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Oct 6, 2019
This week’s theme
There’s a word for it

This week’s words
thinko
besaiel
apophenia
anacoluthon
delphinestrian

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

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Next week’s theme
Pessimists and optimists from fiction who became words

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AWADmail Issue 901

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

Sponsor’s Message: We’ve finally become our own worst nightmare: a sell-out. Large anonymous corporation gets wind of One Up! -- The Wicked/Smart Word Game and wants to license it worldwide. We say sure, why not? Creativity, principles, artistic integrity, success on our own terms? Right out the window at the first sign of cash we’re happy to say. Seriously, we’re offering all AWADers, including Email of the Week winner, Judson Stailey (see below), 50% OFF our Special Dark Edition, while supplies last. Once this limited and lovely version of our best-selling cutthroat IQ contest is gone, it’s gone forever. So, smarten up (on the cheap) RIGHT AWAY >



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

I Worked for Both Obama and Trump. Here’s What Their Language Says About Their Presidencies.
The Washington Post
Permalink

Jane Eyre Translated: 57 Languages Show How Different Cultures Interpret Charlotte Brontë’s Classic Novel
The Conversation
Permalink

Brexitspeak Growing Too Fast for Public to Keep Up, Say Experts
The Guardian
Permalink



From: Glenna Ellsworth (glsworth gmail.com)
Subject: chair socks

I lived in Tokyo for 17 years (1990-2007), teaching English. The katakana description is Romanized as “chea sokkusu”. Chair socks are protective covers for chairs that scrape linoleum or tile flooring. They are useful year-round. Over time, the round knobs affixed to the bottom of chair legs may pick up dirt that scratches or mars tile surfaces, especially when the legs scrape across the floor.

Many chairs have black or dark brown-tipped plastic covers (as the picture shows) that over time also pick up floor debris that digs into softer surfaces. These socks could also be attached to chair/table legs in carpeted areas to help slide the table/chair to a different area. I bought a pair for the kitchen chair in my small apartment. The stretchy ribbing did not hold very well because the legs were too narrow to cling when the chair was moved, usually while still sitting in the chair.

In the United States, such useful items are often left plain. The pictured socks are a good example of the Japanese tendency to decorate such items, leaving an unspoken message that there is a front-back to the item if the owner cares one way or another. (Or those with OCD are paying attention to such details.)

Glenna Ellsworth, Mesa, Arizona



From: Corrie Verbaan (trips iafrica.com)
Subject: chair socks?

Chair socks? Almost as bad as the 19th c. puritans who couldn’t stand bare/suggestive table legs so clad them in stockings. [Also see this]

Corrie Verbaan, Durban, South Africa



From: Uttam Khatri (uttam.khatri gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--thinko

chair shoe
When I read the introduction to this week’s words, I asked my father if he had heard of chair socks. To which he said no. He sold what he called chair shoes, not chair socks, for 30 long years in the streets of Sitabuldi, Nagpur, Maharashtra, India, to make a living and educate us. These shoes are made of rubber or fibre, and put on the legs of chairs or cots to reduce noise.

It’s now good to hear stories from him of old times about different varieties of these furniture shoes and his customers.

Uttam Khatri, Chennai, India



From: Tom Baitz (baitz.thomas hotmail.com)
Subject: My thinko

At a restaurant I ordered a meat dish. The server asked and what side? Left or right -- doesn’t matter. He meant asking what side order I would like.

Tom Baitz, Cornwall, Canada



From: Annette Battan (abbattan gmail.com)
Subject: Thinko

Thinko is the new brain fart.

Annette Battan, Morrison, Colorado



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

I refer to a handwriting error as a writo. (I have little hope that this is original.) When I’m writing, people in the vicinity wonder why I agree with myself out loud in such a disagreeable tone.

David Franks, Fayetteville, Arkansas



From: Elizabeth Whitt (ladylyzbeth gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--thinko

I am curious whether thinko covers speaking as well. When your messy thinking comes out of your mouth, is it still a thinko? Or maybe a speako? Speako would also cover times when you really aren’t thinking at all and realize what you just said sounded much better in your head or was something that shouldn’t be said at all!

Elizabeth Whitt, Charlotte, North Carolina



From: Charl Phillips (wyzard56 gmail.com)
Subject: Thinko

I suggest grammo to go with typo, for written mistakes in grammar. Indie publishing has produced a flood of poorly edited books, full of typos and grammos.

