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AWADmail Issue 91

June 17, 2003

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


From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--extemporize

Last week's theme was a challenge to the readers to find out what's common among the five words for the week: extemporize, impresario, macroscopic, postdiluvian, and plausive. Each of these words employs all fingers of both the hands at least once to type it on a standard qwerty keyboard. Go ahead, try them out.

This turned out to be harder puzzle than any I've featured in the past. Only two readers sent the correct answer:

First: Jim Scarborough (jimesAThiwaay.net)
Second: Don Harrell (dharrellATtiaa-cref.org)

Congrats to both, and to all others who gave their gray cells a jog and offered creative solutions (see below)!

Some interesting facts about words in this category:

  • Only about two of every 1000 words in the English language fulfill this criterion (0.2%).
  • Each word has to have a 'p' since that's the only letter typed with the right pinkie.
  • The word "plausive" was the only one last week where each finger was used once and only once. Here are some other words in that category: aphorise apomicts autopsic bakeshop biplanes captions captious clasping displant dystopia earlship elapsing esophagi haplites harelips impalers impearls jackpots lempiras meropias outspeak pactions palmiest panelist pantiles parsonic pintados piroques plainest plashier plaudits plausive pleasing poniards postique pralines pyralids pyrexial saponite satinpod scalping septimal spandril spicular spirulae.

Now's the time for readers' solutions. An honorable mention goes to the following reader for what she called "A Stately Solution". Read on for others.

Each word contains the abbreviation of a state -- forwards and backwards -- of the United States.
* extemporize: RI--Rhode Island, TX--Texas
* impresario: AR--Arkansas, MI--Michigan
* macroscopic: SC--South Carolina, OR--Oregon
* postdiluvian: IL--Illinois, ID--Idaho
* plausive: LA--Louisiana, AL--Alabama
-Carol Blair (cblaireditATaol.com)

All words have exactly one "decliner" (letter that drops below the writing line), a "p" in them.
-Jason Helbraun (jhelbraunATinviva.com)

This week's words are all related to "Present Day World Leadership".
-Jane C. Little (jaynoATprodigy.net)

My Third and Fourth graders have been following this week's words with interest and have come up with the following ideas for the mystery theme: "They all have `S's (Ashlee), They all have `I's and `P's (Connor), They are all made up of smaller words (Jared), It has something to do with the meaning (Robbie)."
-Tony Lee, Moharimet School, Madbury, NH (tleeATorcsd.org)

I think I have this week's theme: The Grateful Dead. Each word seems to compliment the band in some form.
-Addison Rohr (addisonATaten.com.tw)

I would say that all the words have a common thread of expression outside the bounds of the usual, or at least outside the private into public realm.
-Marjorie Torelli (mtorellihaizlipAThotmail.com)

Might the theme be "management styles?" I think I've worked for someone with each of these styles!
-Krista N Golden (krista.goldenATfcps.edu)

Did the Tony Awards inspire a week of words related to theatrical performances?
-Laura Gordon (lgordonATseattletimes.com)

Extemporize, impresario, macroscopic, postdiluvian, plausive are all words used by James Joyce.
-Jean Mark (jcomarkATshaw.ca)

My NYU student and I are having fun trying to guess this week's theme. His guess is: words that sound great when pronounced with a lisp.
-Nancy Wellington (nwellingtonATattbi.com)

I give up. How about 'words that don't have anything to do with one another'?
-Maria King Constantindis (psarakiATcomcast.net)


From: Henry Willis (hmwATssdslaw.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--impresario

How To Compose An Overture
by Giaochino Rossini
"Wait until the evening before Opening Night. Nothing primes inspiration more than necessity, whether it be the presence of a copyist waiting for your work or the prodding of an impresario tearing his hair. In my time, all the impresarios of Italy were bald at 30."


From: Rosalie Steele (rosaliestATcenturytel.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--postdiluvian

A deluge of those little yellow post-it notes.


From: Deborah Peifer (deborahpeiferATmsn.com)
Subject: a great new word: Heirarchy

I was moved to read in last week's Observer the following statement by the historian Andrew Roberts:

"The Tory heirarchy is sick of the barroom jokes about what a great Tory premier Blair would make, because there is enough truth to it to make it profoundly unfunny."

I thought at first that heirarchy might have been a misprint or misspelling, but further contemplation suggests it's an innovation. The derivation is obvious. The ending -archy denotes some form of order; heir means one who inherits. So a heirarchy is a form of order, or a form of government one might say, in which heir succeeds unto heir. An Assad gives way to another Assad. Uday or Qusay was known to be the likely successor to Saddam Hussein. Bush (after a decent interval) follows Bush into the White House, just as Clinton will soon be succeeded there first by Hillary and later by Chelsea.

Nearer to home, Scott once succeeded Scott in running the Guardian; Robert Maxwell, had things worked out differently, would have passed on his baton to one of his sons; Rothermere follows Rothermere at that monument to the power of mendacity, the Daily Mail; while even today the likeliest successors to Rupert Murdoch are various other Murdochs. Then there's our own royal family: they may not have their old executive powers, but they're still in a sense, heirarchs. Let us hope the Observer tomorrow won't apologise and say it was done in error."

    Well, if there is an innovation, it's on the part of the reader rather than the writer of the article. Google shows some 65,000 documents with "heirarchy". While we can ignore those as unedited text, there are at least sixty articles in *current* news with that particular spelling. -Anu


He that uses many words for explaining any subject, doth, like the cuttlefish, hide himself for the most part in his own ink. -John Ray, naturalist (1627-1705)

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