Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 645

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 Free. This week's Email of the Week winner, Richard Coleman (see below) -- as well as all AWADers near and far -- 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 downloadable PDF, absolutely gratis. Y'up.

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

London's Second Languages Mapped by Tube Stop
The Guardian

The Oxford Comma and More
PhD Comics

Yours Truly on Seattle TV

From: Bobbi Katz (bobbikatz aol.com)
Subject: dragoman

I first came upon this word when reading the diaries of Margaret Fontaine (1862-1929). She was snared by the Victorian craze of "netting" which took her beyond Britain to Europe with a sister or cousin to net butterflies. She traveled on her own to the Middle East, India, Fiji, New Guinea, and beyond. In Syria she hired Khalil Neilly to be her dragoman and eventually married him. They meticulously collected and labeled over 22,000 butterflies and the Norwich Castle Museum received the collection in 1940.

Bobbi Katz, Port Ewen, New York

From: Grant Agnew (ggttwwaa gmail.com)
Subject: Dragoman

The definition of "dragoman" as "interpreter and guide" is a bit limited. In the Ottoman Empire dragomans were more than that -- they interpreted and guided for foreigners, yes, but they also arranged, fixed, bought, sold, provided, advised, acted as stewards and agents. In an empire which had dozens of languages used in ordinary conversation as well myriad laws, customs, and usages to be complied with in one way or another, dragomans performed an unimaginable variety of essential services. They were an important and respected profession. Anyone who has had a relaxed holiday in modern Turkey which was smoothed and enlivened by a guide who did more than talk about the sights will know that dragomans are with us yet.

Grant Agnew, Brisbane, Australia

From: Olive McLoughlin (olivemcl online.nl)
Subject: Golgotha: a sunny, lively place

This summer I attended the triennial congress of the International Translators' Federation in Berlin, Germany. A colleague invited a gaggle of conference interpreters, the dragomen of international affairs and business, of his acquaintance to meet up for drinks and a spot of networking in a place called Golgotha. The name threw me: I imagined a grungy, Berlin counter-culture venue or goth/metalhead hangout with macabre decor.

Incongruously, Golgotha turned out to be a cheery, sunny, leafy Berliner Biergarten located on an elevation in a park. As I weaved my way down the green slope at the end of the evening, it dawned on me that our rendezvous was located on the eponymous hill in Berlin's trendy Kreuzberg borough (Kreuzberg translating literally as Cross Mountain).

Olive McLoughlin, The Hague, Netherlands

From: Ellen Blackstone (ellen 123imagine.net)
Subject: Mandarin duck

Also a duck! And an elite one at that, native to East Asia. Check out these photos at BirdNote.

Ellen Blackstone, Seattle, Washington

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

In naming the fruit after the language and status of China's traditional intellectual and bureaucratic elite that enjoyed it, we have another example for synecdoche, featured in last week's compendium.

Eighteenth-century Venetian playwright Carlo Gozzi, yielding to the exotic allure of the mysterious East in vogue at the time, wrote at least two works that nearly two hundred years later attracted a couple of modern composers who turned them into operas. One was Puccini's Turandot, the other The Love for Three Oranges by Prokofiev, both first performed in the 1920s.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Jorge Del Desierto (george_potvin yahoo.com)
Subject: Jubilee

Here in México, the word for retirement is jubilación. Same root as jubilee. I prefer to be jubilant to re-tired.

Jorge Del Desierto, La Paz, Mexico

From: Joseph Kithinji (njagikithinji gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--jubilee

Jubilee has had quite an eventfull passage in my country, Kenya, of late. Apart from the governing coalition having strategically christened itself Jubilee, the country celebrated 50 years of self-rule this year (1964-2014).

Joseph Kithinji, Nanyuki, Kenya

From: Carl Frederick (carl frithrik.com)
Subject: Mata Hari

While the spy Mata Hari's name indeed means Sun (eye of the day) in Malay (Bahasa Melayu), interestingly enough, 'mata mata' means 'spy'.

Carl Frederick, Ithaca, New York

Email of the Week (Courtesy One Up! -- 171,476 different words to have a hoot with.)

From: Richard Coleman (richard.lewis.coleman gmail.com)
Subject: Mata Hari Pun

You missed a chance to note that Mata Hari, meaning "eye of the day" is a mirror of her real names, Margarete Gertrude Zelle. Margarete means either pearl or daisy and daisy means "day's eye".

Richard L. Coleman, Alexandria, Virginia

From: Ken Levin (ken edmunds.com)
Subject: Mata Hari

This entry reminds me of a character modeled after her, in the amazingly clever children's TV show from 1970 "Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp". One of the chimpanzee actors played a spy named Mata Hairi.

Ken Levin, Santa Monica, California

From: Karl Siewert (yoyology gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Mata Hari

This reminds me of a song from the musical Little Mary Sunshine praising Mata Hari and her legacy.

Mata Hari had a very
Wicked reputation.
She was willing to be thrilling
For her information.

Karl Siewert, Tulsa, Oklahoma

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

Strong drink is raging: do not these words from Proverbs 20:1 chime with your comment on "cider". My father, as a result of his early indoctrination with the tenets of the Bible, until his leaving home in the early 1920s for that bastion of rationality, the University of Bristol (where he was to read for a degree in geology, of all sensitive subjects), was perhaps over-fond of quoting this verse of the Bible, and I am grateful to have had its etymology explained to me in this day's AWAD. One can see how the message of this verse struck home particularly strongly in the predominantly cider-drinking regions of the south-west of England, albeit years after the equally powerful influence of John Wesley was felt -- he may well have taken the opportunity to explain the additional meaning of the term to the tin miners and agricultural labourers among whom his message was spread.

Michael Tremberth, St Erth, UK

Words are not created by academics in universities and suchlike, rather it is the man in the street who does so. Dictionary compilers almost always recognise them too late and embalm them in alphabetical order, in many cases when they have lost their original meaning. -Gabriel García Márquez, novelist and journalist, Nobel laureate (1927-2014)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith