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AWADmail Issue 169

July 17, 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: Online chat; Interesting stories from the net

Online Chat:
Don't forget to join us for a chat about language myths with our guest Erin McKean, editor, The New Oxford American Dictionary July 20, 2005, 6 PM Pacific (GMT -7) [July 21, 1 AM GMT].

Interesting stories from the net:

Language and Politics
nytimes.com

Whistled Languages
npr.org

Uniting China to Speak Mandarin
nytimes.com

From: Susan Robbins (susansusansusanAThotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--stepford

I have a letter from Ira Levin about Stepford. When the book first appeared decades ago, Levin was excoriated by the feminists for writing what they perceived as an anti-feminist book. As both a founder of one of the first NOW (National Organization for Women) chapters in the US in 1969 as well as co-founder of a men's liberation organization, the National Coalition of Free Men, in 1980, I perceived that the book was mocking men: their selfish, base, and even sometimes violent nature. I wrote to Mr. Levin questioning if this is what he meant, and he responded by concurring with my view.

The name Stepford is derived from two nearby wealthy towns in Conn. One was Waterford and I can't recall the other. Perhaps your readers might know.

From: John Felix (jfelixbATaol.com)
Subject: gaslight

As an actor I was interested to read this (to me) new usage, but I was a little disappointed that you failed to identify the original stage play by its name, "Angel Street." Of course, to be "angelstreeted" could hardly bear the same connotation "gaslighted"; the advantage of snappy one-word titles, perhaps?

From: Ana Justo (anavjustoATyahoo.com.ar)
Subject: America

I despise the use of the word America to mean the United States of America. It is unfortunate that the latter country has no other name than the United States of America. America is a continent, North, Central and South America. Ask Amerigo Vespucci after whom it was named. People in the U.S. of A. should learn to refer to their homeland as the United States, not America. It should be taught in schools: America is the continent, not a country.

From: Steve Benko (steve.benkoATgecapital.com)
Subject: Re A.Word.A.Day--vox populi

I think Vox Populi should be the name of a comic book superhero who brings the one-eyed, gap-toothed arch villain, Lex Talionis, to justice. But Vox's justice is, of course, compassionate and merciful.

From: Pete Klammer (pklammerATcomcast.net)
Subject: stet

Story told me by one of my grade-school teachers: the town named Stet, Missouri, was never intended to be named that; rather, on some application form the clerk had stricken out the intended name with a line, but then reneged the cross-out with a couple verticals at the ends of the cross-out and the annotation, "stet". The receiving agency misunderstood the obelism, and filed the four-letter name.

From: Shumway J (shumwayjATalltel.net)
Subject: Lex Talionis

Bravo for highlighting this important concept. What you didn't point out, though, are two things about it that to me are the most important.

Firstly, the usual interpretation ("eye for an eye") must be put into the context of the ancient world, where the practice, in the case of murder, was to execute not only the murderer but his entire family. Lex Talionis is a demand for lenience.

Secondly, the philosophy behind it is not punishment at all, but rather denial of all gain. The theory, a good one in my view, is that the assurance of no gain combined with the assurance of no further retaliation is the most effective and least costly deterrent to aggression. It is the essence of the policy of containment, under which the first President Bush fought the Gulf War, and the antithesis of what we're doing in Iraq now.

From: Lloyd R. Feit, MD (lfeitATlifespan.org)
Subject: caliginous

I've always wondered (but never bothered to look up) the meaning of this word. It was introduced to me (and many of us) as small children in "The Wizard of OZ" when the wizard alliteratively describes the TinMan as a "clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk!"

From: Jacqueline Mendez-Diez (jazzieATvineyard.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--enow

When I was a child and I'd be playing too roughly, fighting with my siblings, or just generally being rambunctious, my mother would come over to me and say one word: GENUG! Her mother tongue was Yiddish and she would revert to it when English wasn't enow.

From: Steve Kirkpatrick (stevekirkpATmsn.com)
Subject: Enow

Perhaps the most quoted use of "enow" is from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (as rendered into English Verse by Edward Fitzgerald):

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse -- and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness --
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

I picked up my Rubaiyat 35 years ago at a used book sale, but somehow managed to get married without ever having quoted the verse on a picnic.

There are some who only employ words for the purpose of disguising their thoughts. -Voltaire, philosopher (1694-1778)

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