What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 8 of 132


A priceless passport

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A teenaged friend now has her first passport and is excitedly anticipating a trip to Italy soon. I'm pleased she's going – not only for her sake, but also for the sake of our country. Since she's well-educated, exquisitely polite and quite articulate, I believe she'll make a wonderful young ambassador for the United States.

The word “passport” came into English in the late 15th century, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. It signified “authorization to enter or depart from a port,” the dictionary notes, adding that the word comes from “French passeport, from passer ‘to pass’ + port ‘seaport.’”

I look forward to having coffee with my friend upon her return and hearing about her trip. Maybe then I'll mention this quote by Malcolm X: “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

I bet she'll agree.

 

Illustration special to the Sentinel

0 comments

Alluring alliteration

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, March 14, 2014

Oh, please don't! Such lively alliteration should be given free license …

0 comments

Strengthening a blade

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Forte” comes to us from French. Nowadays it means someone's strong suit, skill or talent. (Mine is procrastination — difficult to maintain, but I manage.)

The word is often pronounced FOR tay. The more correct pronunciation, though, is simply as one syllable: fort. (Using the first pronunciation more precisely refers to the musical term that comes to us from Italian. It means loud. )

I learned today that this abstract idea of strength derives from a concrete term. The forte in the blade of a sword is the section running from the hilt to the middle; it's considered the blade's strongest part.

Both the French and the Italians took the word from the Latin word fortis. That meant brave, strong, powerful and courageous, according to the Latin Dictionary at wikidot.com.

It's tempting to discuss the various forms of fortis, depending on gender, number and case, but doing so would be far too pedantic on such a bright, sunshiny day. I'll somehow force myself to procrastinate, leave that explanation for another time and refuse to be offended upon hearing any sighs of relief.

Illustration special to the Sentinel

0 comments

Daft, not deft

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, March 10, 2014

“Deft” means to be “skillful in a quick, sure and easy way; dexterous,” according to Webster's. Courtesy of Cambridge Dictionaries Online, here are some examples of “deft” in sentences:

“She answered the journalist's questions with a deft touch.
He's very deft at handling awkward situations.”

Yesterday I was not deft. In fact, I was quite close to being daft. (Those who don't know the definition of “daft” may look it up for themselves; I can't bear to define it today.) My excuse for the temporary aberration from my usually rational self was the fact that we “sprang forward.” My internal clock is still adjusting.

I can take slight consolation in knowing that “deft” and “daft” come from the same Old English word “(ge)dæfte,” which meant mild or gentle. (As with other words, minor changes in spelling led to major differences in meaning.) I would like to think I was at least (ge)dæfte yesterday.

Now, with a full Monday workload, there's no time for daftness and even being (ge)dæfte is looking iffy. Judging by my typos, I've yet to be deft. I definitely hope, though, that “brighter” days lie ahead.

Illustration special to the Sentinel

0 comments

Zulu, anyone?

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, March 4, 2014

English seemingly knows no international boundaries. Our language is like a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking up words everywhere it can.

Case in point: impala. Used to describe a small antelope in central and South Africa, it came into English in 1875 from the Zulu word for gazelle, im-pala, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. Zulu is the language of the Zulu people, most of whom live in South Africa.

It's easy enough to understand why Chevy dubbed one of its vehicles after this creature. Impalas are quick runners, and their curved horns (on males, anyway) and sleek bodies are elegantly eye-catching. “Impala” thus implies speed and good looks.

Wikipedia notes that impalas “communicate using a variety of visual and vocal communication.” Considering the technological advances found in modern vehicles, that connotation seems appropriate, too.

Oh, I can't resist: Bravo to the Zulus for such an interesting word!

Zulu dancer
Photo by Ernmuhl courtesy of Wikipedia

 

The impala is also known for its giant leaps, as high as 3 meters (9.8 feet), according to Wikipedia.
Photo by Arturo de Frias Marques courtesy of Wikipedia

0 comments
Page 8 of 132




TOP JOBS




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