AWADmail Issue 390
December 20, 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
Languages of the World
The Philomath Speaks: An Interview with Anu Garg
National Association of Scholars
From: Tom Priestly (tpriestl shaw.ca)
Def: Social instability and alienation caused by the erosion of norms and values.
Thank you for putting me straight! About 60 years ago a whole class of boys,
myself among them, was accused by our teacher of anomie and told that it
was a Deadly Sin. Your choosing this word as AWAD set me a-checking and I now
know that he was accusing us of acedia
("Spiritual torpor; apathy and inactivity in the practice of virtue"),
which we may indeed have been guilty of. (And it is just part of the Sin
of Sloth, but that is another matter). We could hardly be faulted for
anomie, which is, as I understand it, something imposed on the individual by
"the erosion of values", i.e., by society.
From: Janet Rizvi (janetrizvi gmail.com)
Def: Heaviness or weight of a person.
The basic meaning of avoirdupois, as all of us of a certain age who were
brought up in the UK know well, is the system of measuring weights in
which 16 ounces (oz.) = 1 pound (lb.); 14 lb. = 1 stone (st.); 8 st. =
1 hundredweight (cwt.), and 20 cwt. = 1 ton. A cumbersome system, if ever
there was one, but sanctified by tradition and in universal use in the UK
till around the 1970s when it was superseded by the metric system. (I
believe something like it is still the standard system of measuring weight
in some relatively backward countries on the western side of the Atlantic).
It saddens me to think of all the mental energy expended by millions of
children in learning to calculate in this archaic system (as well as in
pounds, shillings, and pence; inches, feet, and yards; pints, quarts, and gallons)
when our Continental counterparts only had to master the simple and elegant
metric system. The current generation in the UK are luckier, but I still
weep for those poor American kids...
From: Bob Boisvert (bob.boisvert tc.gc.ca)
Canada adopted the metric system a long time ago, but old habits die hard:
it is not unusual to hear at the deli counter: please give me five slices
of ham, 300 grams of smoked turkey, a pound of bacon, and about six inches
of kielbasa coil.
From: Lekha Warrior (lekhawarrior gmail.com)
Subject: Avoir du poids
Here in Belgium, 'avoir du poids' in its French equivalent could also
imply a person's status in the social sense -- a person's worth/level of
influence in his or her actions or in a discussion. Of course, it also has
the same meaning as described by you. I love to see the similarities in
these two languages and your insights are pure fun.
From: Jim Kimble (jkimble uab.edu)
Since high school I have been meaning to look up the etymology of this word.
I assumed it was the name of a French scientist, because it is the name
of the system of weights used in Western Europe and its colonies prior to
the adoption by most civilized countries of the metric system.
From: Nadine Peterson (homeingv yahoo.com)
Subject: Thank you
I am enjoying this website so much. What fun! I bought one of the books
and I am looking forward to reading it.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
The words of some men are thrown forcibly against you and adhere like burrs.
-Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)