The Vocabula Review

November 2007, Vol. 9, No. 11 Monday, May 2, 2016

Letters to the Editor
Web version

The Vocabula Review welcomes letters to the editor. Please include your name, email address, and professional affiliation. Send your letters to We reserve the right to edit letters for length and clarity.

Praise and Criticism

I read a letter to the editor complaining about [Bill Casselman's] exposition of the word cunt. That made me go to find it and read it. It was enlightening. It was also fun to read. Thanks! Just remember — you can't please everyone.

Rosalie Nocera

Amid all the rose petals of self-congratulation tossed by Albert W. Weeks upon his own furry little noggin in his fulsome October letter, I must object to the sentence where Albert claims that "Newsweek came out ... by coining the common noun sputnik." No. Neither you, my little blini, nor Newsweek magazine, coined the word sputnik. Nor did the Russian Space Agency. The word is hundreds of years old.

See my column in this month's Vocabula for the true history of the word.

One more quotation from the modest and retiring Mr. Weeks made me choke on my borscht and it was this bit of humility:

"But what does that mean?"
I explained that it meant simply "satellite."

How princely of you to do so, Al.

No, Tovarishch Weeks, sputnik does not simply mean "satellite."

If you are "fluent" in Russian, Albertka, I am a Hittite charioteer.

I'll meet you any day at high noon for competitive sight readings of Turgenev invigilated by any noted Slavonic scholar not associated with Newsweek magazine.

Bill Casselman

Regarding John Guzlowski's All Holocausted Out, I would make two points: 90 percent of Polish non-Jews survived the war while 90 percent of Polish Jews did not. What makes Jews sensitive about non-Jewish Poles appropriating the Holocaust for their own experience is that after the war was over, Gentile Poles staged pogroms of their own against the few Jews who remained in their country. The result was that the Poles completed Hitler's work: Poland was emptied of Jews because this small population fled to Israel.

I once raised this point with a Polish Catholic woman whose mother had been in a labor camp. She told me that these postwar pogroms were really just an attempt to rid the country of Communists. This was one of the rationales the Nazis used.

A. David Wunsch

I was just browsing the new issue and couldn't believe what I was reading — my former English professor at Allegheny College, Paul Zolbrod, is one of your contributors. I rarely use exclamation points, but ... that's so exciting! ...

Dr. Zolbrod is much of the reason why I became a writer and now have a book out (Words at Work). I was a student of his in the 70s and have been a fan of his ever since.

Mim Harrison

Further Questions and Irritations

For better or worse, I'm a sports fan, and I spend more time than I should watching ESPN and listening to sports radio. Although I do not expect the typical ex-jock "analyst" to be an Alastair Cooke or Kenneth Clark, I do expect at least a minimal standard of literacy from someone getting paid good money to express his thoughts to millions of people.

Aside from the all-too-common grammatical manglings (e.g., "There's plenty of daylight between he and the goal line"), there is one annoying usage that has become nearly universal in sports broadcasting, and that is "notoriety" as a synonym for "fame," "publicity," or "name-recognition." ("Pitching a no-hitter in his first big-league start has given Buchholz a tremendous amount of notoriety." "Parcells had much more notoriety with the Giants, where he won two Super Bowls, than in New England or Dallas.")

Doesn't "notoriety" have a negative connotation? Where do usages like this come from?

Jim Duzak
Lawyer and Author, Mid-Life Divorce and the Rebirth of Commitment

RHF replies: You are quite right, Jim. See this month's Disagreeable English.

Votaries of Vocabula

I recently subscribed to Vocabula Review and received my selected book, 101 Elegant Paragraphs, which I've enjoyed immensely. Thanks very much.

Dena Hunt
Adjunct Instructor
Dept. of English
Valdosta State University

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