What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 107 of 132

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?


A doggone shame

By Debra Dobbins
Thursday, January 13, 2011


 Add another minion to Grampa's list.



Alas and alack(ey)

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, January 12, 2011

 A what? Norman now needs to look up lackey.

Lackey, according to Webster’s, is “1 a male servant of low rank … 2 a follower who carries out another’s orders like a servant; toady.”

How many more synonyms for minion can Grampa and Gramma diabolically dream up? Will Norman remain in this pickle?

We’ll have to peruse “Pickles” tomorrow to find out.


An underhanded word

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Nice try, Grampa. Norman, however, may not think that “underling” is cool if he checks out its meaning.

Webster’s defines it as “a person in a subordinate position; inferior; usually contemptuous or disparaging.”

Will Grampa continue to treat Norman as a dupe, someone easily fooled? We’ll have to check tomorrow’s Pickles for an answer.

Page 107 of 132


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