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AWADmail Issue 92

June 22, 2003

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

From: Leslie Paul Davies (w2syfATmsn.com)
Subject: Anent: Or perspiration vs. sweat (re: meed)

Well, I do declare! Suh, many a Southern Gentleman would find the suggested synonymity strained. Mark the adage: Horses sweat, Men perspire, Ladies glow.

From: Joe Chapline (joechapATsrnet.com)
Subject: English versus Latin

I've heard the dictum: if you wish to write a law or contract that can be contested and argued, do it in Latinate words (lawyers love their Latin); if you want the contract to be incontestable, write it in Anglo-Saxon. A handshake is still the simplest contract there is.

Finally, when we speak of delicate matters--matters that we are shy about discussing--we're always safe in our shyness by using words with Latin origins--as does the doctor; when we want to be bawdy, we use the brilliantly clear and easily understood Anglo-Saxon words. Good for Old English, it serves a major function in human interchange of ideas.

From: David Fink (dfinkATfujitsugeneral.com)
Subject: Great topic for this week!

I agree that old English words are much more direct. They get the job done. I'm reminded of Winston Churchill's 1941 Dunkirk speech. When he had to rally a nation of English speaking people, he told them:

"We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields, and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender!"

His brilliant use of 32 one- or two-syllable Old English words (and ending with a three-syllable "foreign" word - linking it to a alien choice) inspired these English-speaking listeners. Would a watered-down, Latinized "We will prosecute the hostilities in the perimeter transitional areas, in the agricultural regions, in the urban zones, and at higher elevations. We will engage in no form of capitulation." have inspired so many?

From: Melody Friedenthal (melody.friedenthalATpfpc.com)
Subject: Anglo-Saxon words

As a kid I learned that the words we have for barn-yard animals were Anglo-Saxon words: cow, pig, sheep (representing work for native Anglo-Saxon peasantry), while the words for the food they gave us had their origins in the medieval French the peasants' Norman lords brought over when they conquered England in 1066: veal and beef, pork, mutton.

From: Carolyn Nelson (carolyn.nelsonATmckesson.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--meed

Your introduction this week reminded me of something an acting teacher once told our class. She said that although we have the French influence in our language because of the Norman invasion, we are Anglo-Saxon at the core viz. when we are drowning we don't yell "Aid!", we yell "Help!".

From: Stephen Lehman (lehmansATmindspring.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--meed

Thank you for your excellent service. I was reminded today of the directness and brevity of the words from Old English when cut off in traffic. I was going to say by an egregiously bad driver, but then I realized the driver was just vile. And while I am not certain that vile is from Old English, the various terms I shouted at him were, consisting of simple short direct words related to waste matter and bodily functions, combined with the word for what is considered the seat of reason and or expression. Sometimes when confronted (I should say FACED) with a really bad example (I should say CASE) of bad driving, it's both natural and in the short term, rewarding to shout out "you ****head" or other variations. Then, assuming that said person has not caused an accident, one goes back to one's driving, reminded of sad truth that not everyone is as perfect as we are.

From: Bud Altarelli (buddystm50ATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--meed

The St. Thomas More High School in Philadelphia, Pa. closed in 1975. Yet, 4500 alumni still remain faithful to its memory and thousands gather each year in a passionate reunion. My job is to print out copies of our Alma Mater's beautiful song. But on my computer, spellchecker always notes as incorrect one word in the opening line that reads,
"To spread Alma Mater's glory, to grant her a meed of praise..."

I could not find a definition of that word that made sense to me in the song's context until today. I am most grateful to you for solving my little mystery.

From: Marie Hendrick (mhendrickATbe.tiscali.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--lief

Lief is still nowadays very much used in Dutch with the same meaning.

Mijn lief(je) = my dear
Lieve mama = Dear mother

From Belgium where we speak French, Dutch and German (an interesting mix ;-)

From: Ramaswamy R. Iyer (ramaswamATdel3.vsnl.net.in)
Subject: Latin and Anglo Saxon words

You said, "You won't find words like 'facilitate' in many poems."

Is that true? What about `multitudinous', `incarnadine', `extenuate', `flattering unction', to mention a few random examples from Shakespeare; `sempiternal', `peregrine', `laceration', `haruspicate', `valediction' (Eliot), and so on. Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Greek or French, formal or colloquial, dignified or coarse, all words are grist to the poetic mill. The question is what fits a particular context or a particular purpose.

