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Jan 26, 2020
This week’s theme
Adjectives used postpositively

This week’s words
ad litem

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

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Words about books

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AWADmail Issue 917

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

Sponsor’s Message: What are Sleeping Beauty’s two other names? “GED” is an abbreviation for a high school equivalency diploma -- what does it actually stand for? What’s unique about the word “facetiously”? WISE UP! -- The Wicked/Smart Party Card Game asks tons of devilishly difficult questions that’ll give you know-it-alls plenty of life lessons in humility, history, sports, science, literature, and geography. And wit. Here’s another: Everyone knows the First and Second Amendments -- what’s the Third? But beware, there’s also a slew of “challenge” cards that chuck Darwinian physical and mental wrenches into the works. For example: Throw this card on the floor and pick it up without using your hands. So much humbling fun for everyone, including this week’s Email of the Week Winner, Mary Postellon (see below). WISE UP! NOW.

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

I Am the “Book Murderer”, But I Tear Them Apart Out of Love
The Guardian

The Alphabets at Risk of Extinction

From: Jean-Luc Popot (jean-luc.popot ibpc.fr)
Subject: Postpositives in French

The normal order of words in French is substantive followed by adjective (“un chien noir”, a black dog), with some exceptions for very common adjectives, such as “petit” or “grand” (“un petit chien”, a small dog). This is the basis for one of the running jokes in the original French version of Astérix chez les Bretons. Obélix has finally noted that the position of the adjective is different in Brittany and will do his best to adapt by post-positioning the adjective in those rare cases where it is pre-positioned in French (“Vous avez vu mon chien petit?”). I suppose that in the English version (Asterix in Britain), this must be rendered by “Did you see my dog small?”.

Jean-Luc Popot, Paris, France

From: Bob Richmond (rsrichmond gmail.com)
Subject: ad litem

I’ve been meaning to look up “ad litem” for the last 45 years. I learned the word from my lawyer when I had an “ad litem” assessment of child support until child support and alimony could be set by the divorce agreement. I remember the lawyer pronounced it “ad LEE-tem”. (I don’t remember anything about his education; he was quite competent.)

The Latin origin is līs, lītis, lawsuit, a regularly inflected third declension feminine noun, attested by classical authors from Terence on. Since the preposition “ad” governs the accusative, the phrase is “ad lītem”. This from my century-old Lewis’s Latin Dictionary.

The vowel is long in all cases and numbers, so it would have been pronounced LEEtem or LEEtę way back when. This is a situation where you have to know the length of the vowel to be sure how to pronounce the word either in Latin or in English.

According to Black’s Law Dictionary (a reliable guide to the English Received Pronunciation of legal Latin), it’s indeed AD LYTum in English. My wife, who’s a lawyer’s daughter, says that’s how she pronounces it.

I paid my money, and I takes my choice. And you can take the boy out of the Catholic school, but you can’t take the Catholic school out of the boy (even though I’m an Episcopalian).

Bob Richmond, Maryville, Tennessee

From: Terry Stone (cgs7952 bellsouth.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--ad litem

Your definition of ad litem describes only one of its meanings. Generally in law, ad litem refers to any officer of the court whose role is limited beyond what it normally would be for anyone else carrying the same title. Thus, when a jurist is referred to as ad litem, it can mean a specially-appointed judge whose powers are limited beyond the powers such a judge would normally possess (often also refereed to as ad hoc). The definition of the word you cite is normally used in combination with “guardian” or “attorney” (i.e., guardian ad litem in family court or attorney ad litem in estate cases), and refers to a person appointed by the court who must represent what is in the best interests of the person concerned. In such a circumstance, this means an ad litem officer is not required to represent before the court what that person might actually want. That role falls to such a personal attorney. As a result, guardians (or attorneys) ad litem and personal attorneys are frequently in conflict, and it becomes the duty of the judge to work out the differences.

Terry Stone, Goldendale, Washington

Email of the Week (Brought to you by the wicked wonderful world of WISE UP! - Yes, you can BUY SMARTS.

From: Mary Postellon (mpostellon hotmail.com)
Subject: aforethought

This word brought Greek mythology to mind: Prometheus (forethought), who was punished by the gods for giving humans the gift of fire. We never hear much about his brother Epimetheus (afterthought); I guess we don’t place nearly as much value on 20/20 hindsight as we would on the ability to predict the future reliably.

Mary Postellon, Grand Rapids, Michigan

From: Sharon Smith (mainelyneuropsych gmail.com)
Subject: aforethought

I always thought M. Alice O’Forethought would be a good name for a mystery novel villain.

