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AWADmail Issue 661

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

Sponsor’s message: Who said you can’t buy the American Dream? And for a song? We’re offering our motorcycle-loving subscribers, and this week’s Email of the Week winner, Michael Connors (see below) a two-wheel deal on Indian Summer, a terrific seat-of-the-pants documentary we filmed 20 years ago that’s been a surprise hit as a digitally-remastered DVD. A steal at $15; get 2 for $20 today only. Vroom, vroom!

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

Internet Slang Meets American Sign Language
Hopes and Fears

Gobbledygook in Kids’ Report Cards
Toronto Star

A Report on Sanskrit
Public Radio International

From: Bob Person (thepersons mcn.net)
Subject: State motto

I noticed this kerfuffle with interest as our “inspirational” Montana motto is indeed in Spanish “Oro y Plata” and so far has not provoked any such outcry... time will tell!

Bob Person, Helena, Montana

From: Perry Kurtz (pkurtz twcny.rr.com)
Subject: Comment on Proposed Vermont Motto

I hope Angela Kubicke’s translation of her proposed motto was, “May the fourteenth star shine brightly” (not bright). Else I would have her spend a little more time in her English grammar class before she goes back to Latin. :-)

Perry Kurtz, Chazy, New York

From: Mark Willcox (willcox datahelper.com)
Subject: Motto

Perhaps Angela Kubicke’s proposal would have been less controversial if she’d worded it: “Amay uhthey orteenthfay arstay ineshay ightbray.”

Mark Willcox, Minnetonka, Minnesota

From: Andrew Pressburger (andpress sympatico.ca)
Subject: Modus operandi

Once we adopt a word, it usually plays by the adoptive language’s rules. Usually, but not in this case. Otherwise, we’d have to pronounce operandi as operand-aye.

Incidentally, might some music aficionados not surmise that the expression refers to the performance method of a theatrical genre called opera?

Andrew Pressburger, Toronto, Canada

From: Tao (t.a.o clix.pt)
Subject: &... thank you!

Hello from Portugal!

Over here, the ‘&’ is called “‘e’ comercial”, meaning “commercial ‘and’” [also in other Romance languages], so I wondered where the word “ampersand” came from... until today. Also, I never quite figured out why the funny character. Now I know it’s from written latin “et”.

It’s delightful to learn new words and learn old ones’ etymology.

Tao, Setúbal, Portugal

From: Michael R. Sitton (sittonmr potsdam.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--per se

Thank you for including information about the origins of the word ampersand, which for anyone in the Adirondack region of northern New York brings to mind the a popular hiking destination, Ampersand Mountain, near Saranac Lake, with spectacular views of the Saranac Lake region, Whiteface Mountain, and other peaks in the area. The name is attributed to the winding course of a creek resembling the ampersand symbol; from Ampersand Creek came the name of the mountain.

Michael Sitton, Potsdam, New York

ligatures From: Tim Parker (tim.parker att.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--per se

Rather than a corruption of ‘et’ my understanding is that the ampersand’s symbol is a ligature, combining Latin letters e and t of the word et, resulting in a single glyph. Other typographical ligatures include the following.

Tim Parker, Washington, DC

One man’s ligature is another’s corruption. Note that it’s easy to tell the letters in all ligatures except for “&”.
-Anu Garg

Email of the Week (Courtesy Indian Summer -- The Original American Motorcycle Movie.)

From: Michael Connors (taikohediyoshi yahoo.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--per se

The OED under “A” section IV, 1.B. has this quotation from 1475: “Henryson Test. of Cresseide 78 (Speght’s Chaucer) The floure and A per se of Troie and Grece.”

The old way of collecting quotations by hand is far less efficient than electronic searching we have today. It is my experience that I will almost always find an earlier quotation in the whole text of the OED than from the illustrative quotations under a particular head word.

Michael Connors, Waltham, Massachusetts

Thanks for taking the time to find an earlier citation and let us know. We’ve updated the date on our website now.
-Anu Garg

From: Ken Kirste (kkkirste sbcglobal.net)
Subject: ex post

Coincidentally, “ex post” is similar to past post, a type of confidence scam where a bet is made after post time -- the official start of a horse race. Using after-the-fact information allows the con man to cheat the victim. Probably the most well-known example of a past-post scam is in the movie The Sting where characters played by Robert Redford and Paul Newman employ a past post to get even with a mob boss who had killed a mutual friend. In 2002, three men were able to pull off a real life past-post scam during the Breeders’ Cup at Arlington Park (Illinois, USA). It allowed the trio to print winning “6-pick” tickets after four of the six races had been run yielding them a payoff of around $3 million.

Ken Kirste, Sunnyvale, California

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Renoir

“The pain passes but the beauty remains.” -Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Indeed, one must admire the intestinal fortitude of the aged French impressionist painter, Renoir. Although, in his early 70s, wheelchair-bound and long-afflicted with major rheumatoid arthritis in his hands, he continued to paint in earnest until his death in 1919.

Renoir’s late-in-life physical travails must have affected the basic handling of his painterly tools and pigments, where perhaps he struggled to maintain that earlier surety of technique.Yet the creative fire still burned.

Glimpses of beauty shone through in these later Renoir canvases... not to be denied.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Bert Katz (Bert.Katz noaa.gov)
Subject: bona fide

I would say that “bona fide” has also become a noun. As in, “The prospective employee presented his bona fides to the interviewer.” In this case, “bona fides” means verifiable qualifications or skills.

Bert Katz, Silver Spring, Maryland

From: James Hutchinson (james hutch.org.uk)
Subject: Latin terms in English

This week’s words remind me of my teacher Douglas Herne, who made me appreciate ‘lovely Latin’ and introduced me to the concept of word derivations. It strikes me now that the profound influence of Latin on modern languages was a form of cultural imperialism, although the words ‘culture’ and ‘imperial’ are themselves derived from Latin (‘colere’ and ‘imperium’). There’s no escape!

James Hutchinson, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Limericks

There was a young burglar named Andy
Whose modus was quite operandi
He’d sleep on the site
Cos he’d stay up all night
And toast his successes with brandy.

-Bob Thompson, New Plymouth, New Zealand (bobtee xtra.co.nz)

To Miss Muffet the spider said, “Stay!
I am no evildoer per se.
All I want is to sit
and perhaps taste a bit
of the stuff in your bowl if I may.”

-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Rude house guest complained to his host,
“Creamed leftovers served upon toast?
It’s fine to be frugal,
Angus MacDougal,
but not to serve dinner ex post!”

-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

“I am a great lover,” he sighed.
“So show me,” replied his bride.
Through their wedding night,
He proved he was right,
Said she, “Your claim is bona fide.”

-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

A limerick-writer named Symes
Was having the hardest of times
For someone had heard
That he’d used a wrong word
He answered “Per contra, it rhymes!”

-Bob Thompson, New Plymouth, New Zealand (bobtee xtra.co.nz)

The raw material of possible poems and histories. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, essayist and poet, on dictionary (1803-1882)

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