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AWADmail Issue 638

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

Sponsor's message: Summer is an action verb, and it's not past tense yet. This is a last call-to-action for all you tan double-domes out there, especially this week's Email of the Week winner, Katherine Harper (see below). Purchase One Up! -- The Wicked/Smart Word Game -- a real steal at $15 (with FREE shipping), and we'll throw in a jokey lagniappe valued at "priceless" -- since we all know you can't buy brains. Today only.

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

Home of the Um, Land of the Uh: the Filler Words Dividing America
Big Think

Search for Word Usage in Movies and Television Over Time

From: Rob Hardy (robhardy3 gmail.com)
Subject: a fortiori

I can't think of this word without remembering the episode in Catch-22 when A. Fortiori is a name of a patient in the hospital, and the point of some identity confusion.

Rob Hardy, Columbus, Mississippi

Email of the Week (Courtesy One Up! -- Playing mind games is wicked fun!)

From: Katherine Harper (kharper4 gmail.com)
Subject: Verily

The Danny Kaye film The Court Jester uses "verily" so comically that I can't hear or read the word without smiling. The title character watches a very solemn knighting ceremony in which soldiers intersperse chants about symbolism and bravery with "Yea, verily, yea!" Unbeknownst to the jester, a scheming court official has arranged to have him knighted as well. Because the court wants to get the business over with as soon as possible, the soldiers tow the jester from place to place at double-quick march with shouts of "Yea, verily, yea!" Ever since 1955, when my mother first saw the film, she has responded to radio and TV personalities who take themselves too seriously with a deadpan "Yea, verily, yea!" This makes the rest of us laugh and puts the pundit's comments in what may be a more appropriate context. (video, 3 min.)

Katherine Harper, Rocky River, Ohio

From: Arthur Silverstein (arts jhmi.edu)
Subject: verily

Isn't there a song that goes, "Verily, verily, verily, verily, Life is but a dream?"

Arthur Silverstein, Falmouth, Massachusetts

From: Robert Payne (dziga68 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: perchance

In Shakespeare's time, the word "perchance", in addition to meaning "perhaps", also meant "by chance". So, in the second scene of Twelfth Night, the shipwrecked Viola, talking about her unrecovered brother, says to the Captain, "Perchance he is not drowned." And the Captain replies, "It is perchance that you yourself were saved." Then, Viola responds, using the word in both senses: "O my poor brother! And so perchance may he be."

The echoing of the word in this exchange sets the stage for a play in which all-powerful and whimsical "chance" governs the far-fetched goings-on.

Robert Payne, Los Angeles, California

From: Joel Mabus (joel.mabus pobox.com)
Subject: perchance to win

I suppose most of us will react to today's "perchance" with a bit of Hamlet's famous "perchance to dream" thoughts while pondering his "bare bodkin".

But I remember a bit of a Shakespearian take-off by Pete Seeger back in 1966:

To fight, perchance to win, aye, there's the rub
For victory brings power and prestige
And the children of the children of the fighters
Take all for granted, and, in turn, oppress.

Joel Mabus, Kalamazoo, Michigan

From: Liesl Du Toit (liesldutoit gmail.com)
Subject: My love for "lief"

I was so delighted when I checked my inbox and was greeted by the word "lief" as the word of the day. This word is really special to me, because in addition to the meanings that you provided, "lief" means love in my first language, Afrikaans. In this beautiful South African language we use the word in the phrase "ek is lief vir jou" which basically translates to "I love you."

Liesl Du Toit, Johannesburg, South Africa

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

About 'lief' you write:

From Old English leof (dear). Ultimately from the Indo-European root leubh- (to love or to care), which also gave us love, belief, and leave (permission).

It would, I think, be beneficial to include cognate words from other languages, e.g., Liebe from German, lyubit' from Russian, to illustrate how widespread among other languages a root can be.

Michael Tremberth, St Erth, UK

From: Sam Long (gunputty comcast.net)
Subject: Adverbs

The "Tom Swift" boys adventure books were published by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, originally from 1910 to the early 1940s. Most were titled "Tom Swift and the [fantastic invention]", Tom being a very clever and inventive lad. The books were quite popular in their time. There was, however, a strong tendency for the dialogue to be of the form "[some sentence or other]", said Tom [some adverb or another]. Some few years ago there was a craze for "Tom Swifties", jokes in which, typically, a phrase or sentence was followed by "said Tom _______", where the blank represents an adverb or adverbial phrase that makes the sentence into a joke.

Here are a few "classic" ones:
"This is the back end of the ship," said Tom sternly.
"We just struck oil, and it's spewing all over the place," Tom gushed.
"You'll have to tell me what groceries to get," said Tom listlessly.

And here are a few made up by me:
"I don't have any music by that Hungarian composer," said to Lisztlessly.
"The streets of Paris are crowded," said Tom ruefully.
"Eins, zwei, drei, fuenf," said Tom fearlessly (vier-lessly),
"You missed the first, second, third, and fifth questions on the test," said Tom forthrightly.

Sam Long, Springfield, Illinois

From: Yan Christensen (Briar9 btinternet.com)
Subject: Beastly adverbs

Graham Greene's literary style was quite sparse and he clearly liked that in others. He wrote in memory of his friend Evelyn Waugh:

"There is almost a complete absence of the beastly adverb -- far more damaging to a writer than an adjective."

Yan Christensen, Berkhamsted, UK

From: Carolanne Reynolds (gg wordsmith.org)
Subject: adverbs

AWAD's copy editor rushes to the defence of adverbs qua adverbs. Blame for some writers' misuse of them has illogically been attributed to the poor innocent adverb which is but a tool.

Carolanne Reynolds, West Vancouver, BC, Canada

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Jesse Owens / Jim Thorpe

In last week's AWADmail, I was describing the trials and tribulations of another equally amazing Olympian, namely the great all-round athlete Jim Thorpe... and not Jesse Owens. Doh! As most sports aficionados know, Jesse Owens was African-American, not Native-American, and from Alabama, not Oklahoma. (Just a few disparate points.)

Ironically, the gist of my 'message' holds for both of these outstanding minority athletes, in that they each had to deal with blatant racism, and discrimination, and the internal struggles of mind and emotion that that kind of societal maltreatment can often engender.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, 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

Language is like soil. However rich, it is subject to erosion, and its fertility is constantly threatened by uses that exhaust its vitality. It needs constant re-invigoration if it is not to become arid and sterile. Elizabeth Drew, author, critic (1887-1965)

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