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AWADmail Issue 752

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

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

Which Language Uses the Most Sounds?
The New York Times

How to translate Shakespeare into American Sign Language
The Economist

Italy’s Last Bastion of Catalan Language Struggles to Keep It Alive
The New York Times

From: Bill Raiford (br2002 rose.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pulchritude

I have known this word since my first year of Latin, back in the 8th grade. One of the sentences we had to parse was this:

Agricolae puella est pulchra. (The farmer’s daughter is beautiful.)

Bill Raiford, Thomasville, Georgia

From: Hope Bucher (hopebucher gmail.com)
Subject: pulchritude

My father, a lover of language and winner of all spelling contests in his school, often challenged me as a child with words to spell and define. The word pulchritude was one such word. When talking to my mother about its meaning my mother used an adaptation of the English proverb “Handsome is as handsome does” by telling me that beauty on the outside is not enough, one must be beautiful on the inside.

When our son was in first grade he was talking to me as I brushed my hair. He told me of a little girl in his class whom he liked very much; he said that she was not very pretty but was really nice. Then, looking up at me, my son said winsomely, “Mommy, you are pretty on the outside and on the inside.” To this day it is one of my most meaningful memories.

Hope Bucher, Naperville, Illinois

From: Chris M Macintosh (cmaci sbcglobal.net)
Subject: pulchritude

When I first moved to California in my 20s, the family of a friend acted as an unofficial “host family”. Among other generosities, I was for years invited to spend Christmas with them. The host always offered a toast “to the pulchritude present”. Meaning, of course, his wife, daughters, and other female guests. So that word always brings back good memories.

Chris M Macintosh, Menlo Park, California

From: Hannah Thuemmel (hthuemmel2000 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--pulchritude

The first time I came across this word was when I was flipping through a thesaurus looking for a synonym for “beautiful”. I then went around paying my siblings compliments on their pulchritude.

Hannah Thuemmel, Izmir, Turkey

From: Eduardo G. Del Barrio (egdelb verizon.net)
Subject: pulchritude

In Spanish, the word pulcro means limpio (neat, clean). It does not mean beautiful. You can have an ugly person who is pulcro.

Eduardo G. Del Barrio, Topanga, California

From: Eric Plumlee (eplumlee ra.rockwell.com)
Subject: Degustation

Degustation is a word used throughout Switzerland both by French and German speakers (though the high German word is “Verkostung”). It is also a very popular activity, especially when it involves a wine tasting. Also common here are degustations for cheeses and meats, but as you showed with your picture example of salts, there’s no limiting rule on what could be tasted. One point to mention, however, is that while a variety of similar things may be presented, you might choose to taste only one. My neighbor once had an espresso degustation.

Eric Plumlee, Niederlenz, Switzerland

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

When towing our caravan through France in the 1980s and 1990s we used to pass various signs and open-sided sheds, the signs reading “Dégustation”. On stopping to see what it was all about we discovered that we were being offered a taste of the locally produced wines or, indeed, Pineau des Charentes. What that was we had no idea. The only way was to stop and find out. Glorious.

There was a dégustationeur (have I produced a New Word here?) who was very pleased to join in the dégustations with each of his visitors and was more than a little tiddly and very generous with his portions. At another place we called in a chap about the same size and bearded just like Bluto in Popeye films saw to our needs. A very nice chap too. At another place we called in we discovered three policemen having a glass or two with the proprietor. Not having pulled the caravan through France for some long time I fear that these places may have succumbed to the propriety involved with drinking and driving laws.

Alan Etherington, Billingham, UK

From: Buddy Gill (e-rgill2 juno.com)
Subject: degustation

The word degustation reminds me of the Latin adage “De gustibus non est disputandum”, which my mother explained with the wellerism: “Everyone to his own taste, as the old lady said when she kissed the cow.”

Buddy Gill, Black Mountain, North Carolina

From: Helen Pringle (justicegd aol.com)
Subject: Bucolic

Today’s word recalled a memory of my sister Doris Maxwell, who usually had the last word, which was usually funny. She and I were at an antique show browsing in a booth displaying early art, including Scottish watercolors of rural scenes and farm animals. Both of us loved these works and were trying to make up our minds about buying. “What do you think of this one?” I asked. “Well,” she said with a dry grin, “it’s certainly bucolic.” She was struck speechless when a woman standing nearby suddenly said, “Ha! It’s easy to see that you never lived in the country!”

Helen Pringle, Leander, Texas

From: Stephanie Jane Lovett (uffish earthlink.net)
Subject: bucolic

The word bucolic has a powerful connotation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. When RJ Reynolds Tobacco, a company that began and grew in Winston-Salem, bought Nabisco in the 80s, its new head, F. Ross Johnson, moved the company headquarters to Atlanta, because it was “nouveau riche” and Winston-Salem was too “bucolic”.

