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AWADmail Issue 607

A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language


From: Catherine Schaus (catherine.schaus sympatico.ca)
Subject: grok

I most remember this word as it was used on a button for original era Star Trek fans: I Grok Spock.

Catherine Schaus, London, Canada


From: Nick Wills-Johnson (nick.wills-johnson dbp.net.au)
Subject: Grok

Grok is also the name of the student magazine at Curtin Uni in Australia. I suspect that it's named for the literal Martian meaning, rather than its figurative meaning. I also suspect that someone at the student union spent more time reading Heinlein than perhaps they ought to have.

Nick Wills-Johnson, Perth, Australia


From: M Henri Day (mhenriday gmail.com)
Subject: grok

When I see this word, I can't help but be reminded of Pamela Jones's great website Groklaw, which she shut down on 20 August 2013, after a decade-long run in which she served the on-line community with explanations of related legal issues. Given the pervasive government surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, she felt she could no longer continue running the site, writing: "I hope that makes it clear why I can't continue. There is now no shield from forced exposure. Nothing in that parenthetical thought list is terrorism-related, but no one can feel protected enough from forced exposure any more to say anything the least bit like that to anyone in an email, particularly from the US out or to the US in, but really anywhere. You don't expect a stranger to read your private communications to a friend. And once you know they can, what is there to say? ..."

A sad day for the Internet...

M Henri Day, Stockholm, Sweden


From: Hope Bucher (hopebucher gmail.com)
Subject: Robert Heinlein

Being a watercolor artist I generally create cards for my friends and loved ones for special occasions. Several weeks ago, I painted a card for my husband on our anniversary; inside, as part of my message, I used a quotation from Robert Heinlein: "Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." My inquisitive, scientist husband asked where I found the quotation. It was in my "Bricolage Book" where I habitually store notes and quotations that grab my attention. Naturally I had to learn more.

In researching the quotation and the author, I discovered that Robert Heinlein was responsible for setting the standard for scientific and engineering plausibility. He is one of the "Big Three" with Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clark. Now my card is significantly more important to us both since we are scientists and appreciate his monumental contribution to the field.

Hope Bucher, Naperville, Illinois


From: Mary Righter (mrighter pennsvalley.org)
Subject: AWAD Quotation 2/11/14

Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages. -Thomas Edison, inventor (1847-1931)

Interesting that Thomas Edison felt so strongly, apparently, about humans' violence towards other living beings. Didn't he electrocute an elephant (Topsy) to prove his DC (direct current) was a better choice than Westinghouse's AC (alternating current)? Remember: we are all complex beings full of contradictions.

Mary Righter, Rebersburg, Pennsylvania


From: Jennifer Perrine (jperrine gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--waldo

Thanks so much for this week of words first written in science fiction. I first came across today's word ("waldo") in The Girl Who Was Plugged In, a novella written by James Tiptree, Jr. Like so much science fiction, Tiptree's 1973 story was extremely prescient, describing a future where corporations orchestrate consumerism through mass media, product placement, and celebrity culture. Of course, the story also suggests that resistance is possible, and the waldo -- used to remotely operate a brainless but beautiful celebrity -- is at the heart of the story's question of whether such resistance can succeed.

Jennifer Perrine, Des Moines, Iowa


From: Roger Regene (rregene mail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tardis

Earliest documented use: 1969. REALLY? In the first Doctor Who episode, "An Unearthly Child", the TARDIS is first seen in a 1963 junkyard. Not 1969

Roger Regene, Atlanta, Georgia

The date given for the earliest documented use is the first use of the word in the wild, in a metaphorical use in the English language, not in the literal sense in the TV show.
-Anu Garg


From: Eliz Crowley (crowleytech gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tardis

In the Peanuts comics by Charles Schultz, Snoopy's doghouse is a tardis. At times we hear of wild parties, expensive paintings, and even a pool table in his little home.

Eliz Crowley, Boston, Massachusetts


From: Donna Schwartz (blue.dreidel gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tardis

Just like the tent in Harry Potter where the Weasleys stayed during the World Quidditch Cup!

Donna Schwartz, Jerusalem, Israel


From: Jean Speiser (jeansp gmail.com)
Subject: tardis

I recently saw a Smart car -- one of the smallest car on the road -- with the vanity license plate: TRDIS 1.

Makes me wonder about all the other license plates that use "TARDIS" or some variation of it.

