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AWADmail Issue 660

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

Sponsor’s message: Sick of the snow? And your kids? And binge-eating bonbons all day? Luckily, we’re offering a guaranteed fun cheap staycation escape to all AWADers, including this week’s Email of the Week winner, Diane Taylor (see below). Have a go at ONEUPMANSHIP -- the new, cutthroat-fun board game classic -- and if you haven’t forgotten about Old Man Winter and the blues by the time you’ve finished, we’ll refund 100% of the purchase price. What have you got to lose, except a little weight, and your sanity?

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

A Long Decline of Language
The Economist

How Smart Language Helped End Seattle’s Paralyzing Bikelash
People for Bikes

From: Kent Stockton (kstockto wyoming.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--frankenfood

Your joke reminds me of the story of the guy who saw an ad for a guaranteed potato bug killer; he ordered it. He received two blocks of wood -- the instructions said, “Place bug on one block, then bring the two blocks forcibly together.”

Kent Stockton, Riverton, Wyoming

From: Greg Holmes (gregholmes2100 gmail.com)
Subject: So-called frankenfood

More worrisome than the silly neologism frankenfood is the all-too real frankenfool, the superstitious Luddite who would deny humanity the manifest benefits of genetically modified crops, which save hundreds of thousands of lives around the world each year -- mostly in the poorest countries -- while causing no demonstrated harm.

Greg Holmes, Louisville, Kentucky

From: Eric Grosshans (uhclem frii.com)
Subject: preternatural

This took me back 50 years to when I was a student in The Duke of York, a boys’ boarding school in Nairobi, Kenya. The school motto was “Nihil Praeter Optimum” (“Nothing but the Best”).

Eric Grosshans, Loveland, Colorado

From: Jane Freeman (wordplayjane yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--preternatural

This word appears several times in Jane Eyre:

I wiped my tears and hushed my sobs, fearful lest any sign of violent grief might waken a preternatural voice to comfort me, or elicit from the gloom some haloed face, bending over me with strange pity. (ch. 2)

I remember but little of the journey; I only know that the day seemed to me of a preternatural length, and that we appeared to travel over hundreds of miles of road. (ch. 5)

I really did not expect any Grace to answer; for the laugh was as tragic, as preternatural a laugh as any I ever heard... (ch. 11)

She had Roman features and a double chin, disappearing into a throat like a pillar: these features appeared to me not only inflated and darkened, but even furrowed with pride; and the chin was sustained by the same principle, in a position of almost preternatural erectness. (ch. 17)

And once Brontë uses “pretercanine”.

Jane Freeman, New York, New York

Email of the Week (Courtesy ONEUPMANSHIP -- Happily turn your whole bored family into “greedy, self-serving punks”.)

From: Diane Taylor (dtaylor eagle.ca)
Subject: logomaniac

That’s an amazing photo accompanying the word. To me, it shows how we can feel embraced by words, which represent thoughts, and want to reciprocate by embracing back. Words, lots of words, can leap off the page and love.

Diane Taylor, Port Hope, Canada

From: Christopher Weaver (chrweave gmail.com)
Subject: logomaniac

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday. Shouldn’t you have confessed that you are a logomaniac and been shriven then?

Chris Weaver, Huntsville, Alabama

From: Cathy Perry Glass (c perryglass.net)
Subject: Logomaniac

Anu, you could have simply included your photo to show us the definition!

Cathy Perry Glass, Albuquerque, New Mexico

From: John Caperton (cprtn comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--logomaniac

Today’s word makes me think of logo-maniac, one who only buys pricey name brands. So what’s the word for that?

John Caperton, Darien, Illinois

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

If we can concede that the word “icon”, meaning-wise, could be interchangeable with the word “logo” in the context of corporate identity, then an ‘iconomaniac’ might be defined as an individual obsessed with icons. Odd, but within the realm of possibility, no?

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Lise Rosenthal (lise rakefet.com)
Subject: parthenogenesis

Also aphids. The temple to Athene is called the Parthenon because she sprang fully armed from the brow of Zeus. That must have been some migraine!

Lise Rosenthal, Rehovot, Israel

From: Edmund Miller (edmund.miller liu.edu)
Subject: parthenogenesis

James Merrill has a double dactyl that makes use of the metrical and theological implications of the word:

Above All That

Mary of Magdala
Said to the dolorous
Mother of God:

I for one leave to the
Simple amoeba or

Edmund Miller, Brookville, New York

From: Craig Floyd (cmfloyd swbell.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bryology

Hornworts were traditionally considered a class within the division Bryophyta (bryophytes). It now appears, however, that this former division is paraphyletic, so the hornworts are now given their own division, Anthocerotophyta. The division Bryophyta is now restricted to include only mosses.

Craig Floyd, Bellaire, Texas

From: Dave Zobel (dzobel alumni.caltech.edu)
Subject: Schroedinger’s cat

“There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” -Ansel Adams, photographer (20 Feb 1902-1984)

Friday’s Thought for Today reminds me of a comment by Austrian physicist Erwin Schroedinger (he of the kitty in the carton with the pellet with the poison). The 1935 paper introducing his eponymous feline thought-experiment closes with the observation: “There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks.” (tr. John D. Trimmer)

He was anticipating the now-common misbelief that the cat is somehow both alive and dead simultaneously. (In truth, as long as the interior of the box remains completely isolated from our Universe, it can’t be said to be “in” any state at all, thanks to the quantum indeterminacy of physical systems. To misquote the Dave Mason song: “There ain’t no live cat; there ain’t no dead cat; there’s only live-cat/dead-cat possibilitie-ie-ies.”)

Not until the box’s contents are permitted to interact unambiguously with the environment (e.g., by being observed) is one state or the other “chosen”. At that moment, Reality takes, as it were, a snapshot.

Dave Zobel, Los Angeles, California

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Limericks

A fellow once prayed to St Jude
“I’ve been eating too much Frankenfood
I’ve got fangs like a cat
I drink blood like a bat
And the horns on my head now protrude.”

-Bob Thompson, New Plymouth, New Zealand (bobtee xtra.co.nz)

My granny had health preternatural
Not once in her life would you catch her ill
“Longevity’s clues
Are cigars, se x, and boo ze,”
She wrote (Boy, were her letters factual!).

-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

A lim’rick each day is a zany act
The work of a crazed logomaniac
The stirring he feels,
A dark secret reveals,
That words are the best aphrodisiac.

-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Some say parthenogenesis,
In nature can be hit or miss,
Immaculate Conception,
Is surely the exception,
The old-fashioned way leads to bliss.

-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

As a boy, Sasha Cohen liked bryology
Of the forest floor he was all knowledgy
His folks, at a loss
For his interest in moss
Grew nostalgic when he became Ali G.

-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Modern English is the Wal-Mart of languages: convenient, huge, hard to avoid, superficially friendly, and devouring all rivals in its eagerness to expand. -Mark Abley, journalist (b. 1955)

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