What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 108 of 132

Ah, ah, ah, Grampa!

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, January 10, 2011

Nelson looks young, but he shows how wise he already is by using the word “minion.”

Minion, according to Webster’s, is a “a favorite, esp[ecially] one who is a fawning, servile follower; term of contempt.” Webster’s second definition, less negative in tone, is “a subordinate deputy, official or the like.”

While Grampa may really want a candy bar, asking Nelson to sneak behind Gramma’s back is not the best moral example to set. In the cartoon’s last panel Nelson shows that he is uncomfortable with Grampa’s slight moral lapse. Good for Nelson.

I hope Gramma's in the kitchen. Grampa doesn’t need candy, and Nelson doesn’t need to be a minion.



Missing words

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, January 7, 2011

Cartoonist Nate Beeler shows rather than tells the idiom “tough nut to crack” to make his point.

A “tough nut to crack” is a problem or issue that will not be easily fixed or resolved.

Republican John Boehner is the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, because Republicans now are in the majority of this part of Congress. Democrats still hold a majority in the Senate.  Boehner has a tendency to tear up over issues he holds near and dear to his heart.





Updoohickey: disassembly required

By Debra Dobbins
Thursday, January 6, 2011

My concentration is not always tiptop when I scan the paper early in the morning. Thus, when my eyes fell upon “updoohickey” emblazoned at the top of today’s front page, I was confused.

Seeing the graphic to the right of the word gave me my first clue. The graphic showed … it showed … well, of course, it showed a doohickey, that wonderful word we use when we have no idea what to call something. But why was the word at the left “updoohickey”?

Glancing at the blurb to the right of the graphic, I realized the "doohickey" is actually the Goody Spin Pin. (More on this invention and other innovative products may be found on page 7B in today’s print edition or e-edition.) Apparently, the Goody Spin Pin makes creating a bun at the back or top of one’s head quick and easy.

Aha! The light bulb in my head was flashing. A clever headline writer had combined the word “updo” with “doohickey” to create the nonce word “updoohickey.”

Updo is taken from these two words: upswept hairdo. It is relatively new. Merriam Webster’s online dictionary says its first known use was in 1983.

A nonce word is created just for one-time use--“just for the nonce” in archaic English. Clever though “updoohickey” is, I doubt we'll see this “hair-raising” word again any time soon in The Daily Sentinel.


Caliber’s lowly beginning

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Webster’s defines caliber as: “ 1) the size of a bullet or shell as measured by its diameter 2) the diameter of a bore of a gun … 3) the diameter of a cylindrical body or of its hollowed interior.”

Webster’s also defines caliber as the quality of worthiness of a person or thing.

Caliber came from a Greek word meaning a shoemaker’s last (form or model for a foot). How the word for a shoemaker’s last came to mean any of the definitions above is truly “Greek to me.”



Banishing Angst

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Angst is a word we borrowed from the Germans that means “a gloomy, often neurotic feeling of generalized anxiety and depression,” according to Webster’s.

Liz is not the only one with Angst in January. (Yes, Webster’s capitalizes it.) Now that Yuletide festivities are over, many of us have bills to pay and pounds to shed.

If we make reducing both our debt and weight a priority, however, the Angst will melt along with the snow. At least that’s the pep talk I’m giving myself as I skip the January sales and feign a liking for celery and carrots.

I hereby resolve to have a fatter wallet and lighter body in January 2012--and little or no Angst.

Page 108 of 132


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