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AWADmail Issue 758A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Tidbits about Words and Language
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From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
The Loud, Empty Word That Defines President-Elect Trump
From: Charles H. Hegarty (chheg61 yahoo.com)
Would a Brahmin speak to/with a Lodge or a Cabot? Would a proper Bostonian speak with/to a literal Brahmin? Let he who is without sin stone the first caste. Those who have no aptitude shall seek a classless society.
Charles H. Hegarty, St. Johnsbury, Vermont
From: Raka Maitra (raka.maitra gmail.com)
I have enjoyed your posts; however, this post has some misinformation in the sources it quoted! Brahmin only means someone who is closest to Brahma. Brahmins, therefore, follow a spiritual path and are the highest caste.
Most brahmins who rose to prominence such as Shankaracharya, Ramana Maharishi, and Ramakrishna had neither political power nor wealth but lived in poverty, though widely respected as almost saints.
Raka Maitra, London, UK
We describe words as they are used in the English language today. In the English language. And today. Take another word we have borrowed from Sanskrit: jungle. You wouldn’t say that the word should mean in English what it means in Sanskrit: arid land.
I understand the desire to see a word retain its “purity”, but time and travel changes everything. Why should language be immune from it? Words often change meaning, spelling, or pronunciation, sometimes all three, as they travel across time and space (see more examples here and here).
It’s an etymological fallacy
to claim that a word should mean what it meant in its source language or
that it should mean today what it meant a few hundred years ago.
From: Johan Daniel Rich (ohan.d.rich gmail.com)
Another very different meaning of the word Brahmin in English is the name of a breed of hump-backed beef cattle which originated in India. The breed is quite popular in the USA, where it is sometimes called Brahmas.
Johan Daniel Rich, East London, South Africa
From: Ari Corcoran (via online comments)
Then there is the Brahminy kite, a mid-sized raptor in varying subspecies from present-day India to Australia (Haliastur indus). It’s a beautiful bird: a couple of them sit on a particular branch of a black wattle tree in our backyard in Darwin every monring.
Ari Corcoran, Darwin, Australia
From: Brian Barratt (umbidas tpg.com.au)
I commend this exhaustive list of links to the use of avatara in Sanskrit scriptures.
Brian Barratt, Melbourne, Australia
From: Mike Carpenter (mccarp dakotacom.net)
I consider it obscene to have Bill O’Reilly’s picture next to Ravi Shankar. Actually, anyone from Fox, ever, at all. And I don’t understand Mara Liasson’s being there at all lending veracity to purveyors of lies, not misinformation, lies.
Michael Carpenter, Tucson, Arizona
From: Scott Eichel (seichel407 gmail.com)
The term Pundit is somewhat overused in the political/media universe, but apart from the common meaning of commentator/pontificator or, alternatively, wise, learned person, there is another use which was to describe the highly intelligent and carefully selected native surveyors of the border regions of 19th-century India.
Peter Hopkirk, a British journalist and author, wrote widely on Central Asia and the strategic tussle between Britain and Russia over the land approaches to India, which had endured for decades but reached a crescendo during the 19th century. In his fascinating book, The Great Game (as well as in others), Hopkirk recounts, among other things, one of the curious, yet very important, aspects to this competition between the two great powers, which was the British strategic need to survey the country which separated India from its neighbours to the north and thence Central Asia, which in turn formed the land approaches to Britain’s prized colony.
The British had embarked on an extensive survey of these remote regions, but soon found they were barred access by some of the often secretive neighbouring peoples who were disinclined to allow foreigners to roam the mountainous countryside intruding on holy sites and other protected areas. The British duly recruited a cadre of exceptionally bright native people in the region and trained them to survey, using primitive but effective methods, such as measuring distance by rigorous pacing, aided by cunningly altered prayer wheels and measuring altitude by temperature observations while boiling water. Some of these operatives, who came to be known as Pandits or Pundits, also received training in the use of the sextant, but for the most part their methods were simple and designed to avoid notice, let alone suspicion.
It is widely thought by British military historians that the Pandits, some of whom were decorated and some of whom lost their lives, played a crucial role in Britain’s perceived strategic success over Russia in the subcontinent.
Scott Eichel, Victoria, Canada
From: Richard Stallman (rms gnu.org)
In India I’m called a pundit, and my motto is: No Punjab too big, no Punjab too small.
Richard Stallman, Boston, Massachusetts
From: David Silverman (silverman.david.m gmail.com)
I’ve lived in both Malaysia and Indonesia and ever since 1971 I’ve wondered if their word for husband, suami (pronunciation the same as swami) was etymologically related. My Tamil friends in Malaysia thought there may have been a connection but really didn’t know.
Dave Silverman, Antalya, Turkey (but planning to move to Thailand soon)
Yes, it is. Also, the English word “husband” is, etymologically speaking, master of the house. Peer into the fossils of the language and human history reveals itself.
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Elephant-headed Hindu deity, Ganesha, conqueror of obstacles, and the Great Buddha have their respective avatars. In my illustration I’m attempting to visually convey a kind of equanimity or amity between two of the world’s major pathways to individual spiritual growth and enlightenment; hence the display of mutual respect and piety between the two devout practitioners of their faiths in this imagined ecumenical scenario.
Several ancient Sanskrit-rooted words have been co-opted in the West, particularly in the field of entertainment. Here I’ve united flamboyant Brit pop singer, Culture Clubs’s Boy George’s “Karma Chameleon”, with a female Navi, one of the principal blue “alien” creatures from director James Cameron’s mega-grossing-box-office hit film Avatar.
Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Seems the Fortunate Few don’t much care
Though he might be as rich as a Brahmin
A TV Reality superstar
The political choice of a pundit
The weather in India’s balmy,
At the top of the mountain the Swami
A Swami who lived in Mumbai,
A dude who felt like a swami,
It’s said, “As you sow, so you reap.”
From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Are male cross-dressers Brahmin?
If he misbehaves in office let’s avatar-and-feather party for Trump.
As soon as I read the Jan 4 AWAD, I pundit.
Yogis are found “way down upon the Swami River.” (Did that Foster an Induscribable groan? Ganges get any worse?)
If you sugar-coat Hinduism, do you karma-lize it?
Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma
From: Bev Hock (bevvhock gmail.com)
I have received delighted thank you messages from the people to whom I sent the gift subscriptions. A broad vocabulary increases understanding of the world, and I wanted to share that with friends and family.
Beverly Vaughn Hock, San Mateo, California
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:A society that presumes a norm of violence and celebrates aggression, whether in the subway, on the football field, or in the conduct of its business, cannot help making celebrities of the people who would destroy it. -Lewis H. Lapham, editor and writer (b. 8 Jan 1935)