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AWADmail Issue 623

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

Sponsor's message: It's Officially Huge. This week's Email of the Week winner, William Melgaard (see below) -- as well as all AWADers worldwide -- can now make their own terrific fun word-nerd party for nothing. Introducing our best-selling One Up! -- The Wicked/Smart Word Game as a free PDF download, absolutely gratis. Hurree y'up.

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

Which English? A Game/Survey.
Games With Words

The Distribution of English Letters Towards the Beginning, Middle or End

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Sulfurous

I wonder if the alteration of the spelling from the Latin f to the Greek ph was meant to indicate the acidity of the word's hydrogen Potenz or the lexicographer's pro-Hellenic sympathy.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Diane Campbell (diane.campbell internode.on.net)
Subject: sulphurous

I immediately think "rotten eggs" or H2S -- sulphurous is a smell at least as much as a colour. It is the smell that has earned Rotorua its sobriquet of Sulphur City.

Diane Campbell, Adelaide, Australia

Email of the Week (Brought to you by One Up! -- with our compliments.)

From: William Melgaard (piobair mindspring.com)
Subject: catalyst

The way "catalyst" was taught to me:

A father had 19 horses. His will left 1/2 to the eldest son, 1/4 to the second son, and 1/5 to the youngest son. They were in a quandary as to how to divide the horses. A knight rode up, and added his horse to the herd, adding up to 20 horses. 10 went to the the first son, 5 went to the second son, and 4 went to the third son. The knight then rode off on the remaining horse whose name was Catalyst.

William Melgaard, Hampton, Virginia

From: Alan Etherington (alan-e ntlworld.com)
Subject: Catalyst

A more accurate definition of "catalyst" is a substance that changes the rate of a chemical reaction, itself being chemically unchanged at the end of the reaction. The main points here are that there are negative catalysts as well as positive, for example a small quantity of ethanol added to chloroform will slow the decomposition of the chloroform to the unwanted phosgene if used in anaesthesia and also that the catalyst is chemically unchanged at the end, this doesn't mean that it is physically unchanged.

Alan Etherington, Billingham, UK

From: Alexis Melteff (aapm52 yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--catalyst

When my junior high school teacher explained this word as "something that causes a reaction without taking part in the reaction", a number of students must have looked mystified, because he added, "Think of a mouse in the girls' gym."

Alexis Melteff, Santa Rosa, California

From: Sara Scurani (sara.scurani studio.unibo.it)
Subject: R: A.Word.A.Day--fulminate

A.Word.A.Day is a precious source of false friends! In Italian, "fulminare" has retained the Latin meaning as a transitive verb (to strike with lightning); if you use it while referring to a person, it may also mean that you gave them a very piercing look ("l'ho fulminato con lo sguardo"). You can, however, also use it as an adjective to mean that a light bulb is gone ("una lampadina fulminata").

Sara Scurani, Bologna, Italy

From: Joe Baldwin (jbald76246 optimum.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fulminate

Remembering the scene (video, 4 min.) in Mister Roberts when Ensign Pulver (Jack Lemmon) blows up the USS Reluctant's laundry with fulminate of mercury, always brings a smile to my face. Great movie.

Joe Baldwin, New York, New York

From: Gary Muldoon (gmuldoon muldoongetz.com)
Subject: fulminate

Chemical terms sometimes played a role in the plots of Breaking Bad, which involved a rogue chemistry teacher, Walter White. One was fulminated mercury, which was part of an (overly) explosive plot device (video, 1.5 min.) with a drug dealer.

Gary Muldoon, Fairport, New York

From: Peter V. Weston, MD (pviw att.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--fulminate

The adjective form, fulminating, is, unfortunately, used often in medicine to denote a rapidly progressing severe condition such as a hemorrhage or an infection. For example a fulminating osteomyelitis.

Peter V. Weston, Houston, Texas

From: Evan Hazard (eehazard paulbunyan.net)
Subject: acidic

Interesting that acidic is used to refer to a bitter remark. In JHS science and HS chemistry, we learned that acids were sour, bases bitter (at appropriately safe concentrations, of course).

Evan Hazard, Bemidji, Minnesota

From: Ben Sansum (ben.sansum gmail.com)
Subject: Acidic

Acidic is also now commonly used to describe music -- specifically music that uses the squelchy Roland 303 sound. Originating in Chicago in the late '80s the 'acid house' sound exploded into the rave culture that now, in a debased commercialised form, rules the world!

Ben Sansum, Bristol, UK

From: J. Michael Keating (jmk2009 free.fr)
Subject: Brimstone

Interesting that the German word meaning burn(ing) stone is Bernstein, which is their word for amber.

Michael Keating, Villereau, France

From: Gerry Cotter (g.cotter lancaster.ac.uk)
Subject: Brimstone

Brimstone is also a species of butterfly, Gonepteryx rhamni, found in Europe, north Africa, and across Asia as far as Mongolia. Here in the UK it is one of the first species to emerge in spring.

Gerry Cotter, Lancaster, UK

From: Michele Gallant (mgallan2 dal.ca)
Subject: Words from chemistry

The introduction to this week's theme includes:
"If only they took that space on the shampoo bottle to tell people what pH really means, it could make for a little relaxing bathroom reading."
It would make a great soaporific.

Michele Gallant, Halifax, Canada

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

Language is fossil poetry. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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