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AWADmail Issue 617

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

Sponsor's message: It's Officially Huge. This week's Email of the Week winner, Ken Kirste (see below) -- as well as all AWADers worldwide -- can now make their own terrific fun word-nerd party for nothing. Introducing our best-selling One Up! -- The Wicked/Smart Word Game as a free PDF download, absolutely gratis. Hurree y'up.

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

Ten Works of Fiction Indebted to the Bard
The Irish Times

Some Words Are Up To No Good

From: Jordi Pardo (jpardo cochrane.es)
Subject: ser vs estar

I'm a native Spanish speaker, and I really find frustrating how limiting is the use of to be in English. There is a nice example on a Mario Benedetti's poem, used as an example on how tough could be translation sometimes: Thanks for keeping AWAD alive: it's always inspiring.

Jordi Pardo, Barcelona, Spain

From: Ricki Letowt (ricki letowt.com)
Subject: ser/estar

I remember once saying "Yo soy fini" instead of "Yo estoy fini." The other person asked if I was dying. I was just trying to say I had finished the task.

Ricki Letowt, Las Vegas, Nevada

From: Bob Weekley (bob.weekley earthlink.net)
subject: ser/estar

Beginning Spanish students often make the potentially serious error of saying "estoy casado" rather than "soy casado".

Bob Weekley, Lancaster, Virginia

From: James Hoadley (jfhoadley aol.com)
Subject: Spanish 'to be'

I've always found it fascinating that the Spanish word for 'death' (muerto) is preceded by 'estar', not 'ser'. The implication that death is a temporary condition is baked into the language. I have fun pointing this out to native Spanish speakers, many of whom have never considered it.

James Hoadley, Atlanta, Georgia

From: Christopher Hota (chrishota gmail.com)
Subject: ser/estar

I'm a big fan of the AWAD newsletter; long-time reader/first-time respondent. You wrote recently about the Spanish verbs for being, ser and estar. I wanted to relay a tip from my beloved maestra, Señora Shilha regarding when to use each. Basically, estar is used most of the time in day-to-day conversation, yet there are more "rules" for when to use ser, which have the mnemonic "DONT MOP CID": Description, Occupation, Nationality, Time, Material, Origin, Possession, Characteristics, Identification, Date. Estar, on the other hand, is used for Location, Condition, and for forming the present participle (-ndo form) of verbs.

Keep up the muy interesante work!

Christopher Gautam Hota, Austin, Texas

From: Ellen Blackstone (ellen 123imagine.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tractable

"It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is." reminded me of E-Prime, a device I learned about in general semantics. It banishes from your speech the verb "to be" in all its forms. No absolutes, no conclusions, no judgments -- simply your own observations. More here.

Ellen Blackstone, Seattle, Washington

From: Randy Huber (randolph.p.huber gmail.com)
Subject: Bombastic

Interesting to realize today that "stuffed shirt", meaning a pompous, pretentious, or bombastic person, is undoubtedly related to the origin of "bombastic": "From Old French bombace (cotton padding), from Latin bombax (cotton)".

Randy Huber, New Hampshire

From: Srivatsan Hulikal (shulikal caltech.edu)
Subject: A Thought For Today

With respect to your "A Thought For Today" of Apr 22, 2014, I've seen a very similar idea expressed in a George Carlin stand up (video, 8 min.), very similarly worded too!

Srivatsan Hulikal, Pasadena, California

From: Harry Grainger (the.harry gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--impecunious

I remember hearing a story of a se * x worker who completed a tax return stating Nature of Business as impecunious. The intrigued Revenue Officers called for an interview, where it was explained that the word meant "Strapped for cash".

Harry Grainger, Poole, UK

From: Lawrence N Crumb (lcrumb uoregon.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--impecunious

In Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta "Trial by Jury", the judge sings

When I, good friends, was called to the bar,
I'd an appetite fresh and hearty.
But I was, as many young barristers are,
An impecunious party.

Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon

From: Pia Zanartu (zanartupia wanadoo.fr)
Subject: petulant

What a surprise to read that petulant meant cranky, bad-humored!

In French (my mother tongue), it describes someone joyful, peppy, exuberant, amusing, impetuous, quick, sharp... the precise opposite.

How can such a pleasant word with the very same Latin root express such differences by way of two languages?

An explanation please.

Pia Zanartu, Paris, France

Two boys separating at birth, one going on to become a goon, another a police officer, happens not just in movies. What we have with petulant here is such a plot except that the Latin papa word has given birth to many offspring, not just two, and they all have gone their separate ways.

French pétulant means exuberant. Spanish petulante is smug, Italian petulante is insolent, while Portuguese petulante is impudent. Though, if you look closely, you can see a trace of common DNA among the various senses of the word in these languages.

English doesn't belong to this Romance family of languages. We received petulant from French. Over its 400-year-long history in English, the word petulant has evolved -- some of the meanings it has seen over the years are impudent, insolent, immodest, and wanton.

Time changes everything and words and languages are no exception. A word that looks the same or similar in another language, but has a different meaning, is called a false friend.
-Anu Garg

From: Robin Sutherland (sfsland gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A Thought For Today

Re: this Thought For Today: "I hold that gentleman to be the best-dressed whose dress no one observes." -Anthony Trollope, novelist (1815-1882)

Anthony Trollope's opinion on being well-dressed is a casserole of nonsense. The whole point of being well-dressed is to make others die inside, however slightly...

Robin Sutherland, San Francisco, California

Email of the Week brought to you by One Up! -- with our compliments.)

From: Ken Kirste (kkkirste sbcglobal.net)
Subject: incorrigible

Only a few months ago, as part of its removal of archaic criminal offences from the laws of the land, England eliminated "incorrigible rogue" as a crime (The Independent). This particular crime was originally part of the 1824 Vagrancy Act which defined "incorrigible rogue" as a homeless person who had violently resisted arrest or escaped confinement. However, there is probably a current law that has a similar intent since it seems that society often confronts a public problem by making its undesirable symptoms illegal.

Ken Kirste, Sunnyvale, California

From: Dave Zobel (dzobel alumni.caltech.edu)
Subject: ser/estar

Various languages and dialects distinguish temporary conditions from inherent ones in clever ways. For instance, the Russian adjectival endings can typically be shortened to indicate a temporary condition: bol'noe ("[perennially] sick, sickly") bol'no ("sick [at the moment]"). And despite popular belief, the "be" of African-American Vernacular English signifies "tend(s) to be", not "am/is/are [at the moment]" (which is commonly indicated by omitting the verb entirely).

Dave Zobel, Los Angeles, California

From: Ken Sheffer (shefferken gmail.com)
Subject: words

It was good to see attention given to the difference between ser and estar. You might mention another example in Spanish that deserves attention: There are two words for "corner", rincón and esquina, depending on whether it is the inside or outside of the corner that is being referenced.

Ken Sheffer, San Dimas, 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

A closed mind is like a closed book: just a block of wood. -Chinese Proverb

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