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AWADmail Issue 651

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 psychological level, that there is no Santa Claus? We believe you can still get what you want, so we’re offering all AWADers, including this week’s Email of the Week winner Paul Calico (see below), 2 x One Up! -- The Wicked/Smart Word Game for only $25. And shipping’s FREE, anywhere in the US Hurry’up -- offer ends at midnight tonight.

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

Noah Webster’s Word of the Year for 1828 Was Torture, Too
The Web of Language

Want to Influence the World? Map Reveals the Best Languages to Speak

Microsoft’s “Star Trek” Skype Translator Turns English into Spanish
The Guardian

‘Writing is an off-shoot of something deeper’
The Guardian

From: Michael Ittner (shineymike gmail.com)
Subject: Missing apostrophe

It seems to me the sign is not short an apostrophe. I believe they used it as a comma instead. In my opinion there should not be one as the sentence stands up fine without it.

Michael Ittner, Tucson, Arizona

From: Penelope Keating (pak hughes.net)
Subject: dog’s chance

I had quite a good chuckle regarding the apostrophe placement. It was my pleasure to serve on the Orphans’ Court here in Maryland for eight years. The first year I took the time to re-educate the local press, (they finally got the correction printed), also, I had to have a new plaque made for our chambers. The plaque in particular irked me because, it indicated we only had one orphan to attend to, “Orphan’s Court” was the proud indication.

Penelope Keating, Centreville, Maryland

From: Claude Galinsky (cmgalinsky gmail.com)
Subject: Missing sign parts

Some genius in the Massachusetts Highway Department was responsible for dropping more than just an apostrophe (photo).

Claude Galinsky, Westford, Massachusetts

From: Fred Perri (f.b1 verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dog’s chance

This is a bad sign. It prompted me to dash down to the transportation department to question Mark Bracket. It seems the poor man has had a bad period with his colon and is now in a comma.

Fred Perri, Scituate, Rhode Island

From: Don French (dcfrench gmail.com)
Subject: Apostrophes

Interesting that this week’s theme is apostrophes because this morning I saw the occurrence in print of a common English contraction containing two apostrophes. I’d’ve thought that I’d’ve seen it before but it took me quite by surprise.

Don French, Edina, Minnesota

From: Khiyali K Pillalamarri (trackie1 gmail.com)
Subject: Interesting blog

Here’s a “blog” that might be “interesting” to “look” at.

Khiyali K Pillalamarri, Mumbai, India

From: Scott Swanson (harview montana.com)
Subject: Apostrophe’s

I enjoyed your tale of the apostrophe-missing sign.

Yesterday, I got a deposit receipt from my bank. The pre-printed part wished me “All of the Season’s Best”. Fine. But then the computer-generated print wished me “Happy Holiday’s”.

Happy Holidaze!

Scott Swanson, Pendroy, Montana

From: Juan Villar (jvillar windhavenpress.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dog’s chance

The sign says, “Please drive carefully for our childrens sake”.

Aren’t children too young to be drinking sake?

Juan Villar, Orford, New Hampshire

From: Aldo Watkins (watkins.aa gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dog’s chance

Could you share with us the cost of manufacturing and replacing all those signs? While I like to see correct publishing in public, I’m aware that my tax dollars would be better used elsewhere in my community.

Aldo Watkins, Austin, Texas

From: Kenneth Bus (kenbus50 aol.com)
Subject: apostrophe

As the founder and president of the American Association Against Apostrophe Abuse (AAAAA), I am pleased with the small victory presented in Anu Garg’s story. While the presence of unnecessary apostrophes is arguably more annoying (bargain’s galore/all sale’s final) the absence of an apostrophe is also jarring and oh so pleasing when supplied. Kudos to life’s small victories!

Kenneth Bus, Peoria, Arizona

From: David Calder (dvdcalder gmail.com) (via website comments)
Subject: apostrophe

Now isn’t it odd that a dog’s life has changed from unenviable to its direct opposite? I’m near 70, but all my life the phrase has connoted envy for the ability to lie around in the sun, or the shade.

David Calder, New Plymouth, New Zealand

From: Steven Stine (scstine1672 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gentleman’s agreement

Your article neglected to mention the sinister undertone to this seemingly benign expression. Not so many years ago, there was a gentleman’s agreement among the power elite to limit or even exclude access to the best colleges and jobs to women, people of color, Eastern & Southern Europeans, and non-Protestants. (I’ve probably left some out.)

In 1947, the year I was born, Gregory Peck starred in a movie titled A Gentleman’s Agreement about a journalist who had returned from World War II in Europe where he had been horrified by the Nazi atrocities against the Jews. Disclaimer: I am Jewish.

Peck’s character decided to pretend to be Jewish. His name was the conveniently ambiguous Green. He was deeply disturbed to discover that the same attitudes he had fought against in Europe were running rampant at home in America. It was a brave movie to produce at that time.

