in a word? Could be a name....
thing leads to another
Sites of Note... for social activists
the Writer's Corner... "Good Grief!"
and Word Trivia Contest
Necessary Fine Print
This e-zine is devoted to those of us who are passionate
about words, their correct usage, and the art of old-fashioned
communication (even when it uses new technology). Drop us
a line at firstname.lastname@example.org - your feedback
is always welcome.
in a Word? Could be a name....
is a descriptive word derived from a character, real or fictional.
We're all likely familiar with "Big Brother is watching you."
"Big Brother," of course, comes from George Orwell's Nineteen
Eighty-Four and is now commonly used as a euphemism for
a government that's perceived to be authoritarian.
"Mickey Mouse" is used to describe a trivial, irritatingly
petty sort of thing - though Walt Disney's little mouse
is now worth millions. And did you know that "Dolly Varden"
(today known as a fish of eastern China and northwest North
America) comes from a colourfully-dressed character in Charles
Dickens' Barnaby Rudge?
Less commonly heard today is "pulling a brodie" which means
to flop or blunder, or take a wild chance. Steve Brodie,
a young New York newsboy who won a $200 dare to leap off
the Brooklyn Bridge in 1886, not only survived the leap;
he was offered $100 a week to exhibit himself at a Brooklyn
museum as the world's most courageous man. He also was arrested
the day after his leap for attempted suicide, an illegal
act in the US. But the real Brodie parlayed that leap into
long-lasting fame; he was played by George Raft in the movie
Then there's "boycott" derived from Charles Cunningham
Boycott (1832-1897), an English farmer and land agent in
19th century Ireland. After two years of poor potato harvests,
in 1880 he attempted to evict three of his farmers who had
demanded rent reductions. The tenants and reformers launched
a campaign against Boycott, who claims his crops were carried
away, his servants intimidated and his livestock driven
off. Even local merchants refused to sell his goods, and
mail delivery was denied him as well. He harvested his last
crop under armed guard, and was eventually driven out of
Ireland. Allegedly, the word itself came into being in 1880
when American journalist James Redpath attempted to find
a descriptive word better than "social excommunication"
to describe the Irish situation. The priest he was talking
with suggested "Boycott," and within six years it was appearing
(sans the capital B) in print.
you have a favourite eponym? Send your submission to email@example.com
and we'll include it in the next issue.
you participate in the gas-out? You likely heard of this
on the news, but back in late February Laura Lasby
(principal of Vancouver-based excellent graphic design company,
VisualEyes Communications) sent The Wordsmith a forwarded
message from an activist who talked about high gas prices
in Columbus, OH and proposed a "gas-out" April 7 to 9 inclusive.
I was one of thousands who purchased NO gasoline, and was
surprised to see the price had dropped to about 63 cents
per liter. It was my small way of helping persuade the oil-producing
nations to release more supply into the world market, but
they anticipated that move and announced earlier that restrictions
would ease somewhat. While I don't advocate wasteful use
of gasoline, when it hit more than 75 cents per liter in
London, ON for regular unleaded (and allegedly could hit
85 cents/liter by summer), it was time to stand up and be
en route to Inuvik, NWT on the Dempster Highway (the Arctic
Circle is at km 403), we bought gasoline at Eagle Plains
for 65 cents per liter, and thought that was outrageous.
The isolated rest stop had a near-monopoly, being the only
non-Reserve gas between Dawson City and Inuvik, some 740
kms northeast of Dawson. Today, it's obvious that
the oil-producing nations are finally realizing that both
markets and reserves are finite, and that new technology
(like combined gas/electric engines on the very cute new
Honda) will erode their profits. So they decreased production,
using the old supply-and-demand dynamic to increase their
profits, making hay while the sun shines - at the expense
of truckers and drivers everywhere.
email on March 11, forwarded with a gazillion names, suggested
not buying gas at Esso for at least four months, in an attempt
to pressure that one big company to lower its prices. Once
Esso's price of gasoline dropped to less than 60 cents,
then the plan was to buy only from Esso, forcing
the other big companies to follow suit in dropping prices.
The big problem here is that the smaller independent stations
will long be out of business, because the price is being
driven not by competition at the gas station but by the
limited supply of production - and that's the big boys,
folks! So it may actually do more harm than good in terms
of our independent, small stations. Interestingly enough,
the price of a barrel is now almost the same as 1980, so
perhaps the federal government can explain to us why the
price at the pump is almost double? We could all ask our
Members of Parliament this interesting question.
