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AWADmail Issue 630

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

Sponsor's message: Are you finally ready to accept, on some deep metaphorical level, that there is no Santa Claus? Well, the next best thing is our Christmas in July Sale, which we're offering to all AWADers, including this week's Email of the Week winner, Kay Shapero (see below) -- TODAY ONLY. Get a whopping 10% off all our cheeky, genius Oneupmanship loot -- just use coupon code "lagniappe" -- ho, ho, ho, hahaha!

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

The Problem with Weird Al's "Word Crimes"
Sentence First

Why Grammar Lessons Should Be Renamed 'Understanding Language'
The Guardian

Why Are Europeans 'Bad English Shaming' Their Politicians?

From: Jens Kaiser (voodoodoll t-online.de)
Subject: Bohemian

Bohemia is immortalized in the German language through the Phrase "Das sind mir alles böhmische Dörfer" (literally "These are all bohemian villages to me"), meaning that you don't understand something. Apparently, the phrase is quite old and stems from a time when Bohemia used to belong to the Habsburg monarchy. German was spoken in parts of Bohemia, but not everywhere, which was why in certain areas, traveling "Germans" found people and village names unintelligible.

Jens Kaiser, Rudolstadt, Germany

From: Leno Davis (davisao2 miamioh.edu)
Subject: Bohemian...Bahamian

This word is one of my favorite words to hate. Sometimes I consider myself bohemian, because I tend to wander and live an unconventional life.

The one time I tend to deny it is when other people call me Bohemian as they mispronounce Bahamian. I am from the Bahamas and it seems our nationality is just difficult for most people, even after they understand The Bahamas and Jamaica are not the same. We do not say "hey mon". The Caribbean is actually made up of many nations, some of which even have Spanish or French as their native language. Bahamian and bohemian still get mixed up. Don't even get me started on the US pet stores that sell our endemic lizards under the name Bahaman anoles.

Leno Davis, Oxford, Ohio

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Bohemian

Art in the Age of Romanticism was considered a counter-cultural or outré challenge to the values of the rampantly emerging bourgeoisie and its self-respecting way of life. The sentiments that gave rise to Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, Notre-Dame de Paris, and most especially Henri Murger's Scènes de la vie de Bohème were seen by the "respectable" classes as a rejection of the orderly, enriching existence that the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Age had conferred on them. A detailed examination of this conflict, in all its variety of manifestations, may be found here.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Sean R. Horen (starlightpolaris frii.com)
Subject: Bohemian

My father has never been very religious; He prefers his philosophies to be based upon more solid foundations than faith. This is not to say he dislikes religion, as he will engage in any such conversation that comes his way -- and he married my mom, who is quite religious -- but whenever the subject of what he believes in comes up, he always answers that he is a non-practicing Bohemian Stick-worshiper (in search of a Bohemian Stick).

Thanks to today's word, I am now imagining a stick that leads a wandering life. Certainly explains why he's been searching for one for so long.

Sean R. Horen, Colorado Springs, Colorado

From: Mary Postellon (mpostellon hotmail.com)
Subject: damson

I enjoy the old-fashioned craft of making jam from fruit I buy at the local farmers' market and was delighted when damsons appeared there for the first time three years ago. That year I was making jam as guest favors for my daughter's wedding. We arranged two jars of each flavor -- raspberry, strawberry, cherry, blueberry, apricot, and damson -- at each table so all could choose their favorites.

As I visited each table, I noticed that most people seemed to be unfamiliar with damson and had chosen other flavors, but one guest, a man of about 60, had corralled both jars of plum jam, keeping them safe in the circle of his arms. "Al," I said, "I see you've eaten damson plum jam before." His response floored me.

"My grandma used to make it, and I've never forgotten the taste." Mentioning damson plums without noting what delicious jam and jelly they make is like talking about champagne grapes without mentioning their wine.

Mary Postellon, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Email of the Week (Brought to you by One Up! -- Letter-perfect summer fun.)

From: Kay Shapero (kay kayshapero.net)
Subject: Gretna Green

My Dad would have cheered them on. When I was in my late teens he used to volunteer to hold the ladder if I wanted to elope and save him from paying for the wedding. Mind you, we lived in a one-story house. (And I didn't actually get married until my late 20s, by which time I had moved out entirely but what the hey...)

