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AWADmail Issue 418July 4, 2010
A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language
This week's Email of the Week is from Lillian Barron (see below), who'll receive the Uppityshirt of her choice, and there's a heck of a selection.
From: Lillian Barron (mzlillian hotmail.com)
As a neophyte nurse I remember taking care of an elderly man who had had a stroke and who swore "like a sailor" but otherwise was mute. His family insisted that he had never used swear words before his stroke. The neurologist treating him told the family that swear words are stored in a more primitive part of the brain and so were not eliminated by the stroke...I never knew if this was so or if he was just trying to make the family feel better. But I have noticed that it is not uncommon for stroke patients to swear when they have no other speech.
From: John Richardson (rubrick.illumus gmail.com)
Being an Irishman from Dublin I knew the definition for this word before I read it. Much has been commented on our use of obscenities in everyday language, both by domestic journalists and foreign visitors to the island. Obscenities are used for emphasis (usually positive) in normal conversation and rarely taken as obscene unless directed at an individual (when it then becomes negative). James Joyce himself was a known coprolaligist and it is never uncommon to hear his modern equivalents use the 'purple' language. Irish people don't have Tourette's (in general), but the use of obscenities is instilled in us from an early age and we become accustomed to it, although it frequently shocks tourists who aren't prepared for a bit of Irish 'culture' not found in any guide books!
From: Gidi Arbel (gidi.arbel gmail.com)
No names in this story. A way to honor a geologist is to name a newly found fossil after him. Further investigation proved one such tribute to be a coprolite -- fossilized feces.
How to inform a distinguished Swiss academician, the nature of his namesake? The solution: dine and wine him and break the news while he is drunk. Done.
From: Brown, Frank (frank.brown travelport.com)
In the Disc World of Terry Pratchett's novels, trolls are made of stone. When one troll wants to call another troll a bad name (or in current street usage "disrespect him"), he would use the word coprolite. It didn't occur to me until seeing today's word that coprolite is petrified feces.
I think the definition of coprolalia should be extended to include the current phenomenon of one prominent media person "talking trash" or "talking smack" or "talking... dung" about another prominent media person. Sports competitors seem to do it all the time. It's part of the promotion for the coming event. It is especially true when the event resembles a fight. Members of the British Parliament, bridge players, and chess players for instance, are notorious for it as are ballroom dancers.
From: Walter Reed (wlreed emory.edu)
Or as Caliban says to Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest, "You taught me language, and my profit on't/Is, I know how to curse."
From: Grant Agnew (gtwa homemail.com.au)
Don't forget the Byzantine emperor named after it - Constantine Copronymos. Supposedly after a little accident at his baptism?
From: Lois Johnson (lebjohnson aol.com)
When my children were growing up, we called this "potty mouth", and the offender was warned, that if it continued, he (very seldom she) would have his mouth washed out with soap. I never had to, the threat was usually enough. Though come to think of it, once my 15-year old daughter swore at me, and I picked her up and dumped her, clothes and all, in a bathtub that was filling with water... It did work, no more coprolalia, at least not in my hearing.
From: Al Hodges (mah92019 yahoo.com)
Koko, the gorilla, in a moment of anger, called her curator a "shit" in sign language. Are we far apart?
From: Karmen Franklin (karmen chaoticutopia.com)
I come from a long line of artful rockhounds. When I was younger, my mother would point out stromatolites, lumpy fossils left by layers of bacteria, and tell me they were coprolites. Being a wise, know-it-all teenager, I knew better than to fall for the ruse. Even so, she still grossed me out.
From: Ben Newling (bnewling unb.ca)
Thank you for this week's filthy words. A shared etymology reminded me of coprophagy, which I am afraid used to amuse me and my brothers (a long while ago now). Some animals (rabbits and a few rodents, for example) require more than one attempt in order to extract *all* the nutrients from their food.
From: Richard Novick (novick saturn.med.nyu.edu)
An interesting, but less familiar application of the root "copro" is Coprinus, a mushroom genus that gets its name from the remarkable coprophilia of some of its members, which are avid coprophagics.
