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AWADmail Issue 773A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language
Sponsor’s Message: Sometimes the way things were is better than the way things are. We call it “Old’s Cool”, and we’d like to invite this week’s Email of the Week winner, SarahRose Werner (see below), as well as anyone who loves wit, excellence, adventure, and a few typographical errors every once in a while to come save 10% off everything on our brand new website, today only. Just use coupon code: “newscool”. SHOP NOW.
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
From: Philemon Vanderbeck (professor creepymagician.com)
Your observation that we are now able to buy seasonal food all year round reminded me of an article from 2011 by Waldo Jaquith about how it is impractical to create a cheeseburger from scratch. It is the epitome of the modern age wherein we can have the various food components needed flown in from anywhere in the world:
Philemon Vanderbeck, Seattle, Washington
From: Susan Kritzik (sgkritzik gmail.com)
There is an antique red rose called Cramoisi Superieur! I used to have it in my garden. Never knew what the name meant, but now I do!
Susan Kritzik, Portola Valley, California
From: Chantal Quincy (chantalquincy gmail.com)
In French we use cramoisi also for somebody who is blushing and embarrassed by it! As “elle est devenue cramoisie!”
Chantal Quincy, Santa Fe, New Mexico
From: William Clarkson (bclarkso sewanee.edu)
Ezra Pound included the word in his famous Usura Canto (45):
Not by usura St. Trophime
Not by usura Saint Hilaire,
Usura rusteth the chisel
It rusteth the craft and the craftsman
It gnaweth the thread in the loom
None learneth to weave gold in her pattern;
Azure hath a canker by usura; cramoisi is unbroidered
Maybe he anticipated payday loans.
William Clarkson, Sewanee, Tennessee
From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Lilac Time is one of two English titles of the 1922 Viennese operetta Das Dreimaderlhaus by Heinrich Berte, based on a selection of melodies by the acclaimed, yet tragically short-lived, Austrian composer Franz Schubert of the early 19th century. It is also known as Blossom Time and enjoyed a long run on Broadway under this title and with a new arrangement by Sigmund Romberg.
The original version had featured the redoubtable Richard Tauber (friend of Franz Lehar of Merry Widow fame), who played Schubert himself in Paris, London, and Vienna.
Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada
From: Claus Cartellieri (cartellieri t-online.de)
It is noteworthy perhaps that today’s word assumed a very fitting extension of its meaning, when Soviet soldiers, in 1945, painted the words GITLER KAPUT on numerous walls in Germany.
Claus Cartellieri, Dobbertin, Germany
From: Julia Cashion Baker (jccbaker yahoo.com)
Shortly after moving to Germany for the first time, while camping at a German campground, I had a headache that would not go away. I went to the camp store for aspirins, but didn’t know how to ask for aspirins. After much pantomiming, which resulted in being shown combs and shampoos, I finally said “Mein kopf ist kaput.” The storekeeper laughed and gave me a small packet and said “Aspirin”.
Julia Cashion Baker, Vicksburg, Mississippi
From: Dwyn Tomlinson (dragonjools gmail.com)
Imagine my reaction when Swarovski rolled out a new line of pendants (for us, as a bead store) to sell -- called “Kaputt” -- because “the only way to make something completely new was to introduce an element of imperfection.” A striking technological innovation that is at the same time perfect and imperfect. Playing on the theme of “perfect imperfection”, it was aptly named “Kaputt”.
I never did recover. <snort>
Dwyn Tomlinson, Toronto, Ontario
From: SarahRose Werner (swerner nbnet.nb.ca)
Subject: Apparat ist kaput!
A few decades ago, I and a couple of Australian guys I was travelling with, went into a tobacco shop in Vienna to buy some transit tickets. The guys didn’t speak any German, and I knew only a few words. One of the guys asked the elderly lady behind the counter for tickets. When that didn’t work, he tried “billets”, which is French. The lady kept gesturing towards the door and making a motion to one side.
I knew that the German word for tickets was Fahrkarten, but I also noticed that the lady kept using the word Apparat. I suggested to the guys that there might be a ticket machine around the side of the building. We went and looked. Sure enough, there was a machine -- but it had a sign attached, “Ausser Betrieb”. I knew that “ausser” meant “out of”, so this wasn’t looking good. We tried putting Austrian schilling coins into the machine, but the machine kept spitting them back out.