Jean Speiser, West Chester, Pennsylvania


From: Frank Muller (frank integrow.co.za)
Subject: Tardis

It has been my contention for a long time that the material used for bikinis and handbags is a tardis. In fact, there must be different strengths of this special tardis material -- the more it can hide, the more expensive the material gets. That explains why the smallest handbags (and bikinis) are inevitably the most expensive. And it also explains how a man can spend three days on horseback in the average handbag and still not find what he is looking for (U2, an all-male band, actually made a song about it).

Dr Frank Muller, George, South Africa


Email of the Week (Brought to you by The Official Man Up Manual -- An Old's Cool Handbook.)

From: Susan Smolinsky (sus.smo myfairpoint.net)
Subject: tardis

What a perfect quotation for the word tardis:

"Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe said: 'It's a bit of a tardis -- once inside there's lots of corners to explore and enjoy.'"
Kathie Griffiths; New City Library Opens With A Flourish!; Telegraph and Argus (Bradford, UK); Dec 10, 2013.

Libraries are the ultimate TARDIS - There is much talk about what to call "new" libraries, as we try to convey the fact that libraries are so much more than just books to borrow - they provide computer access for so many people with no other means of getting online, many offer a free wifi connection 24/7, we provide downloaded FREE audiobooks and e-Books and even videos, we help build literacy skills -- print and digital literacy in folks of all ages, we are community meeting spaces, offer kids programming for babies to teens, we offer book discussions and lectures for adults, more and more libraries are embracing the maker movement, turning the tide from being just consumers into creators -- whether it is learning to program an arduino microcontroller or a robot to more traditional arts and crafts. In Vermont we offer patrons free access to "Universal Classes", online continuing education classes on almost any topic imaginable!

No matter the size of the library, once inside you have access to a world of information, with a librarian ready to help guide you through Time and Relative Dimension in Space!

The Doctor knows about the power of libraries: "You want weapons? We're in a library! Books! The best weapons in the world! This room's the greatest arsenal we could have -- arm yourselves!" (Doctor Who, "Tooth and Claw")

Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest. -Lady Bird Johnson

Susan Smolinsky, Library Director, Arvin A. Brown Public Library, Richford, Vermont


From: Pete Saussy (bujinin netzero.com)
Subject: tardis/tesseract?

I remember the sci-fi use of tesseract as a box which has more space inside than the outside would indicate, possibly from these two stories listed in Wikipedia: "And He Built a Crooked House" -- a science fiction story featuring a building in the form of a tesseract, and "A Wrinkle in Time" -- a science fantasy novel using the word "tesseract" (without reference to its geometrical meaning). I wondered why the Doctor Who writers didn't use it for the tardis.

Pete Saussy, Pawleys Island, South Carolina


From: Chips Mackinolty (chips.mackinolty gmail.com)
Subject: Tardis

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation refers to radio recording booths by the term TARDIS. When one is connected to another via satellite, it's technically a TARDIS in the sense that it encompasses time and relative dimensions in space. They are, as the Doctor says, "bigger on the inside". That is also why there is a large cardboard cut-out of a dalek outside Sydney Master Control.

Appropriate for a broadcaster that, along with the BBC, are the only ones to broadcast all episodes of Doctor Who.

Less explicably etymologically, the ABC refers to the plural of TARDIS as TARDII.

Chips Mackinolty, Darwin, Australia


From: Merilyn Thomas (thomas.merilyn bigpond.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--triffid

When I was a uni student in botany in Brisbane, Australia we had a brilliant lecturer named Professor Trevor Clifford who was an international authority on plants. He was truly inspirational and loved to talk and demonstrate any aspect of plant taxonomy and biology for four decades. He received a D.Sc. and became an Emeritus Professor for his efforts. One day in the 1980s, there was a sign on his door, Clever Triffid. He didn't know the perpetrator for a while and asked all his students who was the source of the sign. We students shook in our boots. No one was ever game to say it to his face, but we and I think he too, liked the spoonerism.

Merilyn Thomas, Townsville, Australia


From: Serge Liberman (siliberman ausdoctors.net)
Subject: Frankenstein

A more recent version of the Jewish legendary golem who also turns against his creator's people -- a being made from clay through incantations and mystical formulae, rendered alive when the Hebrew word EMET (truth) is inscribed on his brow, and, when out of control, is put down upon the removal of the first E to spell MET (dead).

