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AWADmail Issue 375

September 6, 2009

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language


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

Women Are Sort Of More Tentative Than Men, Aren't They?
ScienceDaily

A Mannah of Speaking
The New York Times


From: John Beerman (bdbeerman aol.com)
Subject: bird-dog
Def: noun: A talent scout, especially in sports; verb: To seek out or follow a subject of interest.

When I was in college (Miami-Ohio, Class of 1950) "bird-dog" meant to steal your friend's, esp. your fraternity brothers', girl friends. Or, to be one who did.


From: John Milman (john.milman talk21.com)
Subject: Bird-dog

For those of us who have been around for some time - probably our first introduction to this term was in the Everly Brothers song of 1958:

Johnny is a joker (he's a bird)
A very funny joker (he's a bird)
But when he jokes my honey (he's a dog)
His jokin' ain't so funny (what a dog)
Johnny is a joker that's a'tryin' to steal my honey (he's a bird dog)
[song, lyrics]

I guess that fits your definition of: 'To seek out or follow a subject of interest'.


From: Stu Tarlowe (starlowe earthlink.net)
Subject: Bird-dog

A bird-dog is also a "finder's fee", usually unsolicited, that a salesman will pay to another who steers a deal to him, or paid to anyone who delivers or refers a prospect.


From: Scott K (gr8scottfree aol.com)
Subject: bird dog

Bird-dog can also be used as a verb or adjective (i.e. bird-dogging and bird-dogger). In construction it refers to a foreman or supervisor who seemingly watches over a worker or crew to make sure they are getting the job done. It would seem to be a style of micro-management, and said individuals dislike being called on it.


From: Bill Eaton (wge usa.net)
Subject: bird dog

Also a term used during the war in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) in the 1970s for a small observation aircraft often used to carry an officer controlling the movement of ground troops during an action against rebels. Also used as a verb "going birddogging".


From: Gayle Hesse (chezhesse telus.net)
Subject: bird-dog

During this intense forest fire season here in British Columbia, and with news this Monday morning of the deaths of two forest fire fighters in California, this morning's word is very relevant.

In forest fire fighting terms, a bird-dog plane is a small, fast plane that scouts out the front lines of a forest fire. The bird-dog officer, who rides shotgun in the bird-dog plane along with the pilot, relays fire information and coordinates to the much less manoeuvrable tanker airplanes who are following along behind. The coordinates are the drop locations for the loads of forest fire retardant used to slow the spread of the forest fire.

Kudos to the pilots and bird-dog officers - they have a very dangerous job flying the front lines of a fire.


From: Bruce McCrory (hbm55 comcast.net)
Subject: bird-dog

When I was in high school and college, my older brother served in G2 during the Vietnam War. They flew small two-person bird-dog planes during enemy recon. Flying low over tree tops, the craft drew enemy fire, they spotted sunken boats and pack animals for bombing followup.

Until my brother's stories, the term was for a type of hunting dog. There after, the first thought is a type of plane for hunting enemy combatants.


From: Joseph Kirby (shuto_uchi hotmail.com)
Subject: bird dog

I've never heard today's word used in the context of the given definition, but growing up in small-town Arkansas, "Bird Dog" is part of a very commonly used phrase to express disappointment or disbelief. It's frequently heard in the context of "Ain't that a Bird Dog!"


From: Addie Pobst (addie cffresh.com)
Subject: Bird-dog

In the produce wholesale world, a Bird-dog is an inspector who travels to the supplier's warehouse to inspect produce before a sale is made. The Bird-dog's job is to find the best batch or lot for his employer to buy.

We also use it as a verb: "Whole Foods bird-dogged these organic fujis."


From: Laura Bentley (ledbentley gmail.com)
Subject: Bird-dog

In the fitness industry we also have an exercise we call the bird-dog. Actual name is "Quadruped with contralateral arm and leg". Bird-dog (or pointer) is much easier for clients to remember!


From: George Oberst (mail.gso gmail.com)
Subject: bird dog

I've heard the set phrase "busy as a bird-dog" used to epitomize energetic activity, as in "I've been busy as a bird-dog ever since the ice storm hit." I picture this a a reference to the ways of a pointer dog, dashing from place to place looking for hidden game-birds to point out to accompanying hunters.


