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AWADmail Issue 431

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 Richard Stallman (see below), who will be the first to try our coffee-lover's tee "Caffiend" on for size this morning.


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

A Vanished Language Returns
Boston Globe

The English Language Unity Act
The Web of Language


From: Milan Schonberger (milan.schonberger sbcglobal.net)
Subject: fatwa
Def: 1. A ruling on a point of law given by an Islamic religious leader. 2. A severe denunciation.

A cartoon in the September 26, 2010 Los Angeles Times TOON-OP section gives a perfect "picture" of fatwa. Two women passing a third one who's clad in full black veil. One says to the other, "I wonder why a woman would hide her identity under a veil?"
"She's a cartoonist facing a fatwa against her."


From: Grace Cameron (gzcameron embarqmail.com)
Subject: fatwa

So here's MY fatwa. As a long-time feminist I weary of the full return of "he" to mean "person". It doesn't -- it normally actually refers to a male person or creature. You say, and I agree, that a person should be able to choose what books to read. But you say "he". Not necessary. It does tend to exclude over half the human race.


From: Ariel Marcy (aemarcy stanford.edu)
Subject: excommunicate
Def: To formally exclude someone from a group or community, especially from a religious community.

In college, to "sexile" your roommate means commandeering the room in order to have intimate relations with someone else. My freshman year, I was discussing this word with several friends... We all felt that sexile was too coarse and started brainstorming alternatives.

About an hour later, our top choice: excommunicuddle.


From: Lorie Vallejo (loredith_joy yahoo.com)
Subject: re: excommunicate

How apropos! The day after "excommunicate" was the word of the day, the Roman Catholic Church threatened to excommunicate our new president, President Aquino, for supporting the propagation of artificial birth control methods. The Roman Catholic Church is the biggest religious denomination in the Philippines.

A popular tour guide was also jailed for disrupting a mass over the Catholic Church's stand against contraceptives. He held out a placard with "Damaso" written on it. It was an allusion to Padre Damaso (a character in Jose Rizal's book, "Noli Me Tangere"), a Spanish friar who ordered the excommunication of the main character, Juan Crisostomo Ibarra.


From: Monika Golightly (golight iafrica.com)
Subject: Euphemisms
Def: Use of a mild, neutral, evasive, or vague term in place of one considered taboo, offensive, blunt, or unpleasant.

We live in a wildlife estate near the Kruger National Park in South Africa. As we have no predators on the estate, an annual "cull" of surplus antelope takes place. Everyone calls it culling, I call it killing.


From: Sander Smith (alexander.smith ucl.ac.uk)
Subject: A.Word.A.Day--euphemism

My favourite euphemism for drunk is -- I think -- typically British: "tired and emotional". Allegedly, it came about when a politician appeared on TV news clearly intoxicated and the presenter commented that he appeared tired and emotional. Nowadays there is absolutely no doubt in anyone's mind what is meant when someone is described as such.

For the history of the term, please see this article on Wikipedia.
-Anu Garg


From: Paul Murray (paul.murraymkt gmail.com)
Subject: Euphemism

My favorite euphemism comes from the wonderful world of TV. A show that was once simply a repeat is now an encore presentation.


From: Rick Reynolds (babysan1 verizon.net)
Subject: euphemism

I would add "Defense Department" for "Department of War" as a classic euphemism. The US made this change in 1947. The new name marked major administrative changes, which set the stage for modernization and a new branch of the military (the Air Force).

However, the old name should have been retained. "Dept. of Defense" sounds vaguely pleasant -- a bunch of good guys genially protecting the old homestead. Less blunt than "Department of War". Well, who are we kidding? (And I say this as a non-combat vet who liked his time in the Army.)


From: Ken Masters (kmasters ithealthed.com)
Subject: euphemism

One of my "favourite" euphemisms comes from modern warfare -- American bombers do not bomb the enemy; they deliver their ordnance. Monty Python would create the following scene:
Knock, knock!
"Yes?"
"I have some ordinance, in the form of four bunker busters, for special delivery. Please could you sign for them?"
"Sure, will they be coming through the front door, or down the chimney?"
"Probably down the chimney. Ya'll have a nice day, now!"