Sharon Smith, Canaan, Maine

From: Joshua Parker (josh grandaveinv.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--immemorial

As a lapsed lawyer, I remember well that, in English common law, “time immemorial, or time whereof the memory of man runneth not to the contrary” meant before July 6, 1189, the date of the ascension of King Richard I (Richard the Lion-Hearted of Robin Hood fame... or is that backwards)

Joshua Parker, Englewood, New Jersey

From: Robert Burns (robertburns oblaw.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--immemorial

This word is a bastard. Its parentage is irregular or it picked up an extra chromosome.

Robert Burns, Ocean Beach, California

From: Gary Muldoon (gmuldoon kamanesq.com)
Subject: postpositives

A few years ago, I wrote a book that was published by the American Bar Association entitled The Education of a Lawyer. In discussing the development of legal language over the centuries, one topic it addresses is that of postpositives:

“One difference between the English and the French languages is that in French, the adjective comes after the noun: black night is nuit noir. The French influence in law is shown by the many legal terms that have postpositive adjectives, ones that come after the noun: attorney general, notary public, condition precedent, fee simple, letters patent, malice aforethought.

There are exceptions, of course: consider petit larceny and grand larceny, whose adjectives ― both decidedly French ― precede the noun. But these exceptions truly prove the rule (for once I’m using that expression correctly); those adjectives precede the noun in French as well: petit fours, grand mal seizure. (See Tiersma, Legal Language.)”

Gary Muldoon, Rochester, New York

From: Richard Burris (r_w_burris comcast.net)
Subject: When you retire

As a Wordsmith Laureate, when you retire, you will be a Wordsmith Emeritus.

Richard Burris, Alexandria, Virginia

From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: errant and laureate

Our word “errant” brought to mind The Adventures of Tintin, a series of 24 bande dessinée (comic strip) graphic novels, published from their mid-20th-century debut and decades beyond, the brainchild of Belgian writer/cartoonist, Hergé (aka George Remi). These engaging books captured the fascination and imagination of countless fans around the globe, having been translated from the original French editions into more than 70 languages. The titular character, Tintin, (pictured here), part intrepid investigative reporter, I dare say... part super sleuth errant, with his distinctive rusty topknot, and de rigueur trench coat, displays boundless energy and a relentless curiosity. His far-flung adventures have taken him to all corners of the globe, from one “exotic” locale to another, with trusty pooch Snowy (“Milou” in the French editions), his constant companion. In this scenario, I’ve caught an animated Tintin tossing a dart towards a spinning globe, where he’s earlier confided to Snowy that their next destination will be determined by which locale the dart happens to land. Adventurous Tintin is ever up to the challenge.

Contemplating this week’s word “laureate” took me back to ancient Greece, where the earthbound realm of mere mortals and the rarefied domain of the pantheon of the gods were often blurred, becoming commingled in the hearts, minds, and myth of the archaic Hellenes. Here, winged-goddess, Nike, the celestial embodiment of strength, speed, grace, and victory, bestows a crown of laurel leaves upon the bowed head of a victorious Olympian athlete... a naked javelin thrower, his manhood discretely hidden behind the blazing Olympic cauldron. (Oh behave!) The earliest Olympic Games were exclusive to male competitors, and clothing was not an option. I chose to break the inherent solemnity of the event with my toga-clad Froggy character taking full advantage of an open flame, seemingly oblivious to the gravity of the ceremony at-hand.

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Anagrams of this week’s words
1. ad litem
2. errant
3. aforethought
4. immemorial
5. laureate
= 1. trial term
2. rogue
3. ahead of time
4. to all time
5. rare human
     1. ad litem
2. errant
3. aforethought
4. immemorial
5. laureate
= 1. legal term re a trial mouth
2. I out
3. meant
4. hoarier
5. famed
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)

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

So why the postpositive word?
Semanticists surely have erred.
To rule that ad litem
must ad infinitum
adhere to the rear seems absurd.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The couple’s divorce has been filed,
But what’s to become of their child?
An agent ad litem
Will deal with this item,
A brat who’s unbearably wild.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Our last three years, he’s managed to blight ‘em
with offenses -- too many to cite ‘em.
I’ve been thinking that maybe
that big orange baby
is in need of a guardian ad litem.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“Subpoenas? Let crazy Dems write ‘em,”
Said Donald, “In court I will fight ‘em.
My boys Neil and Brett
With three more I forget
Will for sure make me tyrant ad litem.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Who’s lying in Baby Bear’s bed?
They’d feared someone frightful. Instead,
it’s very apparent
their trespasser-errant
is naught but a girl curlyhead!
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