Charl Phillips, El Cajon, California



Email of the Week brought to you by One Up! -- Play mind games on the cheap NOW >

From: Judson Stailey (jud.stailey gmail.com)
Subject: Undocumented earlier use of “thinko”

When I was a grad student at MIT in the mid 1970s, one of my professors handed out copies of a paper he had published some time earlier. I won’t go into detail on the subject matter, but it was filled with equations, some of which had pencil annotations correcting errors that had slipped through before publication. He offered a reward to anyone who could find other errors in the equations. As I was reading through the text, I found an error where he had reversed a consequence of some phenomenon (e.g., if X happens storm gets stronger; if Y happens it gets weaker). When I pointed out the error, I respectfully suggested that it was a typo. He responded, “No, that was more of a thinko,” pausing before “thinko” to come up with the right word. I think he coined it on the spot to contrast to my reference to the error as a typo.

This occurred in late 1976 or early 1977, and the professor was Dr. Fred Sanders, who taught synoptic meteorology and was one of the giants in meteorology at the time. It was a privilege learning from him.

Jud Stailey, SM, Meteorology MIT ’78, Silver Spring, Maryland



From: Emma Smith (cultjunkie aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--thinko - Thought for today : Neutrality (and the BBC)

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. -Elie Wiesel, writer, Nobel laureate (30 Sep 1928-2016)

Your Thought for Today in today’s email really spoke to me.

I have been reading over the last few days about the censure by the ECU (Executive Complaints Unit) of BBC journalist Naga Munchetty for her personal comments in the days after the Trump “Go Home” comments.

Encouraged and interrogated by her (white male) co-host, Naga responded to the news story, giving personal examples of times in her life, she, as a woman of colour, had been told to “Go home”, and that it had always been “embedded in racism”. The pair discussed the impact Trump could have by writing such comments, and the encouragement it could give to others by condoning such language.

Now, several weeks later, the organisation has responded to a viewer complaint that Naga had breached the impartiality rules of the BBC by giving her personal “opinion”. Her white male co-host, Dan Walker, despite being mentioned in the initial complain ... received no censure.

Many UK politicians and celebrities (including Piers Morgan, in a rare fit of insight) have decried this as disgusting. BBC journalists are supposed to hold up to ideals of impartiality ... but ... what the BBC fail to understand is that there comes a point when a fact is a fact, and the comments by Trump were textbook racism. Saying someone is not as much a true citizen of your country as you, simply because of the colour of their skin ... is racism ... And no one should be expected to be “impartial” on the subject of condoning racism.

The silence that the ECU seems to be promoting would indeed “benefit the oppressor”.

Emma Smith, London, UK



From: Steven A. Ludsin (ludsin gmail.com)
Subject: Elie Wiesel

I was touched by the thought for today from Elie Wiesel. We are in turbulent times regarding the political divisions. We can’t remain silent in the face of some of the rhetoric. I served with Elie Wiesel on the President’s Commission on the Holocaust and the first US Holocaust Memorial Council that created the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. Words lead to consequences and Elie Wiesel knew that firsthand after surviving Auschwitz.

Steven A. Ludsin, New York, New York



From: Brian Turner (brian.turner health.wa.gov.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--besaiel

You wrote: “A grandfather is an aiel, a great-grandfather a besaiel, a great-great-grandfather a tresaiel. Now that you know the pattern, feel free to coin words beyond your grandfather’s grandfather. Also, now that you know what to call them, who’s your besaiel?”

Technically, you have four besaiels. Mine are: John Frederick Turner, Alfred Stonestreet, Henry Bull, and Thomas Harrison.

Brian Turner, Perth, Australia



From: Audie Finnell (via website comments)
Subject: besaiel

“Now that you know the pattern, feel free to coin words beyond your grandfather’s grandfather.”

Challenge accepted. My googolplexaiel: Adam.

Audie Finnell



From: Katherine Nobles (klnobles gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--besaiel

In Spanish, bis is still the standard prefix for this. Bisabuelo, great-grandfather.

Katherine Nobles, Stafford, Virginia



From: Rose-Marie Ullman (rosmari operamail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--besaiel

As a native French speaker, I remember distinctly hearing (and perhaps using) the words aïeul and bïsaieul for grandfather and great-grandfather (aïeule and bïsaieule, grandmother and great-grandmother).

