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AWADmail Issue 698

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

Sponsor’s Message: We’re a 100% American, proudly-independent (some would say quixotic and recalcitrant) design studio, so gobble, gobble is our favorite holiday, if you know what we mean. “Old’s Cool” sums up our philosophy of life in a neat little turn of phrase -- old school with a shot of wry, served neat. In that spirit, we’re offering this week’s Email of the Week winner, David Franks (see below), as well as all rebels, renegades, disrupters, and dreamers everywhere 20% off everything in store -- through midnight Monday only. BUY into OLD’S COOL NOW -- and be sure to use coupon code “oneupmanship”.

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Travel report: The Netherlands (Part 4)

Fourth in a series of travel reports. See part 1, part 2, and part 3.

The Dutch Language

If you come across a text and you are not sure what language it is, look for the number of occurrences of AA, such as this sign I came across in a train in the Netherlands: “Waar ga jij naartoe vandaag?” (Where are you going today?) The name of the train station where I boarded the train? Amsterdam Centraal.

Remember, it’s the same language that gave us aardvark (via Afrikaans). Note: If those repeated letters are accented (ää) you may be looking at Finnish. Another letter sequence that gives away Dutch: IJ, as in Rijksmuseum (National Museum) and dijk (dike).

In Dutch, it’s common to combine two (or more) words, such as hogesnelheidstrein (high-speed train). We do that in English too (schoolboy, tablecloth, footprint), but not as often and not to that extreme. It’s understandable that for a Dutch speaker sometimes it may be hard to figure out whether to put a space between two words from another language. In Amsterdam I saw a sign in English advertising “Boattickets”. I imagine this error works in reverse as well. Some native speakers of Dutch (especially schoolchildren) split a compound Dutch word when they shouldn’t.

Dutch vocabulary has equally long, if not longer, words than German, but somehow it’s German that has gotten a bad rap. Blame Mark Twain, who wrote:

“Some German words are so long that they have a perspective.”
“I would do away with those great long compounded words; or require the speaker to deliver them in sections, with intermissions for refreshments.”

Odds & Ends

The Netherlands (literally, lowlands) is also called Holland even though Holland is the name of a region in the country (North Holland and South Holland are two of the twelve provinces). Holland was a powerful region of the country so its name was used for the whole country. For the same reason, the name Russia was used for the former Soviet Union and England for the whole of the UK.

So, why “the” Netherlands? Usually, when a place is named after a geographic feature, it goes with a definite article. The capital of the Netherlands is Amsterdam, but the seat of government is The Hague (from des Graven hage: The Counts’ Hedge). The word Dutch comes from the same root as the word Deutschland, a Germanic word diota meaning people.

In Amsterdam city center, I was delighted to see a store with a blue neon sign “Wordplay”. As I turned to enter the store I saw a bunch of video game machines. So I retreated and re-read the sign. It said Novoplay.

Even though the Netherlands is known for tulips, the flower was first cultivated in Persia. Etymology of words record fingerprints of history. The word tulip comes to us from Persian dulband (turban), from the resemblance of the flower to a turban.

If you think the dot-com bubble was something, you should know about tulip mania. In the 1600s, a single tulip bulb in Amsterdam sold for as much as the price of a mansion in Amsterdam. Though some have disputed whether tulip mania was as big as it’s claimed to be.

Maritime rivalries between the Dutch and the British led to the latter coining derogatory terms related to the Dutch. A Dutch treat is no treat at all -- one pays for his or her share. Dutch courage is what one has when drunk. A Dutch uncle is far from a loving uncle -- he is a severe critic. There are dozens of such terms.

You’d think the Dutch would have equivalent terms for the English. As far as I have been able to determine, there’s no such thing in Dutch. In The Hague, I met Cécile Hessels, an artist and wordlover. Why haven’t the Dutch returned the favor? I asked her. She told me, “Either the English are a very perfect lot, or we are very kind people.”

Read previous travel reports.

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

Complex ‘Character Test’ Facing Tardy Chinese Students

Meet the Great-Grandmother Writing a Dictionary to Preserve Her Dying Language

From: Bethany Knowles (bethanycknowles hotmail.com)
Subject: camelious (gml)

I never noticed camel has two humps in the center until I saw its root word gml, which also has a leg curved under a haunch and a neck sticking up.

Bethany Knowles, Putney, Vermont

Email of the Week (Grit. Integrity. Courage. Authenticity. Old School + Wit = Old’s Cool).

