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AWADmail Issue 64

January 6, 2002

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

From: Walter Bitner (wbmdhdbATearthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--epistrophe

Today's word (epistrophe) was used by the great jazz composer Thelonious Monk for the title of one of his greatest tunes: Epistrophy (same pronunciation). The "head" or melody of the tune displays a similarity to the definition of epistrophe, as the same melodic material is repeated at different pitches, generating an increasing tension. The emphatic mood generated by this device usually explodes into wild, vehement expression when a good jazz soloist reaches the part of the piece where he (or she) is expected to improvise over the changes.

From: Jeff Goris (jeff.gorisATvodafone.com.au)
Subject: anaphora

Tolkien's 'The Lord of the Rings' provides a good example of anaphora.

One ring to rule them all,
One ring to find them,
One ring to bring them all
And in the darkness bind them.

From: Mike (miklATbtopenworld.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--patronym

Re: Fitz- ( as in Fitzgerald, son of Gerald). You might add that the prefix Fitz- was frequently used for illegitimate children of aristocrats (e.g. Fitzclarence = son of the Duke of Clarence) and royalty (Fitzroy = son of the king). So Henry Fitzroy, Duke of Grafton, was the bastard son of Charles II and Barbara Villiers, the Duchess of Cleveland. Fitz is the Norman form of the modern French fils = son.

From: Serhiy Grabarchuk (serhiy-gATkarpaty.uzhgorod.ua)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--patronym

In Russian and Ukrainian (and in some other languages and cultures as well) the patronymic system is more complex - it uses both meanings you give for the "patronym" (1. and 2.) simultaneously. Your example - Anton Pavlovich Chekhov - is a good example of this.

1. A name derived from the name of father.
"Pavlovich" hardly can be considered as a middle name - it's a real patronym that says that this writer's father's name is Pavel (not Pavlov). Such patronyms in sense of a "son (daughter) of his (her) father" are formed by adding to the father's name -ich/-vich (for men; -ych/-vych in Ukrainian) and -na/-vna (for women - both languages), and adjusting (sometimes very specifically) the basic word.

2. A surname or family name.
"Chekhov" is a real surname or family name or last name. It also is formed by adding to some basic word some suffixes like -ov/-ev/-yev/-kiy/-skiy/ -ckiy/-in/ (men) and -ova/-eva/-yeva/-kaya/-skaya/-ckaya/-ina (women) - in Russian; -chuk/-ko(or -co)/-skyy/-ckyy (men) and -chuk/-ko(or -co)/-ska/ -cka (women) - in Ukrainian. So Pavlov is a real surnames/family names/ last names, not a name. At the same time there are a lot of Russian and Ukrainian surnames/family names/last names which haven't any patronymic suffixes at all (very similar to Smith, Carpenter, Baker, etc.).

From: J Ramanand (ramanand_jATpersistent.co.in)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--patronym

A singular occurrence of patronyms is found among Icelanders who are named after their fathers. Magnus Ragnarsson's father's first name would be Ragnar. If Ragnar also had a daughter, her last name would be Ragnarsdottir. Ragnar himself would be named after his father, something like Ragnar Gunnarsson. So people tend to identify each other by first name and even entries in telephone directories would typically be based on first names rather than last names.

From: Dieudonne Dang (dangdATtdprs.state.tx.us)
Subject: Patronym

In Cameroon (Central Africa), among the Bafia in the south western part of the country, we do things a little differently. "a" signifies: belonging to, as in Mougnol a Dang (mougnol son of Dang). The same for women.

From: Bob Lee (rsl69ATcadvision.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--patronym

> Welsh ap or p (Pritchard from ap Richard, son of Richard).

It's interesting to note that the common Welsh name Pugh is derived from ap Hugh.

From: Susan Schumacher (susan.schumacherAThoneywell.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--patronym

Unless the name starts with a vowel, then it is ab or b (Bowen from ab Owen, son of Owen).

From: Geoff West (gwest12ATearthlink.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--patronym

While reading today's assemblage of patronyms, I was reminded of a doctor in Sun City who helped care for my father in the last two years that he was out here in AZ. His name was Moshrefzadeh. I'm a bit fuzzy on the lineage (Iranian, perhaps?) but was intrigued to learn that -zadeh was a suffix meaning "son of Moshref".

From: Nickos Apostolakis (nikosATudel.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--patronym

Patronyms from various regions of Greece:

Peloponese "poulos"- Petropoulos (son of Petros)
Crete "akis"-Petrakis (son of Petros)
Macedonia "ides"-Petrides (son of Petros)
Island of Cephalonia "atos"-Petratos (son of Petros)
Mani region os Peloponese "akos"-Petrakos (son of Petros)
Asia Minor "oglou"-Petroglou (son of Petros) also used by the Turks
One can tell what part of Greece a person came from based on the ending of his name.

From: Aine Spiff (ainespiffATyahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--patronym

My sister is named after both patrilineal grandparents, which makes quite a mouthful: Danimarybau, meaning daughter of Dan and Mary. Tribe and language are Nembe, of the town of Twon in Brass, which is on the Nigerian coast. Traditionally my tribesmen would be unable to pronounce Dan without the affixed 'i'.

She dislikes its awkwardness and uses it as Danmary, eliminating all offending letters, which unfortunately include `bau' or daughter, which is what gives the peculiar combination its meaning.

From: Lynn Thornton (lynn.thorntonAThome.com)
Subject: 2002 Palindrome and What Else?

2002 is not only a palindrome, but when using some digital fonts, (such as found on a football scoreboard), it also reads the same upside down.

From: Bob Leedom (rclATjagunet.com)
Subject: palindromic year frequency

A happy 2002 to you, as well. The other day, I overheard the comment, "Finally, a palindromic year!"

