Issue 179, page 4

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Sez You...
From Rivka Weinberg:

First, I would like to thank you for your fascinating site! It manages to be both scholarly and highly readable, not to mention frequently amusing. Kudos! 

By the way, the avocado, like the tomato and ackee, is both a fruit and a vegetable.

I have heard similar statements before, but never quite understood how this can be - at least in a biological sense. Is it not true that a "fruit" is the matured and thickened ovary of a flowering plant, while a "vegetable" is any vegetative (non-reproductive) portion of the plant?  These would seem to be mutually exclusive. 

Or do you mean vegetables in the more common, non-scientific usage? That is, edible portions of a plant, often high in certain minerals and (relative to fruits) low in sugar? Again, any particular item seems to be either a fruit or a vegetable - not both at the same time.

Thanks for the plaudit and yes, we do mean vegetable to be understood in the "more common, non-scientific" way as that is the only known usage for vegetable as a noun. As to your question which begins "Is it not true...?"  Well, you got the fruit part right but no one calls a "vegetative portion of a plant" a "vegetable" - even botanists.

From Vivien Dostine:

Your entry [on teetotaler] seems to miss the point that the British (and their colonies) are TEA drinkers. 

This phrase is TEA totaller - one who abstains from all alcohol and drinks only TEA as a refreshment instead....

Nope.  There is absolutely no evidence for your derivation and no occurrences of "tea-totaller" in the written record.  It might sound logical to you, but logic is not all that is required to establish a term's etymology.  Go back and read the discussion again - that's the best explanation, given the evidence, for the derivation of teetotaler.

From Alex Dow:

Another variant (of last issue's Curmudgeons' Corner) is when I encounter the phrase that something happened "between the years 2000 and 2001" and similar.  Instantaneous?

Haha, that's a funny one!

From Erica Hruby:

I just wanted to drop you a note to say happy new year (belatedly) and to let you know that your faithful readers are looking forward to the next issue of TOWFI. I hope all is well for you and that we'll see an issue soon! 

Thanks, Erica!  Happy new year to you and all of our readers.  Perhaps an explanation is due: the holidays almost always prevent us from publishing regularly, as our long-time readers know.  Then, once the holidays were over, Melanie had to go out of town on an extended business trip (only home on weekends) through the end of February!  That didn't leave any time to publish, so here we are, now that Melanie is back home.  It's great to be back [she says!].

From Michael Cole:

More commentary regarding the use of "myself". (Issue 178 Sez You)

Many words in English have been "borrowed" from other languages. This could be an example of a borrowed usage. In the Irish language, no distinction is made between the cases (I or me, we or us). There is however terminology to make an emphatic distinction between persons, the way we would use tone or inflection. In spoken English, the sentence "I went to the store." would have a pronounced emphasis on the "I" if it were the answer to a question of "Who?". Even in written Irish this emphasis is possible. The nearest translation into English is: "myself". English speakers in Ireland commonly use the word "myself" for this purpose.

PS. This explanation could of course be used to further support Mr. Yanoshek. Irish speakers learning English might often use the term because they are unfamiliar with the two cases used in English.

Thanks Mike.

From J. Alderton:

Really enjoyed your site. It's always a pleasure to read the notes of people who so obviously enjoy their subject matter.

I have the largest Cockney Rhyming Slang site on the web at - would you be interested in a reciprocal link? 

My site uses no java, no pop-ups and no cookies (if this is of any concern to you).

We've visited your site before, and we can't for the life of us figure out why we haven't linked to you until now!

From Birger Drake:

Elementymology & Elements Multidictionary, origin of the names of the chemical elements, and multilingual dictionary of element names (68 languages) .

Wow, that is a great resource, Birger.  Thank you!

Do you enjoy reading Take Our Word For It?  Give us a small token of your appreciation and help keep the site running by making a donation.  It's easy, and you can pay via credit card.  To donate, just click the button.

We received an interesting piece of mail about trying to get a new word accepted into English (the word is viagry, an adjective formed from Viagra), and in that message was the following link: .  If it is not the only online etymological dictionary, it is one of the few.  Check it out.


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

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Last Updated 03/10/03 07:21 PM