AWADmail Issue 394
January 17, 2010
Email of the Week (Courtesy Uppityshirts)
From: Julie Gill (julie peacefulbend.com)
Def: Of or related to a prophet or a prophecy: prophetic.
My sister and I were putting together an Abraham and Moses jigsaw
puzzle when we started to notice a strange crackling sound coming from
upstairs. We paused our assemblage for a moment and strained our ears:
this wasn't just white noise. After several moments of intense listening,
we managed to decipher the message:
"A few years from now, you will relate this story to a word you receive
in your email."
We couldn't make much sense of it at the time, but never again will I
question vatic attic static.
From: Glenn Glazer (gglazer ucla.edu)
Subject: Re: Canonical
Def: Authorized; recognized. ...
The word 'canonical' always reminds me of the hacker usage of the term
and the story told at The Jargon File.
Readers interested in how subgroups form their own jargon may find the
entire jargon file an interesting read.
From: Jane Fleming (jane98 aol.com)
Your various meanings omitted the usage in the Domain Naming System that
is used to resolve computer names.
From: Barb Prillaman (barbwire sprintmail.com)
Subject: musical definition of "canonical"
Being a bit of a music geek, I have to point out that while your musical
definition of 'canonical' is spot-on, your example isn't.
A classic example of a musical canon from the Western (ahem!) canon is
"Row, Row, Row Your Boat". However, Pachelbel's "Canon in D", alas,
isn't a canon at all. Its structure is of a form known as a passacaglia
-- it's the same melody repeated
over and over, usually in the bass voice, with one or more countermelodies
From: Emily O'Chiu (whylime13 gmail.com)
Outside of religion the only place I have encountered the word canonical
is among comic book fans. Events and characters from an original series
are part of the canon and some fans monitor spin off series and fan works
to make sure they remain canonical.
From: Floyd Kermode (judgefloyd gmail.com)
Canonical has a new life, associated with meanings 3 and 4 on your list,
meaning that an instance of a serial character counts for hard-core fans. For
example, a popular companion of Doctor Who is a shape-changer who chooses
to live as a penguin. However, because Frobisher was invented in Dr Who
comics, he would not be canonical for many hard core fans. Similarly,
if you wrote a Star Trek musical and made up a new character, or killed
off one of the established ones, the new character or the death might not
be seen as 'canonical' by fans.
From: Russell Juelg (russelljuelg comcast.net)
I was surprised by your sweeping generalization about religion, indicating
that it "best serves as a tool to divide people". This opinion is so
widely held, it is often treated as a truism by some. But while organized
religions seem to have been a basis of division among people throughout
history, is religion, per se, really more of a divisive thing than,
say, socio-economic status? And don't people also typically say, "My
race is better than yours... My political party is better than yours,"
etc.? In other words, one might argue that humans have a strong tendency
to segregate themselves, and will use a wide variety of differences to
justify these divisions. But some religions actually are based on values
and principles that can help us overcome these tendencies. Perhaps "true
religion" is the cultivation of virtues that indeed help to bind us together.
From: Jeane Harris (jeaneharris61 yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sacerdotal
Guy Harrison's book sounds interesting. I once heard a comedian define
holy war like this: My imaginary friend is better than your imaginary friend.
From: Granville (teacupfarm comcast.net)
Subject: RE: A.Word.A.Day--sacerdotal
I appreciate the thoughts you share, along with the words. In this case,
I'm reminded of a bumper sticker I saw on a car when I was stuck in a
traffic jam. It read:
I DON'T KNOW AND NEITHER DO YOU
I loved it as it sums up my philosophy. I'm not into "spreading my message"
and thus don't put bumper stickers on my cars. That didn't, however,
keep me from smiling when I saw it.
From: Max Montel (maxmontel yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--sacerdotal
Def: Of or relating to priests: priestly.
I'm already looking forward to this week's newsletter as you begin to wade
directly into controversy. In my experience, the topic that will provoke
argument quickest is not religion, nor politics, but linguistics. Challenge
people's prejudices about the way they speak and that person will be
instantly ready to fight. Point out that a dialect used by lower-class
speakers of their language is just as legitimate and capable of communicating
ideas as their own and they take it as a personal insult. Note that a word
they find insulting used to be complimentary or neutral (and therefore has no
inherent power but the power we give it) and they feel you have personally
slurred them. Of course, religion is a biggie too. So congratulations on
tackling the top two. I for one am ready to join in the fun.
From: Bev McNeilly (mcneilly hdo.net)
What if the only word for God in your language meant MY god? See
From: Jim Cosgrove (jcosgrove.law verizon.net)
Subject: Quote 1-14-10 attributed to Chris Hitchens
Regarding "What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without
proof" attributed to Christopher Hitchens). Actually this is not original
to CH, but instead derives from the Latin maxim, "Quod gratis asseritur,
gratis negatur." An elegant formulation of which is: That which is alleged
without proof may be dismissed without explanation.
From: Ron Frazier (ronfraz verizon.net)
Subject: Palindromic Dates
Concerning palindromic dates...
I did write a small BASIC program to generate all palindromic dates and
count the days between successive dates. Both ways of writing dates have 366
palindromic dates in the years between 0001 - 9999, but the distributions
are quite different and have interesting patterns. The complete list is
The last palindromic date of the 10th millennium will be: 09/29/9290! The
last date of our (the 3rd) millennium will be: 09/22/2290.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Prolonged study of the English language leaves me with a conviction that
nearly all the linguistic tendencies of the present day have been displayed
in earlier centuries, and it is self-evident that the language has not bled
to death through change. Vulgarity finds its antidote; old crudities become
softened with time. Distinctions, both those that are useful and those that
are burdensome, flourish and die, reflourish and die again.
-Robert W. Burchfield, lexicographer (1923-2004)
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