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AWADmail Issue 118

April 10, 2004

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: Interesting stories from the net

Draining the Language out of Color:
Scientific American

Life Among the Lexicographers:
Humanitis Magazine

Selecting a Dictionary:
New York Times


From: Irene (imicrosATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--amicus curiae

Be sure you include pro bono in your word a day. Many lawyers do a great deal of pro bono work, but you never hear about it. Lawyer bashing seems to take precedent over praising and thanking the legal profession for the many good things they do and the problems that they solve.

I take issue with your comment, "May you never have to consult a lawyer". They do a great service for people and are needed to plan your estate correctly, purchase/sell your home and a myriad of other things. That is like saying, "May you never have to go to the doctor".


From: John Kidwell (jkidwellATwisc.edu)
Subject: forma pauperis

Ambrose Bierce turned his attention to defining "forma pauperis". The last line of the poem depends on the reader realizing that a plaintiff is "nonsuited" when his or her complaint is dismissed on the ground that it fails to assert facts which justify relief. Bierce wrote:

Forma pauperis: in the character of a poor person. A method by which a litigant without money for lawyers is considerately permitted to lose his case.

When Adam long ago in Cupid's awful court
(for Cupid ruled ere Adam was invented)
Sued for Eve's favor, says an ancient law report,
He stood and pleaded unhabilimented.
"You sue in forma pauperis, I see" Eve cried:
"Actions can't here be that way prosecuted."
So all poor Adam's motions coldly were denied:
He went away -- as he had come -- nonsuited.


From: Pete Morelewicz (pmorelewATwashcp.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--champerty

In my naivete, I thought we already had a term to describe someone whose purpose is "aiding in a lawsuit in return for a share in the proceeds": ambulance-chaser.


From: Nolan Beudeker (nolanATc4consulting.co.za)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bushwa

Today's word completely floored me! At high school I developed the philosophy to rather be very wrong than partially right, and I applied this philosophy with great abandon in tests. A spelling test back then required us to spell the word bourgeois, which I had no clue how to do - at the time! So applying my "rather very wrong" philosophy I wrote 'bushwa'! How surprised am I to discover that not only is this a real word but that its origins may be as a result of some other person's "rather very wrong" philosophy!!


From: Tor Olav Austigard (austigardAThotmail.com)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--bushwa

'Bushwa' is of uncertain origin you say. Funny, in Japanese 'wa' means speech, and 'Bush' is also the name of a president.

Tor Olav Austigard, Tokyo, Japan


From: David A. Tozier (wryrytrATjuno.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--resistentialism

I used to be affiliated with a couple of skeptical societies. Even though I'm not nearly as cynical as are their founders, I've had more than enough exposure to the Scientific Method, Classical Logic and Statistical Methodology to doubt the validity of the clinical findings regarding resistentialism ("The theory that inanimate objects demonstrate hostile behavior against us")!


From: Elizabeth Soderberg (esoderbergATrock.k12.nc.us)
Subject: resistentialism

From a nearly forgotten s-f story, of the we've-explored-the-entire-universe genre. It seems that humanity has found a culture that has NO religion. All others have had some kind of belief in a higher power, but a distant race of humanoids has none. Except, they do have an unshakeable belief in the fact that all the objects of the material world hate them. This is the extent of their religious thought. I've always loved that concept, and today's word.


From: Jean Galt (pjeangATsympatico.ca)
Subject: resistentialism

My father had a phrase for this phenomenon: "The perversity of inanimate objects"!


From: Shirley Rivera (shirley_riveraATmac.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--resistentialism

Thank you! I can use one word - resistentialism - to describe the "office equipment mutiny event" (OEME) I experience on those special days when I must meet a project deadline.

Now if I could just figure out which equipment typically leads the "mutiny" - computer, copier, printer, or maybe the stapler?


From: Robert Julia (juliarATnhlbi.nih.gov)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--resistentialism

Over many years, I have observed that my stapler never runs out of staples except when I need to use it.


From: Emily Rohrer (eclaireATmetbymail.com)
Subject: resistentialism

A ha! As a military wife, I have long wondered why previously problem-free objects throw wild tantrums the moment my husband steps out the door for a deployment. Now I know. They really do wait for the most opportune moment (theirs, not mine) to malfunction royally. This is such a well-known and widespread phenomena among military spouses that when my garbage disposal clogged recently -- while my husband was in fact home to witness it -- all we could do was stare at it, then at each other in disbelief before I screeched, "But you're still home," at the same time Tim muttered, "But I'm still home." Best we can figure, the disposal had the date wrong. Tim was due to ship out the following morning.

