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AWADmail Issue 30

April 22, 2001

A 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: Stories from the net

Interesting stories from the net:

No easy answer to the onslaught of English juggernaut

A new dialect identified: Bushonics

From: David Walker (djwalkerATflash.net)
Subject: Hypercorrection

Another example of hypercorrection is when the movie "The Madness of King George" came out. The original name of the stage play was "The Madness of George III". But the producers thought Americans would mistake it for a sequel, and not go, having not seen "The Madness of King George" and "The Madness of King George II".

From: Robert Hamlin (robert.hamlinATdartmouth.edu)
Subject: Re: AWADmail Issue 29

Edgar Rice Burroughs' first published story also experienced an editorial change. He had submitted the story under the pseudonym 'Normal Bean' because that's what he considered himself; his editor assumed he had mistyped and changed the first name to 'Norman.'

From: Waltraut Lehmann (waltraut.lehmannATpremera.com)
Subject: AWAD Mail Issue 29

The message in issue #29 and your comments about editorial hypercorrections really struck a nerve with me, since you mentioned Harry Potter and the title of the first book. I have been deliberately ordering our son's Harry Potter volumes from the UK, and he is happy to wait out the extra shipping time, because the title is not the only thing that has been "Americanized." Throughout the volumes, many typically British expressions have been replaced, often to the effect of making the text just a little more bland. An example: At the beginning of the story, Harry is described as having spectacles/eyeglasses whose frames had to be repaired with Cellotape, the British equivalent of Scotch tape and just as much an every-day term (I know there is a word for this, when the brand name is used generically, but I cannot think of it). How clever then that in the wizarding world such repairs are often made by means of Spellotape. But since the editors figured American kids weren't smart enough to figure this out, in the US editions everything is merely taped. I guess our kids also could not be trusted to know that a jumper is a sweater, and that when Hermione is anxiously revising for her exams, she is studying. It makes me wonder how many other popular books from the UK have suffered a similar fate; and I also wonder if the same editorial arrogance is perpetrated when something travels the other way, from the US to the UK? Finally, I think a special word needs to be invented for this process because hypercorrecting does not quite fit the bill.

From: Bob Krovetz (krovetzATresearch.nj.nec.com)
Subject: editorial arrogance

"When James Michener submitted his book `Hawaii' to Random House, the editor, Albert Erskine, objected to the word `squushy', saying it `was not in the dictionary'. When Michener insisted that he would not change the word, the editor replied: `This is the third argument I've had this year about the same word. The first was with Robert Pen Warren; the second was with William Faulkner; and now you... And so we'll put `squushy' into our Random House Dictionary. He had overlooked the word in the Merriam-Webster of 1934, but even so a copy-editor had the arrogance to challenge outstanding writers like Warren, Faulkner, and Michener." [Allan Walker Read, Approaches to Lexicography and Semantics, Current Trends in Linguistics, 1970, p. 149]

From: Michael Lambert (mlamb25517ATyahoo.com)
Subject: Malapropisms

The former mayor of Pittsburgh, Sophie Maslow, was a bit hard of hearing and a bit old as well. Among her better malapropisms, when trying to say she thought Bruce Springstein was cute, she called him "Bruce Bedspring" I always wondered what went through her mind regarding Bruce to generate that image?. Maybe her fires were not totally out.

From: Mike Moran (mmoranATdigalogsys.com)
Subject: AWADmail 29

As a long-time student of Spanish, I couldn't help but laugh at this item from #29:

    I happened to go to Ecuador last week; as I was waiting to check through Customs in the Guayaquil airport, I looked up and noted a police substation up a flight of stairs nearby. Police was printed in large letters on one window of the office. On the other window was the following message printed in large blue letters:

    Tourist: If you have been the victim of a crime during your stay in Ecuador, please denounce it here.

Doubtless this unintentionally humorous English rendering came about through mistranslation, because the Spanish word for "report" as in "to report a crime," is "denunciar." A good example of what all English-speaking students of Spanish soon encounter, the "false cognate." The classic one, of course, is when a woman who feels embarrassed about something says in Spanish that she is "embarazada." Now she really is embarrassed, because that word means "pregnant."

From: Daniel Driver (dkdriverATmcn.org)
Subject: Words

I have long enjoyed bilingual puns, and I think my favorite is the story of the Puerto Rican who is in New York, and in need of a pair of socks. He can't speak English, but somehow finds his way to Macy's and to the right counter.

When the clerk asks him what he wants, he simply points down. The clerk brings out a belt, then a pair of undershorts, but each time the Puerto Rican just points down.

Then the clerk brings out a pair of socks. The Puerto Rican smiles and says, "Eso si que es", whereupon the clerk replies, "If you can spell it, why can't you say it?"