From: George Liles (george.lilesATnoaa.gov)
Subject: fain

I don't know who wrote this, but I heard it 40-some years ago as a junior high school student in suburban New York. It was my first contact with the word "fain":

(by John Raymond Carson)
Scintillate, scintillate
Globule lucific
Fain would I fathom
Thy nature specific
Loftily perched
In the ether capacious
Strongly resembling
A gem carbonaceous.

I recently shared it with my 4th grade son, and he recited it at school where no one, including his teacher, recognized it for what it is -- a jargony version of Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.

From: James Dignan (grutnessATsurf4nix.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fen

This word has another, unofficial use. Within certain types of fan organisations - particularly science fiction clubs - 'fen' is used as a slang plural of 'fan' (by extension, presumably, from Germanic constructions like man/men, woman/women).

So if you are at a science fiction convention and are told that 'the fen have gathered at the fen', you will find all the fans down by the swamp.

From: Hilde Doherty (hilde.dohertyATcendantmobility.com)
Subject: Fen

It is quite customary to associate the word "fen" with the Netherlands. After all, most of the area of that tiny country lies below sea level. Interesting to me, as a Dutch-American, is that the word for bog or peat bog in Dutch is "veen" (pronounced "vane"). Fen and veen appear to come from the same root. A fairly common surname in the Netherlands and my mother's maiden name is Hoogeveen, or "high bog", which seems a bit like an oxymoron!

From: Rick Hansen (rhansenATnetegrity.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fen

The most famous fen of course being Boston's Fenway, home of baseball's Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Frederick Law Olmstead designed our Emerald Necklace series of parks, which includes the Fenway (although Fenway Park is a stadium, not really a "public park"). This area was originally a tidal mud flat until they dammed up the mouth of the Charles River (and then filled in the Back Bay to create the only neighborhood in Boston with orderly streets). The tallest building in Boston, the John Hancock building, is built on ground that was formerly under water. The whole city of Boston was on a tiny spit of land 200 years ago. Most hills were cut down for land fill, except for Beacon Hill, which is the "toniest" neighborhood of all.

From: Carolyn Swanson (cjs1ATnrc.gov)
Subject: About your week of words typed with all fingers (Re: AWADmail Issue 91)

Words that alternate the fingers of two hands to type them: "enchantment" and "authenticity" are the longest ones I've been able to come up with during several decades of qwerty-keyboarding.

From: Karle Schlieff (karle.schlieffATanalog.com)
Subject: Re: AWADmail 91


What an arbitrary 'category' for words. How geeky! How dweebish ...and wrong!

I tried typing out each of these words and only used a total of 4 fingers (well actually two fingers and two thumbs)

I suspect this weak stratification, this so-called 'word category', is predicated on some crazy notion of 'a standardized method of typing' !Please!

Future Categories for your approval:

  • Words, when written in cursive and following the Holt-Reinhart method, never require the diarist to lift her pen.
  • Words that can be made with a standard set of children's wooden blocks.
  • Words that use the most ink (i.e. very dense, lots of Ws and Ms and few Is).
  • Words shared by mathematicians and beauticians that do not carry the same meaning.
  • Made up words, i.e. mining the rich vein of sniglets.
  • Words that only 'typing snobs' would appreciate (sorry! this one has already been used).
Now that I have that out of my system! Thanks for the all work you do to get this daily email project chuggin' along smoothly!

From: Mark Denny (mwdennyATstanford.edu)
Subject: There's no word for it?

My daughter (a student at Stanford) recently raised a question regarding the English language that her colleagues and professors couldn't answer, and it has me stumped as well: When you give someone something to eat, you feed them. When you give someone something to drink you ___ them. What is the appropriate word?

    Many other languages have words to differentiate the two, e.g. the Hindi "khilana" (to give something to eat), and "pilana" (to give something to drink). In English, "feed" serves both purposes, as in, "feeding milk to a child". But if you really want a separate term, the closest might be "libate" (to pour out wine in honor of a god). Perhaps you can try extending its meaning and use it generically. -Anu

Words are like money; there is nothing so useless, unless when in actual use. -Samuel Butler, writer (1835-1902)

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