Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 706

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

Sponsor’s Message: Hate dumb winter? This week’s Email of the Week winner Larry Alden (see below) as well as all AWADers everywhere can buy 2 x tickets to wicked smart sunny word fun paradise for only $25. Escape now!

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

The Case of the Disappearing Determiners
Language Log

Manspreading and Other Hated Words
The New York Times

The Linguists Strike Back
Speculative Grammarian

From: Mike Newdow (mikenewdow gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dox

Today’s word (dox) reminds me of a case report recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It seems that a group of physicians were looking into the benefits of eating fish. So they went to a fishing village in Alaska, where a large percentage of the population ate an extraordinary amount of salmon and often lived to be more than 100 years old.

When the physicians got to the village, they found that the residents had just killed an arctic fox that had been devouring not only the fish that were being smoked, but the chickens that some of the families were raising as well. Of note is that the villagers were all Alaska Area Native Americans who had a tradition of killing predator mammals by stoning them to death. When, shortly thereafter, a number of the villagers got vesicular rashes on their feet, it was supposed that the blood from the stoned fox might have transmitted a varicella virus, so some bloody socks were placed in a cardboard container and sent to the CDC for analysis. Unfortunately, when the package arrived, the cardboard was soaked through, and the blood ended up getting mixed with samples from a large bovine animal being studied in the same lab.

Well, some of the readers of the article were stunned -- not only by the villagers’ brutality, but also by the sloppiness of the CDC. After the Journal published those readers’ letters, the physicians who authored the article responded by returning to the village. There, they held a press conference where they dismissively discounted their critics’ assessments. Furthermore, they distributed the critics’ personal contact information so that the villagers would write, call and in other ways harass them.

In other words, after the rocks killed the fox that ate the lox and the cocks, the shocks regarding the pox socks box and the ox caused the docs on the docks to dox the crocks.

(That probably wasn’t worth it, was it?)

Mike Newdow, Sacramento, California

From: David Fischer (dw-mefischer sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Photoshop

It is unfortunate that “photoshop” has acquired such negative connotations. In the old days of black-and-white film, advanced amateurs and pros routinely used filters to darken skies, and dodged and burned their prints to bring out or diminish certain areas. Photoshop now makes such operations so much easier and more exact. No one ever asked me if I did these things in the old days, but I have been asked (more like accused) about Photoshop use. For me it is just another tool to make an expressive print.

David Fischer, Kalamazoo, Michigan

From: Steve Haskin (stevehaskin att.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--photoshop

There are also several variant words derived from the same root: “That photo looks shopped.” etc. I’ve been a Photoshop guy since ‘91, BTW. It was actually released for the original Mac SE in 89. Windows came in 1991 or so. The original greyscale editor was developed in 1987-8 by the Knoll brothers.

Steve Haskin, Ann Arbor, Michigan

From: Laura Brou (lbrou adobe.com)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--photoshop

It has been brought to our attention that you have included Adobe’s Photoshop trademark in the Wordsmith “A.Word.A.Day” feature of your website. As you point out, the term is a registered trademark, owned by Adobe Systems Incorporated. As you may know, use of a trademark as a verb is improper use, which over time, can cause the trademark to cease to function as a trademark, and instead become a generic term. A trademark is correctly used as an adjective to indicate the source of a particular product, e.g., we enhanced the image using Photoshop image-editing software. We ask that you correct the “meaning” of the term by removing the verb reference and adding an adjective reference.

Laura Brou, Sr. IP Paralegal - Trademarks & Marketing, Adobe, Seattle, Washington

Thanks for writing. I know you have to do your job and send The Letter to show that you are making due efforts to prevent trademark dilution. I’m sympathetic to it.

It’s an unjust world. Some want to have enough to eat so as not to be underweight, while others would spend thousands of dollars to lose weight. Some companies encourage people to use their trademarks as verbs (“Do You Yahoo!?”, “Bing it”, etc.) and fail, while others see their trademarks being used as verbs and discourage that use.

