Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 467

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

From: Chris Stowe (chrstowe gmail.com)
Subject: Claque
Def: A group of people hired to applaud at a performance.

North Korea brought one of these to the last World Cup to cheer for their team.

Chris Stowe, Traverse City, Michigan

From: Curtis L. Brown (curtisb722 aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--claque

The word claque evokes fond memories. As a high-school student between the two world wars I used to be a member of the claque at Vienna's Staatsoper and Volksoper. It was the only way my weekly allowance stretched to hear famous singers like Jussi Björling or Beniamino Gigli. The Staatsopen had two sets of claques, one on the ground floor, and a cheaper one in the fourth gallery. Both entitled the applauder to standing room only. In the Volksoper it was sometimes possible to occupy an occasional empty seat -- after the first intermission. I learned more musicology while waiting in line for the box office to open (sometimes for hours) from older standees than from all my music teachers.

Once I was almost dismissed when the head of my group discovered my Zen tendency to clap with one hand only, the other one holding a salami sandwich -- needed to survive some Wagner operas.

Curtis L. Brown, Neenah, Wisconsin

From: Manfred Kroger (kv7 psu.edu)
Subject: claque

A claque must then be very close in meaning to a group of shills. The former represent admiring/applauding followers, the latter pretend to purchase something in order to sway bystanders into participating. It's a thin line of separation, and the ultimate goal in both cases is financial gain. Related to these two concepts is the marketing ploy or "invention" thought up by Smirnoff or Smirnov of vodka fame in Russia who paid men to loudly complain to liquor sellers behind the counter they would only return if there were available a certain brand of drink they loudly named for all to hear.

Manfred Kroger, University Park, Pennsylvania

From: M.P. Chevrette (chevy_trivia hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--claque

Allow me to coin a neologism for those professional screamers in the audiences of television shows: scraque.

M.P. Chevrette, Holyoke, Massachusetts

From: John A. Laswick (johnalene comcast.net)
Subject: claque

By chance, today's New York Times has an article on noise building at sport events, the 21st Century claque, skilfully multiplied to brush against the level that is deemed harmful.

John A. Laswick, Springfield, Illinois

From: Frances Wade (franwade gcom.net.au)
Subject: claque

In one of the tales of the Brothers Grimm there are dogs that bark 'Was! Was!'. This mystified me at the time. Now I know that you pronounce it more like 'vuss! vuss!' (somewhere between 'fuss' and 'farce') and it means 'what'. More importantly, it sounds much more like a bark.

Frances Wade, Maldon, Australia

From: Paul Castaldi (pcastal enter.net)
Subject: Nothing to Sneeze At!

During our high school freshman German class, we students were tickled to find that the American English representation for sneezing, Atchoo!, was rendered as "Hatschi!" in our German textbook.

Once in class, somebody sneezed. To the amusement of the rest of us, including our teacher, after the teacher said "Gesundheit!", the student sitting in front of the sneezer raised his hand and said with a straight face, "You should've said 'God bless you!', not 'Gesundheit!'-- because he sneezed in English, not German!"

Paul Castaldi, Havertown, Pennsylvania

From: Greg Corbett (corbettgreg hotmail.com)
Subject: Onomatopoeic words

When I read your description of onomatopoeic words, I was reminded of beginner students of Japanese that I have met. They tell me that they can't understand why a dog says "wan wan" in Japanese, when a dog obviously says "ruff ruff" or the like.

I always try to explain that it actually says neither: we are just using the existing tools of our language to roughly fit the sound. I heard an expert bird mimic on the radio explaining how to mimic a crow. He said that if you listen, crows don't actually say "caw! caw!", but "ah! ah!". It is difficult to hear the sound in a vacuum without trying to make it conform to your native tongue or what you've been taught about the sound since childhood.

Greg Corbett, Perth, Australia

From: Alexa Fleckenstein (coldwatermd yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--claque

A chapeau-claque, in French, is a collapsible black high hat -- named after the sound it makes.

Alexa Fleckenstein, Brookline, Massachusetts

From: Dr. Alexis Melteff (aapm52 yahoo.com)
Subject: claque

In French, a claque means an open-handed slap in the face, usually followed by a backhand. It was common practice for teachers to slap their young students until fairly recently, and parents still slap their children for 'minor' infractions. More serious violations required spanking. Both are referred to as 'une correction'.

Alexis Melteff, Santa Rosa, California

From: Ronald T. Englund (englund cape.com)
Subject: ululate
Def: To howl or wail.

During my 30 years as pastor of Swahili-speaking congregations in Tanzania and England, East African women would often ululate to express joy during wedding services and other celebrations. The Swahili word for ululation is "kigelele" and the plural is "vigelele". To make the verb, ululate, you add "kupiga" (to hit). To utter these wonderful, joyful sounds is "kupiga vigelegele". I remember a visiting English organist, playing at a Tanzanian wedding at our church, St. Anne & St. Agnes in London, who was so startled when the women began "kupiga vigelegele" that he nearly fell off the organ bench.

Ronald T. Englund, Falmouth, Massachusetts

From: Renny Rij (renrdg nep.net)
Subject: ululate

In my belly dancing days, lo these many years ago, we learned that ululation was the sound made by a group (usually women) rapidly repeating "la" or "lu" as loudly as they can. It is called "zaghareet" in parts of the Middle East. It is used both in mourning and in joy; the loss of a loved one, or the approval of someone (like a good dancer!). I never heard of it used in an Anglo setting, and I disagree with Robert MacNeil's usage of it if he means "wailing or howling". I expect it was the "group effort" that he was trying to put across.

