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AWADmail Issue 693

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

Sponsor’s Message:
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From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the Net

Ubykh: The Language That Died With a Man
Turkish Weekly

Word Association
The Guardian

’Defining the Dictionary’ Exhibit Opens Oct 15
West Hartford News

From: Alexander Nix (revajnix yahoo.co.uk)
Subject: Gannet

I was often jokingly called a gannet by my Dad and other family members because as an active child I always had a healthy appetite. I was also named Dusty Bin for my propensity to finish off any leftovers after a character in the 3-2-1 game show that was popular at the time!

Alexander Nix, Cambridge, UK

From: Robert Wilson (robwilsonit yahoo.it)
Subject: gannet

The late Tony Hancock used to call his secretary, Miss Pugh (Hattie Jacques), who was full-bodied to say the least, a “gannet” when she wolfed huge plateloads of food. Maybe the best radio and TV comedy ever, I believe.

Robert Wilson, Pordenone, Italy

From: Charles H. Burk (chjerryburk mindspring.com)
Subject: Snipe

A snipe hunt is often used as a vehicle of initiation for some organizations, such as Boy Scouts, etc. They give the “sucker” a sack and a stick and usually put them out in the dark to hunt a “snipe”. You are to thrash the underbrush and shout “snipe, snipe, snipe” and try to lure one into your sack. This showed up on TV recently where the West Texas Investors Club put a woman out in the dark with a flashlight hunting snipe. She got wise, came in, told them to “shove it”, and left in a huff!

Charles H. Burk, Pantego, Texas

From: Scott Kidwell (via online comments)
Subject: snipe

I served four years as an electrician’s mate in the US Coast Guard, and pretty much all the engineers (which covers mechanics, electricians, and damage controlmen -- what one might call skilled trades) were referred to as snipes. Most of the time the engineers were working in the engine rooms and were rarely seen above deck. Kind of like you knew we were down there, but we were rarely seen.

Scott Kidwell, Portland, Oregon

Email of the Week (Courtesy Indian Summer - Buy the American Dream movie now.)

From: Franklin Robinson (franklinrobinson7 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--snipe

And another definition of snipe, from the American homeless subculture: a partially smoked cigarette picked up from the ground or public ashtray. We would smoke snipes out and about, and also go on “recon” missions to gather them up for later smoking. A sad commentary on the human longing to be filled with something more, and how low we will go when it seems no one cares, but the brotherhood and comradery I experienced in my homeless days also conversely went to show how much people can, and really do, care for one another when we’re down and out together.

Franklin Robinson, Atlanta, Georgia

From: David Goboff (dgoboff gmail.com)
Subject: snipe in auctions

I’ve been sniped at eBay auctions when another bidder swoops in at the last minute with a higher bid. There are even automated sniping programs to place that winning bid in the last seconds of the auction. Yet another definition!

David Goboff, Weston, Florida

From: Phillip Varady (phillipsr varady.org)
Subject: snipe in woodworking

When a board is passed through a thickness planer incorrectly and the cutting knives remove more wood than intended at the start or finish, the resulting defect is called snipe.

Phillip Varady, Federalsburg, Maryland

From: Derek K. Murrah (chewfx hotmail.com)
Subject: snipe in ice hockey

In ice hockey, to snipe is to shoot the puck on net with great accuracy, especially the top corners of the goal, and from some distance.

Derek K. Murrah, Seattle, Washington

From: Marc Chelemer (mc2496 att.com)
Subject: Dodos

The history of the dodo is a very sad one and a lesson for humankind. It’s likely that this was one of the first species human beings drove into extinction. Dodos were very tame birds without fear of humans. Their meat was good eating and there was a lot of it on each bird. So sailors from ships, restocking their larders, would just walk up to the birds and club them to death. Eventually, as with the Passenger Pigeon, humans clubbed enough of them that the remaining population could not survive. Since it was an isolated species on one island chain, once that population disappeared, the bird as a living thing perished from the earth. Giving them a name meaning “stupid” was ironic, since their lack of fear about us led to their downfall. We should be glad that most other living things are wary of humans and not dodos, else who knows what else we would have driven into oblivion?