From: Michael Miller (michaelm serapdx.com)
Subject: euphemism

In the building design and construction world, project teams are often forced to 'value engineer' or 'VE' the project to bring it back within budget, in lieu of 'reducing quality', 'removing features', or otherwise 'cutting costs'.


From: David Fischer (dw-mefischer sbcglobal.net)
Subject: Euphemisms

My wife tells the story about her grandmother, who had just heard a sermon on the subject of euphemisms as swear words. "Gee whiz" was not permitted because it stood for "Jesus", and so on through almost all the mild words commonly used. This fine old lady's conclusion was that the only word left was "SHIT!"


From: Tom Bubul (tbubul timesleader.com)
Subject: euphemism

First time I heard this word was in 1970 in the sophomore English class at the Jesuit High School I attended. Little Father Joseph Ayd wrote it on the chalk board and he said what it meant. He then gave the following example in the incongruous booming voice that came out of his diminutive frame, "So instead of saying sh*t house, you say powder room." The class roared and I never forgot what euphemism meant.


From: Dr. David L. Streiner (dstreiner klaru-baycrest.on.ca)
Subject: euphemism

Your example of "sanitation worker" for "garbage collector" reminded me of Norton, on The Honeymooners. He described himself as a "subterranean engineer in charge of sanitation" -- he was a sewer worker.


From: Joan Z. Shore (joanzshore yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: Word-a-Day--euphemism

One of the strangest euphemisms in current use is "adult". Whereas this used to mean mature, grown-up, sensible....it now applies to anything that is salacious, sexual, or downright pornographic.


From: Del Smith (wichitadel aol.com)
Subject: euphemisms

Who remembers Sydney Harris's wonderful column on words? A regular feature utilized dysphemism and euphemism: "He is a control freak. You are organized. I am an excellent time manager."


From: Christine Lehmann (clehmann pnc.edu)
Subject: Euphemism

In a play recently at City Lit Theatre in Chicago, Jan Blixt was playing all four women's parts. There was only one potential intersection, which was solved when as one character she said, "Excuse me, I have to use the euphemism", and a few seconds later re-entered as another character.


From: Michael Bash (mbash1944 yahoo.com)
Subject: euphemism

Even euphemism becomes a euphemism. I think it's in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" where George asks if anybody "has to use the euphemism" before they leave.


From: Jim McKinley-Oakes (jimmcko comcast.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--euphemism

I wish you would use a nicer word for euphemism.


From: M Henri Day (mhenriday gmail.com)
Subject: samizdat
Def: An underground publishing system used to print and circulate banned literature clandestinely. Also, such literature.

The World Wide Web can be considered a gigantic network of samizdats, which is why governments -- all governments -- seek to control it.


From: Charles Burbank (Iwant2BaClone juno.com)
Subject: samizdat

My best friend studied Russian at Stetson in the early nineties. She shared this word with me as it was the "publisher" of many of her creative works while she was in college. The -izdat ending was also on a couple of other words tamizdat (which means published out there, i.e. works that were smuggled out and published outside Russia's borders), and magnitizdat (which deals with recorded tapes that were smuggled out of the country as well).


Email of the Week - (Sponsored by Well-(Read) - Ignorance is the real enemy.)

From: Richard Stallman (rms gnu.org)
Subject: Words related to censorship

The class of words related to censorship includes some whose membership in that class is counterintuitive.

For instance, "copyright". The first English copyright law was a censorship measure, and copyright continues to be used for that purpose. See this.

Another example is "counterfeit". Almost 50 governments are now negotiating a treaty to impose nasty copyright enforcement measures on the general public under the guise of preventing "counterfeiting".


From: Mary Gressette (jgressette sc.rr.com)
Subject: Age (Re: oldest and youngest subscribers)

I shall be 95 years of age on Oct 4.


From: Jeffrey Mei (jeffreymei ihug.co.nz)
Subject: youngest subscriber

I am 17 and possibly one of the younger members around. I've been a member for about two years now and it's so great to see "tradition" being preserved in today's increasingly abbreviated world. I study/have studied Latin, German and Arabic and I love to learn about the structures of language.


A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Words are loaded pistols. -Jean-Paul Sartre, writer and philosopher (1905-1980)
Oct 3, 2010
This week's theme
Words related to censorship

This week's words
fatwa
custos morum
excommunicate
euphemism
samizdat

Next week's theme
Words about relations

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