Rose-Marie Ullman, San Francisco, California



From: Sue Webster (sueweb42 gmail.com)
Subject: besaiel

In Italian, grandfather is nonno and great-grandfather is bisnonno.

Sue Webster, Ardea, Italy



From: Robert Burns (robertburns oblaw.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--besaiel

This word is clearly obsolete. I have practiced law over 39 years and genealogy even longer without ever hearing it. The mention of ancient royalty in a 20th-century law review is a dead giveaway. That will be a $500 fine payable forthwith.

Robert Burns, Ocean Beach, California



From: Glenn Glazer (gglazer ucla.edu)
Subject: apophenia

Not having known this word before, I sometimes described it as “Reading between the lines on a blank piece of paper.”

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California



From: Bob Wilson (wilson math.wisc.edu)
Subject: apophenia

I can never think of this phenomenon without recognizing it in Percival Lowell’s belief in canals on Mars. An image just sharp enough to see some surface detail, but not enough to resolve what we now see through our Mars Rovers, leads to our visual systems “filling in the dotted lines” to become canals.

Bob Wilson, Oregon, Wisconsin



From: Richard S. Russell (RichardSRussell tds.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--apophenia

This is a term of considerable interest not only to psychologists but also to atheists and skeptics, since it explains a lot of supposed “miracles”. It’s the broader of two closely related terms:

Pareidolia is the tendency to interpret a vague stimulus as something known to the observer, such as interpreting marks on Mars as canals, seeing shapes in clouds, or hearing hidden messages in reversed music. The best-known example of pareidolia is perceptions of Jesus or Mary in weather stains or fried food. The most humorous is Michael Perry’s The Jesus Cow: A Novel.

It is a subset of apophenia, the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness of unrelated phenomena -- such as finding significance in such random things as automobile license plate numbers, birthdates, and arrangements of fallen twigs -- perhaps best exemplified by the film A Beautiful Mind.

And these have an evolutionary explanation:

Three million years ago, the australopithecines Lug and Wug are walking across the African veldt when there’s a rustling in the tall grass. Lug thinks “it’s a lion” and runs off screaming. Wug thinks “it’s the wind” and laughs at Lug. Same thing happens another 98 times. Then, on the 100th occasion, it really IS a lion. Wug (whose skepticism has been absolutely justified so far) becomes lunch, but Lug gets to pass his pattern-recognition gene on to the next generation, along with a dread-inspiring cautionary tale.

Thus our predisposition to see things, patterns, and especially living beings that aren’t really there, a tendency I call the “secret-agent theory”. In more dangerous ancient times it was better to be safe than sorry, and that’s the biology we organic humans have inherited.*
*It may take awhile for our cybernetic offspring to catch up.

Richard S. Russell, Madison, Wisconsin



From: Bob Richmond (rsrichmond gmail.com)
Subject: apophenia

Human vision is also extraordinarily good at finding patterns that ARE there.

Two examples come to mind. A random number generating routine can be tested by having it plot large numbers of random dots on a screen. If your eye can see faint stripes in the plot, then the numbers that are placing the dots aren’t really random.

In interpreting gel electrophoretic patterns, one often has the experience of seeing very faint -- and clinically significant -- bands that the densitometer doesn’t see at all.

Bob Richmond, Maryville, Tennessee



From: David Warner (illahabadi hotmail.com)
Subject: anacoluthon

Another way of saying this word is “thought stuttering”.

David Warner, Portland, Oregon



From: Bryan Todd (boyanlj gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--anacoluthon

From one of my favorite old comedy teams: “I shop at the Bob and Ray Giant Overstocked Surplus Warehouse in one convenient location and save money besides being open every evening until 9.”

Bryan Todd, Lincoln, Nebraska



From: Jim Hayes (logoagogo comcast.net)
Subject: anacoluthon

Today’s word caught my eye because I’ve seen it before -- as one of the many colorful swear words hurled at antagonists by Captain Haddock in Hergé Tintin comics (Crab with the Golden Claws). The captain’s curses might make a good topic for a week and could include “pithecanthropus”, “bashi-bazouk”, “coelacanth”, and, of course, “vegetarian”.

Jim Hayes, Salt Lake City, Utah



From: April Gornik (artnik optonline.net)
Subject: Delphinestrian

A resounding yes to your “no” captioning the hideous dolphin-riding photo.