On a personal note (only one generation removed), when my father returned from his own World War II service in Europe, he and my mother went on an extended, long-overdue honeymoon by automobile. Much to their chagrin, but not surprise, many hotels politely but firmly turned them away, and refused to provide them shelter. The desk clerk would say something like, “I’m sorry, sir, but this hotel is restricted. There is a nice place down the road for your kind.”

If I have gone on too long, I apologize. However, seeing this figure of speech in “print” touched a nerve that ran far deeper than I could have anticipated.

Steven Stine, Highland Park, Illinois

From: Jens Kaiser (voodoodoll t-online.de)
Subject: gentleman’s agreement

One of the first cases a German law student will get acquainted with is the “Edelmannfall” from 1927 (“gentleman’s case”, or, more literally, “nobleman’s case”). It involves a nobleman promising real property to an employee of his. In German law, contracts involving real property transfer must be notarized to be binding, but the nobleman insists that a handshake is sufficient -- he IS a gentleman, after all. Thus they decline to notarize their agreement. When, inevitably, the noble fails to honor his promise, the case lands in court. The nobleman wins -- twist! Apparently, even a gentleman’s word isn’t sufficient to dispose of essential German law provisions.

Jens Kaiser, Rudolstadt, Germany

From: Charles Swan (Charles.swan swanturton.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gentleman’s agreement

Or “An agreement which neither side regards as binding but hopes the other side will.”

Charles Swan, London, UK

From: Michael Barnhart (missoncpt aol.com)
Subject: Gentleman’s Agreement

Don’t you just love how quaintly self-serving our attitude toward ourselves can be:

From the idea that a gentleman (a civilized man of good standing) will honor an agreement he has entered. Earliest documented use: 1821.

And then know the history (especially in the US around early 1800s) how the “civilized man” was the one who typically did NOT honor agreements.

Michael Barnhart, Woodstock, Vermont

From: Judy Bailey (judessa gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cat’s cradle

And if you’ve ever read Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, you might remember that he writes, “no damn cat, no damn cradle” in an explanation of his bafflement at why this game with string was ever named as it was.

Kat’ss Cradle was also the name of my parents’s boat since my mother’ss name is Katalin.

Judy Bailey, Herzliya, Israel

Email of the Week (Brought to you by One Up! --- A ho, ho, ho lot of fun.)

From: Paul Calico (paul_calico ca6.uscourts.gov)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--who’s who

My senior year in college, I was named as a member of Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities. I proudly called my parents, sure that they would revel in this honor. My father, however, wanting to make sure that my ego did not overinflate, dryly commented, “Whenever I thumb through those books, I always think, ‘Who’s He?’” I frequently think back on the valuable life lesson he taught me that day.

Paul Calico, Cincinnati, Ohio

From: Steve Kirkpatrick (stevekirkp comcast.net)
Subject: lion’s share

Many parents know how to avoid letting one child get the lion’s share of a treat which is to be split in two: one child cuts and the other chooses first. That cut is made with the accuracy of a diamond cutter.

Though I’m the youngest of three, don’t ask me how to trisect a treat in the fairest manner. Back then, it was “like it or lump it”. A parent would cut the treat and not tolerate complaints.

Steve Kirkpatrick, Olympia, Washington

From: Mike Young (youmike mweb.co.za)
Subject: Apostrophe’s

I think you have to pay homage to Lynne Truss’s book Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Her dedication page says all: “To the memory of the striking Bolshevik printers of St Petersburg who, in 1905, demanded the same rate for punctuation marks as for letters, and thereby directly precipitated the first Russian Revolution.”

Mike Young, Johannesburg, South Africa

From: Mary Elizabeth McIlvane (mmcilvane cfl.rr.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dog’s chance

Dear Santa Claus:

Please, please, please give Anu a giant bag of apostrophes! He really really is GOOD!

One of your longtime fans,

Mary Elizabeth McIlvane, Altamonte Springs, Florida

From: Joan Perrin (perrinjoan aol.com)
Subject: Terms with apostrophes

This week’s subject, terms with apostrophes was a true dealer’s choice, so I decided to put them all into limericks.

Rin Tin Tin, a movie star rich,
To couple with Lassie would itch.
Said she with a glance,
“He’s got a DOG’S CHANCE.
No wonder they call me a bit * ch.”

The trouble with business is when,
Two parties engage now and then,
If no contract is sent,
Too bad they are not gentlemen.

He tried the CAT’S CRADLE to play,
But did in his own special way.
Using no yarn or twine,
The game did redesign,
“With no strings attached,” he would say.

Now we all have heard of WHO’S WHO,
Since many in Hollywood do,
Engage in affairs,
If one really cares,
For a Who’s Doing Who review.

Old Leo would roar with despair,
If he’d not get his LION’S SHARE.
All the animals would quake,
Till satisfied he would take,
His spoils, though it was unfair.

Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York

Prolonged study of the English language leaves me with a conviction that nearly all the linguistic tendencies of the present day have been displayed in earlier centuries, and it is self-evident that the language has not bled to death through change. Vulgarity finds its antidote; old crudities become softened with time. Distinctions, both those that are useful and those that are burdensome, flourish and die, reflourish and die again. -Robert W. Burchfield, lexicographer (1923-2004)

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