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AWADmail Issue 675

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

Sponsor’s Message:
Do you wish your kids had your childhood, and you had theirs? Bet you do. Which is why we’re offering this week’s Email of the Week winner, David Gellman (see below), as well as all old schoolers everywhere the chance to own one of our unapologetically exclusive and expensive OLD’S COOL rugby shirts -- so wicked well-made and authentic you’ll be handing it down to your children’s children. Best answer to this wins it: Pick (or make up) a word that best describes you, and why. With three teenagers, ours is ‘retardad’.

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

Will Icelanders One Day Ditch Their Language for English?
Public Radio International

The Humble Linguist
The Economist

From: Lawrence Crumb (lcrumb uoregon.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sinecure

When I was a seminary librarian, I wrote a column on Episcopal Church news for a Canadian periodical. My predecessor had used the pseudonym Mysticus (I suspected him of being the rector in Mystic, CT) but I used Sinecure since I was without cure of souls. One of our professors had been a graduate student at the U of Chicago, during which time he held the sinecure of a parish in the Loop that had a large endowment but very few parishioners.

Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon

From: Abe Silverman (abesil2000 yahoo.com)
Subject: Sinecure

Today’s word sinecure brings to mind the TV series The Sopranos, with the group of four or five men at a construction site in lounge chairs, one sunning himself with a reflector. This is the word that I have always needed when entering my Town Hall, which I will from now on refer to as “Sinecure Center”.

Abe Silverman, West Hartford, Connecticut

From: Alan Etherington (alan-e ntlworld.com)
Subject: Sinecure

Latin is a dead language and so the pronunciation is lost in time but had we pronounced ‘sinecure’ as you suggest, it would have led to detentions in our school Latin classes. We pronounced it along the lines of ‘sinneycure’. It is the same with E. coli. Had we pronounced it ‘E. coleye’ as the world now seems to do, a similar punishment would have been meted out. It had to be pronounced ‘E. colee’, the ‘eye’ pronunciation was for the ‘-ae’ ending as in the first declension plural feminine ‘puellae’. And that seems to have changed too. Was all the world out of step with our school? I can sense our Latin masters of 60 years ago turning in their respective graves.

Alan Etherington, Billingham, UK

From: Lawrence Crumb (lcrumb uoregon.edu)
Subject: pathography

It sounds like pathography is the opposite of hagiography, a more commonly used word.

Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon

From: Ron Davis (davises magma.ca)
Subject: performative

My favorite word in any language is the Hungarian word “tegezlek”, which means “I address you in a grammatically familiar manner.” Besides being performative, it packs a lot of meaning into one word, and it expresses a concept we don’t even have in English. In another level of self-referentiality, I am very happy to have learned the word “performative”, and to have this opportunity to use it for the first time.

Ron Davis, Deep River, Canada

From: Alain Gottcheiner (agot ulb.ac.be)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--performative

Other important cases of performative sentences are: the opening and closing of meetings, sport events, etc.; and, for those who believe in it, the summoning of spirits. This latter item makes me wonder why some commentators have criticised anthropologists for using the word.

Alain Gottcheiner, Brussels, Belgium

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

Apropos of the usage example, in this as in many other things, the Seinfeld show leads the way:
“Do you want to break up? All right, we’re broken up.” (video, 33 sec.)

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

Email of the Week (Brought to you by The Old’s Cool Company -- Integrity. Courage. Originality. Wit.)

From: David Gellman (DavidAGellman netscape.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--performative

Performative brings to the fore a question I’ve long wondered -- The practice of saying something that I guess would be called contingent: “I would like to...thank you for....” Not quite performed, but close to it!

David Gellman, New York, New York

From: Lester Jacobson (lesterjake comcast.net)
Subject: performative

The word performative reminds me of another word, dispositive. It’s a word that lawyers tend to use, which makes me think maybe you could include it during a week of legal terms that are also in common usage.

Lester Jacobson, Evanston, Illinois

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

A curate besotted with sin
Wallowed in dreams of soft skin
And such notions impure,
In his sweet sinecure,
‘Til the archbishop kicked his left shin.

-Laurence McGilvery, La Jolla, California (laurence mcgilvery.com)

The word of the day is pathography.
She’s planning to write her biography.
an angry girl, she
declares, “Seems to me
this thing’s gotta be a wrathography.”

-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

When a candidate shouts out “I promise!”
I suggest you be like doubting Thomas
It may be performative
But not so informative
For most of them aren’t too honest.

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

In the history of all our mankind
It is males who become undermined
Mum said “You’re late”
I said “I stridulate”
She said “Stop it, your father went blind.”

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

“If you act with intent mala fide,
The neighbors will think we are greedy,”
Said Eva to Adolf
And Ruthie to Madoff
“Now stop that and come be a sweetie.”

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

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Limericks on the Words of the Week

For the past four weeks, I’ve worn a grin
Anu printed the puns I sent in!
But I’m now broken-hearted
This week he has thwarted
Me, listing words beyond my ken.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

While language is forming, writers are applauded for extending its limits; when established, for restricting themselves to them. -Isaac Disraeli, writer (1766-1848)

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