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AWADmail Issue 261

May 13, 2007

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


From: Anu Garg (words wordsmith.org)
Subject: Administrivia

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From: R.J. Briggs (rj rebelbase.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--stormy petrel

The famous chess player Aron Nimzowitsch went by the nickname of "the Stormy Petrel". Nimzowitsch's "My System" is still considered to be a quintessential chess text.


From: Marie P. Prins (marieprins hetnet.nl)
Subject: Stormy petrel

They do foreshadow a storm, but that is when they are seen outside their normal range, for instance along the Dutch coast. Yes, I am a bird watcher.


From: Debbie Savannah George (debbie dsavannah.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--stormy petrel

The mascot of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta is the Stormy Petrel, as is the name of their newspaper.


From: Harry Metcalfe (harry.metcalfe btinternet.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--catbird seat

The catbird seat is also an old fashioned name for a seat for a crew member at the top of the foremast of a sailing ship, giving a view "over the horizon".


From: Lee J Rickard (berezowska comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--kibitz

I was taught that every chess game involves four players: white, black, kibitzer, and titselmacher. As white and black ponder the board, the kibitzer recommends a move. When the move is made, the titselmacher shakes his head and goes "Tch, tch, tch!"


From: BranShea (at bulletin board Wordsmith Talk)
Subject: Clay pigeon, sitting duck and flying sparrow

Unfortunate difficult target: In a current exhibition in the Rotterdam Natural History museum one of the items shown is a stuffed sparrow, killed by a cricket ball played by the legendary Jehangir Kahn (1910-1988) on the third of July 1936 at Lord's.

This sparrow is the only one ever known to be killed in flight in a cricket match. It is exhibited on top of the ball that killed him. A serious museum item on green velvet on a shining wooden pedestal in a show uniquely dedicated to the House Sparrow.


From: Pamela McCourt Francescone (mccourt tin.it)
Subject: Birds

You refer to the expression to kill two birds with one stone and say you'd rather the idiom be to feed two birds with one grain.

Well, in Italian it comes close. "Prendere due piccioni con una fava" translates to take two pigeons with one broad bean.


From: Ian Ingram (ilh andrew.cmu.edu)
Subject: Re: bird metaphor

I have always liked "Feed two birds with one scone" since it matches the original idiom more closely.


From: Graham Shaw (gshaw5 csc.com.au)
Subject: Re: birds

Re birds and the use of them negatively, there is one positive saying: "box of birds". E.g. I'm a box of birds today = I'm feeling great.


From: P. Larry Nelson (lnelson uiuc.edu)
Subject: For the birds...

Timely word topic this week from my perspective. Just last week, my wife and I were observing a Mourning Dove attempting to build a nest on the hood of our truck -- in between the two windshield wipers! The next day I watched as a sparrow grabbed a small square piece of white paper and took it back into a tree -- perhaps as a wallpaper remodeling project for its small home.

Witnessing these two endeavors so close together led me to upgrade my opinion of birds a bit and instilled a new respect. Imagine trying to build a house with just your mouth.


From: Dr. Shantanu Sapru (quizzersapru gmail.com)
Subject: correction on a reader's comment on bracheology

I am a radiation oncologist, and needless to say was amused and bemused by a reader's comment in the last AWADmail. Brachys means short and the term brachytherapy is used to refer to giving radiation over short distances, usually inside cavities (e.g. oesophagus) or organs (e.g. prostate). It differs from "teletherapy" in that the source of radiation is inside or very close to the organ interested in being treated, and the radiation has to travel only a short distance.

Technically there are distance limitations to the term "brachytherapy" being used, and related, although distinct, terms are "contact therapy", superficial therapy" etc.


A language is never in a state of fixation, but is always changing; we are not looking at a lantern-slide but at a moving picture. -Arthur Lloyd James, phonetician (1884-1943)

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