Ultimately, language works not by legal letters or ad campaigns, but by how people use it. Today, google is a verb, so is photoshop. It’s too late now. The verb photoshop has entered Oxford, Collins, and Merriam-Webster, among other dictionaries. When lexicographers define a term, they only report reality, not create it. We can’t photoshop this reality.
-Anu Garg

From: Michael Chirico (michaelchirico4 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--defriend

Personally, I don’t think I’ve ever used (or honestly heard, before today, though I could immediately grok its meaning) the word “defriend”; rather, I’ve always opted for its (to me) more natural cousin, “unfriend”. And ngrams confirms that this is much more common.

Michael Chirico, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From: Jim Roberts (via website comments)
Subject: affluenza

The ‘condition’ seems to be closer to privilege-generated psychosis, why not affluosis?

Jim Roberts, Victoria, Canada

From: David Daniel (dad coarsecourses.com)
Subject: Res: A.Word.A.Day--affluenza

Actually, here’s a citation from 1918:

“It is not the sneezing of the Spanish influenza that Liberty needs, but a little more ‘coughing’ on the part of American affluenza.” George M. Bailey; Early Morning Observations; The Houston Post; Oct 12, 1918.

David Daniel, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Email of the Week (Purchase One Up! - Word-perfect heaven awaits)

From: Larry Alden (overlook nycap.rr.com)
Subject: Peeps

To a birder, peeps are small brown and white sandpipers (named for the peeping call notes, I gather). The five common North American species of peeps are told apart by subtle differences in feather color, size, leg color, wing length, bill structure, etc. Due to the fact that their plumages vary with season and age along with the possibility of similar species showing up from Europe or Asia, peeps provide an identification challenge to even the best birders.

Larry Alden, Altamont, New York

From: Eve Burton (ebnineteen hotmail.com)
Subject: peeps

When I saw the word “peeps”, I immediately thought of marshmallow chicks, ubiquitous at Easter. My husband agreed that was the first meaning of the word to pop into his head. I also thought of baby chicks. I’d never heard the word “peeps” applied to people before.

Eve Burton, Bethesda, Maryland

From: Robert Low (equinedad aol.com)
Subject: peeps

With “peeps”, you should have added (and you will doubtless get many responses just like mine) that “peeps” are what baby chickens use to keep contact with their “momma” hen when they are out “free ranging” for insects.

Robert Low, Ellijay, Georgia

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

All five words, plus this title, are equal to the one anagram:
1. dox
2. photoshop
3. defriend
4. affluenza
5. peeps
1. expose person’s file, quote vital info
2. alter truth of image
3. end, shun pal
4. hazard of dad’s wealth
5. people
The text in the right box is an anagram of the text in the left.
Dharam Khalsa, Espanola, New Mexico

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

The thief who’s been caught stealing dox
may be clever and sly as a fox,
but that person should be
where there’s no “escape” key
in a prison with multiple locks.

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

Plastic surgeries she wouldn’t stop,
though they cost several thousand a pop
’til her husband said, honey
we’ve run out of money.
Why don’t we just use photoshop?

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

Tell me why for I can’t comprehend
That her mother a girl would defriend
All I said was “Please wear
Some more clothes, curl your hair
And quit shaking that little rear end.”

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

Says lawyer, “You’ll have to pretend ya
have really extreme affluenza.
Kid, listen: This act is
dependent on practice.
Read shrink books that I’m gonna lend ya!”

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

The way some people call their friends “peeps”
is a usage that gives me the creeps.
New words come and they go
but what I’d like to know
is if we’ll be stuck with “peeps” for keeps.

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

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: AWAD of puns

NSA spies who doggedly collect our data are dox hounds.

When Right to Work is proposed, union members photoshop that is closed.

“How can you ask that I both support and defriend The Constitution?”

“Until its (sonic) boom went bust, affluenza Concorde to London and Paris.”

The Great Fire of London had quite an effect on peeps.

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Slang is a language that rolls up its sleeves, spits on its hands, and goes to work. -Carl Sandburg, poet and biographer (1878-1967)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2023 Wordsmith