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AWADmail Issue 39

Jul 22, 2001

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


From: Bill Robb (billrobbATicon.co.za)
Subject: Re: louche and this week's AWAD

This refers more to your comments about the week's words than the word louche in particular.

In 1937 Professor Egon Brunswick (University of California at Berkeley) conceived of a model of social perception, called the "Lens Model". The details can be found anywhere for those who would look, but the essence of the Lens is "What we think we see in others will determine, for the most part, how we will treat them and respond to them. The accuracy of what we think we see will dictate the appropriateness of the behaviour we utilize or the actions we take and the resulting productivity of the relationship." (Dr Jay Hall, Ph.D., Models for Management: The Structure of Competence, Woodstead Press, Woodlands, Texas, 1980 ? 1994)

It seems to me we should be taking the concept of "Don't judge a book by its cover" a lot more seriously as a human race if we are to avoid such conflicts as the Middle East, Irish, and many other disasters. I like to think that we, as South Africans, did that with results that stunned even the most optimistic not only in South Africa, but the world in general.

Thank you for your daily linguistic gems. They are most appreciated and have become, at least for me, one of those relatively rare items in our lives, about which we tend to say: "What would we do without it?"


From: Carol Bauer (cacckiATaol.com)
Subject: Judging a book by its cover

With respect to your word for today and judging a book by its cover, I want to call your attention to a little known work by Victor Hugo called "The Man Who Laughs" (L'homme qui rit). It deals with a man who was born with a facial deformity that makes him look as though he is always laughing. Since laughter is inappropriate in many social situations the man was castigated and shunned by many even though he was a good soul.


From: Lorrell Louchard (llouchardATcablespeed.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--louche

I was greatly amused by your choice of this word. My husband's surname is Louchard (an uncommon one) which is derived from louche. The medieval banking family of Louchards helped finance the Crusades. Unfortunately, their wealth did not descend to us along with the name!


From: Emanuela Bianchi (bianchiATsocrates.berkeley.edu)
Subject: Regarding louche

Regarding "louche," I recently read it used as a verb describing what happens when water is added to absinthe or pernod, when the drink becomes cloudy, as in "Add water till it louches."


From: James Bradley (jbradleyATearthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--clochard

The suffix -ard is even more fun in French than you say. It's a derogatory suffix in French slang that gets applied to many words to modify them, usually into insults. For instance, while chauffeur in French means driver-- not just the limo kind: Chauffeur de taxi means, simply taxi driver-- "chauffard" is slang for someone who drives badly. A common mild expletive is "espece de chauffard!" -- literally "species of bad driver" -- which you can say anytime someone cuts you off or sits in front of you when the light turns green. This is classic Parisian slang, I don't know if he goes everywhere in France.


From: W S Haubrich, MD (willhaubATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dexterous

"Dexterous" is yet another example of the tyranny of the majority, right-handers presuming to be more adroit (French, "to the right") than lefties. It's been said that if the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, then only left-handed people are in their right minds.


From: Mike Babb (mbabbATentercomp.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ambisinister

Not knowing how old you are, I don't know whether or not you remember a TV cartoon from the early '60's called Underdog. He was a canine (ala Mighty Mouse) that fought crime, as they all did in those days. His arch enemy was "Simon Bar Sinister". This was a very neat trick for the writers to play, almost in the spirit of Rocky and Bullwinkle. In English heraldry, the "bar sinister" denotes bastardy. If the coat-of-arms of a person had a stripe (bar) from his right shoulder to his left hip, (bar dexter) he was legitimate. If the bar went from left shoulder to right hip, it denoted bastardy, which in that day didn't quite have the stigma it has now. Therefore, the writers of Underdog had a villain named "Simon the Bastard", and most people didn't realize it. Amazing how clever these early cartoons were. Beany (sp?) and Cecil (the seasick sea serpent) had a physical-fitness nut named "Tearalong, the Dotted Lion". He was, of course, feline.


From: Elizabeth Denny (edennyATcrocker.com)
Subject: Curious Dilem(?)a

I have a perplexing word problem that I thought you might be able to help me with. Recently, a group of friends got together to discuss the word "dilemma." The discussion came up because an editor changed one of our "dilemnas" to "dilemma," and was incredulous that anyone would be so foolish as to insert an "n" in this word. However, every one of us (and I'm talking about roughly 20 people) remembered being taught to spell the word D-I-L-E-M-N-A, and also remembered being chastized for the stupidity of using two "m's."

Is this one of those mass hysteria events, or is there something here? I distinctly remember a fourth-grade teacher going on and on, in a very loud drone, about the spelling of this word, and when I write the word, I say it to myself with a little emphasis on that pesky "n."

We are all in our 40's and 50's, which might or might not be relevant. Some youngsters thought to harass us about Alzheimer's, but we beat them into submission, and await your expert opinion. Do you have any insights? Anything you can tell us would be greatly appreciated.

    I've never come across the word "dilemna". It is not listed in any dictionary I know of. It does appear in the OED in a citation for another word (horned):
    "1551 T. WILSON Logike (1580) 34b, Dilemna, otherwise..called a horned argument."

    My conjecture is that its similarity with a word such as "solemn" may be the cause of confusion here. The silent letter n in the latter word may make some to believe that dilemma follows the same pattern "lemn" instead of "lemm". It is especially possible when one acquires words by listening (TV?) rather than by reading. One look at the etymology of the word will remove any confusion. The word dilemma derives from di- (two) and lemma (assumption, premise). Recall the image of "horned" situation in the citation we just saw.

    All 20 people in a group believing in the same incorrect spelling is unusual but you have more company that you might think. Google yields 13,400 Web pages with the spelling "dilemna". But Web never claimed to be the shining light of orthography. After all, this is the same Web where you can find 372,000 pages with the word "definately". Curiously, "dilemna" appears even on places such as NYTimes.com, CNN.com and MacWorld.com. We can give the benefit of doubt to some of these sites -- perhaps it was just a case of fickle fingers. Now if only we could trace that fourth-grade teacher...
    -Anu Garg


From: Cherylynn Lau (cherylynn_wlAThotmail.com)
Subject: The art of war and the art of making up words.

What a fitting topic this past week, as I have discovered my need to practice fetial tactics in the workplace. There was an instance of the spoliation of a memo with my name on it. The word "fetial" for some reason makes me think of the word "facial" - and I realized that the need to be fetial comes from people being "two-facial".


From: Bret Levinton (levintob2ATconstellation.navy.mil)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--spoliation

I'm currently stationed on an aircraft carrier (USS Constellation) deployed to the Persian Gulf. First off I would like to express my thanks for AWAD. Secondly, I passed on today's word (spoliation) to a few of my shipmates. Now when we enter another foreign port, we can sound a little more educated as we make our way to the local bars and tattoo parlors.


If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. -George Orwell, writer (1903-1950)

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