What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 103 of 127

Banishing Angst

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Angst is a word we borrowed from the Germans that means “a gloomy, often neurotic feeling of generalized anxiety and depression,” according to Webster’s.

Liz is not the only one with Angst in January. (Yes, Webster’s capitalizes it.) Now that Yuletide festivities are over, many of us have bills to pay and pounds to shed.

If we make reducing both our debt and weight a priority, however, the Angst will melt along with the snow. At least that’s the pep talk I’m giving myself as I skip the January sales and feign a liking for celery and carrots.

I hereby resolve to have a fatter wallet and lighter body in January 2012--and little or no Angst.


Dressing up a word

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, January 3, 2011

The month of January begins a new year. It often is the time for new political beginnings, too. After the recent midterm elections, many newly elected state and national officials will take the oath of office and begin their new duties.

Or will they commence their new duties? Commence means basically the same thing as begin, but it has a more formal tone. People in high office like to use more formal language to describe what they do.

For example, they may want to initiate (begin) new laws. Initiate also has a more formal tone.

Some, such as Governor-elect John Hickenlooper, will have an inaugural celebration. (Central High School student Destinee Reed has been asked to perform at the event. See photo below and full story in today’s paper.)

Inaugurate is a synonym for begin, too. It, however, “suggests a formal or ceremonial beginning or opening,” according to Webster’s.

When Reed performs “My Colorado,” her musical tribute to our state, here’s bettin’ it’ll begin a successful musical career for her.



Watch those vowels

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What a difference just one vowel makes! Born Loser today correctly uses “stationary” with a final "a" to mean sitting still. A shift in just one vowel results in "stationery," or writing paper. Stationary is an adjective; stationery is a noun.

Similar words include "altar" vs. "alter." The first is a platform in a church; it is a noun. The second means to change, so it is a verb.

Consider, too, "allusion" vs. "illusion." An allusion is a reference that is indirect. (See blogs of July 15, July 16, August 24, September 10, October 18 and November 12, 2010) An illusion is a false image or belief. Both are nouns.

That's all for today. It's time to get out my Christmas stationery and write some more holiday letters.



Further or farther?

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I enjoyed Rachel Sauer’s front–page article today on the winter solstice. It’s well worth a read.

Glancing at the caption below the story’s photo, I noticed that Rachel or perhaps another copywriter understands the difference between further and farther.

Farther refers to physical distance. Further means “an extension of time or degree,” according to the Associated Press Stylebook. The stylebook gives these two examples: “He walked farther into the woods. … She will look further into the mystery.”

Got it? Thought so. No need, then, to explain further.


A mobile Moby Dick?

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, December 20, 2010

A figment, says Webster’s, is “something merely imagined or made up in the mind.” It’s a great name for a popular website geared toward tech-savvy teen writers.

Check out the complete story on Figment.com in today’s paper, and don’t be surprised if the next great American novel is written on a cell phone.


Page 103 of 127


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