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AWADmail Issue 123

May 28, 2004

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


From: Ren Willis-Frances (willis-frances.renATev.state.az.us)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--momism

I would offer a third meaning: "a term or phrase commonly ascribed to a mother or mothers." For example, "Don't run with scissors in your hands," is a momism. I've heard it in speech, but not seen it written.


From: Howard I. Aronson (hia5ATrcn.com)
Subject: AWAD 5/24/04 "Momism"

You wrote today: "If you move a meeting forward, what would you call it? How does "prepone" (an opposite of postpone) sound?" Here in the U.S., at least, "move forward" (and "move back") have contradictory meanings among different people. For example, for me "move forward" means to postpone, to move to a later date, as in "moving the meeting forward from June 1st to June 8th." Others would "move the meeting forward from June 8th to June 1st." "Move back" would have the reverse meanings. Is this also true in other parts of the English-speaking world?


From: Mike Crosbie (paeditorATaol.com)
Subject:Re: A.Word.A.Day--heebie-jeebies

The mention of heebie-jeebies reminded me of a comment that the writer James Thurber once made in a letter to his fellow New Yorker contributor E.B. White, that if people went wild for White's writing and that of George Bernard Shaw, they would have the "E.B. G.B.s".


From: Cory Pinassi (cmn.pinassiATsympatico.ca)
Subject: racial profiling

Heebie-jeebies and hotsy-totsy are words coined by an outsider of a group used to describe negative behavioural aspects along racial lines: heebie-jeebies = Hebrews/Jews; hotsy-totsy = Hottentot tribe of Africa. It is worth discussion that these phrases, along with many other racially charged descriptives have become an invisible part of the American English language. Your background explanation of this word was uncharacteristically brief and contextually inadequate (note the time frame of the word's coinage). Let me add that I look forward to your word email on a daily basis. Keep up the good work!

    I've not seen any evidence that these coinages by cartoonist Billy DeBeck carry any racial overtones. The cited derivations appear to be a case of folk etymologies, somewhat similar to the confusion with the word niggard, the origin of which has nothing to do with the word nigger. -Anu Garg


From: Dale Roberts (drobertsATcasarino.com)
Subject: Words coined by cartoonists

Few people realize the contributions the comics have made to everyday language. E.C. Segar, in the comic strip Popeye, coined two words that have become common in English language: "goon" and "jeep".


From: Ed Buhl (etbuhlATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--phraseology

The word "phraseology" was immortalized by Mayor Shinn, a character in Meredith Wilson's musical "The Music Man". Shinn was a blowhard, bumbling, mayor with a temper, who responded to words of exasperation (usually directed at him) with "Watch your phraseology!


From: Eric Shackle (eshackleATozemail.com.au)
Subject: eponyms

The name of famous U.S. newspaperman Horace Greeley, who founded the New York Tribune in 1841, is an eponym for the town of Greeley, Colorado. HG designed the original masthead of the Greeley Tribune, but took little interest in the place, which he visited only once (in 1870). TV Hagenah (that's his real name), editor of another smalltown western newspaper, the Quay County Sun in Tucumcari, New Mexico, has recounted the Greeley story, and I've written about Seattle's superb new library, comparing it with the Sydney Opera House, in the June issue of my free e-book.


A word in earnest is as good as a speech. -Charles Dickens, novelist (1812-1870)

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