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AWADmail Issue 239

December 10, 2006

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 wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

No LOL Matter:
Seattle Times

Dead Plagiarists Society:
Slate

Bibliographies in Works of Fiction:
New York Times

Commas Gone Wild:
The Web of Language

Truthiness' Is Named Word of the Year:
San Francisco Chronicle


From: David Boelzner (dboelzner wrightrobinson.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--flummery

Fans of Rex Stout's wonderfully literate detective, Nero Wolfe, can have only one association with this word. Nero uses it frequently when confronted with an unlikely story, demanding of his cowed "guests" or his long-suffering amanuensis Archie Goodwin, "Is this flummery?"


From: Eugene Eoyang (eoyang ln.edu.hk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--flummery

In the A.A. Milne play, "Wurzel Flummery", the main plot is that as a condition of inheriting a large fortune, the inheritor had to change his name to "Wurzel Flummery".

A real life case of this involved a Texas family named Hogg, the patriarch of which required his three daughters to change their names to Ima, Eura, and Sheza. Ima Hogg is, I gather, now quite a well-known philanthropist.

    It's a great story but it's not exactly true. See the Wikipedia.
    -Anu Garg (garg wordsmith.org)


From: Dave Zobel (dzobel alumni.caltech.edu)
Subject: flummery

In the 1975 National Spelling Bee, the contestant representing the State of Maine suddenly found himself unable to visualize the word flummery (Or was it "phlummery"?).

With time running out, he asked in desperation, "Is it related to flummox?" The judges conferred, checked their enormous dictionary, and shook their heads.

Suddenly -- a light! If it were a ph- word, the judges probably would have known the answer without checking. Confident now, the speller rattled off the letters . . . and slurred the double M ("EFF! - el - yu - em'm - ee - ar - WY!").

The crisp little thank-you-for-playing DING! was immediately followed by a hasty, hissed conference among the judges.

Finally the tape was replayed, the second M was teased out, and the speller was called back onstage -- with a stern caution.

But ever since that dreadful reprieve, I've been unable to pronounce certain words ("memento," "mimeo", "mammalian") without stammering.


From: Keri Hulme (kaituhi ihug.co.nz)
Subject: flummery

As a child in Aotearoa-New Zealand, flummery meant summer: it was a mix of berry-flavoured jelly (raspberry was best) that had almost set, and then had a tin of non-sweetened condensed milk beaten into it. Alas, neither main ingredient has survived the years but among people of my age cohort, flummery still has really positive, albeit nostalgic, connotations...


From: Carl N. E. Burnett (carl.n.e.burnett.03 alum.dartmouth.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--flummery

dessert (di-ZUHRT), as in "fat-free dessert
desert (DEZ-uhrt), as in "the Sahara"
desert (di-ZUHRT), as in "to desert the army
desert (di-ZUHRT), as in "to receive just deserts"

And don't forget Maine's Mount Desert Island, home to Acadia National Park. It's pronounced di-ZUHRT too, being adapted from the French for "deserted mountain."


From: Dick Oswald (ddoswald verizon.net)
Subject: flummery

Your reference to the Lloyd/Floyd alternation brought to mind the following delicious entry from "The Penguin Dictionary of Surnames" (Penguin Books, 1967) by Basil Cottle, born in Cardiff and self-described "Anglican, Liberal, dedicated medievalist, amateur artist, archaeologist and herald, collector of MSS, and Welshman": Lloyd: grey, hoary (Welsh)
Mainly a Welsh surname, but sometimes grossly anglicized to LOYD, FLOYD; the best rule for saying Ll- is the advice of the bilingual nineteenth-century dean of Saint David's to the new English-speaking bishop, that he shoud press the tip of his episcopal tongue against the roof of his apostolic mouth and hiss like a goose.

In a separate entry, for LLEWELYN, Cottle says, "Initial LL- (which counts as one letter in the admirable Welsh alphabet) is very easy to pronounce (see LLOYD), but Shakespeare could manage only Fluellen." [Captain Fluellen in "Henry V"]

Actually, this double-l that looks so daunting in the initial position is a normal "l" unvoiced, i.e. pronounced without vibrating the vocal cords, just as "s" can be considered is an unvoiced "z".


From: Charis Cotter (charisc sympatico.ca)
Subject: Cakewalk still alive and kicking

A modern use of the word cakewalk: School fundraisers and charity events often use a cakewalk as a fun way to make some money. This is a favorite of mine because it's a version of musical chairs with a sweet outcome. Doting mothers bake homemade cakes, or the harried ones buy them, and they're all lined up on a table to inspire the dancers. Numbers 1 to 10 are inscribed on cardboard and taped to the floor. Music is provided by a boombox and kids (and some intrepid parents) dance around until the music stops. Then they have to freeze positions. Someone draws a number from a hat and whoever has frozen on that number wins a cake! Winning a cake at a cakewalk is really fun! So is the dancing.


From: Anne Duffin (anne.duffin mailc.hse.ie)
Subject: take the cake

In Ireland, we say 'take the biscuit' rather than 'take the cake'.


From: Andrea Waldburger (andreawaldburger tiscali.ch)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--chocolate-box

In Switzerland we use the term "Schoggijob", which means something like "chocolate-job". This term is used to describe a job that is very easy to do, with no strains or pressure. Just like chocolate: sweet and pleasing.


From: Daniel T. Plunkett (dplunkett mcglinchey.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ambrosia

Very timely! December 7th is the Feast Day of St. Ambrose (patron saint of beekeepers).


From: Addie Pobst (addie cffresh.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ambrosia

Ambrosia is also the name of a relatively new and very tasty apple variety. It really is a well named fruit! A "chance seedling" in the trade lingo, it was discovered in the early 1980s in the Mennell family orchard in British Columbia. Since that time, it has increased rapidly in popularity and is now being grown in many Northwest orchards, and showing up in produce departments across the US. My company specializes in organic produce, and I can personally attest to the fact that organic consumers really love Ambrosia apples. Not to mention my colleagues -- when we bring a box of Ambrosia apples into the office for "quality control" they disappear fast!


From: Adrien Coblentz (adriencoblentz yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ambrosia

The ambrosia beetle has a knack of drilling through trees, leaving a trace of fungus as it goes, this as food for the next generation. Wood so affected can have lovely silver streaks in various patterns and, while like the ignoble lobster, once scorned, is now quite highly prized by wood workers and woodturners. One hears of ambrosia maple and slavers at the thought.


From: John Hepburn (mewstone.enterprises tiscali.co.uk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cookie-cutter

It has a different meaning when applied to the cookie-cutter shark, Isistius brasiliensis, named after the neat cookie-shaped wounds that it leaves on the bodies of larger fishes and marine mammals.


From: Dan Brook (brook california.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--desserts

Your dessert words are (will be) not only all-natural, organic, and fair trade, but very likely vegetarian as well. While there are some Chinese desserts with meat, most desserts around the world seem to be vegetarian (though often not vegan). For more on vegetarianism, please visit my Eco-Eating site. One more thing: it has been pointed out that the word "stressed" spelled backwards is desserts, so if you're feeling tense, you know what to do!


Life is a foreign language; all men mispronounce it. -Christopher Morley, writer (1890-1957)

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