From: Simon Wood (simon.wood sealedair.com)
When we were young(er), our parents often used to take us on hikes up Mt Scoria, always armed with an array of cutlery. Once at the summit we would then scramble around, tapping away incessantly with fork and teaspoon, until amongst the vast array of cinder blocks we found the right notes for our tribal orchestra. The afternoon was then spent belting out a myriad of tunes, which of course would always include at least one rendition of Jimmy Buffett's "Volcano". It leaves me wondering though... given events in Iceland earlier this year... perhaps it wasn't the best idea to be chanting from a mountain top: "I don't know where I'm a-gonna go when the volcano blow"!?!
From: Harley Henry (harleyhen bellsouth.net)
Ah. As a grade schooler growing up in Brownsville, Pennsylvania during the 1940s, I remember the wonder of seeing the huge, high, glowing slag heaps when driving home at night from trips to Pittsburgh. It seemed like our own Monongahela valley Vesuvius.
From: Karen Black (kblack steelart.com)
I was reading the etymology of this word and was shocked and then laughed because this word was originally from the word skor which means dung. Hershey's makes a delicious chocolate toffee bar named SKOR. Thank you for the afternoon giggle.
From: Raúl Cervantes Desouches (raulcervantesdesouches gmail.com)
In Spanish, the word is also used to refer to people much as we use "scum" in English. It refers to a vile and worthless person.
From: Ann Geise (geiseba attalascom.net)
The word scatology reminded me of the description in Wesley the Barn Owl by Stacy O'Brien of the difference between poop (on the floor), sh*t (running down her neck) and scat (under the microscope).
From: kah454 (via Wordsmith Talk)
I was in a town in Alaska last year where one of the major enterprises was scatology. The town was a center for jewelry and small sculpture pieces such a nativity scenes and chess sets carved from moose scat.
From: Steve Harper (sharper11 nc.rr.com)
There is a chain of burger restaurants in North Carolina (and maybe elsewhere) called Skats. I once asked a friend where she was going to have lunch and she replied, "I'm going to have a Skatburger." I knew she was a nature lover and asked her if she knew what "scat" meant. She said she did but had never put the two together.
From: Marty Smith (marty.smith l-3com.com)
We used to say, "At the end of the world, everything will turn to a steaming pile", which of course is the perfect scatological, eschatological comment.
From: Dr Rick Rickards (docrick petalk.com)
I wonder how many have pondered about the similarity between the words Scatology and Eschatology? I know they are not related. I used to say that religion is like sausage, no matter how thin you slice it, it is still baloney! Someone once asked me if I thought that there was Order in the Universe? I see it everywhere I replied, except I spell it Ordure!
From: Frida Eidelman (frida ecen.com)
In Portuguese/Spanish escatologia is part of theology and philosophy that deals with the last events in the history of the world or the final destiny of humanity.
From: Edie Bonferraro (edieb mailbug.com)
There is a scatological diaper commercial running on TV, and it is a strain to endure. In my opinion, it totally misses its aim at humor, with its toilet puns and in its attempt to make a toddler boy look hip in his diaper of denim. Finally, I would gain considerable relief if this particular ad were soon flushed out of my TV-viewing realm. (Aw done!)
From: Carlos Holger Wenzel Flechtmann (chwflech esalq.usp.br)
This was quite a surprise, since in Brazilian Portuguese fecula means starch, starchy, referring mainly to the starch in the cassava roots. And it is available at a supermarket under this name!
From: Béatrice Palau (beatrice_palau yahoo.co.uk)
Another false friend I didn't know of! In French féculent means "starchy food" like potatoes for instance and doesn't have any filthy connotation to it. I'd better tell my students about it :) (I'm from Belgium)
From: Jim Mead (meadsthree aol.com)
OK, guys... everybody to the showers! Been a tough week wallowing in all that crud, so let's get washed up and find a Fourth of July parade nearby where we can renew our salute to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and cleanliness, too.
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:There is no more irritating fellow than the man who tries to settle an argument about communism, or justice, or liberty, by quoting from Webster. -Mortimer J. Adler, philosopher, educator, and author (1902-2001)
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