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AWADmail Issue 45

Sep 2, 2001

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


From: Cynthia Eliason (cyneATncia.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ultima thule

Wordsmith wrote:
> Incidentally, the name Greenland is ironic, as
> more than four-fifths of the land is ice-capped.

I have heard that this was a public relations move, to attract settlers. There's a folk song, too:

Oh Greenland is a dreadful place
It's a land that's never green
Where there's ice and snow
And the whale-fishes blow
And the sun is seldom seen.


From: Adrian Redmond (channel6ATpost2.tele.dk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ultima thule

Allow me to submit a small correction on today's word a day - Ultima Thule.

It is correct that the world's northenmost civilian settlement is in Greenland, but incorrect that this settlement is Qaanaaq. About 80 miles further north is the village of Siorapaluk, which actually enjoys the distinction which you accredit to Qaanaaq.

Qaanaaq is also known in English as New Thule - the reason being that the people of Qaanaaq - or in most cases their parents and grandparents, used to live 125 miles south at Pittufik, by the foot of Dundas mountain, which was then called Thule (this was a trading post originally established by the explorer Knud Rassmussen, though the region had been inhabited for thousands of years by the Polar (Thule) Eskimos. In 1953 the US decided to build an airbase/radar station/missile site at Pittufik, and the local eskimo population was given a week to move away from their ancestral lands. The reason for the short notice of this forced moved was that within a matter of weeks, the new Danish constitution would become law - extending citizenship rights to the Inuit of Greenland, rights which would have prevented them being forcibly moved and thereby necessitated a public debate about the establishment of the airbase and the then secret agreement between Denmark and the US about the housing of nuclear weapons at Thule - something which the Danish prime-minister - in direct contravention of Danish policy - had agreed to turn a blind eye to. Thus the Thule people were forcibly moved to a new settlement 125 miles north - Qaanaaq. They have spent the last 50 years fighting for compensation and the right to hunt on their lands. Their original village still stands at Pittufik - in the shadow of Thule Air Base, which may now play a key role in the National Missile Defence programme if the US are given permission to build more Radar sites there. Secrecy still surrounds all discussion on the future of Thule.

Thule AB is a little piece of America, transplanted to a corner of Greenland - perhaps one of the most remote settlements on our planet. Only a few hundred metres from the icebergs, polar-bears, arctic foxes and the occasional Inuit hunter, you step into another world, in which the time zone is suddenly the same as New York, and even the telephone numbers have a New York prefix. You need a US driving license to drive a vehicle there, all the supplies are sold in Dollars, Danish and Inuit are hardly spoken, and rich generals fly in for weekend trips to play golf on top of the flat-topped Dundas mountain. The Nike missile pads were dismantled years ago, Strategic Air command has only occasional visits there, but the bomb-proof hangars for the nuclear bombs which US promised would never be there, are still standing. So too is the long range radar station, 10 miles inland from the air-base. Surrounded by armed guards whose orders are to shoot first and ask questions later, this radar station has been the vanguard of US observation of the skies towards Russia since the mid fifties - from here they can spot an object the size of a baseball at 1200 miles. They do the watching, NORAD in Cheyenne Mountain Colorado makes the decisions. Space command is also there, tweaking the flight paths of satellites hundreds of miles above, and handling telemetry for the space shuttle when its up. All everyday stuff for the US defence department, but a great contrast when viewed from the perspective of the Inuit population, who still look on the runway which has felt the landing gear of so many B52's as their ancestral lands, to which one day they are determined to return - but to which they still need a permit to be able to walk upon, even if its only to catch the only civilian flight in and out of the region.

Thule is a symbol of the Cold War, a war fought on a less than level playing field. A war which in the end the forces of darkness lost and the forces of reason won, but like so many military installations in the Arctic, the price was paid by a small group of Natives who had no say. Seen by the millions of Western Europeans or North Americans who benefitted, then it was a small price to pay. Seen from the perspective of a seal-skin covered qayaq, it was a total infraction of all that is right, which even history will find hard to redress.


From: Janet Smith (jlbsmithpianoAThome.com)
Subject: Ultima Thule

I was pleased to see ultima Thule as the word of the day on Aug. 27. I am a seasonal park ranger at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky. One of the places on our Violet City Lantern Tour was called Ultima Thule because in the early 1800's it was the furthest point that one could go in that passage and the tours stopped there. In 1908 a way was discovered to go past Ultima Thule and we now exit at Violet City Entrance. However, we still call that area Ultima Thule, and most of us still stop there and use it as one of our interpretive stops before we continue to the exit. We have had some discussions about pronunciation of the Latin, so I am also pleased to see your pronunciation guide. I will share this information with the Guide Force.