Sites of Note ... for the Social Activist
that we're all socially active, let's segue (interesting
word, pronounced SEG-way) straight into http://www.gaswars.com
which is an interesting little site to keep track of the
best gas prices in your neighbourhood, no matter where in
the world you live. Check it out. You have to "subscribe"
but that subscription is free, and it helps keep track of
where the lowest or highest gas prices may be found.
mere money missing from our pockets. But http://www.childcybersearch.org
is a Canadian site for locating missing children. This charitable
organization's website is an award-winner, with prestigious
kudos under its belt for design for usefulness. There's a
searchable database and a wealth of information and links.
It's the first site in the world to place an entire nation's
missing children resources in one central location.
This site may also be bringing new word usage into being.
Its pamphlet lists the following definitions for classifications
of Canadian missing children.
Parental abduction: The child is abducted by a
family member (parent, guardian, or grandparent). Accounts
for the highest number of incidents after runaways.
Stranger abduction: Considered "extremely dangerous
for the child," this is used to describe an event where
the child is taken by a person they do not know.
Runaways: More than 78% of Canada's reported missing
children, these youngsters are usually running from situations
or problems. Most end up living on the streets in Canada's
Throwaways: This term is used to describe children
who have been asked to leave, have been abandoned, or are
not allowed to return home, by their parents or guardians.
Sad says it all.
One hopes that a new, fast-growing category, that of returnables,
can be established here.
Thinking of returnables, there's a new scam afoot in Canada
and the US. The very reliable http://www.bbb.org
can be helpful, whether or not you're a member of the Better
Business Bureau. Although it doesn't fit neatly into the
social activist definition, the BBB does give excellent
warnings to business about current frauds. This one was
published in The Costco Connection (March/April 2000):
Con artists using the names of minor British celebs (like
Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac's first guitarist) have been
ripping off Canadian and US businesses through credit card
fraud. Target businesses deal in furniture, office supplies
and computers that routinely ship orders in 24-48 hours.
The calls originate in the UK. The scammer orders the product,
using a fraudulent credit card from London, UK's Midland
Bank for payment. Then he/she places a couple more orders,
sometimes requesting that payment be equally divided among
several credit cards. The orders are later cancelled or
disputed, but they've already been shipped. So the scammer
gets the goods, and the business doesn't get paid. Midland
Bank and Scotland Yard are investigating. Businesses likely
to be targeted in this fashion may contact their local Better
Business Bureau to learn how to guard against credit card
Last, but definitely not least, we've all heard media reports
lately about the changes proposed in The Young Offenders
Act, soon to be renamed yet again (from "The Young
Pretenders Act?"). Check out http://www.jonathanwamback.com,
read carefully, and then please sign the petition, to see
what we can do to help this young victim and others to reclaim
at least a sense of justice in their lives. The biggest
difficulty with the changes proposed in the Act is the arbitrary
redefinition of "serious crime" by the government. It's
important that those young offenders capable of rehabilitation
be given a fair chance, but it's equally important that
13-year-old thugs (who usually do know the difference between
right and wrong, folks!) learn they can't hide behind "the
protection of the law."
Found an unusual or interesting web site, or is there
a favourite bookmarked on your computer? You're welcome
to share URLs (universal resource locators), and we'll share
them with our subscribers. For instance, here's a useful
little site for those of us who need more work.
The Talent Gallery is a joint initiative between
Industry Canada and the Cultural Human Resources Council,
an online recruitment network that helps artists, creators,
producers, technicians and administrators find jobs and
recruit employees. Go to http://talent.culturalhrc.ca
where you can post your resumé online, search for career
opportunities, view profiles of various arts and culture
employers and organizations. You can retrieve the Talent
Gallery image at http://talent.culturalhrc.ca/images_e/trilogo.gif
as well. Send your email to Giselle Jean Baptiste, project
assistant, at firstname.lastname@example.org but check out
the website first. This is a REAL job opportunity site.
the Writer's Corner...
Lowery is a writer/editor/proofreader, Internet-based in London,
Ontario, with clients across Canada and internationally. This
piece is included in Lowery's forthcoming "52 Pick-Up." Lowery
explains: Saturday night, I did something I usually don't.
I got myself all warm and settled in bed and, sleep evading,
picked up that day's newspaper and giggled at the comics,
until I turned the page and found Charles Schultz's poignant
farewell. Saddened and sleepy, I set my radio on "snooze"
and my alarm on "wake" and drifted off, to dream of Pigpen
and Schroeder, loud-mouthed Lucy, and all the gang.
Dreaming just before waking, the hiss of blades as Woodstock
and Snoopy skated on the birdbath eventually reassembled
itself into a Sunday morning voice on the radio, and so
it finally registered. The lead item on the news was the
death of Charles Schultz.
