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AWADmail Issue 625

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, Thomas Koehler (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

GM's Banned Words: What's Wrong With Using Plain English?
Lansing State Journal

Three Ways to Speak English
(Video, 4.5 min)

Ten Words That are Badly Broken
The Week

From: Danielle Lingat (dlingat gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--camarilla

I hadn't realized that 'libre' referred more to freedom in English usage, until today's note. In Tagalog, a language that borrows heavily from Spanish, we use the word 'libre' to mean free of charge and we use a different word ('kalayaan') when referring to liberty. It took me a few reads and the help of Google to figure out where the confusion was coming from.

Danielle Lingat, Parañaque City, Philippines

From: Arun Gordon (arun.gordon gmail.com)
Subject: Camarilla

I saw the title of your latest offering and thought that would be a great name for a Toyota given their history of names like Camry, Corolla, Corona, and Cressida. Then I read the meaning and thought "maybe not".

Arun Gordon, Sydney, Australia

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

Clearly, the word "libre" shares the same Latin root in both Spanish and French, and essentially has the same meaning of being free, or liberated. Granted, the pronunciation is slightly different between the two.

As an abidingly proud Canuck, and political science major at York University in Toronto in our nation's centennial year, 1967, I can vividly recall the controversial public 'decree' given in Montréal by the visiting French president, Charles de Gaulle... namely "Vive le Québec libre!"

Coming at a pivotal moment in Canada's history, a relatively young nation maintaining an ofttimes tenuous balance between the two distinctive 'founding' cultures -- French and Anglo -- de Gaulle's apparent open call to French Canada's liberation was regarded by most Canadian Anglophones as almost a call-to-arms to all French-Canadians... a most inappropriate and potentially inflammatory declaration at best. Seen by many as virtually meddling in Canada's political 'business'.


Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Elizabeth Gray (elizabeth.gray austintexas.gov)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--camarilla

Ah yes, false cognates.

Reminds me of a job I had working for a city in Texas. The animal control officer was trying to tell the owner of a loose dog that the animal needed to be restrained with a leash. The owner spoke only Spanish, so the officer told him, gesturing at the dog: "No ropa! No ropa!" The owner looked disbelievingly at the officer: he was in trouble because his dog wasn't wearing any clothes?

And then there was the time, as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador, where I taught a cooking class. I announced that the topic for the next week was preserves -- jams, jellies, marmalades, and the like. There were some curious looks among the students when I announced we would be learning how to make preservativos. I didn't learn until later that I had promised to teach them how to make condo ms.

Elizabeth Gray, Austin, Texas

From: Glenn Glazer (gglazer ucla.edu)
Subject: Fandango

Fandango also became a fanciful word for a particular kind of computer crash: fandango on core.

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California

From: Jamie Spencer (jspencer stlcc.edu)
Subject: fandango

Many of us have fond memories of a rock group from the 60s named Procul Harum. The opening line of their iconic song A Whiter Shade of Pale (4 min.) announces that "We skipped the light fandango..." I'm convinced they were misquoting the old turn of the 20th century dance term, "the light fantastic", since the rhythm of their gorgeous song is far from a lively fandango.

Jamie Spencer, St. Louis, Missouri

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

From: Thomas Koehler (tvkoehler mediacombb.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--picaroon

As a former gandy dancer I used a tool called a pickaroon. This was a long-handled tool with a small sharp slightly curved hook on the end (picture). It was swung one-handed to catch a railroad tie or other wood timber near the end, so that the tie or timber could be maneuvered in some desired way. While the pirate usage was consistently rendered as picaroon, the hand tool was variously spelled with or without the k. I suppose that a picaroon (1) on a picaroon (2) could employ a pickaroon (or picaroon).

Tom Koehler, Two Harbors, Minnesota

From: Grace Saunders (saunderg12 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--arroyo

At my first teaching job in an Arizona-Mexico border town, there was an arroyo between the main street and the school, with a bridge connecting the two. The principal told us that although they hadn't had any snow days the previous year, they had had a rain day during monsoon season, when they were afraid the arroyo was filling up too fast and might overflow, preventing parents from being able to pick up their kids. Being from Michigan, the idea of canceling school for rain amused me immensely, although I can see her point about the flooding.

Grace Saunders, Ann Arbor, Michigan

From: George Cowgill (cowgill asu.edu)
Subject: arroyo

In English "arroyo" means steep-sided, but I believe in Spanish it can mean a watercourse of any kind, while a word like barranco more specifically means steep-sided.

I'm tempted to add that one could do a whole week on Spanish words that look like something in English but really mean something else, though I don't suggest you really do that. Leading the list would be embarazada: to be pregnant. Then there's asistir: to attend or be present at an event. Arena: sand. Desmayar: to faint. Rodear: to enclose or surround (closest to a rodeo, though not quite the same, is probably charrería). Competencia: competition.

Then there are words borrowed into English but with quite different spelling and sometimes different meanings. E.g., vaquero becomes buckaroo, and juzgado becomes hoosgow. And to natter on further, in German gift means poison. Doubtless there are similar examples wherever any language has borrowed from another.

George Cowgill, Tempe, Arizona

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 a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire. -Roland Barthes, literary critic and philosopher (1915-1980)

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