What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 105 of 132


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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Old English word is a keeper

By Debra Dobbins
Thursday, January 27, 2011

I beg to differ. Normal people do use the word “fortnight.” Most of them just happen to live in Great Britain.

Fortnight is a contraction of the Old English words feowertyn niht, meaning 14 nights, according to Webster’s. (The Old English period ran from 450 to 1150 AD.) Webster’s also notes that those two words morphed to fourte(n) niht in Middle English (1150-1500). They eventually shrank into one compound word.

I don’t think fortnight should be expunged (deleted) from English. I also don’t think that pompous (in this case, stuck-up) people use the word. Educated people use the word, or at least recognize it when it is spoken and written.

Educated people know that others instantly judge them by the language they use. They also know that a good vocabulary helps them to think about complex issues. For example, it is impossible to solve a complex math problem if one has no clue what advanced math terms mean.

Words empower and enlighten us, day in and day out, fortnight after fortnight after fortnight ….

 


 

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Mush on!

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mushers is a fun word that describes men and women who ride on sleds pulled by dogs. Sometimes, to give the dogs a break, mushers run behind their sleds.

Mushers comes from the interjection, mush. That interjection is an order for dogs to start pulling or to run faster.

Mush is a shorter version of the command, mush on. Those two words, according to Webster’s, came from the French word, marchon, which means let’s go.

I hope many folks mush on up to the mesa to see the fifth annual Rocky Mountain High Sled Dog sprints this Saturday and Sunday. It seems like a great activity as winter begins to slowly give way to spring. Before we know it, we’ll be sweltering in the “dog days” of summer.

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Just remember: boys fan

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The conjunction is a handy part of speech. It lets us link words, phrases and sentences together to make our speech AND writing a little bit more sophisticated.

There are three types of conjunctions: coordinating, subordinate AND correlative. The most common of them is the coordinating conjunction.

English has eight coordinating conjunctions. We can remember them with the sentence, “Boys fan.”

B but
O or
Y yet
S so

F for
A and
N nor

The other parts of speech are the noun, pronoun, verb, adverb, adjective, preposition and interjection. All eight parts of speech help us not only understand English, but to grasp other languages, as well.
 

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Page 105 of 132




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