this message brought to you by the letter P

James A. Landau JJJRLandau at AOL.COM
Fri Apr 9 15:56:05 UTC 2004

In a message dated Thu, 8 Apr 2004 14:36:56 -0700, Grandpa Zwicky
<zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU> complains:

>  "Your Letter Link set contains 7 special letters which
>  represent baby's first sounds (B, D, G, M, T, C, A). "

the first four consonants are voiced, then unvoiced T (but voiced D is
already in the list).  This is enough to make me suspicious of the entire list.
Also is it a hard or a soft C?  .

[OT:  does anyone have any evidence whether the Latin "soft C" was or was not
pronounced /s/?  I have two lines of evidence that it was not, but I cannot
identify what the true sound would have been.]

>  to continue: "These letters can be interlinked to spell seven special
>  rhyming words."
>  quick!  name those seven rhyming words!  the best i can do is six, and
>  that takes something of a stretch in the vocabulary: AD, BAD, GAD, MAD,
>  TAD, CAD.  or AM, BAM, DAM, GAM, TAM, CAM.  or, just barely imaginably,
>  AB [one abdominal muscle], DAB, GAB, [Queen] MAB, TAB, CAB.  _AT falls
>  down on DAT, unless you accept the acronym for Digital Audio Tape.  _AG
>  falls down on CAG, and is dubious on DAG ['dyke', as in BULLDAG] and
>  the clippings AG and MAG.  _AC is pretty generally hopeless.

if you pronounce "AC" to rhyme with "black", then you have the computerese
word "ACK" or "ack", a noun meaning "acknowledgement of a message" and a verb
meaning "to issue an ACK".  (There is also the noun and verb "no-ack").  I don't
have a date for "ack" but I know it was used on the IBM 2780 Remote Job Entry
station, with which I have personal experience dating back to November 1969.

"ag" for "agriculture, agricultural" as in "ag school" is dated 1918 in the
OED.  Professor Preston could probably push it much further back, perhaps to
the founding of Michigan State University as "Michigan Agricultural College" in

"AG" is used in the US Army to mean both "Army green" (referring to uniforms)
and "Adjutant General".  I don't recall having heard either one pronounced as
/ag/ but I'm sure it has happened.

"mag" is a common shortening for both "magnesium" (as in "mag wheels") and
"magnetic" (as in "mag tape".)

"DAT" for "dynamic address translation" dates to the early 1970's, when IBM
introduced hardware called a "DAT box" to convert their then-new System/370
computers to virtual memory machines.  This is one of the very few amusing
initialisms to come out of IBM's notoriously humorless acronym factory.

         - James A. Landau

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