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For the Birds; Say What?

Rosie Right

For the Birds

Behind almost any name or word there is usually a story. Rosie was reminded of this when she heard Renee Montagne interview author Diana Wells on National Public Radio's "Morning Edition." Wells has written a book that ought to be of interest to bird- and word-lovers, "100 Birds and How They Got Their Names" (Algonquin, $18.95). From Ms. Montagne's interview with Ms. Wells, here are a few tidbits:

"The cardinal and the secretary bird are among those named for how they look; the cardinal for its resemblance to the red-robed churchmen; the secretary bird because it has a spray of feathers sticking out of the back of its head much like a secretary in the old days would have had spare quill pens sticking out behind his ears."

"The hummingbird — they are absolutely miraculous, partly because they're so small, and, of course, they fly unlike any other bird. They're the only birds that can hover and fly backward. The ruby-throated hummingbird is called Archilochus colubris, after Archilochus, … a Greek poet who had a reputation for being a coward because he had admitted, unlike most Greeks, that he ran away in battle."

Say What?

The captions that we can get for many of TV's programs are wonderful for those of us who are a bit hard of hearing. But if you are a poor speller, don't watch too many of these. They are often entered into the system not by voice-recognition computers but by court reporters with special training, and the recorders can, in the rush, sometimes make silly mistakes.

Moreover, sometimes it seems there must be a system of phonics that results in weird spellings and meanings: Rosie has seen bare for bear and reign for rain, but the other day, she saw what seemed to her the ultimate.

In a discussion of the Israeli assassinations of Palestinian leaders, one of the speakers denied that the leaders were killed in front of their families. Instead the Israelis, according to the caption, "try to find them a loan."

Let Rosie hear from you by telephone (355-0825), fax (355-9089), e-mail or letter (c/o Style Weekly, 1707 Summit Ave., Richmond 23230).

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