Issue 180, page 4

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From Dick Timberlake:

I always assumed that propaganda was like agenda - neuter plural of the gerund, not feminine singular. A quick glance in my dictionary at work does not answer this. Maybe it's a fine, pedantic point, but I'd like to know which it is, fer sher. Can you give a definite answer?

The OED sayeth...


Sometimes erroneously treated as a plural (= efforts or schemes of propagation) with singular propagandum, app. after memorandum, -da

[Our emphasis added - M&M]

From Steve Saunders:

Re: Barb Dwyer's gripe in issue 179: As one who dislikes long, confusing telephone menus, it occurred to me that perhaps the bank is simply being honest and is offering to serve Barb up to the gods of poor service (rare, medium, or well done).  Love your site! Your wit, enthusiasm and erudition are a delight to us all.

Sounds like you've had about as much luck with banks as we have!  Thanks for the kind words.

From Jodi Blackman:

Thanks for such a great site and newsletter, they are really interesting and entertaining. Keep up the good work. 

As to Barb Dwyer's Curmudgeon's Corner, I have had the "pleasure" of a similar experience, only with my telephone company. Trying to navigate through their automated customer "service" line was like trying to drive in fog. I entered my phone number when prompted, several times, only to be asked that for very same thing when I finally spoke to a human (at least half an hour later.)

You mean banks have terrible telephone menus in Australia, too? (Jodi's from Oz.)

From Ken Berry:

Great to see a new issue of your excellent Webzine!

I was, however, surprised about your admission of ignorance when it came to fardel. Like many a schoolboy in the English-speaking world, I first came upon the word in the famous Hamlet soliloquy 'To be or not to be' in Act 3 Scene 1 of the play of that name:

...who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

From Stephen Blackburn:

As always, a pleasure to read Take Our Word For It.  Love the Cockney site.  "Hu's On First" is brilliant and now making the rounds of my friends (with a link to your website).

My first (and only) encounter with fardel has been in Hamlet. In the famous soliloquy "To be or not to be," Hamlet asks "who would fardels bear...?" (III,i, 76)

My Penguin William Shakespeare: The Complete Works (1974) notes fardels as meaning burdens in this context.  But it meant even more specifically "misfortunes," based on my Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary 2d Ed. (1979), which lists fardel as "a bundle or pack; hence, a burden; misfortune. [Archaic.]"

Our astonishment (and dire prophecies of doom) was directed mostly at the OED for its mispelling of fardel as fardle.

From Myfanwy Davies:

I don't have a comment as such, just wanted to say welcome back and hope you had a nice break. You have been missed!

As we hope everyone now knows, Melanie was on an extended business trip in January and February but has finally returned home, so the publishing of TOWFI has resumed!

Diolch yn fawr, Myfanwy fach.  

From Mark Lutton:

I read the note in your letters column about a tomato being both a fruit and a vegetable.  It may interested you to know that the Supreme Court of the United States has decided the question: Tomato is a vegetable.

The case was NIX v. HEDDEN, May 10, 1893. Imported vegetables were subject to a 10% duty; fruits were free. Mr. Hedden was the tax collector, and Mr. Nix, after paying duties on tomatoes under protest, sued him for a refund, reading in evidence the dictionary definitions of "fruit", "vegetable" and "tomato."  The court found that for purposes of trade and commerce, "the common language of the people" was to be followed rather than botanical definitions. Tomatoes, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips and other vegetables, are served with the main part of the meal; fruits generally as dessert. The plaintiff got no refund.

The case can be found here:

Wonderful!  So, does that make rhubarb a fruit?

Thanks, Mark (we presume that's Mark Lutton, Esq.)

From Richard Regan:

Thought you'd like to know that your pages look great and load amazingly fast with Mac OSX and the Safari browser. 

Thanks, Richard!  Are you able to load our regular homepage ( or do you still load our special Mac homepage (

From Peter McEntee:

I've been eagerly awaiting Issue #179 for a long time. Now, for the past couple of weeks, your home page announces that Issue #179 has arrived, but most of the links to the different sections still connect to Issue #178.

All of the new Issue 179 material was there; unfortunately, your browser was reading some page 178 materials from cache.  The remedy is to go to the page you wish to read, and if an old version is showing (and you know that the new version has been published), click your RELOAD button in your browser.  Works for us every time.  We are researching how to force browsers to load the most recent version of TOWFI with each visit.

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.

From Rodica-Ioana Bandila:

My name is Rodica-Ioana Bandila, a teacher of English from Reghin, Romania.  I have decided to write this mail to you because I am really impressed about your work in helping the people all over the world learn or teach English, especially in most wanted situations.

This is the case with our town, Reghin.   Although children study English from an early age and high school and pupils may improve their knowledge of English within the two foreign sections, their access to English books and English culture is rather limited.  This situation is due to the fact that the nearest well-supplied English libraries are more than 100 kilometers far from Reghin.

Thus, such a library and an English language center in our town have become more than imperative.  I and a group of teachers intend to achieve this plan in the near future.  The problem is that the funds we have raised so far are insufficient to purchase all the book inventory.

I wonder if you could make some donations of anything that is available or expendable for you (books, dictionaries, newspapers or magazines, etc) or help us get in touch with those interested in the carrying out of our project.

We received this message on March 23, 2003.  We have not had an opportunity to authenticate it; however, we figure that this is probably not a fraudulent request.  If you would like to attempt to authenticate it, please contact us at and we will send you contact information for Rodica-Ioana Bandila.  Further, if you are simply interested in donating books or other materials to the students in Reghin, contact us at the e-mail address above and we will forward you their address.  If you prefer, you can send donated materials to us and we can forward them to Reghin.  We guess that books (even audio books!) are good choices, but recent magazines (Time and Newsweek in the U.S.; similar periodicals from the U.K., Australia, etc.) and newspapers would probably be especially helpful.  Magazines for teenagers (with photos of the likes of Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears all over them) would probably also be heartily welcomed.


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

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2003 TIERE
Last Updated 03/24/03 10:19 PM