I am a total language geek. I admit it. When I heard about the A.Word.A.Day (AWAD) email list, I signed up right away, and I've been enjoying it for years. AWAD includes a weekly theme of words and their etymologies, and what could be better than that for fun facts to pull out at the dinner table (when you're out of NPR references, of course!) There's also a daily quotation – some of my favorites:
- You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do. -Anne Lamott, writer (1954- )
- It's hard to be religious when certain people are never incinerated by bolts of lightning. -Bill Watterson, comic strip artist (1958- ), in his comic strip Calvin & Hobbes
- It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. -Thomas Jefferson, third US president, architect and author(1743-1826)
Notice a theme? I love that AWAD is as skeptical about religion as I am!
Today on Weekday, Steve Scher* had Anu Garg, the founder of AWAD, on as his guest, and I had one of those moments where you realize all is not as you expect – like when I looked online and saw that Ira Glass looked nothing like I'd been picturing all these years. I'd always imagined Mr. Garg would have a very regal, clear, Indian-accented voice, but instead he had an accent so thick I could barely understand him. I'd always pictured him living somewhere in central California (not at all sure why) but instead he lives here, in Seattle. I'd always assumed Mr. Garg could reply wittily to any question or comment about etymology, but instead he struggled to find something to say when a caller asked him something that wasn't listed in his book. However, the hour was still full of fun facts about cool words, and there he didn't disappoint at all. I'm only going to leave you with one, because I know you're not all geeky like me:
Teetotaler: Apparently this comes from a speech where someone was advocating that people give up alcohol totally – with a capital "T" – and he said it as T-Total. People heard it as teetotal and started calling folks who didn't drink teetotalers.
Isn't that great? And in perfect time for making conversation with family at Thanksgiving get-togethers. Go Mr. Garg.
* I was horrified today to learn from my friend F, who's "in the know" about our local NPR station, that Steve Scher is apparently a lecherous, unlikeable person. E and F have always complained that he talks too slowly and his intros are all the same, but I've always enjoyed Weekday's guests and now I'll never be able to listen to him without thinking of him trying out lame pickup lines on all the women at KUOW. Yuck!