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AWADmail Issue 166

June 5, 2005

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

Académie Solemnly Mans the Barricades Against Impure French:
nytimes.com

The Word Crunchers:
nytimes.com

Devoid of Content:
nytimes.com


From: Ina Warren (wildwood3ATcitcom.net)
Subject: thank you... (Re: bravura)

.. for a lovely story on today's word-a-day. It brought back sweet memories of my son learning to play trombone and the times I would stand outside his room and soak in the beauty of the sound and appreciate the hard work of technique.


From: Sasenarine Persaud (kshatekATcs.com)
Subject: Re: Tansen - Your Guitar

I grew up in South America (Guyana) and I heard those stories of Tansen too, and at one time or another, we all wanted to be like Tansen. This all seems so far away and long ago! This was the first time in more than 20 years I have heard of Tansen and his legendary performances of the fire/heat raga - and the rain raga. Growing up, whenever some one was singing he/she was always told jokingly, "careful now, you might make the rain fall."


From: Elsie Zinsser (ezinsserATsimpross.co.za)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--bravura

Your preference for 'music of quietude' reminds me of the sad story of Wanda, a Polish woman from whom we bought our house in 1976. In the mid-50's she was a medical student and pianist in Vienna but in her spare time she helped sneak people across the Communist/Western divide but was caught one night and sentenced to eight years of hard labour in Irkutsk. There she built houses and mined salt and eventually developed hands so scarred that she could never play the piano again.


From: Andrew Kay (akayATsharp.co.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--crescendo

In order to perform a crescendo successfully you may need to remind yourself of the alternative "definition": Crescendo = start soft.

This way you will avoid the temptation to begin too loud and have no space left to get louder.


From: Miri Skoriak (mskoriakAThotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--coda

Sperm whales produce a variety of click sounds that can be focused and projected with great intensity. It is believed that the sound is used for orientation, communication and feeding. Clicks are produced in short series of 3 or 4 clicks called codas. Codas are usually about 0.5 to 1.5 seconds in duration and repeated 2 to 6 or more times at variable intervals. Like their flukes, codas are unique to the individual whale.


From: Megan Syverson (msyversonATriseup.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gamut

Today's word reminded me of the quip that Dorothy Parker once made in reference to Katharine Hepburn's notorious 1933 Broadway flop:

"She runs the gamut of emotion from A to B."

Would that my own public humiliations inspired such brilliantly scathing response!


From: William Stevens (wmstevensATtriad.rr.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gamut

When "gamut" came up as Word of the Day it made me curious about the Latin hymn that gave us the syllables used in singing solfege. The syllables come from a hymn to St. John. "Ut queant laxis resonare fibris Mira gestorum famuli tuorum, Solve polluti labii reatum, Sancte Iohannes." A friend in the classics gave me this translation: "Free from guilt your servants' unclean lips, holy John, that they may be able to sing with clear voices the wonders of your life."


From: Jeb Raitt (jeb_raittATsymantec.com)
Subject: Gamut

Only place I can recall seeing "gamut" used in the sense of a musical scale is in Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew," where Hortensio, disguised as a music teacher, shows Bianca one of his own devising:

HORTENSIO
Madam, before you touch the instrument,
To learn the order of my fingering,
I must begin with rudiments of art;
To teach you gamut in a briefer sort,
More pleasant, pithy and effectual,
Than hath been taught by any of my trade:
And there it is in writing, fairly drawn.
BIANCA
Why, I am past my gamut long ago.
HORTENSIO
Yet read the gamut of Hortensio.
BIANCA
[Reads] ''Gamut' I am, the ground of all accord,
'A re,' to Plead Hortensio's passion;
'B mi,' Bianca, take him for thy lord,
'C fa ut,' that loves with all affection:
'D sol re,' one clef, two notes have I:
'E la mi,' show pity, or I die.'
Call you this gamut? tut, I like it not:
Old fashions please me best; I am not so nice,
To change true rules for old inventions.

Even there, it turns out, the term was being used figuratively! I wonder if the line about one clef and two notes is a sexual innuendo.


From: Sam Douglas (sdouglasATmozart.sc.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--gamut

There was no "si" in the scale of notes in Guido's gamut. These notes were known as a "hexachord" i.e. a six note group. The si (as it is still called in Italian) did not come into the scale until music became TONAL in the 17th and 18th cent. The hymn, Ut quent laxis, may be found on page 1504 of the Liber Usualis. If you look at it you will see that each successive phrase of the piece starts on1) UT 2) RE 3) MI 4) FA 5) SOL 6) LA. There is no SI.


From: Rudy Ulibarri (rudyuseidelATmsn.com)
Subject: Musical Terms

Since I am a music aficionado I have really enjoyed the words this week. I thought it was a nice coincidence that during the week in which you were featuring musical terms, that "appoggiatura" was the winning word in the National Spelling Bee. As a young clarinetist I learned to call an appoggiatura a grace note.


From: Patrick McComish (patrick.mccomishAThelmsdeep.com.au)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--finale

What a panic the subject line of this message caused - I thought you were announcing the last AWAD. How empty my inbox would be...


The music that can deepest reach, / And cure all ill, is cordial speech. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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