From: Maureen Finn (maureen.finn hdrinc.com)
Subject: bird dog

I've had dogs most of my life (guardian/herding breed, primarily), and until I got an honest-to-goodness bird dog three years ago (a pointing breed bred for hunting for upland game birds), I didn't have much more than a simple understanding of the term bird dog. Dogged pursuit is another term that gained new depth.

To bird dog is to pursue relentlessly, and to watch a bird dog quarter a field in search of game (tail wagging happily the whole time) is a live action definition of the term, not to mention poetry in motion. They simply do NOT give up until they find what they're seeking, be it bird or tennis ball, and it's high energy the whole time.


From: Gregg Farrier (gjf mindspring.com)
Subject: bird dog

I have also heard truckers refer to their radar detector as a bird dog.


From: Martin Orloski (mml tdstelme.net)
Subject: Wildcatter
Def: One who drills for oil speculatively, promotes an unsafe or fraudulent enterprise, or who takes part in a wildcat strike.

Within the firearms culture, a wildcatter is one who builds custom, non-standard cartridges for either rifles or pistols. They are designed for maximum performance, often in conjunction with a custom firearm. Sometimes a "wildcat" cartridge becomes so popular that a mainstream ammunition manufacturer is moved to put it into standard production.


From: Philip Birch (shionab yahoo.com)
Subject: Frogmarch
Def: To force a person to walk with arms pinned behind the back.

When I was a boy in England some seventy-odd years ago, frogmarch meant walking the victim backwards with a boy on each side holding his arms out sideways from his shoulders.


From: Brian Long (long5707 sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Frogmarch

I am really open to other folks' opinions but don't you think the Rove picture is a tad tasteless. I come to you folks for enlightenment not childishness, leave the kiddie stuff to the TV.


From: Peter Fayers (p.fayers abdn.ac.uk)
Subject: Mawkish
Def: 1. Excessively sentimental. 2. Having a nauseating taste or smell.

And in Northern England (Yorkshire) mawky still means maggoty, as readers of the recent book God's Own Country (by Ross Raisin) will know.


From: David Millstone (david.millstone valley.net)
Subject: Re: mawkish

From Middle English mawke (maggot). Are maggots sentimental? ...

In the world of English country dance, we find dozens of compositions with "maggot" in the title. The first edition of John Playford's "English Dancing Master" dates from 1651 and subsequent collections contain titles such as Mr. Isaac's Maggot, Dick's Maggot, Mr. Beveridge's Maggot, and so on. Maggot in that context meant a fancy, a whim... so "sentimental" isn't far from the mark.


From Jean Owen (jeanao earthlink.net)
Subject: I beg to differ

The secondary sense of the word mawkish derives from the disgust we feel at the sight of the insect. By extension the word began to refer to something sickeningly sentimental.

At the sight of an insect I am not disgusted, but rather I am curious and amazed and appreciative of its beauty and wonder!


From: Rachel Holbert (kitsunerach gmail.com)
Subject: Concerning shrew, 09/04/09

The definition for "shrew" included the following sentence:

"From the belief that a shrew had a venomous bite, in the beginning the term was used metaphorically for anyone of a spiteful nature, male or female."

There are in fact three venomous shrew species in North America. They are the Northern Short-tailed Shrew, the Southern Short-tailed Shrew, and Elliot's Short-tailed Shrew. Their salivary glands produce toxins that harm the nervous system and red blood cells, but are not lethal to humans.


From: Richard Pain (rpain tpg.com.au)
Subject: appreciation

Dear AWAD,

I just wanted to register my thanks for AWAD - it's a perfectly formed pebble that falls into my everyday with a delightful ripple.

Thank you.


A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
All words are pegs to hang ideas on. -Henry Ward Beecher, preacher and writer (1813-1887)

This week's theme
Animal terms

This week's words
bird-dog
wildcatter
frogmarch
mawkish
shrew

Next week's theme
Yours to discover

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