But a resounding no to your “yes” for the plastic inflatable dolphin toy, unless that’s biodegradable plastic? More plastic in our landfills and oceans we don’t need!

April Gornik, North Haven, New York



From: Mary Helen Espinosa (maryhelen.espinosa usa.net)
Subject: Delphinestrian

So happy to see its usage from 1822 and not recent. And this word, on Oct 4, Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, patron saint of all animals!

Mary Helen Espinosa, Managua, Nicaragua



From: Doug Hughes (doug will.to)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--delphinestrian

There really is an inflatable version of almost anything.

Doug Hughes, Pipersville, Pennsylvania



From: Steve Benko (stevebenko1 gmail.com)
Subject: Sentient beings

With regard to riding sentient beings, please don’t eat them either! I highly recommend a new PBS documentary, Octopus: Making Contact on the network’s Nature series.

Steve Benko, New York, New York



From: M Henri Day (mhenriday gmail.com)
Subject: Rutherford B. Hayes’s thought

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
He serves his party best who serves the country best. -Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th US president (4 Oct 1822-1893)

Rutherford Birchard Hayes served his party and his country best by cutting a deal to become US president after losing the popular vote to Samuel Tilden in the election of 1876 in return for putting an end to a decade of Reconstruction and thus removing the protections for the rights of the black inhabitants of the US South who were freed as a consequence of that country’s Civil War.

M Henri Day, Stockholm, Sweden



From: Michael Barr (barr math.mcgill.ca)
Subject: Rutherford B. Hayes

Today’s thought for the day is outrageous. Rutherford B. Hayes is the man who gained the presidency by promising to end reconstruction. This led to the heavily segregated south, ending voting rights for blacks and all those ills that are still with us. Shame!

Michael Barr, Montreal, Canada



From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: chair socks and anacoluthon

Chair socks
Inspired by the intro to this week’s “There’s a word for it” word-theme regarding the novel notion of “chair socks”, I came up with this fanciful ditty, expanding the repertoire of the niche category of furniture footwear, namely, “table boots”... galoshes made for table “feet”... and not for walkin’. Not only would my proposed gumboots prevent skid and scratch marks on pristine hardwood floors, but in flood-prone regions might just keep tables high-and-dry. OK. Admittedly, that was a bit if a stretch there. Hmm... on second thought, perchance panty hose for pianos might be a possibility? That concept could well have legs... or NOT!

Anacoluthon
Donald Trump could be the poster boy for our word anacoluthon, in light of his penchant, while spewing his rambling, unfiltered rhetoric, for shooting from “the lip”, following one hyperbolically-infused declaration with an unrelated, off-topic boast. Sprinkled within his demagogic rambles, he’ll offer up a few verbal stumbles and the occasional slurring of words (not necessarily of the character-bashing kind), thus confirming that the Donald often speaks before he thinks, leaving many in his audiences dazed and confused. Here, in my White House/West Lawn cartoon scenario, Trump delivers one of his sudden mid-sentence train of thought shifts, from praising his sycophantic enablers McConnell, Giuliani, and Barr, then segueing into a subject likely more dear to his heart... his voracious appetite for fatty and salty fast-food. Rumor has it that he’s never met a burger he didn’t like.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California



From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words

 
There’s a word for it:
1. thinko
2. besaiel
3. apophenia
4. anacoluthon
5. delphinestrian
=
1. whoopsie
2. father’s kin
3. nice hare shape
4. all about attention
5. rider on a dolphin
     There’s a word for it
1. thinko
2. besaiel
3. apophenia
4. anacoluthon
5. delphinestrian
=
1. oh-oh, brain fart
2. he is one antecedent
3. pareidolia
4. with no link to phrases
5. Palu
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)



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

There are days when I must be alone,
And go off just to be on my own.
To ward off the thinkos
I sit under gingkos
(And turn off my cellular phone!).
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“Your misnomer,” says he, “doesn’t suit!
I resent being called an old coot!”
Says she, with a wink, “Oh,
‘twas only a thinko.
I meant to describe you as cute!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

For those few who are well in the know,
Tossing out the impressive bon mot,
Watch your step when you speak,
‘Cause your case becomes weak,
When you throw in a sudden thinko.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

She felt stymied and at her wit’s end,
For she couldn’t her limericks mend.
Scores of thinkos she patched,
But the rhymes then mismatched,
And she scrapped the whole lot that weekend.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

