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AWADmail Issue 127

July 11, 2004

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

A 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

A Lexicographer Dies (verb intr. ceases to live)
nytimes.com

Where to Stick the Grocer's Apostrophe:
guardian.co.uk


From: William F. Matthews (billymATroadrunner.nf.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--malarkey

This word is also a surname. I visited distant relatives in Montreal and discovered that my cousin had married a 'Jim Malarkey' from the U.K. When I was informed of his name, I said: "You have got to be kidding!" As a kid in Newfoundland, 'malarkey' was a common word.


From: John Graham (johnATjgrescon.fsbusiness.co.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tchotchke

After a visit to Italy, Tchaikovsky wrote a piece called Souvenirs de Florence.

Had he visited Chad (Tchad in French) he might have written a similar piece and we would have Tchaikovsky's Tchotchkes of Tchad.


From: Paula Deane Traynham (pauladeaneATmsn.com)
Subject: Eponyms

When I was in college one million years ago, I learned another word for "eponym"--antonomasia. It just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? Sounds like a mental condition that makes you forget people named Anton. Speaking of medical terms, I quite accidentally stumbled across a website this week devoted entirely to medical eponyms: http://www.whonamedit.com. Tons of fun for linguaphiles.


From: Edward Russell-Smith (edward.russell-smithATwlt.scot.nhs.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Socratic irony

In Scotland, we would refer to this stance as playing the "dumb laddie". An effective and disarming tool in debate and discussion.


From: Wal Pettersson (travelwalATinterworx.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--klieg light

The brothers Kleigl's use of arc-lamps in movie production avoided the film-maker's dependence on the sun. So the familiar sequence of "lights, camera, action" came into directors jargon. But the lights spawned two word usages also.

Stand-in and shades.

Y'see working under the kleiglights was hot, tiring and hard on the eyes so `stars ' were replaced with lesser mortals of about the same figure while adjustments were made to the now essential lights. But still, the busy working-stars got sore eyes. So the glamourous ladies and their on-screen lovers wore dark Crookes-lens sun-glasses to ease the sensitivity to light in bright but uncontrollable Californian sunshine and bright places, like restaurants.

The 'shades' soon became a fashion statement by copy-cats. (restaurants cut down the lighting too!)


From: James Howe (aeryngryphonATaol.com)
Subject: dis and deign: disdain

I checked my email, as I hadn't been on in a few days, and as usual I noticed the subject line. As my eyes roved down the Subject column, I couldn't help but notice the words from 6/24 and 6/25, deign and dis, respectively, when viewed chronologically from the most recent, sounds like "disdain." "Disdain" means "to regard or treat as unworthy or beneath one's dignity," a perfect sum of both words' definitions.


From: Madelaine Kirke (madelainekirkeAThotmail.com)
Subject: Rankism!

A retired general of our acquaintance commented that since his retirement he found it necessary to repeat himself. People always heard him the first time when he was in command!


From: Randy Cohen (randyco66ATearthlink.net)
Subject: rankism

While that particular word isn't in the dictionary, "classism" is. It isn't exactly the same as rank, but class certainly includes rank. Indeed, it became something of a cliche of liberal academic social thought that all issues were explained with reference to race, gender, and class.


From: Keith R. Snyder (snyderkr1ATbigfoot.com)
Subject: rankism

As a maximum-security prison chaplain and a pastor, I particularly noticed "a cleric abuses a parishioner, a guard degrades a prisoner..." as examples of rankism. In my experience, I have seen the reverse much more commonly in day-to-day operations. The examples given just happen to be more newsworthy, as is "man bites dog". Abusive treatment often runs uphill, especially in today's flattened culture where authority is held in derision just for the simple fact it is authority.


From: Janet Collins (onwordsATalamedanet.net)
Subject: rankism

I guess that means the world is full of rankists.

A few years ago during the economic "boom" it became a symbol of high status in Silicon Valley and the surrounding area to dress in casual clothes since dressing nicely shows respect to others. Soon everyone was dressing that way and now people are likely to wear jeans anywhere. People who still wear suits to work are usually in service positions, like the staff in certain large department stores or hotels. Clothing is an interesting language.


From: Mara Math (mjmathATsaber.net)
Subject: rankism

I fully support the concept of an egalitarian society, and Fuller's work, but doesn't the word "authoritarianism" already meet the need for a word describing this? I don't like the word "rankism" very much because it seems both blurry and more personal. "He's a rankist" v. "He's an authoritarian teacher," or "He abuses his power as teacher..."


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

Reason magazine says its readers are "affluent, educated, civically active, independent minded and literary." They must be brainiacs. The magazine achieved a startling technological advance when it distributed its June issue with a different cover, custom-designed for each of its 40,000 subscribers. The cover story gave a frightening glimpse of the extent to which the Internet's prying eyes can reveal many details of what we used to think were our private lives.

To read more about this, check out the July edition of my e-Book.


The English language is rather like a monster accordion, stretchable at the whim of the editor, compressible ad lib. -Robert Burchfield, lexicographer (1923-2004)

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