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Epistolae.

Kathleen E. Miller's article on naming wars (VERBATIM XXVIII/1) mentions the major participants in the First and Second World Wars.

Curiously, she ignores Russia, the biggest player in both wars in terms of the size of army and number of casualties.

As a member of the Triple Entente with Britain and France, Russia entered the war against Germany and Austria in August 1914. Their military reverses and heavy losses were a major cause of the Revolution in 1917. In March 1918 they made a separate peace with Germany.

In World War II, Russia joined with Britain in fighting Hitler after the Germans attacked them in June 1941. They continued in the war until their troops captured Berlin in May 1945. They lost about eleven million combatants and seven million civilians.

As far as names go, the Russians never called it World War II. To them it is always The Great Patriotic War, clearly showing their view of it as a fight for national survival, rather than a global conflict.

Incidentally, John Curtin was Australian Prime Minister, not Austrian.

Andrew Tucker London

[We received many, many letters about use of succession where we meant secession in that same issue, for which we can only say, you evidently don't have to be Homer to nod. This is currently in the running for "Worst VERBATIM Error Ever." Further nominations, unfortunately, always accepted.]

Perusing the piece "Say It with Words" in the latest VERBATIM (XXVIII/1) I was reminded of a cartoon that appeared not long ago in The New Yorker It depicted a couple seated at some distance from each other on a bench in a bistro. She appeared distraught; he looked perplexed. The caption went something like this: "You can't blame me if you misunderstood. I never said, 'I love you'--I said, 'Luv ya.' Big difference!"

W S Haubrich, MD

Today I received an email message containing this gem: "We will need to be nibble to take advantage of this."

[Is there] a word for a phenomenon that sometimes afflicts me in conversation--mixing up the vowels in two words which are synonyms? When I want to say mainly or mostly, I often come out with moanly, and then when I try to correct myself, mastely. I can't think of another set of words that produces that confusion, so perhaps it doesn't deserve a word of its own.

Chris Mills

P.S. Speaking of malapropisms, a friend of mine (whose first language is not English) is fond of saying, "and Bob's your ankle."

A couple comments on the article "Say It with Words" (XXVIII/1) In Latin, the word order Te amo is at least as likely as the order amo te.

Virtually all grammars say the verb was normally at the end of its clause unless some special emphasis was desired. St. Augustine famously wrote "Sero te amavi."

One of my favorite languages for "I love you" is Hungarian: szeretlek, where the -lek ending specifies both the subject "I" and object "you" (and also illustrates vowel harmony). I believe other combinations of subject-object pronouns have no special form.

Dan Pratt

Enjoyed Pat Sheil's article, "I before E."

But I guess they teach English a bit differently down under. In an early grade in the early '30s in deepest, darkest Wichita, Kansas, I was taught: "i before e, except after c, or when sounded like a, as in neighbor or weigh." Obviously the word eight should be added to that short list.

William R. Harmon

I wonder if any of your readers have knowledge of examples of equivalent homonyms that pick out a same class?

I have just one clear example so far, as illustration: the word acid. This word means substances that taste sour and turn litmus red. Acids also corrode metals. But in modern chemistry acid means 'proton-donor.' Acids as proton-donors satisfy exactly the same extensional conditions as as acids as sour-tasting, etc.

This example is possible in virtue of the rise of an explanatory theory able to account for the features of acids. But could there be examples that do not depend upon this?

I have a possible example: the word will. Will can mean 'desire.' It can also mean a sort of personal power, namely to act, or bring about a bodily movement. These senses, or the concepts expressed, are not identical. But the extensions are virtually identical, namely the actions in each case.

And this example does not hinge upon some theoretical superiority derived from modern science.

My point is, could there be a multitude of such homonyms in English?

If so no one seems ever to have noticed, the question would surely be of interest to your readers who in turn could probably furnish many examples.

Sincerely,

James Lamb
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Publication:Verbatim
Date:Sep 22, 2003
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