A knight who was errant said, “Gee,
This job is abhorrent to me --
A life on the road
With no set abode
Is not all it’s cracked up to be!”
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

He found staying in one place repellent.
His whole life was a constant quest errant.
As his grandmother put it,
“He was born fiddle-footed,
with a need for adventure inherent.”
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

“From now on, Lance, you’ll be a knight errant,
For at home there are dangers inherent,”
Said King Arthur, “My Gwen
For a babe has a yen,
And I want to be sure I’m the parent.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Says the lawyer, “You’re taking the stance
that her death happened merely by chance?
With malice aforethought,
you killed her! Our source caught
you planning the deed in advance!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The detective was down on one knee,
“It is murder aforethought,” guessed he.
Though he searched far and wide
No good suspect he eyed,
So the killer? She got off scot-free.
-Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)

We know there was marital strife,
And so the man murdered his wife.
His weapons all store-bought
Prove malice aforethought --
Besides that, there’s blood on the knife.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Said the woman, “I’ve got what I’ve long sought;
Success have my brains and my brawn bought.”
But her client, Trump, said,
“You’ll be deep in the red;
I stiff vendors with malice aforethought.”
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (jpmarlin456 gmail.com)

The Savior whom Christians adore taught,
“When they strike thee with malice aforethought,
Thou should turnest thy cheek;
Thou wilt feel like a geek,
But it’s better than having a war fought.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I’m just getting over a virus
Thanks to nurses like Helen and Cyrus.
They’ve acted uxorial
Since time immemorial --
When “scrips” were on strips of papyrus!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

We flee from the bees as they dive
down upon us, defending their hive.
Since time immemorial,
such territorial
action has kept them alive.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

When it came to his work editorial,
The old publisher waxed dictatorial:
“We will only print books
By the world’s famous cooks,
Who boast four-star reviews immemorial.”
-Judith Marks-White, Westport, Connecticut (joodthmw gmail.com)

The tale of King Midas is old,
Since time immemorial told.
Though glitter you love,
When push comes to shove,
You can’t eat a sandwich that’s gold.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

The Redwood’s a most famous tree.
It’s the largest tree, experts agree.
From time immemorial,
This lofty arboreal
Is endangered, so do heed my plea.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

The ice sheets in areas boreal
Have been stable since time immemorial.
But I’m telling you, folks,
Climate change is no hoax;
Please believe this succinct editorial.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The bard, at one hundred and three,
keeps writing assiduously.
“Poets laureate never,
no matter how clever,
must rest on their laurels!” says he.
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

A poet laureate is what
I sadly admit I am not.
It’s true that I rhyme
Words all of the time.
Not a masterpiece in the lot.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

The poetess laureate wrote
Some sonnets and haiku of note.
Some limericks too,
Though that verse she knew
Was mostly too dirty to quote.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

Whom the gods with great talent endow
laurel leaves might encircle the brow,
but our guy became laureate
for just how much more he et;
his distinction: he once swallowed a cow.
-Zelda Dvoretzky, Haifa, Israel (zeldahaifa gmail.com)

His limericks were always risqué.
He viewed life in a sexual way.
“I’m no poet laureate.
Give others that glory, but
I do like to shock,” he did say.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

In the business world you were a laureate,
But the Senate’s your new territory, Mitt.
Showing Donald the door
Will mean blood on the floor;
Please be brave and don’t shrink from the gory bit.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

From: Phil Graham (pgraham1946 cox.net)
Subject: Sometimes it’s hard to postpositively

When Guy Montag balked at burning more books, his boss threatened, “Ad Litem if I were you.”

Attempting to walk around the world would be errant nonsense.

Although aft at the time, the ship’s captain had a forethought.

Movies about the mythical Dracula have made immemorial person.

When you need to transport something large in the UK, laureate. Phil Graham, Tulsa, Oklahoma

From: Neil Muir (neilmuir49 hotmail.com)
Subject: anagram

I have noticed that the word “coronavirus” is an anagram of “carnivorous”. Hopefully, a coincidence and not a subliminal warning.

Neil Muir, Bangor, Northern Ireland

Sometimes you can’t see yourself clearly until you see yourself through the eyes of others. -Ellen DeGeneres, comedian, TV host, actor, and writer (b. 26 Jan 1958)

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