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AWADmail Issue 648

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

Sponsor's Message: This is a heads-up for all you game lovers out there, especially this week's Email of the Week winner Ellen Blackstone (see below) -- we're doing some double dealing over here: One Up! -- The Wicked/Smart Word Game. is on sale 2 for $25; and ONEUPMANSHIP -- The Machiavellian Board Game -- is 2 for $75, TODAY ONLY. Hurry'up!

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

China Bans Wordplay in Attempt at Pun Control
The Guardian

The Sound of Status: People Know High-Power Voices When They Hear Them

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: The gift of words

This holiday season, why not make a gift of words? Here are a few suggestions.


"A delightful, quirky collection."
-The New York Times

A Word A Day: A Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English Another Word A Day: An All-new Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English
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From: Colette Armao (colette.armao dot.ca.gov)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--solon

I love your daily newsletter, and look forward to seeing the wit and wisdom in the way you use words. It makes my day. With today's word, though I have to question, does such a thing exist in American politics? I hold out for the possibility, but am less certain of the present state of things.

Colette Armao, Sacramento, California

From: Dave Alden (davealden53 comcast.net)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--solon

For baseball fans of a certain age, the immediate memory for the word Solon is the long-time minor league ballclub in Sacramento. Not coincidentally, Sacramento is the state capital of California and the Capitol Building is only a handful of blocks from the site of the long-time ballpark. From Baseball-Reference.com, the Sacramento ballclub first became known as the Senators in 1918 before becoming the Solons in 1936, a name they retained until the coming of Major League baseball to the West Coast drove Sacramento out of affiliated baseball after the 1960 season. After a brief Solon revival for the 1974 to 1976 seasons, the current Sacramento ballclub is the RiverCats. It's a shame that they didn't again resurrect the Solon name.

Dave Alden, Petaluma, California

From: Serge Astieres (serge.astieres gmail.com)
Subject: Mazarine

Mazarin was Premier in 17th century France and conducted the affairs with shrewdness. He was clever and succeeded in strengthening the power of the king vs. the rebelling nobles. His name is associated with someone working in the shadow, plotting conspiracies to win the upperhand.

His name can also be used as a first name, especially for girls. "Mazarine" is the name of the "hidden" daughter of the former French President Francois Mitterand.

Serge Astieres, Pringy, France

From: Laura Burns (laurab12 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Platonic

The Pre-Raphaelites were more prone to what were called irregular unions than to platonic attachments. Nonetheless, it was for the latter that W.S. Gilbert satirized them in the opera Patience:

Then a sentimental passion of a vegetable fashion must
excite your languid spleen,
An attachment a la Plato for a bashful young potato,
or a not-too-French French bean.
Though the Philistines may jostle, you will rank as an apostle
in the high aesthetic band,
If you walk down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily in your mediaeval hand.
And everyone will say,
As you walk your flowery way,
"If he's content with a vegetable love which would certainly not suit me,
Why, what a most particularly pure young man
this pure young man must be!"

Laura Burns, Galveston, Texas

From: Carolin Damm (carolin.damm uni-jena.de)
Subject: tontine

One of the novels in which "tontine" is used as a plot device is the great 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie -- of course with an additional twist only Miss Marple is able to see through!

Carolin Damm, Germany

From: Ron Gerard (ron.gerard ntlworld.com)
Subject: The Wrong Box

One of the funniest films of all time, The Wrong Box, is based on a tontine. Thank you so much for reminding me about it.

The original book by Robert Louis Stevenson is hardly funny at all. One of the rare examples of a great film from a not-so-great book.

Ron Gerard, London, UK

Email of the Week (ONEUPMANSHIP -- It's an already done (double) deal!)

From: Ellen Blackstone (ellen 123imagine.net)
Subject: tontine.... on M*A*S*H

One of the most moving M*A*S*H episodes ever... Col. Potter invites Hawkeye and friends to his tent. They think he's going to tell them that he has a dire illness. Instead, he shares with them his tontine, the brandy he and his WWI buddies had been saving -- until the last one died and it came to Col. Potter. Here's the toast.

Ellen Blackstone, Seattle, Washington

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

I would suggest that even though Malthus was a man-of-the-cloth, of the Episcopal persuasion to be precise, I would contend that he'd likely have dissuaded his loyal congregants from following God's directive towards Adam and Eve recorded in Genesis 1:28; namely... "be fruitful and multiply".

I would argue that his major hypothesis on the dire consequences for mankind of unfettered world population growth and diminishing food resources reflects his wish to encourage humans, in general, to practice moral restraint, delayed marriage, use of 'natural' contraception, or leading a celibate life... what we'd view today as "taking the moral high-ground".

So there was clearly method in what many of Malthus's peers of his day may have deemed his madness. Malthus did happen to have fathered three children... two daughters and and son. Hmm... so much for practicing what you preach.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Joan Perrin (perrinjoan aol.com)
Subject: Eponyms

"What's in a name," to quote Shakespeare.
This week's A.Word.A.Day makes clear.
Five people whose name,
Reached Eponym fame,
Inspiring the words we have here.

Now, Moses was much put upon,
By Israelites from Egypt gone,
But from Mount Sinai's awe,
He had brought down the law,
So he's the most famous SOLON.

Now a butterfly that I knew,
Seemed droopy and sad when it flew.
Asked of his disposition,
He had made this admission,
"Just me, I'm a MAZARINE Blue."

Plato never wed. It's ironic,
Since from him comes the word PLATONIC.
No history do I see,
Of there being Mrs. P,
Leads to a love life catatonic.

Tonti was a banker supreme,
Known for his money-making theme.
Pooled funds grow expanding
Go to the last man standing,
His TONTINE was quite a keen scheme.

China's MALTHUSIAN decree,
Of one child per family,
Cited less copulation,
Reduces population,
This Thomas Malthus did agree.

Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York

From: Carolanne Reynolds, copyeditor/poet (gg at wordsmith.org)
Subject: A Maiku (my style of haiku)

words: the atoms of thought
                           long, short, polysyllabic,
                                                   and onomatopoeic.......

Carolanne Reynolds, West Vancouver, Canada

The greatest masterpiece in literature is only a dictionary out of order. -Jean Cocteau, writer, artist, and filmmaker (1889-1963)

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