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AWADmail Issue 568

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

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

The 10 Most Scandalous Euphemisms
BBC News

Grammar Errors? The Brain Detects Them Even When You Are Unaware

German Dialect in Texas is One of a Kind, and Dying Out
BBC News

From: Rose Buscemi (rosemarie.buscemi dhhs.nc.gov)
Subject: ensconce

This word reminds me of the Seinfeld scene when George Costanza says "If I could, I would be ensconced in velvet"!

Rose Buscemi, Raleigh, North Carolina

From: Fred Hinchliffe (f.hinchliffe verizon.net)
Subject: In the beginning

I'd be more inclined to say, "In the beginning was the preposition."

Fred Hinchliffe, Still River, Massachusetts

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Equivocate

Shakespeare makes the Porter in Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 3 use this word as a transitive verb: i.e. "equivocates him in a sleep."

The Porter's explanation of lechery is full of double entendres whose meanings, though, are unmistakable even to today's audiences, without his having to resort to using expletives, a practice that is supposedly intended to enhance realism in contemporary theatre.

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Peter Armstrong-See (armstrong-see dlgtele.dk)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--equivocate

There is an intriguing equivocation in the progression from the Latin 'equal' speech over the English 'ambiguous' speech to the Spanish 'erroneous' speech (equivocar = to make a mistake).

My unequivocal appreciation for your daily linguistic injection. Im an inveterate addict.

Peter Armstrong-See, Grevinge, Denmark

From: Jack Purcell (Jack.Purcell mtsu.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--equivocate

For the word "equivocate" you seem to have omitted one of the most important uses of the term, namely, the way it is used in logic. Any good Introduction to Logic will explain clearly what the fallacy of equivocation is. Briefly, it involves using a word with two different meanings in the course of an argument, so as to fallaciously conclude what does not follow. The fallacy rests on the ambiguity of a particular term. The Wikipedia page for the fallacy of equivocation gives the following example:

A feather is light.
What is light cannot be dark.
Therefore, a feather cannot be dark.

Jack Purcell, Department of Philosophy, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Email of the Week (Brought to you by One Up! - Momster Fun.)

From: Avani Gowardhan (singularity.blackhole gmail.com)
Subject: Petrify

I first came across petrify in a spell in the books of Harry Potter, Petrificus Totalus. It was only later that I found out that the 'turn to stone' was not metaphorical! It is possible to petrify organic matter by soaking it in a mineral bath for a long time; eventually the minerals replace the organic matter and form a perfect copy. Not quite the ideal spell, but certainly the coolest allowed by this world's physics.

Avani Gowardhan, Pune, India

From: J.K. Whitesell (mustangjkw hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--petrify

The word petrify reminded me of reading a story where a teacher passed around a piece of petrified wood so the young students could examine it. One student seemed to be overly impressed with the wood, so she went to his desk, and asked what he thought of it. The student said "I just wonder what scared it so much."

J.K. Whitesell, Dunnellon, Florida

From: Richard Alexander (alexander triton.net)
Subject: Peter, the Rock

What "petra" also gave us was, according to the Gospels, the name of one of Jesus's twelve apostles: Peter, the Rock ("...and on this rock I will build my church..."). It's ironic (in the situational sense) that what started as a small but radical movement for change has become, in so many of its manifestations, petrified.

Richard Alexander, Grand Rapids, Michigan

From: Ruchi Shah (ichbinruchi gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--petrify

Well, I came across the word Petrichor while reading the meaning of petrify (this was one word I knew well beforehand, thanks to J.K.Rowling :-D).

The word brings along so many childhood memories! The clouds turning black, and we cousins running to the terrace and inhaling the sweet mud scent, or disappointment in case it's a false alarm. The first scent of rain is one of the best feelings ever! It symbolizes relief to the farmers and respite from the ugly harshness of summers.

Ruchi Shah, Pune, India

From: Rudy Rosenberg Sr (RRosenbergSr accuratechemical.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--petrify

There are a few petrified forests, the most famous in Arizona, local of Robert E. Sherwood's play, later made into a movie with Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and Leslie Howard, a metaphor for the finality of life. Made a star of Bogart (as Duke Mantee).

Rudy Rosenberg Sr., Westbury, New York

From: Janel Christensen (janelchristensen57 gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--petrify

This word automatically made me think of Petrificus Totalus a curse in the Harry Potter books which causes its victims' arms and legs to stick to the body. They then fall down as stiff as a board. Thanks for reminding me of one of my favorite series!

Janel Christensen, Layton, Utah

From: Perry Kurtz (pkurtz twcny.rr.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--petrify

You won't find many puns in the New Testament but one, a quotation of Jesus and not intended as a joke, is written high above the main altar at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome: "Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclasiam meam" (Matthew 16:18-19). It means, "Thou are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church" and is based on the name Peter having its origins in the word for rock. I suppose, if Peter had understood the implications of those words, he would also have been petrified.

Thanks for your generous sharing of the wonder of our language!

Perry Kurtz, Chazy, New York

You live a new life for every new language you speak. -Czech proverb

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