Renny Rij, Nicholson, Pennsylvania

From: Peter Everett (peter.everett ntlworld.com)
Subject: ululate

'Ulula' is the Latin word for 'owl'. I learned this at the age of ten when I went to Manchester Grammar School here in the UK. The school emblem is an owl with a banner in its beak reading "dom". This is derived from the coat of arms of the school's founder Hugh Oldham (it's a weak pun: oldham = owldom; the nearby town of Oldham is still pronounced Owldom by the locals). The MGS school magazine was (and still is) called Ulula.

Peter Everett, Manchester, UK

From: Lynn Mancini (mancini dtcc.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--susurrus
Def: A whispering or rustling sound.

This word reminds me of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. It was the "silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain" that thrilled me, filled me with a love of poetry never felt before. :-)

I first read The Raven in junior high school, and it was the poetic susurrus that made me fall in love with poetry. Thank you for bringing to mind that magic moment.

Lynn Mancini, Newark, Delaware

From: Monroe Thomas Clewis (mtc mtclex.com)
Subject: tintinnabulation and tintamarre

Tintamarre is tintinnabulation's noisy French cousin. Both words share a common ancestor, the Latin verb tinnere (to ring), but each word developed in different and colorful ways. About the same time the English coined tintinnabulum for a small bell (late 1400s), the French invented tintamarre, which according to The Dictionnaire Historique de la Langue Franšaise, originally referred to a method of hunting wood pigeons by confusing them in the dead of night with drums and clanging pans.

During the next century tintamarre lost its hunting associations, but kept its volume, coming to mean "an uproar, hubbub, or confused noise". Tintamarre then crossed the English Channel as a loan word, tintamar. Meanwhile, French voyagers took tintamarre with them to St. Martin in the Lesser Antilles where they named a tiny (80 acre) nearby islet Ile Tintamarre, or Tintamarre Island, apparently because of the din set up by breeding sea birds. (This speck once boasted its own king, navy, and airline! Tintimarre also made its way across the Atlantic to New Brunswick where Acadians celebrate their National Day with a joyful but discordant tintamarre of horns, home-grown noisemakers, church bells, and cow bells.)

Back in England tintinnabulum quietly fathered tintinnabulary (1787), and tintinnabulatory (1827). Only a few years later in America, Poe coined tintinnabulation for the musical jingling of bells -- quite a contrast with its cacophonous cousin tintamarre. No one would know these distant cousins were related.

Monroe Thomas Lewis, Los Angeles, California

From: David Edgren (dcedgren gmail.com)
Subject: Tintinnabulation
Def: The ringing of or the sound of bells.

Tintinnabulation has long been my favorite word. Why, you ask? Oh, it just has a nice ring to it.

David Edgren, Newton, Kansas

From: Jennifer Gassman (gassmaj ccf.org)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--tintinnabulation

Surely I am not the only one who saw the word of the day and thought, at first, Tintinambulation -- I know that word! The wanderings of a young Belgian journalist.

Jennifer Gassman, Cleveland, Ohio

From: Edie Bonferraro (edieb mailbug.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--cockalorum
Def: 1. A self-important or boastful person. 2. Bragging.

Cockalorum had a different usage in the short story, Master Of All Masters, in the children's anthology, My Book House.

A man hired a servant and demanded she use special words for various things: He was to be called "master of all masters"; his home: "high-topper mountain"; cat: "white-faced simminy"; pantaloons: "squibs and crackers"; bed: "barnacle"; fire: "hot cockalorum; water: pondalorum.

That night, the servant woke her master in a fright: "Master of all masters, get out of your barnacle and put on your squibs and crackers; for white-faced simminy has a spark of hot cockalorum on her tail; and, unless you get some pondalorum, high-topper mountain will be all on hot cockalorum!"

Edie Bonferraro, Rochester, New York

From: Frances Gillespie (gillespi qatar.net.qa)
Subject: onomatopoeic names

Hooray for onomatopoeic names which imitate an animal's sound -- here are two beauties I picked up in northern Nigeria where the main language is Hausa. A duck is 'agwagwa' and a turkey is 'tolotolo' -- try saying that in a deep voice from the back of your throat and it sounds just like a turkey!

Frances Gillespie, Qatar

Email of the Week - (Brought to you by Comeuppance - The Wicked Smart-Alecky Gift for Dad.)

From: Valerie Martinez (val-nicasio_mtz kastanet.org)
Subject: animal sounds

Not only do animals' sounds depend on the language, but also the manner in which they talk. In my husband's first language (Quiatoni Zapotec, one of 40+ Zapotec languages in Mexico), a rooster shouts, a cat cries, and a hen scolds when she's laid an egg.

Valerie Martinez, Huron, Ohio

From: Gerry Hoffmann (gerbear cocreatives.biz)
Subject: Onomatopoeia

This week's words are onomatopoeic. When I was in college, I had a hard time remembering the spelling of the word. So I made up a little song, using the melody of Old Macdonald. It went like this (I still remember it):

says the same sound as the sound
of the word I say
with an oink-oink here
and a honk-honk there
here a squeak
there a slam
Everywhere a cough-cough

Gerry Hoffmann, Kalamazoo, Michigan

You have to fall in love with hanging around words. -John Ciardi, poet and translator (1916-1986)

We need your help

Help us continue to spread the magic of words to readers everywhere


Subscriber Services
Awards | Stats | Links | Privacy Policy
Contribute | Advertise

© 1994-2024 Wordsmith