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AWADmail Issue 312

June 22, 2008

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 at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Changes in mailings

Beginning Monday, we're going to add HTML format to A.Word.A.Day. You don't need to do anything: both HTML and text versions will be included in the same email.

Also, the To: line of the mail will now show your email address instead of linguaphile@wordsmith.org.


From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

What's in a Name? Possibly a Life of Crime:
Calgary Herald

In a Changing World of News, an Elegy for Copy Editors:
The New York Times
[And here at Wordsmith.org, we are truly thankful to our copy editor Eric Shackle and grammar guru Carolanne Reynolds for what they do.]


From: Donald Pierpoint (tio cableonda.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--balbriggan

I knew the word as soon as I saw the email. As a child I had balbriggan PJs in the winter. I never knew why my Mother called then "balbriggans".


From: Anna Baggallay (annabag global.co.za)
Subject: balbriggan

I was most amused to see this town in North County Dublin featured in your week's words. I was brought up a few miles further south on the north Dublin coast. In fact, have many times passed through Balbriggan, without knowing it had this claim to fame, to have contributed a WORD to our language in addition to a fine variety of cloth! There used to be an annual Balbriggan Show, where all manner of exhibits, from vegetables to flower arrangements to soda bread to embroidery -- and no doubt items made of balbriggan -- were displayed in competition, and I once won a pound (before the days of the Euro!) for a black-and-white photo of my dog. I now live in Johannesburg. Ah, for the peace, friendliness, and security of an Irish town!


From: Tom Horgan (horgtom51 comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--brummagem

When I was a kid ('30s), my Dad worked with an "off-the-boat" Brit, and our families were close. He had great jokes.

"A Brit is talking to an American, and starts talking about some undesirable that came from Brummagem. The American asks, "Where's that?"

"Oh, I suppose you Americans call it Birmingham."

Later, the American begins talking about "Niffles" as a great place to visit. The Brit asks where that is, and the American answers, "Oh, I suppose you Brits call it Niagra Falls."


From: Darin R. Pankratz (darin.r.pankratz boeing.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sardonic

I remember a movie named Mr. Sardonicus.


From: Georg Schönbächler (georg garbald.ch)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sardonic

The term sardonic is also used in a medicinal context: A sardonic smile (medical term: risus sardonicus) is a characteristic spasm of the facial muscles. It is the first symptom of tetanus, a disease caused by a bacteria called Clostridium tetani whose spores are found in soil, dust, and feces. Tetanus spores germinate in the body and produce a highly poisonous neurotoxin. The infection is rare but often fatal.


From: Elsa F. Kramer (efk earthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sardonic

That "Sardinian plant" is in the large genus Ranunculus, all species of which are toxic. Field buttercups, for example, are a source of free-range livestock poisoning. Linnaeus noted that human consumption of R. sceleratus (sometimes called Hecatonia scelerata, Herba sardonia, cursed buttercup, celery-leaf buttercup, or marsh crowfoot), a wetland weed, produced the so-called grin. Crushing the plant releases a toxic, bitter oil that causes a variety of unpleasant neurological reactions, ranging from minor skin irritation to lip spasms or grimacing and eventually convulsions or even death if large quantities are consumed. The involuntary grimace called "sardonic laughter" (risus sardonicus) also is a symptom of lockjaw, or tetanus infection. Nothing to laugh about!


From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr (rrosenbergsr accuratesurgical.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--waterloo

Actually, there was never a battle in Waterloo. Waterloo was where General Wellington had his headquarters. The battle itself was fought at Mount St. Jean and at the farm of the Belle Alliance. After the battle, the German General Bluscher and the British General Wellington met to decide on a name for the battle, they settled on Waterloo because that had been where Wellington's HQ had been located.

Just as General Custer eventually emerged victorious at Little Big Horn, Napoleon's greatest victory was his defeat at Waterloo. They both entered the Pantheon of Heroes. Today, Wellington is remembered only in England and for a dubious cut of beef. Napoleon is the clear winner in History.


From: Robert Ward (robert.ward8 btinternet.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--waterloo

Though in fact Wellington led an allied army -- although British troops were the largest single contingent, and arguably played the key role -- the larger part of the army was not in fact British. There was also a sizable Dutch force under the Prince of Orange and contingents from allied German states (not counting the King's German Legion, a German force in British service).


From: Alexa Fleckenstein (coldwatermd yahoo.com)
Subject: waterloo

This comes timely: I am just reading the chapter about Waterloo in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables -- coincidentally on the anniversary of the battle: 18th of June. I am awed by this novel (which is so much more than just a musical). And the description of the battle of Waterloo -- some 200 pages smack in the middle of the story -- is unforgettable!


Words, like eyeglasses, obscure everything they do not make clear. -Joseph Joubert, moralist and essayist (1754-1824)

This week's words

balbriggan
brummagem
sardonic
waterloo
fescennine

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