Some dumb things I’ve said in my day --
Embarrassing thinkos were they.
Each time that I goof
I fear that it’s proof
I’m losing my matter that’s gray.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

His hangover sure was a doozy.
He had done something stupid while boozy --
committed a thinko
because he got stinko.
His pals forgave him. They’re not choosy.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Said the herbalist, “Sir, with this gingko,
No more gaffes will there be, nor a thinko.”
“Many thanks,” answered Biden,
“My mind may be slidin’,
But Sanders and Warren are pinko.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


On our sloop I advised my besaiel,
“With this wind I shall hoist the trysail.’
He replied, “It’s too cold!
I’m a hundred years old.
Let’s make port and go have a nice ale.”
-Claude Galinsky, Boxborough, Massachusetts (cmgalinsky gmail.com)

Your aiel and besaiel and tresaiel
Give your family tree roots without faiel.
Was there one family member
I didn’t remember?
Forgive me, I meant no betraiel!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

He examines the picture, cries, “Nah,
that cannot be my granddaddy’s pa!
My noble besaiel,
Unlike this portrayal,
would never have looked so bourgeois!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

A “Wolfsheimer” was my besaiel --
His name was quite grand in its scale.
My Dad cut it short,
And I can report
Wolf’s nice and concise with no tail.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Said an oyster one day to a snail,
“Darwin claims that we share a besaiel.”
The surprised gastropod
Answered, “That’s truly odd,
For I see, but you have to read braille.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The man in the moon I can see;
His face is as clear as can be.
Apophenia’s why
When I look in the sky,
This gentleman’s looking at me.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Dear Donald, you seem in a tizzy,
Pretending you’re able and busy.
Like Schrodinger’s cat
We’re not sure where you’re at;
Apophenia, sir, makes us dizzy.
-Gayle Tremblay, Saint John, Canada (gayletremblay hotmail.com)

Said Melania, “Dear, in Slovenia,
Ze reporters had no apophenia.
Here zey say you’ve been plotting;
Your brain is just clotting!
Eez zat vhy zey’re called Lamestream Media?”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


The Moron-In-Chief’s elocution
Is rife with weird anacoluthon.
He can’t finish a thought,
But thank god he’s been caught,
For the White House could use an ablution.
-Claude Galinsky, Boxborough, Massachusetts (cmgalinsky gmail.com)

The spelling bee whiz hitherto
had aced ev’ry word that he drew.
But “anacoluthon”?
He answered, “Forsooth, on
my honor, I haven’t a clue!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

An anacoluthon you’ll hear
When speakers abruptly change gear.
They’re heading one way --
Then, oh, what the hay? --
A different thought will appear.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

There’s no subject he’s telling the truth on.
Every utterance -- anacoluthon!
His thought process can’t trace.
He’s all over the place
and his tweets he is always uncouth on.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

Now the President does ramble on.
He’s the master of anacoluthon.
We can always depend,
His start won’t match his end.
A sure sign that his reason is gone.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Politicians each day put a suit on
To fool us with anacoluthon.
“Tax less and spend more
To on debt close the door!”
They proclaim, but there’s no free-lunch coupon.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“My girlfriend’s a mermaid, a source
of delight,” says the sailor. “Of course,
she’s a fine delphinestrian.
Would be equestrian,
too, if she caught a seahorse.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

A young fellow who studied at Wesleyan
Was the college’s finest new thespian.
Then he went on a trip,
Met a dolphin named Flip,
So, he’s now a renowned delphinestrian.
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

Delphinestrians grab on a fin
And take Flipper around for a spin.
It sure looks like fun
For when they are done,
All the parties concerned wear a grin.*
(*not an endorsement of this activity)
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

“I no longer permit delphinestrians,”
Said Flipper, “You’re all now pedestrians.
And this TV show sucks;
Though you’re paid the big bucks,
The sad truth is you’re nothing as thespians.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)



From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Here’s a weird for it

The Parisian waiter asked, “And to drink?” I replied, “I thinko.”

When my great-grandpa Robert chewed me out, mom said, “Don’t let Bob besaiel you like that!”

As his smartphone rapidly beeped random tones, the teen said, “Does this apophenia?”

The Houth ought to impeach Trump for incompetenth anacoluthon with Putin.

To track her fertile days the woman used her delphinestrian check. (Dell-for-an-estrian... sorry.)

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma



A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy. -George H. Lorimer, editor (6 Oct 1867-1937)

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