Pregnant with my first child and impoverished, in 1968
I made a homemade birthday card for my graduate student-husband,
and it featured Charlie Brown and his infamous baseball
bat. The animated Peanuts specials had introduced
me to Rod McKuen's music and poetry, and so I discovered
Listen to the Warm. Charles Schultz was the only
reason I ever wanted to visit California. Now I'll close
my eyes, hear the piano music, and watch Snoopy dance his
happy dance, while Lucy (in her usual disapproving manner)
pronounces, "Good grief!"
Yes, good grief for a good man. You're a good man, Charlie
Brown. Look after Sparky. He's special. Written Sunday,
February 13, 2000 in sadness for a life that's done too
soon - and yet somehow with a sense of joy because it's
so fitting that the whole Peanuts gang moved on together
in the same moment in time.
Woodstock "semaphores" no more
And piano keys are still
A tattered blanket hugs the floor
No pitcher's on the hill
The little red-haired girl has left
And Pigpen's cloud of dust
The First War's flying ace has flown
His mission's over - just.
The birdbath pond is melted ice
Tear-filled water overflows
Life's whimsied end a roll of dice
That's often how it goes
The gang is all together now
Playing baseball in the sky
And Sparky keeps them company
He's playing - I won't cry
I'll just miss all my old friends
Who've been with me all these years
We met when I was only three
Now I'll try to hold my tears
Though the world seems so much smaller
And the humour's not quite right
The firmament is taller
They can't put out the light
Of genius known as Sparky
The Peanuts gang's forever young
They'll always be my heroes
Though the last doorbell has rung
The last cartoon is drawn now
Fifty years flew by so fast
Blessings on a man called Charlie Schultz!
He gave a gift to last.
poetry packets are welcome.
you have an original offering you'd like to share? Submit
it via e-mail and we'll share with our readers. Offerings
of 500 words or less are welcome. Please DO NOT submit by
attaching a file; include your offering right inside your
e-mail (and nothing fancy in the fonts department, please)
and send it to email@example.com along with
how you'd like your contribution acknowledged. While we
can't pay you cold, hard cash for your submission, we do
promise you a moment of glory in print.
... from the mailbag
Barbara, thanks for your playful new newsletter. best, arthur
AHEM - arthur hanks editing and media services
HCFR - The Hemp Commerce and Farming Report
909 windermere st., vancouver, bc, canada,v5k 4j6
(604)255-4332, fax (810)314-2138
READ the HCFR online at: www.hemptrade.com/hcfr, www.hemphasis.com/hcfr,
You're welcome, arthur. Nice to hear from you again.
From: Don Graham (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hey, Barbara: Good to hear from you, and to know you're alive
and well in London. And glad to see that you're still wordsmithing
As always (or at least often), I have a minor contribution,
namely third and fourth homonyms for "censor" and "censure,"
namely "censer" (a container in which incense is burned),
and "sensor" (a device to detect, measure, or record physical
Another point. (Actually I think I've made this one before,
and as I recall, your response was that it was a somewhat
technical word, so would seldom find a use in ordinary speech.)
I'm referring to the noun usage of "affect," with the emphasis
on the first syllable, and meaning emotional state.
Finally, one of my pet peeves. I know it's regarded as
marginally acceptable, but it bothers me nonetheless. I'm
referring to the phrase "is comprised of," instead of "comprises"
or "is composed of."
Thanks, Don, for these welcome additions to the homonyms
list and for sharing one of your pet peeves. Those familiar
with Burnaby, BC-based Craftools will know that it manufactures
an all-in-one tool for rug hooking.
From: Isabeau Iqbal
Hello Barbara. thanks for your e-newsletter! fun and interesting.
your info about EVE-rest is especially timely as i just
finished reading "the climb" and appreciate the historical
info you provide.
lots of hugs,Isabeau
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BC's Lower Mainland is lucky to have Rio Crazy in its
midst. You haven't lived until you have seen Isabeau and
Raul on the dance floor! They're an excellent DJ service
with a twist - or a lambada. Check them out.
From: C and S Pitchford (email@example.com)
Hi There Friend! Glad to see the "wordsmith" is alive and
well and proficient as ever! Good stuff and needless to
say we will pass this on to appropriate parties.
"Hi" right back, Susan and Charlie Pitchford. Anyone
who's traveling may want to contact Charlie and Susan for
some of the very best travel fares going. It's personal service
par excellence! They also have an excellent little e-zine,
"The Informed Traveller," available for us jet-setters-wanna-bees.