“Proud to be bucolic” became a bumper sticker in Winston-Salem, which isn’t actually that bucolic, but the whole nasty business, chronicled in the book Barbarians at the Gate, became emblematic of the 80s corporate frenzy to merge, fire people, extract capital, and move to cities where CEOs could show off their multi-million-dollar salaries to each other.

Stephanie Lovett, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

From: Mog Ball (mogball aol.com)
Suvject: bucolic

When I was studying classics at college in the sixties Virgil’s work was always referred to as “the bucolics, the georgics, the Aeneid”. Currently they tend to be called the pastoral poems, but “bucolics” had a kind of friendly feel -- associated with alcoholics, perhaps, which we were all in danger of becoming.

Mog Ball, Lochearnhead, UK

From: Lynn Smolen (lsmolen uakron.edu)
Subject: bucolic

The word bucolic reminds me of John Constable’s paintings of the English countryside in the early 19th century. His lush landscapes romanticized the pastoral way of life and enticed the viewer to dream of a tranquil life away from the hustle and bustle of urban living.

Lynn Smolen, Akron, Ohio

From: Pim Gillissen (pims xs4all.nl)
Subject: puissant

In the Dutch language we have (as far as I know) only one expression with “puissant”: “He is (she is, they are) puissant rich”! Meaning: “extremely” rich.

Pim Gillissen, Oegstgeest, Netherlands

From: Scott Eichel (seichel407 gmail.com)
Subject: Puissant

Ryszard Kapuscinski, in his 1983 English translation of The Emperor, Downfall of an Autocrat, lists among many other of Haile Selassie’s honorifics, the delightful: “His most Puissant Majesty and Distinguished Highness, the Emperor of Ethiopia”.

His most distinguished (and puissant) majesty had a small dog whose name was Lulu and who was allowed to roam free to pee on the shoes of visiting dignitaries who were expected to maintain their dignity and not flinch.

One of the Selassie courtiers had the sole job, for ten years, of walking among the dignitaries and wiping their shoes dry with a satin cloth.

It was not made clear who was the most Puissant ... Selassie or Lulu.

Scott Eichel, Victoria, Canada

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From: Denny Beck (smokiescat gmail.com)
Subject: Crepuscular

In the 1950s a small library on wheels called a bookmobile visited our grade school monthly. Because our home was in a small enclave surrounded by undeveloped fields and forests, I became fascinated with nature, including the sky. I eventually read every bookmobile book about astronomy and meteorology. That’s how I learned crepuscular rays were those inspirational rays beaming down from clouds like a scene from a Renaissance painting. Anti-crepuscular rays beam up. While seemingly esoteric, these are appropriately poetic words for describing a phenomenon that is irresistible to photographers.

Denny Beck, Grand Rapids, Michigan

From: Gordon Tully (gordon.tully gmail.com)
Subject: Crepuscular

The terms for times around sunrise and sunset never fail to confuse me. There are three twilights: civil, nautical, and astronomical, in which the sun is 6, 12, and 18 degrees below the horizon respectively.

Gordon Tully, Norwalk, Connecticut

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: pulchritude and crepuscular

Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. Acclaimed Colombian fine artist Fernando Botero has his own idiosyncratic perspective on what constitutes “pulchritude”... feminine, or otherwise. All his paintings, drawings, and figurative sculptures reflect a plus-sized, zaftig vision of form.

Botero has also had an enduring fondness for the depiction of animals, great and small. For instance, he’s sculpted gargantuan bird forms where not only is the scale maximized to monumental proportions, but also the normally spindly legs become ‘fat’, wings and tail balloon up, giving the viewer a typical other-worldly, fantastical creature as only Botero could imagine it.

The Crepuscular Zone
Certain creatures of the wild and some shady characters of the criminal kind, have significant crepuscular stalking/ hunting habits. Most owl species tend to be less active during daylight hours, but as dusk approaches, their hunting instincts kick in. Felines also perk up as twilight falls, and stalking their prey becomes a driving imperative. Those clever masked banditos, raccoons, tend to be most active at dusk and further into the night, whilst masked human banditos often ply their nefarious trade as the remains of the day dissolve into the veil of darkness.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Aimee Scott Peterson (via website comments)
Subject: Words that sound ugly, but aren’t

Scabiosa: a lovely flower and member of the honeysuckle family.

Aimee Scott Peterson, Santa Barbara, California

From: Joey Gartell (jgartell rocketfuelinc.com)
Subject: Petrichor

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I happen to think petrichor is a remarkably beautiful word. An interesting complementary fact: the humidity and high air pressure that precedes a downpour, for which petrichor may be a precursor, heightens the olfactory functions. The smell itself is largely a chemical named geosmin (literally “Earth smell”), amongst other contributory smells we (perhaps mercifully) are unable to detect under normal conditions. I find something rather charming and romantic about the idea that what we are able to smell before rain is not the rain itself, but the world.