From: Bruce Raup (braupATnsidc.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ultima thule

On 2001-08-27 00:59 -0400, Wordsmith wrote:
> ultima Thule (UL-tuh-muh THOO-lee) noun

Shouldn't that be pronounced TOO-lee ? The city in Greenland is pronounced that way.

    You are corrrect that the name Thule is pronounced as TOO-lee. However, pronunciation of Thule in the phrase ultima Thule truly goes as THOO-lee. -Anu


From: Paula Traynham (pauladeaneATmsn.com)
Subject: Hobson-Jobsons

In my part of Texas, if someone is obstinate, he is on'ry (a drawled elision of "ornery," which is itself a truncation I believe of "ordinary"). The whole time I was growing up I thought our neighbor was pretty "on'ry" herself because she invariably called her husband "on'ry." He was such a nice guy I couln't figure out why she was so mean to him. Imagine my surprise when years later I read his obituary and discovered his name was Henri. I was told the poor fellow's mother pronounced his name "honor-ee," (epenthesis) so I guess he just couldn't win for losing.


From: Michael Poole (michaelATcew.melco.co.jp)
Subject: Hobson-Jobson

Tony Boudreau's "MT" for "empty" reminded me of a common WW2 one that was still in use (mostly by my elders) until well into the 1960s. With a military desire to conserve chalk, the British Services got into the habit of marking broken, i.e. unserviceable, equipment "U/S", regularly abbreviated to "US". From my father's account of his and his mates' reactions to the belated arrival on the scene of thousands of servicemen whose uniforms proudly declared them to be "unserviceable", you can well imagine how many pub brawls were instigated by yet another example of incompatible transatlantic usage!


From: Lucille Keene (lewk2112ATwebtv.net)
Subject: Pet Peeves

Having been an old-time journalist with great respect for correct spelling, pronunciation, usage, syntax, etc,, I bristle every time I hear something outrageous, including emphasis on the wrong syllable, etc.

Well, I heard a couple of zingers last year that left me incredulous, outraged but laughing at the mental picture brought forward by a young reporter's interview with a town official about some crime in the neighborhood.

Trying to convince the readers that she would follow up on the story and let them know the details in the future, she wanted them to be certain that she would be on top of the story she claimed that she would be "keeping a breast out" for future.


From: Charles Schimmel (cws635ATearthlink.net)
Subject: Names and more names

I have always been interested in surnames - their origin and meaning- and your mention of names with many consonants brings to mind the All-American basketball player back in the 50s from Temple U. This was Bill Mlkvy and the sportswriters quickly dubbed him "the Owl without a vowel".

Also, how about those people who are fortunate (?) to have palindromic names. Three baseball players from the past come to mind: Eddie Kazak, Toby Harrah and Dick Nen (his son, Rob Nen currently plays for the S.F. Giants). I wonder if anyone knows of others?


From: Steve Gilford (sageprodATatdial.net)
Subject: Don't bet the stoa on it

In 1962, I climbed from downtown Athens to the Acropolis. Although there are a number of buildings there to attract wonder and to set the imagination free, I found myself drawn to the famous porch, the stoa supported by the beautiful figures of the maidens, the caryatids. It was here on this very spot that Zeno had expounded the virtues of his philosophy, stoicism.

I was carried away by the moment and slipped past the ropes that marked the limits where we tourists were welcome. I made it to the steps when a heavily accented voice from a guard shouted to me angrily that I was in a forbidden area and that I would have to leave immediately. I realized he was right. Calmly, I replied, "I can accept that."


From: Lyn Waters (lynATturk.net)
Subject: Timbuktu

When I was very young, four or five perhaps, my mother used to threaten to leave immediately for Timbuktu unless I behaved better. She even had a "Timbuktu dress". She would sigh and say, "Well, if you can't mind me or behave more nicely, I'll be going to Timbuktu, I guess." She would then open the closet door and take the Timbuktu dress off the hanger and begin to remove her ordinary house clothes. I immediately promised to behave. It was years later that I found out where Timbuktu was.Although this sort of threat is not, I'm sure, approved of by child psychologists, I don't think it ever bothered me much. I always wanted to take her to Timbuktu before she died, but sadly enough, that journey was never made.


The speaking in a perpetual hyperbole is comely in nothing but in love. -Francis Bacon, essayist, philosopher, and statesman (1561-1626)

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