What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 1 of 132


Soot ‘n’ spoofs

By Debra Dobbins
Thursday, July 31, 2014

In the Middle Ages, according to Wikipedia, the meaning of “cartoon” was quite different from what we now understand it to be. Then, the word “described a preparatory drawing for a piece of art, such as a painting, fresco, tapestry, or stained glass window.”

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “cartoon” came into English from the French carton, from the Italian cartone, which meant “strong, heavy paper, pasteboard.” This was the same material used for making boxes — hence the word “carton.”

Artists would make preliminary drawings on this heavy paper and sometime punch small holes into the outlines of objects in the drawings, according to Wikipedia. “[A] bag of soot was then patted or 'pounced' over the cartoon, held against the wall to leave black dots on the plaster ('pouncing'). Cartoons by painters, such as the Raphael Cartoons in London and examples by Leonardo da Vinci, are highly prized in their own right.“

The word “cartoon” attained its more modern meaning in 1843, thanks to Punch, a British weekly magazine started in 1841. Punch used the term to describe some of its satirical drawings, particularly those of John Leech, again according to Wikipedia. “The first of these parodied the preparatory cartoons for grand historical frescoes in the then-new Palace of Westminster.”

John Leech's "Cartoon no.1: Substance and Shadow" (1843) satirized preparatory cartoons for frescoes in the Palace of Westminster
Art and caption courtesy of Wikipedia

0 comments

Built-in umbrellas

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, July 30, 2014

On a trip a few years ago to Valley of Fire, a Nevada state park about 60 miles from Las Vegas, I was quite amused by the antics of the antelope ground squirrels romping close to the park's visitor center.

Seemingly in constant motion, they appeared oblivious to the sun's intense rays as they darted from one shrub to another or briskly dug holes.

These squirrels are known for their bushy white tails, which they bring up over their backs to serve as built-in umbrellas against the sun.

It was not much of a surprise, then, to learn the origin of “squirrel” this morning. According to Webster's, it came into Middle English from an Old French word that went back to a Latin word that was borrowed from the Greeks' skiouros. That word came from two Greek words: skia, meaning shadow, and oura, meaning tail.

0 comments

Surfers’ paradise

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, July 18, 2014

For a while in the '80s I lived in Hermosa Beach, California, just 31 miles away from Malibu. I enjoyed Hermosa Beach so much that I never spent any time in Malibu; now, of course, I wish I had.

Linguists think that the name for this hip seaside town, which is highly popular with surfers, comes from the Ventureño language. That language, according to Wikipedia, is “a member of the extinct Chumashan languages, a group of Native American languages previously spoken by the Chumash people along the coastal areas of Southern California from as far north as San Luis Obispo to as far south as Malibu.”

The word, also according to Wikipedia, may have had an association with “[(hu)maliwu], 'it (the surf) makes a loud noise all the time over there.'”

Photo special to the Sentinel
 

0 comments

An elegant skill

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, July 16, 2014

“Finesse” is an elegant word. It has a mere two syllables, and all of its letters sound soft. I cannot imagine anyone ever shouting this word; indeed, most speakers seem to drop their voices a bit when they utter it.

The online Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides these definitions:

“1:  refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture

 2:  skillful handling of a situation : adroit maneuvering

 3:  the withholding of one's highest card or trump in the hope that a lower card will take the trick because the only opposing higher card is in the hand of an opponent who has already played”

Diplomats are probably the best examples of those who must understand finesse. It's important to remember, however, that diplomats are not just government officials jetting off to exotic countries to hold high-level talks. We're all diplomats, if we choose to be.

For more than two decades I've been the fortunate recipient of countless instances of finesse from many diplomats in this community … far too many to list here. No one among them is the kind who seeks public accolade, anyway.

With just the right words and just the right actions at just the right times, these diplomats have guided and inspired me. I will always be deeply grateful for their finesse.

“I'm not a writer because I want to make money. I'm a writer because I'm a very slow thinker, but I do care about thinking, and the only way I know how to think with any kind of finesse is by telling stories.”
Gregory Maguire, American novelist
Source: Brainyquote
 

0 comments

Hair-raising experiences

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, July 9, 2014


“Mother lode” in today's Tundra is used metaphorically to decribe something of great value. Velma's going to make one heckuva nest after scoring an unfortunate man's toupee. (In my humble opinion, cartoonist Chad Carpenter could've had a little extra fun if he had drawn Velma as a bald eagle.)

In its literal sense, "mother lode" is an Americanism that means “the main lode, or vein of ore, in a particular region or district,” according to Webster's.

“The term probably came from a literal translation of the Spanish veta madre, a term common in old Mexican mining. Veta madre, for instance, is the name given to an 11-kilometre-long (6.8 mi) silver vein discovered in 1548 in Guanajuato, New Spain (modern-day Mexico),” Wikipedia notes.

Carpenter relies on the reader's understanding of what a toupee is in order to get the joke. Coincidentally, another cartoonist — George Lichty, creator of Grin and Bear It — also had fun today with the idea of a wind-ruffled toupee:

0 comments
Page 1 of 132




TOP JOBS
  • Cnc Operator

    Setup and operate machines, troubleshoot with minimal supervision, basic blu...

  • Autocad Draftsman

    Land Surveying Company looking forfor platting of oil and gas rig...

  • Assistant Dam Operator

    AssistantDam OperatorThe Upper Yampa Water Conservancy Distri...

  • Registered Nurses

    Full Time or Part TimeGrand Junction/Delta/Montrose...

  • Custodian Ii

    FacilitiesFull-time classified position providing leadersh...





THE DAILY SENTINEL
734 S. Seventh St.
Grand Junction, CO 81501
970-242-5050
Editions
Subscribe to print edition
E-edition
Advertisers
Sign in to your account
Information

© 2014 Grand Junction Media, Inc.
By using this site you agree to the Visitor Agreement and the Privacy Policy