Hm-m-m, I thought...didn't we have one fairly recently? Yes, 1991. Is that so long a gap to warrant that "Finally" crack?

After a little reflection and a moment or two with with a spreadsheet, I realized that this is the first time in a millennium that all but a tiny fraction of humanity has been able to experience more than a single palindromic year in one lifetime: since the year 1001, palindromic years have been spaced by 110 years with the single exception of 1991 and 2002.

From: Jay Anema (anemafamATaol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--patronym

Dutch (Friesian) - ma, son of Ane as in Anema or son of Jelle as in Jellema, etc.

From: T. Kaori Kitao (tkitao1ATswarthmore.edu)
Subject: patronyms

You might add to the list of patronyms the variants of -son in Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian in the form -sen: e.g. Jacobsen, Jansen ,Hansen, etc. (sometimes -son), and the German form as in Mendelssohn. Then, the Dutch variant -szoon, which is always abbreviated, appears sometimes as the last name but more often as the middle name: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn. A woman is sometimes identified by a patronym, e.g. Harmensd. for Harmensdochter. The Greek Papa- must be a patronym as in Papagiorgiou. Italians don't seem to have developed patronyms but there are echoes of the father's name in certain surnames when the son inherits the father's name: Guarino Guarini, Pannino Pannini, Guidetto Guidetti, etc.

To: Barbara A Dow (barbara.a.dowATkp.org)
Subject: Re: Mankiller as aptronym?

I was interested to read over the recent holidays that such names as Mankiller, Threekiller, etc. were given to the Cherokees by whites, based on the number of notches on their guns. The Cherokees put notches on their guns, however, signifying the number of children they had. So perhaps your customer had an ancestor who had one child at the time whites decided that everyone should have at least two names. That would not be so scary.

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

Linguaphiles' favorite examples of euphemisms though some of them border on doublespeak:

My favorite use of the word euphemism is from Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" where he uses the word "euphemism" to mean bathroom. I don't have the text in front of me, but the quote is something like "Show him where we keep the euphemism."
-Adam G. Perl (adamATpastimes.com)

My wonderful college philosophy professor at Oxford College of Emory University, Dr. Kent Linville, always referred to euphemisms as "linguistic fig leaves."
-Heather Papp (hrpappAThotmail.com)

Working in document production in a management consulting company (or, my favorite typo, consluting), I see many such absurdities. The latest invention is "dis-synergies" instead of the clearer "inefficiencies" or (Mammon forbid) "losses".
-Marisa Carder (marisa_carderATmckinsey.com)

Another euphemism being used in stores now is "vintage" for used or old to give it cachet.
-Barbara (barbdeeATaol.com)

The Portuguese equivalent to "euphemism" also comes from the Greek: "eufemismo". However, since the party of our current President Cardoso came to power, their symbol, the toucan (like the elephant and the donkey symbolize the American Republican and Democratic parties) has given origin to the very interesting verb "tucanar", or "to toucan", which means "to speak in euphemism". A good example is to refer to the increase in the fare of utilities as "price realignment".
-Jorge Todeschini (jorgetodAThotnet.net)

From an old and treasured copy of "A Dictionary of Contemporary American Usage" by Bergen and Cornelia Evans, 1957:
"The opposite of euphemism is dysphemism. If it is plain talk to call a spade a spade and a euphemism to call it a delving instrument, it is a dysphemism to call it a bloody shovel."
-Gordon Hegenbarth (glhegenbarthATdcwis.com)

Here is an example I love: Urban outdoorsman for homeless.
-Cindia Gottshall (cindiaATsimon-lever.com)

In some legal circles, it is said that when a person dies, their estate "matures".
-Mary Frances Skala (807ATfryberger.com)

One of my all-time favourite euphemisms, supposedly coined in a report about Three Mile Island, is "unscheduled energetic disassembly" in place of "explosion".
-Riley VanDyke (sparkyATrvandyke.com)

During the Korean War, one of the mount captains on my ship asked me if it were a "Police Action", as he had read in the paper. I told him that it was, and advised him to keep his head down lest he be hit by a flying nightstick.
-Elliott Cates (ecatesATaol.com)

I can't stand it when people use "passed away". My mother died two years ago. Period. End of story. She's gone and I miss her terribly, but she did NOT pass away, she DIED! And when I was pregnant at the age of 35, they wanted to do an amnio, warning however, that it might "interrupt" the pregnancy. As if it could be resumed at a later date!
-Susie Gilson (sgilsonATccgvp.com)

Death is probably replaced by more euphemisms than just about any other term. Among my favorites are join the majority, go off the hooks, and hop the twig.
-Nerol (generalkrugeAThotmail.com)

A survivor of several layoffs in the 1980s, I think I heard them all--we were re-organized, re-engineered, downsized, and rightsized. My favorite euphemism for layoffs was that used by a major oil company which went through "personnel enhancement!"
-Leslie H. (clmaharmanATaol.com)

I have recently heard on a radio ad "previously new" for used.
Lupe Amezquita (lupe_amezquitaAThp.com)

Our local luxury car dealership refers to their used cars as "previously pampered." They make it sound like they would only let you buy the car only after you showed them that it was going to a good home.
-Steve Hendricks (leslihenATjps.net)

One of my favorite euphemisms of all time can be found in the bakery downstairs from my apartment. They sell plastic bags of what used to be known as day-old pastries, which are now labeled "Yesterday's Fresh."
-Beth Goldowitz (bgoldowitzATymcanyc.org)

I would like to add to your list of euphemisms the software-related phrase "It isn't a bug. It's a feature".
-Dean Dei Cas (deicasATworld.std.com)

Dictionary: The universe in alphabetical order. -Anatole France, novelist and essayist (1844-1924)

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