What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 9 of 127


Playful tricks

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The word “shenanigan” is an Americanism with a murky past. According to the Online Eytmology Dictonary, it was first used around 1855. “Earliest records of it are in San Francisco and Sacramento, California. Suggestions include Spanish chanada, a shortened form of charranada ‘trick, deceit;’ or, less likely, German Schenigelei, peddler's argot for ‘work, craft,’ or the related German slang verb schinäglen,” the dictionary notes. “Another guess centers on Irish sionnach ‘fox.’"

I like the Irish theory best. After all, a fox stealing into a henhouse is surely full of mischief, aka shenanigans.

The word is most often used in its plural form. In recent years the meaning of “shenanigans” has broadened simply to mean playful tricks.

Illustration special to the Sentinel
 

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Grand Valley’s array of abundance

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, September 18, 2013

When one considers the climate, lifestyles and literary history of the Grand Valley, “prolific” seems an apt word to use in connection with it.

The Online Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary gives three definitions for the word: 1 producing young or fruit especially freely (Ed. note: Pass those peaches! Even in 2013, reportedly a “bad” year, I’ve savored quite a few.) 2 archaic causing abundant growth, generation, or reproduction (Ed. note: Is it just me, or does anyone else think the valley’s cultural and outdoor recreational offerings have blossomed in the past decade?) and 3 marked by abundant inventiveness or productivity.... (Ed. note: Dalton Trumbo, no matter whether you love him or hate him, certainly knew how to knock out those screenplays….)

Photo special to the Sentinel
 

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Farther vs. further

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Perhaps penguins should be cut some slack on their choice of words, but it is worth noting the distinction between “farther” and “further.”

“Farther” refers to physical distance. “Further” refers to “an extension of time or degree,” according to the Associated Press Stylebook.
 

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Sonata notes

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A sonata is a “composition for one or more solo instruments, one of which is usually a keyboard instrument, usually consisting of three or four independent movements varying in key, mood, and tempo,” according to The Free Dictionary.

The word came into English in the 1690s, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, and it was taken from “Italian sonata, ‘piece of instrumental music,’ literally ‘sounded’ (i.e. ‘played on an instrument,’ as opposed to cantata ‘sung’).”

“The term took on increasing importance in the Classical period, and by the early 19th century the word came to represent a principle of composing large scale works,” according to Wikipedia.

Ludwig van Beethoven's manuscript sketch for Piano Sonata No. 28, Movement IV
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

 

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Half-witticisms

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, August 30, 2013

The “glass half-full or half-empty” idiom means whether one views a situation as positive or negative.

David Ball, a writer who hails from Sydney, Australia, has compiled some fine jokes on this idiom. Here are a few of my favorites:

“The optimist says: ‘The glass is half-full.’ The pessimist says: ‘The glass is half-empty.’ And while they are arguing, the pragmatist takes the glass and drinks it.”

“The grammarian says that while the terms half-full and half-empty are colloquially acceptable the glass can technically be neither since both full and empty are absolute states and therefore are incapable of being halved or modified in any way.”

“The research scientist says that following initial observation and testing a working hypothesis for further research is: ‘The glass is both half full and half empty,’ and that these findings warrant further investigation with a more representative sample of glasses and contents, which may or may not be liquid.”

“The actor says, ‘Whatever the director wants it to be - or not to be...’”

“The magician will show you the glass with the full half at the top.”

For more, head to http://unsourcedhumor.blogspot.com/2012/11/glass-half-full.html

Photo special to the Sentinel
 

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Page 9 of 127




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