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AWADmail Issue 61

December 16, 2001

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

From: Selma (selmaATglobalnet.co.uk)
Subject: gift

I love your site. Instead of Christmas cards this year, I am sending your gift subscription. Probably 50 of them.

    No shopping, licking stamps, or standing in a queue in the post-office. This season choose a gift that keeps on giving all year round: the gift of words. -Anu

From: Anu Garg (garg AT wordsmith.org)
Subject: Misc.

Be sure to read the transcript of last week's hilarious online chat with Richard Lederer.

New feature:
Beginning with this issue of AWADmail, we'll include the URL of the word the first time it is referred to here. You'll see it next to the Subject line.

The address to send your comments is (words AT wordsmith.org). And you don't need to include the message you are replying to. I already have it.

From: Elizabeth Glover (elizabeth.gloverATharpercollins.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--retronym

"And here are some other retronyms I pray will never come to pass... nonelectronic book..."

Too late for that, I'm afraid. Picking up from the world of on-line versions of many magazines and newspapers, we have the term "print edition," though I prefer the more colorful "dead-tree edition." (I have heard some wags use the sardonic term "dead-electron edition" for out-of-date information on the Internet.)

Fortunately, publishing houses still refer to books as "books" and "ebooks" within the industry. I think we do have a retronym, however, in "hardback (or hardcover) book." There was no need for that term until paperbacks were first printed.

From: Dan Taylor (grrldanATaol.com)
Subject: Retronym, the melancholy nym

Here's my new favorite retronym: "Biomale/biofemale" meaning someone who was born into the sex that they identify with. This one is used mostly in the trans community, but is gaining more acceptance.

From: Canaan King (ckingATucsd.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--retronym

One of the fun aspects of being older and logoleptic is using the example of "wireless remote" to explain retronyms to the younger folks who have no idea there was ever anything but...

From: Jeffrey W Comer (jwc_dbx_solutionsATyahoo.com)
Subject: Retronym

I enjoyed the word of the day for Monday, the 10th of December: retronym, a revisionist renaming of a previously commonly-accepted label.

Living in Virginia, one of my favorite retronyms involves the naming of Civil War battles which occurred in this state 140 years ago. One that comes to mind immediately is "The First Battle of Manassas", also known as "Bull Run" to the federalists. Of course, when the battle was fought and subsequently concluded, no one could have known there would later be a "Second Manassas".

On a larger scale, society had the dubious pleasure of referring to the armed conflicts of 1914-1919 as "The Great War". It was only the unfortunate inability to address the war's base causes that eventually gave us the retronym we all know today, "World War I".

From: Wayne Hathaway (wayneATdiamondsandjeans.com)
Subject: Like retronyms

Along the line of retronyms, I like to observe the different default values for terms depending upon the part of the country and so forth.

For example, I grew up in Texas and now live in California. In Texas, if you said "skiing," it meant water-skiing; you had to specifically say "snow-skiing" if that's what you meant. In California, of course, it's the opposite. And in California, "polo" means water polo; you have to say "horse polo" if that's what you mean.

From: Becky Finn (sampickypawsATpowersurfr.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--retronym

I love this one! Here's another possible future retronym: Gas powered vehicle. Or what about: Above-ground domicile...

From: Jo Purifoy (jodoyle1ATairmail.net)
Subject: heteronym

My favorite involving a heteronym: In 1963 I worked at the Army Depot in Fort Worth, Texas. Our typewriters had instructions for changing the ribbon printed on the inside of the cover. I noticed the girl next to me, ribbon in hand, staring at her open typewriter cover. When I asked what was the matter, perplexed she said, "What does the direction of the wind have to do with the ribbon?"

From: Donald Cooper (dcooperateATyahoo.com)
Subject: Heteronyms

I've seen signs posted hereabouts (San Francisco) and elsewhere that tell us not to "...throw trash or refuse". Although I'm guessing this is merely a redundant message, the authoritarian subtext troubles me.

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

The topic of aptronym brought a flood of responses. Among the most common were Dr. Payne/Paine or Dr. Hertz as the names of doctors or dentists. Many wrote back with examples of inaptronyms -- names eminently unsuitable for the profession, such as Cardinal Sin. Here are some selections:

I've always known this relationship as nominative determinism. This term implies some sort of causative relationship between a person's name and their interests, which is not so hard to believe. Someone called Harry Bird, for example, may be teased by others asking about birds to such a degree that he takes an interest in birds to counter the teasing, and so the name becomes apt.
The other side of this coin is of course the person called Smith because an ancestor once worked in a smithy, creating things other than words.
-Phillip Rowland (phillip.rowlandATza.stemcor.com)

