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AWADmail Issue 87

November 18, 2002

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages

From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: A Word A Day, the book

This community of wordlovers is the best part of running Wordsmith.org. Your passion, love, and heartwarming sense of ownership are evident in your email. I've replied to many messages but I'm not sure when I'll be able to respond to all of them. Meanwhile, a big thank you to everyone who wrote about the book!

I'll be speaking and book-signing at a few stores and appearing in radio programs for the next few weeks. You're invited to stop by, or dial-in, and chat. Check out the schedule.

Earlier some bookstores ran out of copies of the book but now that the second printing has been completed, it should be available at your friendly neighborhood store or online at Amazon.com.

Here is a selection of messages from readers in response to the book announcement.

From: Scott Terek (scott.terekATdisney.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day is now a book!

I'm sure you'll be receiving a bunch of these, so let me add to the flood--congratulations! I'm assuming all half-million of us will be receiving invites to the book-signing party... ;)

From: Sharon Barton (sbartonATvolt.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day is now a book!

I am humbled by your story. It brought tears to my eyes. What a tribute to the human spirit. I will definitely be ordering your book.

From: Dyanna Clatch (mustangsally64ATmsn.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day is now a book!

Congratulations from a simple Chicago Public school teacher and her class! We are taking up a collection to purchase your book!

From: Doug Greenwood (douglasgreenwoodATmsn.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day is now a book!

Congrats, Anu! Hope you sell a million copies. (My first book, a collection of essays I'd written for the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine when I was the Editor, suffered pretty much the same fate as Thoreau's first book, "A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers." It didn't sell. When his Boston publisher sent Thoreau all the remaining copies from its warehouse, Henry dutifully lugged them inside and was fond of saying, 'I have a library of about a thousand books, nearly 800 of which I wrote myself.')

You have brought joy to me many mornings with your newsletter and I look forward to adding your book to my library.

From: Gordon Havens (gordonhavensAThotmail.com)
Subject: The book

Congratulations on your success and new book. I have been a subscriber for only a few months, but I'm striving to become your third Pulitzer Prize winner. Weaving some of your featured words into my novel is one more tool.


From: Kim Haase (camilla.haaseATsun.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sequela

Hippocrates apparently said whatever is Greek for "Life is short and the art long," but it was Geoffrey Chaucer, in "The Parliament of Fowls," who said, in Middle English, "The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne."

From: Dave Turner (dturnerATcisco.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sequela

We should all help eradicate the dismal metaphor of a (complex) machine for humans! Please see Wendell Berry's _An Essay Against Modern Superstition_.

From: Antonia Boyle (aboylecoATearthlink.net)
Subject: sequela

Monday's word, sequela, is especially meaningful to those of us who have PPS (Post Polio Sequalae). The symptoms now experienced by so many of us who had polio as children are a pathological result of a previous disease. Dr. Richard Bruno, Director of The Post-Polio Institute in Englewood, New Jersey, in his book "The Polio Paradox" explains fully why the "S" refers to "Sequalae" and not "Syndrome," as commonly thought.

From: Richard Birney-Smith (rbsvacationsATnas.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nosology

Nosology reminds me of organology: the study of musical instruments. Not about studying organs.

From: Ned Schwentker (eschwentkerATpsu.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--idiopathy

Today's word, the noun, idiopathy, is seldom heard in medicine today. The adjective, idiopathic, is common. We use it to describe the innumerable conditions whose causes remain unknown. For example, from my own specialty, pediatric orthopaedics [an etymologically redundant descriptor -- but that's another story], idiopathic scoliosis is a common form of spinal deformation of, as yet, undefined etiology.

With dark humor we explain the etymology of "idiopathic" to the medical students as, "the doctor is an idiot and the patient pathetic".

From: Don Salmon (virtrealATjps.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--placebo

I thought you might enjoy this passage about the placebo effect. It's from British physiologist Patrick Wall, one of the world's leading experts on the use of the placebo.

"[In regard to the varying effectiveness of different kinds of placebos], capsules containing colored beads are more effective than colored tablets, which are superior to white tablets with corners, which are better than round white tablets. Beyond this, intramuscular saline injections are superior to any tablet but inferior to intravenous injections. Tablets taken from a bottle labeled with a well-known brand name are superior to the same tablets taken from a bottle with a typed label. My favorite is a doctor who always handled placebo tablets with forceps, assuring the patient that they were too powerful to be touched by hand."
(From The Science of Consciousness, edited by Max Velmans, p. 168.)

From: Christian Treczoks (ctATbraehler.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--placebo

When I was working in hospital, they had a bottle of those sugar pills in the nurses room for those who requested something to sleep. The bottle was labeled "Placebo Forte +C" (although it did not contain vitamin C as the name would suggest).

From: Fern B. Slack (fslackATcatclinic.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--placebo

Being a veterinarian as well as an English major and an amateur etymologist, I have always been amused by the obfuscation employed by the medical profession in our lingo. This week's words have been wonderful so far; as it happens, you've touched on two of my three favorites.

My vote for the three best medical words: Nosocomial, idiopathic (these are the two you touched on), and (I SO hope you are going to do this one!) IATROGENIC.

The connecting theme is that all three words avoid accountability by applying an official-sounding label to a problem which is either the fault of the medical caretaker, or not identifiable.

From: Elisabeth Diot-Bilien (elisabethbilienATvoila.fr)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--nyctalopia

How weird it was for me to read the English definition of nyctalopia which happens to be the exact opposite of its French meaning. In French, cats and owls are "nyctalopes"! I've always loved that word and I ran to my French dictionary to see if I had not always been wrong about it! (so bad to mislead oneself about something/one you love!) But no, that's it, English & French ARE different! Poor translaters!

Bye and encore mille mercis!
Shouldn't send you any French kiss, should I? ;-)

From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Subject: Guinea Gold

November 19 will be the 60th anniversary of the first issue of Guinea Gold, a newspaper read by thousands of US and Australian servicemen in the New Guinea jungle in World War II.

It is with words as with sunbeams, the more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. -Robert Southey (1774-1843)

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