And via snailmail came the following excerpts from The
Vancouver Sun's February 5, 2000 edition - kindly sent by
West Vancouver-based organizer extraordinaire Linda Wiles
of L.R. Wiles & Associates. Anyone needing their paper burden
organized or their business administration better focused
should contact Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org - you have my word
that the service provided will be exceptional and affordable.
"Weekly Blend" notes: 'The Washington Post recently
published a contest for readers in which they were asked
to supply alternate meanings for various words. The following
were some of the winning entries.
abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat
carcinoma (n.), a valley in California, notable for its
esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk
flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you
testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam
The Post's Style invitational also asked readers to take
any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting
or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here
are some recent winners:
reintarnation, coming back to life as a hillbilly
osteopornosis, a degenerate disease
ignoranus, a person who's both stupid and an asshole
National Pot (n), news that's forgettable, but makes you
Thanks, Linda, for both the clipping and your kind
words. I'm still better organized, thanks to L.R. Wiles &
Last, but not least. It may have been coincidence, but
the following arrived from Danilo Jurisich, principal and
webmaster extraordinaire of Virtually Vancouver, just days
after Issue 1 went to press. It's reproduced here just as
it was received. If you wish to send feedback, please send
it to both Danilo and The Wordsmith.
Dear friends, It has come to my attention recently that
it is a CRYING SHAME that the word "gay" has become synonymous
with "homosexual." Join me in my efforts of re-appropriating
of this wonderful word. Possible conversational uses include:
"I am feeling very gay today."
"What a gay day."
"I'm so gay, I could skip!"
"His gayness is an inspiration to us all."
"That woman makes me so gay."
BTW, Mr. Webster agrees with me!
Main Entry: 1gay
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French gai
Date: 14th century
1 a : happily excited : MERRY b : keenly alive and exuberant
: having or inducing high spirits (abandoned a sober traditional
style for one more timely and gay)
2 a : BRIGHT, LIVELY b : brilliant in
3 : given to social pleasures; also : LICENTIOUS
4 a : HOMOSEXUAL b : of, relating to, or used by homosexuals
(the gay rights movement) (a gay bar)
synonym see LIVELY
"homosexual" is FOURTH down the list! Why WHY WHY can
we not ALL be gay?? LET'S BE GAY!!!! LET'S TELL EVERYONE
HOW GAY WE ARE!!!!!!! and our language will be immeasurably
wealthier. DO IT! Gayly, Danilo Jurisich
Note from the editor: Danilo spells it "gayly" which
is, in fact, a variant of the word "gaily" - so that's not
a typo. Included in my working library is a wee paperback
called "New Words and Their Meanings: From a go-go to zonked
- over 2,000 words that have entered the English language
since 1960," authored by Jonathon Green and published by Parragon
Press, 1993. Green, and others, call these words "neologisms"
and the author takes pains to include what he's found as its
year of first entry into common usage with the new definition.
On p. 106, an abridged entry for "gay" reads:
gay adj. (1969)
homosexual; as a slang term the word dates back to the late
eighteenth century, when it meant a promiscuous woman, even
a prostitute. The use of gay by homosexuals originates during
the Second World War, when it was probably an abbreviation
of the old US tramps' slang 'geycat'; the wider use in the
heterosexual world began around 1970, with the emergence
of the Gay Liberation Front, first in the US and subsequently
in the UK.
Danilo and I have indulged in above is a treasure hunt for
the etymology of a word. In brief, my Concise Oxford Dictionary
defines etymology as "an account of, facts relating to,
formation & meaning of word; branch of linguistic science
concerned with this; part of grammar treating of individual
words & their formation & inflexions." The suffix "-ology"
is used (mostly in science) to denote "the study of…"
The shortest "-ology" word is oology, pronounced O - ology
(with the O being long). What is it? It's the study of eggs.
Shifting gears somewhat, there's a very special word, and
it's uncopywritable. Can you guess the word, and why it's
Send your answer and explanation to email@example.com
and we'll include your guesses. No prizes, folks. But for
those of you who get it right, there's that great sense
of satisfaction. And your name in print.
Word's the Word" is a free and unsolicited offering (all
rights reserved) by "The Wordsmith is Barbara Lowery." The
information contained herein is for general information
purposes only. "Good Grief!" is copyrighted material (Barbara
Lowery, 2000) and may be reproduced only with the author's
permission. We neither harvest nor sell our mailing list
and maintain both proper ethics and privacy. To unsubscribe,
send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with "unsub"
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research, writing and editing done by
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