True name of a firm of solicitors (=attorneys) in Sligo in the West of Ireland, to be seen on a brass plate by their door: Argue and Phibbs.
-Andrew Robinson (akrATeircom.net)

Dr Richard (Dick) Seed -- pioneer of reproductive technology, wants to clone humans.
Cardinal Jaime Sin -- former head of the catholic church in the Philippines.
-Jeremy R. Greenwood (jeremyATcompchem.dfh.dk)

You can add these other real people:
Prof. Martin Braine, American cognitive psychologist
Prof. John Wisdom, American philosopher
Dr. Moshe Feinmesser (which means: fine knife), Israeli surgeon
-Maya Bar-Hillel (msmayaATmath.huji.ac.il)

Thank you - now I have the technical term for my surname!
-Merle Read, owner of a copy-editing/proofreading business (mrATread-edit.co.uk)

A well-known gynaecologist in Melbourne is called 'Dr Fingers.'
-Erin (erinb52AThotmail.com)

Lake Speed, NASCAR driver.
-Robert J Borton (phantom1967ATjuno.com)

I once had a neighbor named Dr. Dick Bone, an osteopath.
-Elisabeth Slotkin (lslotsAThotmail.com)

Local (Palos Heights, IL) aptronyms include Yankelovich the dentist and Beaupied the podiatrist. Not necessarily English, but the concept works in translation. Up the road in Worth, IL is Hooker's Bait Shop---the sign logo features a curvaceous and suggestive fish.
-Jeffrey Carpenter (jcfish57ATyahoo.com)

There's a Patricia Feral who's an animal rights activist in the Stamford, Connecticut, area.
-Tom Cassone (tmcassoneATaol.com)

The fellow who ran our local hardware store (St. Matthews Hardware in Louisville KY) for umpteen years was named George Hammer. George died several years ago and is succeeded by his son, Pete Hammer.
-Jan Upton (januptonATlouisville.edu)

Here in Minnesota we have had problems with deformed frogs. The frog expert at Southwest University of Minnesota is Professor Hoppe!
-Kate Severin (kate.severinATstate.mn.us)

I just wanted to share that we have in our small community (Parsonsfield, Maine) a veterinarian named Dr. Beever and a physician named Dr. DeKay.
-Nancy Henry (stannie2ATaol.com)

My last name, Kauppi, is Finnish and has a definite ethnic pronunciation. Since my great grandfather came to America, the pronunciation has been anglicized to "copy." After getting my PhD and only finding adjunct teaching jobs, I took some editing courses and then did freelance "copyediting." A publisher hired me after a few months and I became a development editor (editing for content and logic and not grammar and style). Though I am no longer a "copyeditor" per se, I still frequently edit on hard "copy" and have the occasion to "copyedit" authors to improve their style. I am truly amused and pleasantly astonished by the coincidence between the pronunciation of my last name and my editorial duties. I'm even more delighted that there's a word to describe this phenomenon.
-Lynn Kauppi (lkauppiATumpublishing.org)

To add another real life aptronym, my dentist name is Dr. Tom Fillar.
-Steve DeSmit (steve_desmitAThermanmiller.com)

Sir Russell Brain, famous English neurologist
-Pedro Solberg (solbergATglobo.com)

My favorite aptronyn is that of a recently retired dentist here in Fort Lauderdale by the name of Dr. Hertz.
-E Mahoney (ejm33304ATaol.com)

My truck's new tires from Firestone make driving smooth and pleasurable. The name of the mechanic, an aptronym I'll never forget, is Roland Cruz.
-David Stoker (davidATstoker.org)

I had a tattoo done by a man with the last name "Payne" and I know a body piercer named "Lance". It's much funnier afterwards, trust me.
-Elizabeth Getschal (elizgetsATangelfire.com)

I recently had a tooth removed by an oral surgeon named 'Dr. Slaughter'.
-Diana (diana.swiftATgte.net)

My Methodist minister is Rev. D. Goodenough.
-Liesl (South Africa)

While perusing aptronyms, I was reminded of some nonaptronyms. One from my home town - advertising himself as a "painless dentist" - whose name was Dr. Aichen. Another, an architect for whom I used to work whose moniker was Haack. One can only wonder what such names do - statistically speaking - for one's professional publicity.
-R. Springsteed (infoATfirstcenturymedia.com)

From: Phillip Rowland (phillip.rowlandATza.stemcor.com)
Subject: Advertising Speak (Re: AWADmail Issue 60)

The bastardisation of English by advertisers also troubles me. There is a nursery school/day care centre close to where I live called "Klever Kidz". How these kids will ever become clever when their first learning centre is so named is a wonder to me.

Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people. -William Butler Yeats, poet, dramatist, essayist, Nobel laureate (1865-1939)

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