What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 104 of 132


Dousing undoubtedly deserved

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, February 7, 2011

When is a dousing a coveted honor? It’s an honor, indeed a joy, when your team wins the Super Bowl.

The Packers coach, Mike McCarthy, cannot be considered inexperienced or “wet behind the ears,” but Sunday T.J. Lang made sure that physically McCarthy was exactly that. (See the photo below.)

The verb “douse” goes far back in our language’s history. Webster’s says it was 16th century slang that probably came from the Middle Dutch word, dossen, defined as “to beat noisily.” It is no surprise, then, to learn from Webster’s that the first English meaning of douse was “to hit forcefully.”

Webster’s lists other definitions that include to lower sails, to quickly put out something such as a fire or light, to pull off items such as shoes or clothing, or to drench. The last definition is how the word is used in the caption below.

Douse is considered an action verb. Can you find other action verbs in the captions below the photo of McCarthy and Lang? The answers will appear tomorrow.

If the photos whet your curiosity to read more about the big game, the first three sports pages in today’s print or e-edition are packed with stats and even more pics.

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Phil’s ironic prediction

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Today is Groundhog’s Day, a quirky American celebration of Punxsutawney Phil.

Phil popped up all over today’s paper. He was on the front page, in an editorial cartoon and in two strips on the comic page. Also, Dave Buchanen passed along some interesting groundhog facts on page B1. You can read Buchanen’s article in our print or e-edition.

Phil got his first name from the town in Pennsylvania that annually holds a ceremony with him as the star attraction. According to legend, Phil emerges in early February. If he sees his shadow, we have six more weeks of winter. If he does not see his shadow, we’ll have an early spring.

I’m not sure what the answer is to the question in the cartoon above, but it is a timely one.  A massive winter storm is slamming one-third of our nation.

Ironically, Phil did not see his shadow this morning, indicating an early spring. Tell that to the hapless souls who see their cars encased in ice and their streets obliterated by snow.

Hypothermia, by the way, is composed of two Greek word parts. “Hypo” means under, and “therm” means heat. (Think of what a thermometer measures.) So, hypothermia is a subnormal body temperature, according to Webster’s.  Oh, and succumbs means to submit or, in this case, to die.

News reports say that a smaller crowd turned out today to learn Phil’s forecast. If folks were worried about running the risk of hypothermia and decided to stay inside, we can empathize. Our high today is only supposed to hit 15 degrees. On the bright side, our cars are accessible and our streets dry. Let’s send warm thoughts eastward; folks there need them.

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Short month/long history

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, February 1, 2011


February comes from februa, the Roman festival of purification, which was held on the 15th of the month.

According to Wikipedia, February was the last month of the year until 450 BC when it gained its current ranking as the second. Prior to 450 BC, Mars was the official start of the year, which is why September, at first the seventh month and now the ninth, gained its name. (Septem in Latin meant seven.)

Februar by Leandro Bassano, courtesy of Wikipedia


 

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White’s signature trick seals victory

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, January 31, 2011

The handwriting wasn’t exactly on the wall for Shaun White Sunday night: He had bring his A+ game to edge out Olympic buddy Scotty Lago in both boarders’ quest for the superpipe gold at the Winter X games in Aspen.

The first “graf” in today’s print and e-edition sums White’s efforts up. He pulled off two full flips and 3 1/2 rotations to execute the Double McTwist 1260, billed as his signature trick.

In its adjective form, signature means highly individual, something that a person can claim as his or her own. When White executes a signature trick such as the DM 1260, it means he came up with it and is one of a handful of  boarders who can set it down.

In its noun form, signature has a number of meanings. The most common is “a person’s name written by that person,” according to Webster’s.

Signature comes from the Latin word signare, which, again according to Wesbter’s, meant to set a seal upon. I can only imagine that in ancient times people put their seal onto messages, rather than a signature as we understand it today.

I’ve never seen White’s actual signature, but, given the Flying Tomato’s outgoing personality, I suspect his signature is as bold as that of a Founding Father, John Hancock. Hancock’s expression of his name on the Declaration of Independence was so impressive that it became a synonym for signature, as in “Put your John Hancock here.”

signature courtesy of Wikipedia


 

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A crackerjack Americanism

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, January 28, 2011

The headline above plays off the Americanism “jim-dandy,” which means excellent or very pleasing, according to Webster’s. It’s akin to another Americanism, “crackerjack.”

Jim is used as an intensifier, rather like the words “very” or “quite.”

“Jim-dandy” can be considered part of southern dialect. (Dialect means language that is peculiar to a specific area or region.) For instance, it appears in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, which is set in the Deep South:

“We could not wait for Atticus to come home for dinner, but called and said we had a big surprise for him. He seemed surprised when he saw most of the back yard in the front yard, but he said we had done a jim dandy job. ‘I didn’t know how you were going to do it,’ he said to Jem, ‘but from now on I’ll never worry about what’ll become of you, son, you’ll always have an idea.’”

Judging from the article on basketball star Jimmer Fredette, he always has an idea on how to rack up major points for Brigham Young University. You can read the story on Fredette in today’s print edition or e-edition.


 

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Page 104 of 132




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