Yep, it's another newsletter from A Way with Words!

There's something kind of special about the language a family invents for its own use, so we talked about it on this past weekend's show. We also tried to narrow down the difference between "instantly" and "instantaneously," and we beseeched you for a better way of saying "Indian giver." Put your ear to the speaker:

This week's online-only minicast deals with the question of what to call the condition of not having any books to read! Horrors! Jeanie in Wisconsin has a book-lover's passion for audiobooks. She's been caught on the road without anything to listen to and wants to put a name to her pain. Help her out:

Amy in Juneau wrote us this week to ask, "How do you pluralize the word 'shaman'--is it shaman, shamans or shamen?"

It's "shamans" in all cases. The "man" in "shaman" isn't related to the "man" meaning "male person," so it pluralizes in a more standard fashion. It comes to us from Russian "shaman" through a variety of languages going back to Sanskrit "srama" meaning "religious exercise."

Elliot in San Diego wants to know what the proper article is to use, "a" or "an," in a case where a phrase and its abbreviation begin with the same letter but different sounds: "For example: 'The company will be formed as an LLC' is typed as I would pronounce it because L sounds like 'el.' �However, L is a consonant and if you switched to sounding out the acronym, 'Limited Liability Corporation,' then 'a' would make more sense. So, which one is correct?"

Elliot, the rule is that you use "an" if the following is a vowel SOUND, not necessarily a vowel. So you're right: it's "an LLC" and "a limited liability corporation." The article depends completely upon the sound and is not a part of the noun it follows, so it can change as necessary, even if the two nouns refer to the same thing.

Keith wrote to grouse about the varying pronunciation that the newscasters and meteorologists are using for hurricane Gustav. "Why are all the talking heads pronouncing it 'GOOSE-toff,' not 'GUST-off' or 'GUST-ov'? Isn't the first syllable a short U not a OO as in 'moon'? It wasn't astronaut Goose Grissom but Gus Grissom."

We noticed the same thing. The chattering media can't get it straight. But we're not completely sure which pronunciation is correct because it depends upon where you're getting "Gustav," since it can be a name used in countries where different languages and dialects are spoken.

Perhaps the same pronunciation as the first name of composer Gustav Mahler is best, with a U sounds like a mix of the 'oo' in 'goose' and the 'U' in 'gust':

Finally, we leave you with what is claimed to be "The Most Awful Words From Around the World," (though it's missing "no more pie").

Best wishes,

Martha Barnette and Grant Barrett

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