Fascinating legend.

Serge Liberman, Glen Iris, Australia


From: Scott Underwood (scottu gmail.com)
Subject: Frankenstein

Another popular Frankenstein usage is of a thing built from mismatched parts, especially if the work is inelegantly done or glaringly obvious. For example: welding a truck bed to a VW Beetle (frankencars) or building a guitar with a Fender neck and a Gibson body.

The latter is pretty common; in fact Eddie Van Halen's original guitar is called the Frankenstrat (Frankenstein + Stratocaster).

Scott Underwood, Palo Alto, California


From: Lynn Thornton (lthorn13619 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--frankenstein

Your note "The prefix franken- has been coined as an uncomplimentary moniker for artificially created things" brings to mind the attempt to camouflage some cell towers in the mountains of NY as frankenpines.

Lynn Thornton, W. Carthage, New York


From: Linda Owens (lindafowens netzero.net)
Subject: Frankenstein's Castle

When my husband and I lived in Frankfurt, Germany, courtesy of the US Army back in 1967-69, we often took friends who visited to Frankenstein's Castle in a small village south of the city. The ruined small castle was at the top of a steeply winding road, and it was especially spooky after dark.

The last time I recall going there, we had to walk through some woods to get to the castle, and of course my old friends Martha and Cindy told ghost stories the whole way. I was very pregnant and feared that I would give birth right there, but I didn't, whew. The next Halloween, the American Radio Station (AFN) re-played a tape they had made a few years previously -- they sent a reporter into the so-called crypt, where a moving mummy had been planted to frighten the reporter -- his terror was evident over the radio waves.

By the way, Mary Shelley, wife of the poet and author of the book, was reputed to have lived in the castle while she wrote, and she was supposed to have written her book on a dare from her husband's literary friends at the time.

Linda Owens, Exeter, Rhode Island


From: Jim Phillips (jimphillips icfconsulting.com)
Subject: Valentine's Day quotation

I believe the proper lyric is "Do I love you because you're beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?" It's sung by the Prince and Cinderella separately ruminating on their feelings for each other. (video, 3 min.) There is a segment where the Queen sings, "Do you love *her* because *she's* beautiful?" Oscar would never have Cinderella state that the Prince was possibly in love with her because of her beauty. The song is about how love affects our perception of the loved one...not how the loved one's appearance makes us love.

Jim Phillips, San Francisco, California

Thanks for taking the time to send the correction. Thanks also to 49739348936 of you for catching the typo in which franken- was described as a suffix instead of prefix. We've fixed the lyrics and the affix on the website.
-Anu Garg


From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
subject: Science fiction

For me, our greatest writers of the science fiction genre -- Lovecraft, Bradbury, Azimov, Heinlein, and others -- are all, in a sense, our most daring visionaries, dreamers, dare I say modern day shamans, who with feet still firmly planted on terra firma, allow themselves great leaps and flights of fancy, seeing far beyond the limited horizon of our circumspect narrow, earthbound lives, to fantastical worlds only imagined, yet that might one day prove more bound in fact than fiction.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


From: David Leflar (davidleflar gmail.com)
Subject: Chuck Palahniuk and Ira Levin

In Chuck Palahniuk's collection of essays, Stranger than Fiction, he includes a piece titled "An Open Letter to Ira Levin", in which he thanks the author of Rosemary's Baby and Stepford Wives (among other greats) for having the courage to write real science fiction with very real moral undertones. Palahniuk also details the difference between science fiction and fantasy, wherein science fiction establishes a potential world within the realm of possibility, and usually as a future that we'd best avoid if we, as humanity, start to make the conscious decisions necessary to do good. Fantasy can be fun and have a moral purpose, but I'm with Palahniuk in his appreciation for works that pertain most directly with the human condition.

David Leflar, Barrington, Illinois


From: Irving N. Webster-Berlin (awadreviewsongs gmail.com)
Subject: Song based on this week's words

Here are this week's AWAD Review Songs (words and recordings) for your listening and viewing pleasure.

Irving N. Webster-Berlin, Sacramento, California


A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
A word in earnest is as good as a speech. -Charles Dickens, novelist (1812-1870)
Feb 16, 2014
This week's theme
Words coined in science fiction

This week's words
grok
waldo
tardis
triffid
frankenstein

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