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AWADmail Issue 3

October 29, 1995

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

The registered subscription of AWAD has crossed the 25,000 mark. Welcome the lucky 25,000th, Jelle Foks of scintilla.nl. Thanks also to the previous 24,999 who joined and made the list what it is. Quick math tells me that so far over 5 million pieces of email have gone out in AWAD. -Anu

From: Charles E. Friederich (netins.net)

Have you discovered the joys of the word "syzygy?" It's perfect for playing Hangman. Everybody calls out "a-e-i-o-u" first, forgetting that "y" can also be a vowel. And when they finally offer "y," they get more than they bargained for. Also, writing the word in cursive lower case is great wrist exercise. After the first letter, it's a series of loops. For the definition, find "T" on your thumb-index dictionary. Look back one word...it's probably the last one under "S".

    Dear Charles,

    Thanks for your delightful letter. If you look closely, the appearance of the word seems to convey its meaning: sy-zy-gy -- the straight line configuration of three heavenly bodies. In Scrabble, one could make a respectable score with this word (though getting three y's would be a challenge), but the word is a nightmare for anagrammists. And you are right about where to find syzygy, if you let go of some hot Chinese food, such as Szechuan.

From: Paul (aol.com)

Hi...I've been keeping a card file of all the words you supply since about July or august, I think... I see all the letters covered except J, K, W, X, & Z. I'll be looking for your words that start with these letters. I'm a Toastmaster in my home area and this set of words really is useful at our meetings ... some words are really hard to use in a speech, but we try!

From: Vern Paxson (lbl.gov)

It's not clear from the FAQ (at least the copy of it from last April that I squirreled away) whether you're interested in submissions. But if so, a word I keep running across (because Churchill is fond of it in his histories) that for some reason greatly appeals to me is "mulct" ...

    Dear Paul and Vern,

    Since its inception on March 14, 1994, all the letters from the English alphabet have been covered in AWAD, though some less often than others. For example, "k" has made its appearance only once with "kaffeeklatsch". So has "y" which came as "yare". In any case, please feel free to send your suggestions for words.

    "Mulct" is an interesting word which falls in the category I call fencesitters -- words with a set of two opposite meanings. You could defraud someone of money and it would be called "mulcting". But if you are caught and fined, again one could say you were "mulcted".

From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)

John Kim of U of Southern California has come up with an amazing insight on the letter from South Korea, which appeared here last week:

From: John Kim (usc.edu)

Dear Anu,

And as for the letter, I think other mistakes are beginner's mistakes but "Greetlings!" is quite a useful one. It could mean: "Greetings, Linguaphiles!" :-) It may even assume some poetic melody when pronounced!

From: Rob Blomquist (accessone.com)

I have started to use the prefix 'e' to designate Internet related issues, things or what-have-you. For example: ediscussion is what happens in newsgroups or on listservers. Efriends are folks that I know only from across the net, but that they affect my life like only friends can. How about edebate? Or elove?

From: Hartmut Haberland (ruc.dk)

May I point out that in Italian and German, 'eine Mail' and 'uno mail' (turning 'mail' into a [+count] noun) are common expressions for 'a piece of e-mail' (why it's f. in German and m. in Italian, is everybody's guess.) My friend, the distinguished pragmatics scholar Jacob L. Mey III of Odense University, Denmark, used to write 'give me an ezz' some years ago, and when somebody asked 'what is an ezz?', he replied 'it's the electronic equivalent of a buzz'.

From: Mitch Silverman (usf.edu)

When it comes to jargon usage questions, there's an authority I like to consult: the Jargon File (version 3.2.0, 21 MAR 1995), a (rather authoritative, IMHO) comprehensive compendium of hacker slang illuminating many aspects of hackish tradition, folklore, and humor. And as the Jargon File puts it:

:email: /ee'mayl/ (also written `e-mail')
1. n. Electronic mail automatically passed through computer networks and/or via modems over common-carrier lines. Contrast {snail-mail}, {paper-net}, {voice-net}. See {network address}. 2. vt. To send electronic mail.

Oddly enough, the word `emailed' is actually listed in the OED; it means "embossed (with a raised pattern) or perh. arranged in a net or open work". A use from 1480 is given. The word is derived from Old French `emmaillure', network. A French correspondent tells us that in modern French, `email' is a hard enamel obtained by heating special paints in a furnace; an `emailleur' (no final e) is a craftsman who makes email (he generally paints some objects like jewels and cooks them in a furnace).

So use "email" after "emailed" -- both uses involve networks, after all!

    Thanks Mitch for the reference. For those who have not seen this delightful collection of computerese, you can find it at jargon.net. And while you are there, do not forget to look up "progasm".


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