What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 106 of 132


The Super Bowl rivalry for ‘water rights’

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, January 24, 2011

The rivalry is now official: The Packers will face the Steelers in the Super Bowl Feb. 6 in Dallas.

As the headline above notes, the Packers had to vanquish a NFC rival, the Chicago Bears, to gain the rights to compete against an AFC rival, the Steelers.

The word “rival” comes from a Latin word meaning neighbors who shared the use of a small stream. Human nature being what it is, somewhere in time someone must have wanted more than his fair share of water, and thus a competition began.

In two weeks only one head coach may get the “honor” of being doused with water as his players celebrate their victory. If the final score is too lopsided, the other head coach may be upstream without a paddle.

 

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A French twist to phonics

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, January 21, 2011

The internal rhyme in the headline above is a bit unusual. Can the vowels “eau” really rhyme with the long “o” in go? Yes, in a few words, they can.

LeBeau is a French name. It is pronounced “leh bow" (as in bow and arrow). In French these three letters often have the long o sound.

English has imported a number of French words that end this way. Examples include:

beau     - a male sweetheart
bureau - a dresser, an agency or a government department
plateau - a tableland or mesa (Grand Mesa is a plateau.)
tableau - “a striking, dramatic scene or picture” (Webster’s)

We also have chapeau (hat) and nouveau (new).

The story on Dick LeBeau notes how much the Pittsburgh Steelers respect their defensive coordinator. Check out what they have to say about him in today’s print edition or e-edition.

 


 

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Poetry in just 17 syllables

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Originating in Japan, haiku poetry is now popular in many countries of the world.

The traditional English version of haiku requires that the poem be three lines. The first line should contain five syllables, the second should have seven, and the last line  should have five, for a total of 17 syllables. The subject of haiku is often nature.

Today I challenged myself to write a haiku, so here's one on the Colorado National Monument:

      Enduring layers
of sediment mutely note
  the vastness of time
 

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Rhetoric redefined

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The word “rhetoric” has caught a bum rap. No longer is it considered a disciplined way of using specific words and carefully honed logic to put forth an intelligent argument.

Now it means overblown, often inflammatory language, which is how Jim Spehar uses it in his column today. In the aftermath of the Tucson shootings, Spehar comments on the political climate we now need to create with words and, of course, actions. Spehar humorously refers to himself as “a recovering politician whose rhetoric sometimes reflects that handicap.”

You can find his entire column in today’s print edition or e-edition.

As a microcosm of society, each school also has a climate created in large part by the language used within it. Students, is the language in your hallways, classrooms and lunchrooms strengthening civility in your school or eroding it? (No, that’s not a rhetorical question. I’d be pleased to receive answers.)

One final question: In our civil discourse is it time to bring the original meaning of “rhetoric” back?

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Nixing the “N-word”

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, January 17, 2011


Cartoonist Robert Ariail of the Spartanburg (NC) Herald-Journal plays on Mark Twain’s recollection of what Twain once told a reporter about rumors he had died: “The reports are my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Ariail’s cartoon alludes to a publisher’s plans to bring out a sanitized version of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn next month. In this version, the “N-word” has become “slave,” and “Injun” has become “Indian.”

The decision has stirred up quite a bit of debate. To learn more about both sides of the issue, go to:
http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/01/06/huck-finn-censorship-and-the-n-word-controversy/

Delia Lloyd’s blog is worth reading, as are the links she includes.

In the meantime, here’s another memorable Twain quote:
“So I became a newspaperman. I hated to do it, but I couldn’t find honest employment.”

(source: http://www.snopes.com/quotes/twain.asp)
 

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Page 106 of 132




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