The guys were getting hot under the collar, but I said that perhaps the lady hadn’t known the machine was out of order. They agreed to try the shop again, but said that this time I should do the talking. This was fine with me, as I thought I should have been doing it all along.
We went back inside the shop. I started off with “Gruss Gott!” because I had noticed that people say that when entering small shops in Vienna. (Politeness pays when you’re trying to get someone to work with you on building a communication bridge.) The lady looked at me and replied, “Gruss Gott”, but rather cautiously.
I embarked on my tale. “Apparat ist ausser Betrieb.”
The lady’s face lit with understanding. “Apparat ist kaput!”
Everyone involved, including the Australian guys, understood that! My companions and I chorused, “Ja, ist kaput!”
The story ended well. The lady began talking, opening a drawer in the counter as she did so. I caught something about “einzeln” (single) and “funf” (five), so I stood up on my toes and leaned over the counter to see inside the drawer. Yup -- she didn’t have single tickets for sale, only booklets of five. That was why she’d sent the three of us to the Apparat.
My companions were going straight on to Italy but I was staying in Vienna for a few days longer, so I smiled and said, “Ist gut. Funf, bitte.” The lady sold me a booklet of five. I sold two to my companions and kept the other three for myself.
SarahRose Werner, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
From: Joel Mabus (joel.mabus pobox.com)
My only acquaintance with today’s word, alembic, had been from the world of musical instruments. Alembic is a fabled high-end maker of custom amps, electric guitars, and basses. Born in the 1960s in California, the shop was first little more than artisan problem-solvers to the “heady” stars of that time and place, namely the Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and Stanley Clarke. Alembic gear became as storied as The Dead themselves in the 1970s. Alembic is still around, and a family-run business doing mostly custom work as I understand. But they did flirt with the larger music industry around 1979 when they designed a mass-produced affordable guitar and bass line called The Distillate. Now I know where that name comes from!
Joel Mabus, Kalamazoo, Michigan
From: Michael Scheller (michael.scheller gmail.com)
“Formerly” used in distillation is very inaccurate. Not only is the alembic-headed pot still the still of choice of most modern moonshiners, they are still used by many modern commercial distillers. Here is a modern manufacturer of alembics who provides stills to commercial distillers.
Michael Scheller, Texas
Apparently, what’s used these days is a pot still which is a descendant of the alembic, but the distinction is not very clear.
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Inspired by the USAGE quotation for the word “cramoisy”, referencing the whippet, Narcisse, and her crimson cushion, I played off her distinctive name, and the Greek myth of the self-absorbed Narcissus, adding in the caption a punny twist on a repeated lyric line from punk band Devo’s infectious hit single, “Whip It”. OK... a bit of a groaner there.
I caught an interview of Syrian autocrat/war-criminal al-Bashar Assad, with one of his state TV broadcast stooges this morning (Apr 13) on CNN. On the extreme camera closeups, I was riveted to his piercing blue eyes with their large, pitch-black pupils, as he vehemently denied having recently used poisonous gas on his own people. These cold, unblinking orbs of Assad reminded me of the popular black, blue, and white evil eye glass talismans that for millennia have been worn or carried by Greek folk in the belief that they will be protected from evil spirits, spells, or bad omens.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
The text in the right box is an anagram of the text in the left.
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
An innocent hanky of cramoisy
She arrived on a bus from Boise,
The President loves the new toys he
When I tripped o’er my very own foot
Once the beautiful, yet now kaput,
We ordinary folks are hard put
There’s a color that’s making a comback
I once had a friend, a guy, Zack.
The moonshiner made great moonshine.
Our nation could use an alembic
In Scotland member of a clan
There isn’t a totem or talisman
From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
After the student pulled an all-nighter to cramoisee red-eyed?
You kaput your phone in the recycle bin. It’s cheaper to buy a new one.
“Not only do you write purple prose; you lilac a dog!”
When the brewery offers free beer I become an alembic sprinter.
Holding up two tea towels the woman asked, “Which talisman nicest one?”
Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:It is a profound and necessary truth that the deep things in science are not found because they are useful; they are found because it was possible to find them. -J. Robert Oppenheimer, theoretical physicist (22 Apr 1904-1967)