Kay Shapero, Los Angeles, California

From: Steve Harper (sharper11 nc.rr.com)
Subject: Gretna Green

Reminds me that my parents went from West Virginia to Maryland to elope in 1927. Dad and I were visiting Davis, WV, in the 50s when he saw an elderly gentleman sitting on a bench and asked if he was so-and-so. When the man said Yes, Dad said "I'm Max Harper, and you loaned me $20 in 1927 so my wife and I could elope. I want to thank you again." I thought that was really cool.

Steve Harper, Fayetteville, North Carolina

From: Nancy Dunn (nancydunn aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Gretna Green

A Gretna Green elopement plays an important part in Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice, which thereby introduced the place and its meaning to the author's myriad fans.

Nancy Dunn, Granby, Connecticut

From: Mary Kaye (wordlady1 comcast.net)
Subject: Gretna Green

They also perform mock marriages there today. I was touring Scotland in the '70s, and one of our stops was Gretna Green. Our tour group had the option of choosing the bride and groom, so we nominated our tour guide (who was very handsome) and the ugliest girl in the group. The "wedding" was great fun, accompanied by much slapstick, hooting, and jeering. It was a merry time indeed.

Mary Kaye, West Palm Beach, Florida

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

Sadly, many of today's young, love-smitten elopers, particularly (but not necessarily) here in the western climes of the US have found a more practical quickie marriage alternative solution to the, out-of-the-question-for-most, village of Gretna Green option; namely any number of hole-in-the-wall, quaint-to-kitschy Las Vegas wedding chapels.

The eloping couple, rather than their spur-of-the-moment nuptials being performed by a smithy, (a strong possibility in days of yore across the briny), could easily avail themselves of a legitimately sanctioned man-of-the-cloth; but if they chose one in the guise of Vegas icon Elvis Presley... the melodious strains of say "Love Me Tender" consummating the not-so sacred union in the background. Mercy!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Michael Tremberth (michaelt4two googlemail.com)
Subject: Whitehall

Like The White House, always with a capital W. A delightfully ambiguous term; one must be an insider to be sure whether it means the UK Government or the Civil Service or both acting in consort or occasionally at loggerheads. Senior civil servants are known as mandarins. The set-up was satirised some years ago in a television series entitled Yes Minister, which accurately and mercilessly exposed all the foibles of the system. If you wanted to be cruel you could say that UK didn't need a civil war, because it already had Whitehall.

Michael Tremberth, St Erth, UK

From: James P. Albert (jalbert schneidermanagement.com)
Subject: Whitehall

Whitehall was also a reference to the draft offices in NYC for the years, some time back, when I was eligible to take a government-paid trip to Vietnam.

James P. Albert, Darien, Connecticut

From: Toby Churchill (toby.churchill talktalk.net)
Subject: Whitehall

Also a type of American rowing boat usually 14 to 22 feet long.

Toby Churchill, Saltcoats, Scotland

From: Dave Mehalko (mehalkod yahoo.com)
Subject: Toponyms

I have enjoyed thoroughly this week's series of words. My favorite toponym and metonymy is Foggy Bottom. Foggy Bottom is to the US as Whitehall is to the UK. It is in particularly used to refer to the US Department of State.

Dave Mehalko, Danville, Virginia

From: Kathleen Jowitt (k.jowitt unison.co.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--rounceval

An appropriate word for 25th July, the feast of St James. Roncesvalles is the first significant town on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees as the pilgrim follows the Camino Frances (French Way) towards the city of Santiago (literally, Saint James) de Compostela. I have fond memories of the hospitality of the monks of Roncesvalles, one of whom came out into a snowstorm with an umbrella to greet three cold, wet, and exhausted pilgrims. There are some huge boulders near the path west out of the town, said to be the Pasos de Roldán (footmarks of Roland). Roland is special to me too; my nickname within my family is Roland, though taken from the Browning poem "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came" rather than the Roncesvalles legend.

Kathleen Jowitt, Surrey, UK

From: Sue Wright (suelwright aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--rounceval

The word rounceval took me back to a beloved poem from my long ago childhood, Edward Lear's charming "The Owl and the Pussycat". After their wedding, the owl and the pussycat

"dined on mince, and pieces of quince
which they ate with a runcible spoon."

Although if used today, I believe the term rounceval or runcible spoon has taken on the characteristics of a spork with a flat cutting edge.

Sue Wright, Austin, Texas

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

No one means all he says, and yet very few say all they mean, for words are slippery and thought is viscous. -Henry Brooks Adams, historian (1838-1918)

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