From: David Franks (david.franks cox.net)
Subject: quodlibetal

In music, a quodlibet is a piece that incorporates melodies from diverse sources, usually with humorous intent. For example, a quodlibet might contain recognizable snippets of “You Are My Sunshine”, “Stormy Weather” and “A Foggy Day”.

J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations includes a quodlibet as the final variation before the reprise of the aria that begins the work. As the entire work is a tour de force of compositional techniques, this quodlibet is an interweaving of four tune fragments from two folk songs: “Ich bin so lang nicht bei dir g’west” (“I have so long been away from you”) and “Kraut und Rüben haben mich vertreiben” (“Cabbage and turnips have driven me away”).

A recording of Rosalyn Tureck performing this quodlibet may be found here (2 min.).

David Franks, Fayetteville, Arkansas

From: Sonya Cashdan (shcashdan aol.com)
Subject: quodlibetal

A couple of decades ago, our church choir performed “Christmas Quodlibet”. Because I was both choir president and an English professor, many members turned to me to ask the meaning of the title. My two years of Latin having been FAR in the past, I promised only that I’d find out -- and I had no idea that there was an adjectival form. Thanks for the new information and for this Christmas memory!

Sonya Cashdan, Paso Robles, California

From: Paul H. Blaney (pblaney ehc.edu)
Subject: aeiou

My father (1905-2000) had a favorite joke, in the form of a riddle: “What English word contains the five vowels -- aeiou -- in order, and I should warn you that the answer is facetious?” Some fraction of persons would give up, whereupon he would reply, “I warned you. The word is facetious.”

Paul H. Blaney, Abingdon, Virginia

From: Andrew Lloyd (knockroe gmail.com)
Subject: vowels

Surplus vowels? Welcome to Irish names. The most common pronunciation poser for outsiders is Aoife: a reasonably common given name in Ireland that sounds like Eefa. If you can crack that, you’re half-way to talking to Caoimhe (pron. Queeva). It’s the same in surnames: Jane Ní Dhulchaointigh, the inventor of Sugru, could Anglicise her name to Delahunty but doesn’t. It’s not just the Irish, of course; I was bloggin’ recently about the Pacific island of Eaio, which was the source of ancient stone adzes on Easter Island despite being 4000 wet kilometers away. Okay, so these are only 4/5 hits.

Andrew Lloyd, Knockroe, Ireland

From: Steve Kirkpatrick (stevekirkp comcast.net)
Subject: A-E-I-O-U song, with abstemious, camelious

A Word A Day is quite a site,
A - E - I - O - U.
And on that site, we learn each night,
A - E - I - O - U.
Great words Garg brings to us.
Now A - E - I - O - U - ious.
Don’t be abstemious.
Bring on camelious.
A Word A Day is quite a site.
Let’s call it A - WAD U!

Steve Kirkpatrick, DDS, Olympia, WA-EIOU

From: Srinivas Shastri (shastrix gmail.com)
Subject: vowels

How about a *sentence* with just the vowels and in order? “AE, IOU” (note from a person to an Assistant Engineer settling a loan he had taken some time back).

Srinivas Shastri, Bangalore, India

Aye. Oui.
-Anu Garg

From: Dharam Khalsa (dharamkk2 windstream.net)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words

Anagram containing this week’s words:
1. affectious
2. camelious
3. adventious
4. majestious
5. quodlibetal
= 1. amorous
2. as a camel (hissing)
3. took a new unusual twist
4. dignified, majestic
5. question for vocal debate
Dharam Khalsa, Espanola, New Mexico

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

The madam’s manner affectious,
Tried oh, so hard to direct us,
But we weren’t fussy,
And chose any hussy.
I pray that they don’t infect us.

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

Said Vanderbilt’s wife, “Dear Cornelius,
Let’s ride on a creature camelious
I’m sick of the train
We could go to Bahrain
No one there would suspect that it’s really us.”

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

New home where the man had been sent was
to him a surprise most adventious.
But Gramps fairly beamed.
“Oh, I never have seen
so many delightful dementias!”

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

A talented lady majestious
Is dear Dolly Parton, so luscious
With beauty and brains
Over Nashville she reigns
With her assets she surely could crush us.

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

Moderators ask questions quotlibetal
but the candidates’ answers don’t do so well.
They stump for our vote
or go for the throat:
“You’re a loser” they sneer and it rings the bell.

-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

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

Science-fiction movies are usually FXious.

The garden’s soil was very humpy around the camelius.

You can’t have a German orgy unless you adventious.

I may be drunk, but I majestious of the peace.

FDR’s Four Freedoms were quad-libertal.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Words are like money; there is nothing so useless, unless when in actual use. -Samuel Butler, writer (1835-1902)

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