Marc Chelemer, Tenafly, New Jersey

From: Brenda Cox (bcox oecs.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--dodo

I smiled at the meaning of today’s word ‘dodo’ because in St. Lucia we refer to a dearly loved one as ‘my dodo’, while in other parts of the Caribbean ‘dodo’ means excrement.

Brenda Cox, St. Lucia

From: Hiller B. Zobel (Honzobe aol.com)
Subject: Magpie

Rossini’s opera La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) uses the magpie’s innate kleptomania as the central plot device. The opera -- not the bird -- features one of the composer’s most scintillating overtures.

Hiller B. Zobel, Boston, Massachusetts

From: Dr. G. Nadarajan (dr.g.nadarajan gmail.com)
Subject: Magpie

In “Spring Morning” a 14-line poem by Wordsworth, he describes,

“the jay makes answer as the magpie chatters”

Also, in paediatric medicine, children with abnormally voracious appetites to eat mud, ash, sand, etc. are termed as suffering from pica, which is related to magpie and its indiscriminate feeding habit.

Dr. G. Nadarajan, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

From: Rupert McNaught Davis (rupertj telkomsa.net)
Subject: Magpie

In target shooting, the concentric rings are named the following: The center ring, the bull; the second ring, the inner; the third ring, the magpie; the fourth ring, the outer.

Rupert McNaught Davis, South Africa

From: Lawrence Crumb (lcrumb uoregon.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--magpie

Magpie is also a term that used to be used for the combination of (white) rochet and (black) chimere worn by Anglican bishops, since magpies are black with white wings. Today, most bishops wear a red chimere, which someone said makes them look like a sunburnt penguin. In 1988, I attended the funeral of Michael Ramsey, the 100th archbishop of Canterbury, and there was a great number of bishops present, all in black chimere. I hadn’t seen one in years, but it seemed appropriate for a funeral. The two RC cardinals looked out of place in their bright red cassocks.

Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Limericks

A rapacious young lady named Janet
at a smorgasbord was such a gannet,
leaving nothing for others,
slim sisters or brothers,
although she was as round as a planet.

-Mariana Warner, Asheville, North Carolina (marianaw37 gmail.com)

An odd little bird is the snipe,
In marshes you will find his type.
Why this brown feathered bird,
Makes an odd sound, I’ve heard.
I wish I could view him on Skype.

-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Cinderella looks down and cries, “Oh, no!
Now where did my crystal sabot go?
Here I stand in bare sock.
I lost track of the clock.
How could I have been such a dodo?”

-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The magpie has earned a bad press
as collector of dross, more or less.
And the gal so nicknamed
is likewise defamed
as a gabber, a hoarder, a mess.

-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

One day when he’s old, Harry Potter’ll
Be just an old wizarding dotterel
I hope that his magic
Does not end with tragic
Misjudgments like Lear made with Goneril.

-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The magpie bragged he was a gannet,
And campaigned to be prez of the planet.
All the while he sniped,
Complained, and griped.
‘Til all (‘cept dodos and dotterels) said, “Just can it!”

-Rohn Price, Pennwynne, Pennsylvania (rohn rohn.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Puns on Words of the Week

Ahh, puns on birds. Gannet get any easier?
(The answer turned out to be, “No!” until ‘dotterel’ arrived on Friday.)

Playing an assassin in his new movie, Wesley Snipes.

A baker’s nest egg is his dodo.

When the dainty dish was set before the king, he said, “What a magpie and a marvsurprise!”

Even my young dotterel be able to pun on this bird.

If you want to write puns, pick a word
That has homophones, like heard for herd
But this week a few fowl
Gave my face a foul scowl;
To this punster, those birds were absurd!

Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Language is more fashion than science, and matters of usage, spelling, and pronunciation tend to wander around like hemlines. -Bill Bryson, author (b. 1951)

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