| Looking for the word of the day'
Mumbai, July 20: Every day, about 600,000 people on the Web receive an e-letter, free of cost, from Anu Garg. Each contains a quirky word, its etymology, examples of its usage and a funny, unrelated and usually profound quotation that rounds off the mail.
One recent word was “oligopsony”. “Oli-GOP-suh-nee,” the mail said, “noun; The market condition where a few buyers control the market for a product; From Greek oligo- (few, little) + opsonia (purchase).”
The quote at the bottom went: “It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and the prudence to practise neither. Mark Twain, author and humorist (1835-1910).”
Another word was “mopery”. “MO-puh-ree”, the mail went; “noun; 1. Violation of a trivial or imaginary law, for example, loitering, used to arrest someone when no other crime can be charged; 2. Mopish behaviour: to have pouted face, be gloomy or disappointed; From mope, from mop, of uncertain origin.” The quote at the bottom said: “To array a man’s will against his sickness is the supreme art of medicine.”
So many have wondered for long who Anu Garg is, whose presence, except for his name stated as the sender of the mail, is largely anonymous, but who has made their day every day with bits of glorious and triumphantly useless wisdom.
It turns out that the self-effacing, 38-year-old man is originally from Nainital, who is now based in Seattle, and has given up a lucrative career in software to serve the word.
Not for nothing. Started in 1994, the free mail service called A.Word.A.Day (or AWAD, as it is called briefly and affectionately) has become the largest word mailing service on the Net. Replying through e-mail, Garg said how one of the largest online communities, bound by the love of the word, had come into being.
It is the versatile, adaptible nature of words and language that turns Garg on.
In 1994, when he was studying for his masters in computer science on a scholarship from Case Western Reserve University and the Web was just making its presence felt, he figured it would be a good way to share his love of words and language with others.
“In the beginning, I told my fellow students about the new A.Word.A.Day newsletter. They liked it and told their friends. Their friends told their friends and soon it was spreading like wildfire,” he says.
He has featured 3,000 words so far. The more unusual the word, the better. “It is like exploring rocks ' their colourful surfaces, unusual shapes, textures are what makes them interesting.”
His passion for this, he says, makes him a “linguaphile”. He coined the word when he founded Wordsmith.org, the AWAD website. One who coins a word is called a “neologist”, he says.
And the word for a lover of unusual words' “There isn’t a word'. The closest I can think of is a ‘logomaniac’, one who is mad about words,” he says.
The choices he made, spurred on by logomania, could also be called mad. After Garg completed his masters, he worked in software for a few years at various corporations. But then his love for the word got the better of him. He left his profession.
“Now I devote my full attention to Wordsmith.org,” he says. He has already written a book titled A Word A Day. He doesn’t mention it, but it stayed among the top 100 best-sellers on Amazon for two weeks. “My second book, Another Word A Day, is coming out this October,” he adds.
He lives with wife Stuti and eight-year-old daughter Ananya.
Has there been any adverse reaction to an Indian peddling English to its native speakers, as many of his subscribers come from English-speaking countries' Garg says that once in a while he receives “unhappy mail from someone who is offended at a word for some reason. But nothing serious.”
And a favourite word' Garg says his vision is democratic.
“I don’t play favourite with words,” he says. But going by reader feedback, one of the most popular words has been “mondegreen”.
“MON-di-green”, says AWAD, “is a noun; a word or phrase resulting from mishearing a word or phrase. Coined by American author Sylvia Wright from the phrase ‘laid him on the green’, interpreted as ‘Lady Mondegreen’ in the Scottish ballad The Bonny Earl of Murray.” Example: “Do you have a cute back pain'” when the pain would actually be acute.
The word’s entry is followed by a quote from Cicero: “We should measure affection, not like youngsters by the ardour of its passion, but by its strength and constancy.” Marcus Tullius Cicero, statesman, orator, writer (106-43 BCE).
Garg’s affection for words has stood both tests.