Wordsmith.org: the magic of words


About | Media | Search | Contact  


Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



AWADmail Issue 484

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

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the net

Documenting Endangered Languages
The Economist

Klingon Language Helps Man Deal With Dyslexia

From: Cheryl Lezovich (ccrock mindspring.com)
Subject: hebephrenia
Def: A form of insanity occurring at puberty, also known as disorganized schizophrenia.

Previously, I had no way of describing the behavior of my soon-to-be 15-year-old daughter with whom I live 24/7 on a sailboat. That truly is hebephrenia.

Cheryl Lezovich, Atlanta, Georgia

From: Charles Fox (cafox513 gte.net)
Subject: hebephrenia

Pace College, New York, 1960s. Professor lecturing about psychology. After describing one kind of schizophrenia, he ends the lecture by saying, "Next time I'll discuss Jewish schizophrenia," closes his notes on the lectern, turns, and leaves.

When he opens the next week's session with "Hebephrenia is ...", the entire class collapses in laughter.

Charles Fox, Santa Monica, California

From: Ron Dick (dickr mcmaster.ca)
Subject: hebephrenia

It was disappointing to read this AWAD entry, especially with this being Mental Illness Awareness Week (October 2-8, Canada and USA). Your definition and example both reflect and perpetuate the stigma people feel when living with mental illness.

Lisa Carver's prose is that of a freewheeling dunce high school junior who's given to frequent attacks of hebephrenia mixed with suffocating narcissism."
Sally Eckhoff; Zine But Not Heard; The Village Voice (New York); Sep 3, 1996.

Medical professionals have long stopped using the term "insanity", and its casual use now, quite frankly, is only an indicator of the user's ignorance. People experiencing mental illness are not "dunces", operating at a junior high school level (except for the junior high school students with mental illness, who you are particularly insulting). Nor are people "given" to frequent attacks of mental illness. Your presentation of this disorder as a sort of immature tantrum is shameful. What journalist would ever humorously liken a poet's work to "the addled musings of a brain cancer survivor" or "something an end-stage AIDS victim with neurological impairment would pass off as poetry"? Sadly, mental illness is still largely hidden, shameful, and misunderstood, and quips like Ms. Eckhoff's quotation are rampant. Through AWAD, you had an amazing opportunity to improve understanding, but you simply made things worse. To help rectify the damage you've done, I suggest you devote an upcoming week to words relating to mental illness, starting with "stigma".

Ron Dick, Occupational Therapist, Community Psychiatry Services, St. Joseph's Healthcare, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

From: John E Mack (jmack49168 aol.com)
Subject: Retrodiction
Def: Using present information to make an assertion about the past; an instance of such an assertion.

One way of confirming a scientific hypothesis is to retrodict a fact which was previously unknown. Many claims about facts of evolution, for example, are retrodictions, even if they can be considered "predictions" about what is yet to be discovered.

John E Mack, New London, Minnesota

Email of the Week - (Brought to you by One Up! - Are you wicked/smart?)

From: Harold Hyman (shandhh verizon.net)
Subject: Onomastico

In Italy (and probably other Latin countries as well) every day is a Saint's Day. Consequently, people can celebrate not only a birthday (compleanno) but also their name day (onomastico) corresponding to a particular Saint. You can even buy cards wishing "Buon Onomastico!"

Harold Hyman, Acton, Massachusetts

From: Richard Alexander (alexander triton.net)
Subject: anosognosia
Def: Unawareness of one's disease, disability, or a defect.

We college teachers are very familiar with a variant of anosognosia: the Dunning-Kruger effect, named after the psychologists whose 1999 journal article was entitled, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessment". Dunning later called this phenomenon "the anosognosia of everyday life".

Successful college students are less subject to this effect. They can acknowledge their own weaknesses and knowledge gaps and make adjustments accordingly. Unsuccessful ones might continue to blame the teacher, the material, the system, or bad luck for their lower-than-expected grades.

Not that college professors are immune to anosognosia. A cousin of the Dunning-Kruger effect is sometimes called the Lake Wobegon effect, after Garrison Keillor's fictional town where "all the children are above average". For example, in a classic 1977 study by K. Patricia Cross, 94 percent of surveyed professors rated themselves as above-average teachers; two-thirds rated themselves in the top quartile. But unfortunately for all, professors' performance evaluations usually are much less comprehensive and stringent than their students'.

Richard Alexander, Grand Rapids, Michigan

From: Pete Saussy (bujinin netzero.com)
Subject: keening and kenning
Def: A wailing lament for the dead.

Think Beowulf: there was much keening from the results of the those whose names are kennings: Red-Hand, Blood-Drinker, Dragon-Slayer, Arm-Ripper, Sea-Stallion?

Pete Saussy, Pawleys Island, South Carolina

The words of some men are thrown forcibly against you and adhere like burrs. -Henry David Thoreau, naturalist and author (1817-1862)

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