Thanks for the best word ever!


From: John Matthiessen (jmatthiessenATtnc.org)
Subject: resistentialism

I certainly subscribe to the theory of resistentialism, which was perfectly summarized by Russell Baker: "The goal of all inanimate objects is to resist man and ultimately defeat him."

I direct all doubters of this theory to the nearest roll of packing tape.


From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr. (rrosenbergsrATaccuratechemical.com)
Subject: Revengism

I own an antique Mercedes-Benz that gives me a lot of pride and pleasure. I am also a Holocaust survivor.

Now and then, when I least expect it, my MB will trip me or conk me on the head.

Is that Resistentialism of Revengism?

Or is the fact that I own the Mercedes-Benz my own Revengism?


From: William M. Akers (willATwillakers.com)
Subject: technology smells fear

I teach at Vanderbilt University. At the top of all my syllabi is my quote -- Technology smells fear.

I didn't know there was a word for this phenomenon, and am delighted to find I am not alone in the world. I tell my students that, the closer the deadline, and the more important whatever it is you are working on, the harder the machine will bite you.


From: Steve Taub (staubATgmu.edu)
Subject: resistentialism

My wife, Jeanne, points out that there's a corollary to the law of resistentialism: "Do not criticize a new appliance in its presence."


From: Steven T Patterson (pattersonsATallentownsd.org)
Subject: resistentialism

This word reminded me of "A Thing About Machines" (first aired on October 28, 1960, on The Twilight Zone), wherein resistentialism reaches its ultimate conclusion in the death of Bartlett Finchley. Other stories of the times echo the same paranoia. Descendants like Terminator and the Matrix, owe a debt, not only to this, and other Atomic-Age stories, like the Forbin Project, but to innumerable daemon-inspired tales like the "Wonderful Lamp". Our predisposition to create tales predicated on animism seems to me to have its roots in associating objects with events (memorabilia), then assigning value to them. Ultimately, we come to fear the power of the things we cherish, perhaps because we realize they can be used against us. The only escape from that fear is to cease craving things - a long road for those of us raised in the most materialistic culture on earth.


From: James Bauman (james.baumanATsafety-kleen.com)
Subject: resistentialism

My older daughter who's in high school asked if there's a word for the opposite theory that inanimate objects exhibit friendly and generous behavior to us. Her example was a juice machine at school that often gives her two juices for the price of one. Is there a word like let's say co-opstentialism?


From: Michelle Myers Ernst (mernstATsun.iwu.edu)
Subject: the "fathering" of words

I really enjoy A.Word.A.Day.

Troubled, though by the use of the term "fathered". As someone who clearly knows that words have impact, I wonder why the sexist language? I suspect there is some historical reason, but if history is, in part, sexist, should we promote that language. As a professor of psychology, I am familiar with research studies that provide evidence that sexist language can, in fact, affect thinking. For example, when the male pronoun "he" is used in place of "he or she" in a paragraph describing psychology as a career, both male and female research participants rate psychology as a career more favorable for men.


From: John A. Hudspeth (johnahATamaonoline.com)
Subject: regarding gadzookery example

In getting my masters in English literature before 1700 (the period of the topical study, not the actual date of my college career, although it seems that long ago), I acquired a lot of peculiar trivial knowledge.

This example brought back a little of the trivial knowledge. The use of "ye" for "the" is a misunderstanding of the old spelling of "the" using the antiquated "eth" (the symbol for the vocalized "th" sound). The eth appears to be a lower case y, however, reversing the line and stroke. For example, we read it as "ye olde shoppe", but it would have actually read "the olde shoppe". Middle English had several letters missing in our modern alphabet.


From: Siobhan O'Malley (si0bhannAThotmail.com)
Subject: Re: gadzookery

Ye is by no means an archaic word in Ireland - we use it every day, it is our version of the collective you, maybe stemming from our sense of community, and not focusing on individuality, who knows?


From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cock-a-hoop

I'm cock-a-hoop because I think I now know why the letters forming the word TYPEWRITER are all on the same line of most typewriters and computer keyboards. Believing it to have been more than a coincidence, I asked AWADmail readers a month ago if they knew the reason.

Some of the many helpful replies received from your subscribers around the world are posted in the April edition of my e-book.


The trouble with words is that you never know whose mouths they've been in. -Dennis Potter, dramatist

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