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AWADmail Issue 95

July 20, 2003

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


From: Walker Sloan (walkersloanATcharter.net)
Subject: Charrette

My understanding was that students designing under such circumstances were described as being "en charrette". "I can't (drink with, talk with, party with, go out with) you right now. I'm en charrette."

When victims of the Terror in Paris were carted to the guillotine, they were also referred to as "en charrette", which is perhaps a poetic description of how the students may have felt.


From: Richard P King (rkingATmgapartners.com)
Subject: charrette

With regard to the origin of charrette: While I have not researched this word, it has some extended meaning in architectural culture. As you may know architects are generally not well organized and generally do things at the last minute. So the charrette certainly has an air of panic surrounding it. Architecture is a culture of all-nighters, where students often have cots next to their desks in the studio. Architects' offices often have showers and a cot or two. Possibly this happens because of the architects penchant for rumination as a requirement for design thinking, separate in many ways from problem solving, because it involves analogy, metaphor, etc. It is more akin to writing than to engineering.


From: Stephen Tolkin (smtolkinATearthlink.net)
Subject: about "charrette"

As an architecture student at Yale in the 70's, when the last six days of a design studio were spent working around the clock, without a moment's sleep to complete the required drawings and models ("charretting", we called it) , our understanding of the derivation of the term "charrette" was that the students at the Ecole Des Beaux Arts in Paris would, like us, work on final drawings until the last minute and would keep working on them while riding on a cart from their lodgings to the school, so as not to waste one precious moment. The charrette was the high point of our year. It was considered bad form to sleep and even worse form to use any stimulant stronger than coffee to help you stay awake. Friendships were formed during those long insane hallucinatory hours that endure to this day, a quarter of a century later.


From: Alan Ritter (alan.ritterATbausch.com)
Subject: Buttress

Also a term that is applied to mountains in the architectural sense. A mountain buttress is a subsidiary ridge or slope that appears to support or prop up the main peak. For examples, see:

The first photo at the top of this page. Also (the "three-toed buttress" is my own nomenclature for the feature, but a buttress it is...)

You might guess that Mt. Ritter was a bit of an obsession for me...even though I have not been able to establish a blood connection to Karl Ritter, after whom it was named. More about the history and naming of "my" mountain can be found off my Web site mtritter.org.


From: Mark (markmc82ATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--quoin

It is also the wedge used to control the elevation of naval cannon. When a metal rod with screw threads began to replace the simple wooden wedge, it was referred to as a "quoin screw." Later, this became known, more drably, as an "elevation screw." To change the elevation of the cannon either up or down, a pry bar was set between the bed of the carriage (called a "truck") and the end of the cannon. After "laying on" with the pry bar, the quoin was adjusted in or out to suit the new elevation. The terminology survives to this day. As guns began to have mechanical controls, one hand would be in charge of the vertical angle (the layer) and another in charge of the horizontal (the trainer). To this day, naval guns (even under computer control) are described as being trained and laid. (That order is significant, too; the gun turrets are "trained out" to the firing bearing, and then "laid" upon the firing elevation.)


From: Martin Greenberger (mgreenbergerATcompuserve.com)
Subject: quoin

In letterpress printing a quoin (always pronounced coin) is a device for firmly positioning (locking up) the printing elements for the press.

Originally the quoin was two wedges placed with opposite tapers between the edge of the type (form) and the chase, or frame of the press. More recent versions of the wedges had teeth on their upper surface, much like a rack and were tightened with a t-shaped tool with teeth on its end. Turning the "key" would force the quoin wedges together tightening the form, rather than pounding the wedges together to tighten the lockup.

The end of quoin development was a one piece device with two wedges, an adjustment mechanism and a larger bearing surface.

This long ramble is by way of noting that quoin is also a noun in the printing sense. I never heard quoin (quoining?) being used as a verb.


From: Claudia Rosani-Allen (claudia.rosani-allenATabbeynational.co.uk)
Subject: Does this word exist?

I am a native Spanish speaker but have been speaking English for almost as long and I love both languages. I find English so much simpler as usually concepts can be conveyed with only a word or two, whereas in Spanish they can be a whole phrase.

There are, however, a couple of concepts that have a word in Spanish but I don't know if there is an English equivalent. The first is a name for two people that come from the same place (country, usually), which in Spanish is `paisano". It's not as formal as citizen would be but it's close. A related word is `gentilicio" which is a word to describe the names that people get when they come from somewhere, like "American", "French", "Russian", "Alaskan", Liverpudlian" and so on. These words are all `gentilicios' - anything

similar in English? Another concept I can't find an English equivalent for is when two people have the same name, they are said to be `tocayos" and this word can sometimes become a nickname if you wish to differentiate between different Pedros, for example.

    English does suffer from lack of words in certain areas (for example, words to describe relations) but I believe the words you're looking for do exist in the language: compatriot/countryman/countrywoman, nationalities/ethnicities, and namesake. -Anu


From: Art Olson (olsonATghpc.org)
Subject: "courrier electronique," the literal translation of electronic mail

From July 18 Wall Street Journal Afternoon Report...

Ridicule Electronique
Always on the prowl against an Anglo-Saxon linguistic invasion, the French Culture Ministry is hoping to stamp out the widely used "e-mail" by adopting a Quebecois compromise. Despite the existence of an officially sanctioned alternative -- "courrier electronique," the literal translation of electronic mail -- many French have continued to use "e-mail," pronouncing it "ey-mayal." The ministry's General Commission on Terminology and Neology decided recently to follow Quebec's use of "courriel," a smoother, truncated version, and it announced a ban on the use of "e-mail" in all government documents.


A living language is like a man suffering incessantly from small haemorrhages, and what it needs above all else is constant transactions of new blood from other tongues. The day the gates go up, that day it begins to die. -H.L. Mencken, writer, editor, and critic (1880-1956)

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