whistlestop caboose

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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

When was the last time you used the word "attack"?

I had an e-mail this afternoon from the company that hosts my web sites (I have two), replying to my urgent demand to know why the e-mail accounts linked to one site were suddenly not working. The hosting company (Hostway U.K.) is usually very reliable, so I was chagrined that something was amiss just as I sent out 50 announcements to journalists and other key people to say GenevaLunch was up and running. Hostway didn't reply quickly, which is also unusual - they pride themselves on getting back to customers within an hour or so. I phoned, found a pleasant young man who started checking for the message I'd sent - and he suddenly had a message on his screen explaining that they had a major problem on one server. My accounts were on that server, he said.

I waited, as we agreed I should, for two hours for things to get back to normal. Meanwhile, I received a friendly but business-like e-mail from customer service explaining that they had had a major attack on the account of one of their customers. The location of the attacker kept changing, which made it harder and slower to fight it off.

Attack! I know it's Internet jargon and used a lot, but I saw the word again a few minutes later while reading a BBC report on an Internet gaming convention in Los Angeles, that led me to a story about an Israeli firm that just folded after spammers went for it. And again while reading about a shootout in the State Council in Ankara, Turkey, where a judge was killed and others wounded. The word reappeared on the sports pages.

I reflected that it is not a word I use lightly or frequently, if ever. It's not that my life excludes attacks: it's a matter of perception. An attack demands reprisals. A problem, on the other hand, just demands action.

Right now, at this very moment, Guangdong's coast in southeast China is preparing to be battered by typhoon Chanchu, the worst May typhoon on record. China is getting ready for a summer of bad weather and Chanchu, which means "pearl" might kickstart the season.

Should we say the typhoon is attacking China? But what, then, is the response? Action or reprisals, and what would those be, where nature is concerned?

2 Comments:

Blogger the eternal optimist said...

Well you got me started with my daily hunt for word origins, looking for "attack." It lead me to discover Richard Lederer's Verbivore: http://www.verbivore.com/ and dictionary.com, finally stumbling upon wordsmith.org which had some wonderful words of the day this week. Terpsichorean, for example.

terpsichorean (turp-si-kuh-REE-uhn, turp-si-KOR-ee-uhn, -KORE-) adjective: Of or relating to dancing.

noun: A dancer.

[From Terpsichore, the Muse of dancing and choral song in Greek mythology. The word Terpsichore is the feminine form of terpsichoros (delighting in the dance), a combination of Greek terpein (to delight) and khoros (dance), which is ultimately from Indo-European root gher- (to grasp or to enclose) that's also the source of chorus, carol, choir, garth, court, and garden.]Love that word!
Another site, wordorigins.org has some doozys as well. Mondegreen, honeymoon, rhubarb, cloud nine, hero, huckleberry, humble pie, happy as a clam, bogart, pushing the envelope, off the wall, on the lam, free lunch. You could spend all morning on this site! But they don't have "attack." They do, however have fat lady sings which is something.
Back to "attack." Apparently it is derived from the Old French "attaquer" and from Old Italian "estaccare" ultimately of Germanic origin.

1:55 PM  
Blogger whistlestop caboose said...

And this made me realize I use the word in French, usually in relation to food. We attack pies here, and cheese fondue. If this is war, give me a pitchfork, um, I meant fondue fork.

I'm still working on the link between choir and garden, offshoots of your terpsichore. Each flower is a note?

2:04 PM  

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