 'is to buy quite a lot of paper, a bottle of ink, and a pen. After that you merely have to write.' -Aldous Huxley, novelist (1894-1963)

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