What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 106 of 132

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


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?


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:

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)


Life writing and MLK

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, January 14, 2011

A biography is someone’s life story. Bio means life, and graph means writing.

For a brief biography of the civil rights leader whom the nation will honor next Monday, go to

This is the official website of the Nobel Peace Prize organization. It provides facts about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., and also lists several biographies on him.

Do you agree with all “directions” in the metaphorical quote above? Is a biography really part history, part fiction, part obituary and part tedium (boredom)?


Webster’s vs. Wiley’s Dictionary

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, January 14, 2011

Great try, Wiley’s, but I’ll stick with Webster’s.

Polly, a common name for a parrot, is spelled with two l’s, and gone has an e at the end.

Polygon is composed of two word parts: poly (many) and gon, which Webster’s defines as, “ a figure having (a specified number of) angles.” Webster’s says polygon is, “a closed plane figure, esp[ecially] one with more than four sides and angles.”

We can make other words using gon. Here are a few: pentagon (five-sided), hexagon (six-sided) and octagon (eight-sided).

We can also make other words using poly, such as polyhedron, a term for a “solid figure, esp[ecially] one with more than six plane surfaces,” according to Webster’s.

I counted nearly 100 words in Webster’s that begin with poly. Many of these words relate to math or science. Can you think of some?

Page 106 of 132


734 S. Seventh St.
Grand Junction, CO 81501
Subscribe to print edition
Sign in to your account

© 2014 Grand Junction Media, Inc.
By using this site you agree to the Visitor Agreement and the Privacy Policy