Issue 183, page 4

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From Peter Roizen:

This might be a link that your subscribers would be interested in.

Looks wild, indeed.  Thanks, Peter.

From Gordon Barlow:

The term red in the British West Indies is used to refer to brown-skin people whose heritage is mixed African & European. Usually slightly contemptuously. No "red" person would appreciate being referred to as "red", that's for sure. So maybe that's where Dan's lecturer was coming from, to have invented her story.

We think she was just playing off the derogatory nature of the word redskin here in the U.S.  

From Linda Echols:

I always look forward to receiving your TOWFI, and I am so glad to see your return.

I have always had an interest in humor as a subject in itself. I am intrigued by what makes a person respond to it with a big "bellylaugh" of enjoyment or a smirk of disdain. In pursuit of this intrigue, I would like to ask if anyone would care to enlighten me as to why the Erma Bombeck Writing Competition Award of first place went to the article "The First Time Is Always the Worst".

Thank you for you very entertaining and informative publication. 

We didn't get to see any other pieces from the competition, so we can't say, exactly.  We are also quite interested in humor and how it varies so from person to person and culture to culture.  Thanks for the kind words!

From Smarti22:

Your last issue of "Words to the Wise" listed parasol as coming from the Indo-European root *pere- "to produce, procure". I once had a Mexican-born Spanish teacher who accredited parasol to a more modern Spanish construction: para meaning "for" and sol meaning "sun", or "for the sun". Much like the Spanish word for umbrella, paraguas is "for the waters", more specifically, rain. Perhaps he was just full of nationalistic hot air?

He may have simply assumed that parasol was formed on the same basis as paraguas; unfortunately, his assumption was not correct (though it is understandable!).  It actually comes ultimately from Italian para sole, where para comes from parare "to ward or defend, to cover from, to shield, to shroud, to shelter".  Sole is, of course, the same as Spanish sol: "sun".

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From Richard Hershberger:

I wanted to clarify the use of mullet in heraldry. It is the same shape as the stars on the U,S. flag. It can have more than five points, but five is the default and any other number would be specified. Steve Parkes is correct that in English heraldry the mullet is distinct from the star, or "estoille". The estoille usually has six points, and they are wavy. This is, however, a peculiarity of English heraldry. Other languages use their word for "star" and depict it with five straight points, i.e. as an English mullet. Continental heraldry does not use the charge the English call "estoille" at all. Yes, it is all very confusing. That's what makes it fun!

Indeed!  Thanks for the clarification.

From Greg Umberson:

In Issue 182 you mention the earliest reference to bulldog in the OED is an occurrence of the term bold-dogges from about 1500. So what about the possibility that these dogs were simply referred to as "bold" dogs, with the rather simple sound changes over time resulting in "bull" dogs. It seems more likely than visualizing their heads as being shaped like "bulls" or like "boules"/balls (although if I had to lean more towards one shape then I think the ball shape is probably closer). In any case, the "bold" usage seems to be the earliest, even if it's not clear it's actually referring to the same breed. Maybe someone can check a good French etymological dictionary for the earliest use of "bouledogue".

Apparently that one occurrence of bold-dogges is not enough to base bulldog's etymology on bold.  Variations in spelling were simply too wide-ranging in 1500 to assume that the writer simply did not mishear or misspell something akin to bulldogs.  At least that is what the etymologists at the OED seem to think.

From Ray Adams:

For Andy looking for a mnemonic for his students to properly spell separate:

I took a less etymological approach and simply reminded myself that the two internal a’s separate the two external e’s! Might the students begin to spell the word “saparate” if they compare it to “apart”?

BTW – what a fascinating study on consonant shifts! It will, I’m sure, make the spotting of cognates much easier. My adopted second language is Russian. I suppose I’m correct in thinking that there is a connection between “Old Church Slavonic” and Russian. I assumed that the chart understandably avoided the Cyrillic script. Thank you for a really helpful look at how familiar words are disguised.

From Sandybil:

Enjoy your site! To this day in Scotland, oaks are called aiks (pron. "aches").


Or read last week's issue to see what all of these people are talking about!

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Last Updated 06/28/03 11:41 AM