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AWADmail Issue 230

October 8, 2006

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


From: Mervyn Cripps (mcripps cogeco.ca)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--abecedarian

Laurence Urdang, former editor of the Random House Dictionary, became tired of standing in line in alphabetical order because he was always down near the end. To remedy this (from memory) he coined the word zybetical which would list the letters in the reverse order.

Soldiers ideally would line up alphabetically on even-numbered days and zybetically on odd-numbered days.


From: Maggi Michel (rapunzel ucla.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--abecedarian

An abecedarian is also a poetic form in which the alphabet is used to order stanzas, poems, words, or an entire chapbook.


From: Laurie Eddie (laurieeddie adam.com.au)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--abecedarian

The Abecedarians was also the name of a now extinct German Anabaptist sect, founded in 1520 at Zwickau in Saxony, by Nicholas Storch. Since they believed that all their earthly and spiritual benefits, including salvation, would come directly from God or the Holy Sprit, every other form of acquired knowledge, especially that which might be gained from education and especially from books, was unnecessary. Indeed such knowledge was considered a hindrance, since it might interfere with these other, more important sources of inspiration. As a result they deliberately avoided all forms of learning, even to the extent of proclaiming that to be saved one must be ignorant of all knowledge, even such basic concepts as the first letters of the alphabet; hence the origin of their name, A-B-C-darians.

They believed that even knowledge of the Holy Scriptures was dangerous, since individuals could form opinions on the basis of what they had read, and so, even the most sincere could be led astray.


From: Art Haykin (theart webtv.net)
Subject: Teachers

Thank you for honoring teachers, perhaps the most taken-for-granted, least honored, and least rewarded profession in America.

I took a Master's at UCLA, then went to Korea as a paid hit man for the government, then entered the public school system in L.A., CA teaching English to middle schoolers, then high schoolers, then at a community college.

After just less than five years, I became disenchanted, and surrendered my naive idealism to professional photography. The pay, back then, was near subsistence level: the custodian who swept our halls made $5,700 a year, a thousand more than me. Add to that, I was at loggerheads with the powers that be and their ancient curricula with their emphasis on mindless drill, the subjunctive case, and sentence diagramming. I tried to bring humor and excitement to the class, and they would have little of it.

Things have improved since, to be sure, but there's still a way to go. At least, then, the kids weren't attacking us, and we weren't seducing them.


From: Paul Wiese (paulw tomah.k12.wi.us)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--abecedarian

Thank you so much for this week's word. I was an abecedarian for ten years before becoming an elementary school principal. This is my twentieth year in that position. I taught my 6th graders all kinds of words during my classroom days. Abecedarian was always one of them.

I studied in college about the honor that one receives as a teacher from those of the Hindu background and later learned more about it while I worked in Zambia for a man from India. Never was it more clear, however, than a day this summer when I introduced myself to my new neighbor. He is a doctor from Pakistan at the local veteran's hospital.

He was raking his lawn when I approached to introduce myself. As an American, I honor those who are doctors and was happy to shake his hand. When I told him that I was a principal, he threw down his rake and bowed. I was very moved by this gesture and felt quite amazed. In thirty years as an educator, I had never felt so honored.


From: Mary Hoffman (mhhoffma hacc.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--abecedarian

I was in India on Teachers' Day this year. I was delighted to see for sale the many colorful, embossed, tri-fold cards honoring teachers in glowing terms. As a teacher in Pennsylvania, I witness lack of respect from students, public, administrations, politicians. I want to teach in India.


From: Cheryl Michaels (crwcheryl aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--abecedarian

You talked about the differences between India and the US having to do with respect for their teachers.

I am currently in grad school, studying for my MBA in international management. In a past class, we spent quite a bit of time discussing the Globe Study.

There are two Globe cultural differences coming out in the differences you are addressing about addressing teachers. One has to do with whether a society is more formal or informal. The US is definitely more informal than India. The other has to do with hierarchy, and India is definitely more hierarchical than the US. I'd like to point out that these two qualities do not equate to students' being less respectful of their teachers. I would have to agree, however, that a teacher as an individual may have to earn the respect of his/her students here in the US, and some individuals appear to be completely clueless about the whole concept of respect. Now that is a scary thought.


From: Ella Wilcox (ellaw menc.org)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--abecedarian

Here in Northern Virginia, we are taught to address people as they themselves wish to be addressed. Yesterday at a meeting to teach young high schoolers various water-safety principles, I asked the head coach, who'd introduced himself as "Bobby", what the children should call him. He said that he preferred "Bobby" because he wished to distinguish himself from his father, who was well-known in the community. It isn't necessarily disrespectful to do as people ask, or to call them by the names that they themselves wish.


From: Chris Warrington (chris.warrington fuse.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--parietal

I remember seeing this sign in the Mizzou women's freshman dormitory:

"All male visitors must have an escort."

When a group of us were visiting as high-schoolers, we found this sign hilarious.


From: Chris Ryan (christian.ryan alumni.duke.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--swot

Anyone who's been to business school in the last umpteen years has seen "swot" in a different context. A SWOT analysis breaks down the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats that the company faces. In business school, there are plenty of swots swotting as they do SWOTs.


Words fascinate me. They always have. For me, browsing in a dictionary is like being turned loose in a bank. -Eddie Cantor, actor (1892-1964)

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