From: John P. Roberts III (jpr3AThome.net)
Subject: Another Amusing "Word" Story

A few years ago, during my first marriage, my wife was making dinner one evening. She knocked a small pot of "freshly" made mashed potatoes onto the floor and before she could stop herself from saying it, she uttered the "F" word rather loudly. Moments later my toddler-aged daughter dropped her fork and, just after it clattered on the floor, used the "F" word with a similar vehemence.

Without missing a beat I picked the utensil up off the floor, held it in front of her face and said "no, Jasmine, 'Fork.'" I can still see the momentary look of confusion on her face. I could just tell she was thinking, "Hey, isn't that how Mommy used that word?

From: Bobbi (bobbi73ATponyexpress.net)
Subject: Curiosity

You piqued my curiosity with the comment about "the little circle that comes out of a punched paper (we all know it by now)." I guess we don't all know it, because I don't. I didn't know there was a name for it. I would appreciated your response.

    Sounds like you missed AWAD for Nov 3, 1999 as well as the last U.S. presidential election. This four-letter word is chad. -Anu

From: Jamie Utz (lady_bug203AThotmail.com)
Subject: mondegreens cum pun

I'm in high school and take chemistry. Our teacher gave us a worksheet for bonus points where she had a simple sentence written down with a blank spot. This spot was to be filled in with an element, and the results were amusing, however, many were difficult to figure out. For example:

"All the time he was being sentenced for armed robbery, the SILICON was smiling and waving at his friends."

"These plants SULFUR $2.00 each."

"You don't sprinkle bulbs on the ground like seeds, you BARIUM."

"I can hardly walk after bumping my NEON the car door."

Can you figure this one out? It's tough! "The ________ the site of the ancient city holds the remains of an emperor."

From: Therold Farmer (tifarmerATwabsa.com)
Subject: anachronism

Is there a synonym for "anachronism" that is limited in meaning to (or emphasizes) the existence of something from a future age that is misplaced in the present (or from the present, misplaced into the past) rather than something from a former age that is misplaced in the present?

The most common usage of "anachronism," I believe, describes objects whose "time" lies in the past, such as a steam locomotive still in use in the 21st century. Is there not a word that describes the reverse of that concept? What I'm looking for is a word that describes, for example, tumbleweeds--which were not introduced to the United States until about 1880--that appear in Western movies ostensibly set in the early 19th century. Or the clock that appears in the Shakespearean play (Julius Caesar?) whose setting pre-dates the invention of the clock.

    Anachronism is the general term for two specific categories of time anomalies: parachronism is a chronological error where an event, object, person, etc. is assigned a date later than the actual one. On the other hand there is prochronism, where something is assigned a date earlier than the actual one.

    One could have anachronisms with words too. Imagine, Captain Picard of the TV series Star Trek visiting a time long gone by and meeting the head of a town from a millennium ago. Picard compliments him for something saying it was "nice." Now what would be appropriate response from his host? Would he say, "Thanks!"? If so, the show would be guilty of prochronism, since in those times, the word nice meant stupid, foolish or silly. -Anu

From: Chuck Phillips (cphillipsATnatman.com)
Subject: mailing blocked

The message you sent yesterday was intercepted and quarantined by my company's E-mail scanner. Reason given was "sexual harassment". No big deal, I suppose, but now I'm more curious than ever to know what was the word in question.

    The example sentence for "newel," the word for April 12, has tripped your company's computerized morality checker:
      "Midway through the stair project he appeared with a solid pine stair newel, s t r i p p e d and sanded."
    I spelled out the offending word in the above citation so that at least this message gets through to you. This shows how ineffectual computers are when it comes to processing human languages.

    On a similar note, here is how the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights might appear if forced through one of these filters. -Anu

      "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of sXXXch, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to XXXemble, and to peXXXion the government for a redress of grievances." (Attributed to Marc Rotenberg).

From: Jean (neeejATaol.com)
Subject: wordlessness

I'm getting words only a few times a week, at best. Izzat right? Have I offended, effendi? Help!

    Offended, sultanly not!
    We've received similar messages from a number of other AOL subscribers. Perhaps it has something to do with AOL's efforts to shield their users from spam that gets genuine mailings caught in it as well. I'll like to hear from anyone who knows more about this and how to remedy it. Thanks. -Anu

From: Katherine Patterson (kepscribblesATaol.com)
Subject: Re: AWADmail Issue 23

I just want to thank you for your Word A Day. In January 2000 my mother who is 92 and who helped start the National Junior Honor Society with her sister found out she had breast cancer again. She has kept so sharp-minded all these years by doing crosswords and reading. The word a day has been short enough for her to focus on as she has not such pleasant days. Thanks. Perhaps you are a bigger blessing to people than you even realize.

A word after a word after a word is power. -Margaret Atwood, poet and novelist (1939- )

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