What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 103 of 132


Tasteful French phrases

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, February 14, 2011

One measly rose? Made-up holiday or not, surely Sam can do better. While he may know that ”au contraire” means “on the contrary” in French, he hardly seems fluent in the language of love.

Sam should at least present Sara her rose in a romantic French restaurant. Below are a few phrases they’d possibly see on the menu:

À la carte - on the menu, with each dish priced
À la mode - with ice cream.
Au gratin - with cheese
Bon appétit - good appetite, or "Enjoy your food"
Café au lait - coffee with milk
Cordon bleu - high quality, especially of cooking
Crème brûlée - “burnt cream,'” baked custard with a carmelized crust
Crème caramel - a flan, a custard dessert with a layer or caramel on top
Haute cuisine - high class cooking; literally, “upper kitchen”
Hors d'oeuvres - an extra dish served as a relish to whet the appetite, normally at the start of a meal
Petit four - a small dessert, usually a dainty cake
Soupe du jour - “soup of the day,” the soup offered by a restaurant that day
Table d'hôte - a full-course meal offering a limited number of choices and served at a fixed price in a restaurant or hotel

Sam seems to have forgotten Sara’s stress over the major life change of having her parents move in. A rose and a romantic meal could greatly restore her joie de vivre (joy of life.)

Source of definitions: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/french-phrases.html
 

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Vandalism and an unromantic Valentinian story

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, February 11, 2011

Since we all have hearts and flowers on our minds, I hate to be a spoilsport, but a check of Wikipedia and Answers.com reveals this highly unromantic bit of history:

In the 400s Roman emperor Valentinian III and Genseric, leader of the Vandals, a Germanic tribe, had betrothed their daughter and son. The match was seen as a way to strengthen relationships between the two powers. Unfortunately, when Valentinian III was killed in 455, Petronius Maximus took over, married his predecessor’s widow and had his own son marry Valentinian’s daughter.

This change in plans did not set well with Genseric, also called Gaiseric. He took it as a breach of contract of sorts, at least a good enough excuse to lay waste to Rome and capture Valentinian’s daughter. Genseric's son then married her, after all. Historians do not say how happy she was about the marriage, but to modern sensibilities, it does not sound like a match made in heaven.

As sacks go, historians have concluded that it wasn’t Rome’s most riotous rout, but apparently the Vandals did enough looting, pillaging and ravishing for Renaissance and Early Modern writers to put the blame for Rome’s destruction mostly on them, according to Wikipedia.

Webster’s says that vandalism now means “malicious or destruction of public or private property, esp. that which is beautiful or artistic.”

Vandalism in the news recently has been the destruction of priceless artifacts in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Military troops are guarding the museum against further destruction.

Perhaps now that President Hosni Mubarek has agreed to turn over power to Egypt’s army, Cairo, another ancient city, will be spared further acts of vandalism.

For more on this breaking news, go to http://www.gjsentinel.com/breaking/articles/mubarak-resigns-hands-power-to-military.

Genseric Sacking Rome
Karl Briullov (1799–1852)
Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Sack of Rome by the Vandals
Heinrich Leutemann (1824–1905)
Courtesy of Wikipedia

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Toast shows hope

By Debra Dobbins
Thursday, February 10, 2011

What’s in a word? In the case of Gabrielle Giffords, what lies within one word, toast, is another, hope.

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the left side of her brain Jan. 8, recently asked for toast at breakfast. Toast is a simple, one-syllable word, but her request gave her doctors, family and friends hope that she might recover her higher-level cognition. You may read more about Giffords in today’s print edition or e-edition.

Toast refers both to a piece of browned bread and to the giving of honor to someone or something, as in “I propose a toast to.…” In its latter sense, the word came from the practice of dropping browned, spiced bread into wine to add flavor, according to Webster’s.

I propose a figurative toast to Giffords’ resilient spirit. I hope she’s soon well enough to propose her own toasts to the doctors, family members and friends who are guiding her through the fight of her life.


 

“Hip, Hip, Hoorah,” by Danish painter P.S. Kroyer, 1888
Courtesy of Wikipedia

 

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When less is considered more

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, February 9, 2011


The clever spider is taking his inspiration from a movement started in the 1960s in art, dance and music. Minimalism calls for an artist to use “only the simplest design, structure [or] forms,” according to Webster’s.

"Free Ride," a sculpture by American artist Tony Smith, is an example of minimalist art. 

photo courtesy of Wikipedia

 

 

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Titans then and now

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Greek mythology is full of larger-than-life figures, which is one reason it continues to fascinate us. To give a few examples, there was Heracles (Hercules to the Romans), who performed 12 incredible labors, and there was Atlas, who held the heavens on his shoulders,

Atlas was the son of Iapetus, one of 12 gigantic gods called Titans who descended from Gaia and Uranus, the earliest rulers of the universe.

The story of the Titans reminds us that family feuds go way back. They were overthrown by the next generation, the Olympians, led by Zeus. The Olympians apparently did their best to rid the universe of the Titans and some of their offspring, but a few, such as Prometheus and Atlas, managed to survive.

The Titans were known for their colossal size and power. Hence, the word “titan” has been used for a legendary ship (the RMS Titanic), the largest of Saturn’s satellites, U.S. space missiles and, lest we forget, the Tennessee Titans. You may read about Mike Munchak, this football team's new coach, in today’s print edition or e-edition.

Illustration courtesy of Wikipedia

photo of the last Titan missile launched (in 2005) courtesy of Wikipedia

As promised yesterday, here are the action verbs in the captions of the Super Bowl photos: await; sacks and earned; and hugs. (In the Zombo photo caption, "was" is also a verb, but it is a linking verb.)

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