June 6, 1999 - Listener Mail

INTRO: This week our Wordmasters answer some listener mail.

Music: "Please, Mr. Postman"/The Marvelettes

AA: I'm Avi Arditti ...

RS: And I'm Rosanne Skirble, and today we catch up on some of the mail you've been sending us.

AA: We start with a listener in Tokyo. Chiaki Kotori wrote us to comment on our recent report about the language of war.

RS: "I am really happy to tune into today's topic on military language used in the NATO briefings," Chiaki Kotori says. "I've learned a lot about doublespeak and simply 'soft' words while listening to the spokesmen. So many words used during the briefing are ambiguous and dangerously evasive when it comes to crucial information. As an English teacher, I've wanted to get more insights into the linguistic aspect of this crisis."

AA: Also last month, we talked about using poetry to teach English as a foreign language. We interviewed a teacher who uses the poem "Honeybees" by Paul Fleischman to encourage students to write stories of their own.

RS: "Honeybees" tells a story from two perspectives: Being a bee is a joy

AA: is a pain

RS: I'm a queen

AA: I'm a worker

RS & AA: I'll gladly explain.

AA: and we did -- we recited the whole poem!

RS: That prompted this poem by Xu Jian-Mei at the United Nations International School of Hanoi: "I want to be a bee/ I want to be a queen/ but I am a kite/ in other's hand/ flying without thread/ destination then lost."

AA: In another program we discovered that the English word "cootie" came from "kutu," the Malay word for lice.

RS: After our report, we heard from an American couple, the Eastmans in western Australia:

AA: "Several years ago . . . We were living in the west Australian coastal community of Onslow and became aware that a local aboriginal word for cooties is/was 'gulu' ... There are several aboriginal dialects represented in that community so I cannot certify as from which the word gulu originally derived."

RS: University of Hawaii linguistics Professor Byron Bender told us that the word "kutu" has spread throughout the South Sea language family. So it's not surprising that "gulu" sounds a little like "kutu."

AA: From China we received this e-mail from a self-described loyal listener of VOA News Now.

RS: Lcren Lo writes, "Wordmaster is among the features that I love most, though it is very short and only once a week. ... Although my English is second to none in my class, I am ashamed by the fact that I don't know how to pronounce a widely used abbreviation of a Latin word 'eg,' which is the abbreviation of 'exempli gratia. ' So I write to you for help."

AA: Well, rosanne just answered your question -- it's pronounced e-g.

RS: From somewhere out in cyberspace came this e-mail from a listener named Donald.

AA: Donald writes, "If I had time, I will always listen to your program. But it's not convenient for me on your schedule. Can you distribute your program by e-mail."

RS: Not by e-mail, but you can find our scripts on the VOA web site, www.voa.gov. You can also hear us on the internet as part of the VOA News Now audio feed.

AA: Before we close, we heard back from one of the many listeners who entered our recent Name the Next Decade Contest.

RS: Charlotte Leo in Malta writes, "Hi!, I wish to thank you very much for the gifts you sent me. The bag is great, but I especially like the hat. I'm from upstate New York, where we don't wear hats as a rule (as the sun makes a rare appearance now and then). So now that I'm here in Malta I've developed a need for protection. And what a fashionable way to go. White with a braid trim and all. Thank you so much!"

AA: Well, thank you, Charlotte, and everyone else who's written us. Sorry if we couldn't read all your letters on the air, but if we do read yours, you will receive a VOA souvenir. You can write us at VOA Wordmaster, Washington DC 20547 USA. Our e-mail address is word@voa.gov.

RS: Make sure to include your phone number if you'd like us to call you! until next week, with Avi Arditti, I'm Rosanne Skirble.