Joey Gartell, London, UK

From: Janet Rizvi (janetrizvi gmail.com)
Subject: Words whose meaning seems at variance with their sound

This week you’ve chosen words that sound ugly or clumsy, but mean something pretty or pleasant. I give you a word that’s the exact opposite -- to my ear one of the prettiest words in the language: peristalsis.

Dr Janet Rizvi, Gurgaon, India

From: Russell Lott (russellwlott comcast.net)
Subject: Don’t judge a word by its sound

Your theme this week reminds me of my personal, and growing, list of “Foods Crying Out For a New Name For Gosh Sakes”. Top of the list are liverwurst and artichoke, followed by horse radish, eggplant, succotash, coddled eggs, head cheese, and several others.

Russell Lott, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

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

This week’s theme: “Don’t judge a word by its sound”
1. pulchritude
2. degustation
3. bucolic
4. puissant
5. crepuscular
1. beauty
2. tasting cuisine (who judges, when supplied mustard or ketchup?)
3. rustic (i.e., Scotland)
4. robust
5. clouded
The text in the right box is an anagram of the text in the left.

Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina

From: Robert Jordan (alfiesdad ymail.com)
Subject: This week’s words anagrammed

1. pulchritude
2. degustation
3. bucolic
4. puissant
5. crepuscular
1. pull (cutie)
2. supping
3. rustic
4. so hard
5. cue Count Dracula’s bite

Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand

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

Obsessed with the girl’s pulchritude,
his thinking might turn a bit lewd.
But if he is wise,
these thoughts he’ll disguise,
and act like a virtuous dude.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The Donald admires pulchritude
To an extent considered quite lewd.
He grasps where he shouldn’t:
“Oh Donald, I wouldn’t
Or your race to the White House is screwed”!
  Well, that’s what I originally thought,
But even when “in flagrante” he’s caught
His followers don’t mind,
He’s one of their kind,
And so our future is fraught!
-Barry Thomas, Athens, Ohio (thomasb ohio.edu)

They will say that I’m fond of good food
As no doubt are the lewd and the stewed
But the merest degustation
Gives disgust and not elation
In imbibing I can see no pulchritude.
-Mike Parsley, Malaga, Spain (slussen2 gmail.com)

The chef chose a bucolic location
But forgot to include that notation.
When they found they would dine
With the chickens and swine
It became a puissant degustation.
-Kathy Schiavone, Port Jefferson, New York (mscarrera optonline.net)

If the rat race makes you melancholic
and you dream of the lifestyle bucolic,
think of ploughing and weeding
and stock that needs feeding.
The farmer’s life’s no kind of frolic.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

You’ll find in a setting bucolic
That the farmer’s a true workaholic
While he tends to his plants
Now’s the time, here’s your chance
With his buxom young daughter to frolic.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Jack and Jill went up the hill to frolic
With sandwiches and beverages alcoholic.
But Jack banged his dome
And had to go home,
A scene that was hardly bucolic.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

In a hay field, a scene quite bucolic,
A maid was invited to frolic.
She’d always said no,
But she gave it a go.
Her reward was an infant with colic.
-Kathy Deutsch, Melbourne, Australia (kathy deutsch.net.au)

“Once more make America puissant!”
Suggested the Donald’s assistant.
Answered Trump, “Such a phrase
Will make all their eyes glaze,
On one-syllable words I’m insistent.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I really do have to be blunt,
Trump’s rhetoric is so puissant,
It’s the reason why,
He gives a black eye,
To Republican elephant.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

In the mirror I’m young, fit, and muscular
But demographers call me “Crepuscular”
It lands with a thud
When I act like a stud
For to women I now seem avuncular.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

We’ve elected a president crepuscular
With urges inappropriately testicular.
Trade policies? Insular!
Military? More muscular!
Experience? Alas, nothing in particular.
-Barry Thomas, Athens, Ohio (thomasb ohio.edu)

They went for a nice midnight swim.
This idea, like the night was dim,
Since it was crepuscular,
He had trouble to view her.
He couldn’t see her or her, him.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Graham’s Groaners

The Czech dancer with a cold asked the band to play a pulchritude.

When I need to test my anemometer I take it to degustation.

“That pastoral landscape is NOT from the Hudson River School, regardless of what bucolic.”

Anu, the example pronunciation you gave puissant how they say it in France.

For crepuscular, why dusk no pun dawn on me?

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: Gary Moore (garymitchellmoore gmail.com)
Subject: New Word? Necessary Word?

I have seen that “adulting” is in the Oxford dictionary now. adulting, n. [mass noun] informal: the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.

How about “Humaning”, n.(mass noun) informal , the practice of behaving like a human being, in contrast with what seems to be expected of us these (post-truth) days.

Gary Moore, Tofino, Canada

Language is a form of human reason, which has its internal logic of which man knows nothing. -Claude Levi-Strauss, anthropologist (1908-2009)

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