What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 110 of 132

Jumping off the fence

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Webster’s says that sitting on the fence means “uncommitted or undecided in a controversy.”

In these rancorous times the fence may seem crowded in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. It is a safe place for policy-makers, but not a productive one for American citizens.

As our national debt spirals ever higher and we continue to wage two wars, our elected officials now need to tackle these and other tough issues with candor and courage—even if that means getting “fenced in” to publicly defending positions on vital issues and running the risk of not being reelected. The nation deserves no less.


“An old, sweet song”

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, December 13, 2010

The headline “Georgia on his mind” is a play on words based on a classic blues song that has appealed to diverse audiences for 80 years. Hoagy Carmichael wrote the music and Stuart Gorrell wrote the lyrics for “Georgia on my Mind,” in 1930, according to Wikipedia.

Wikipedia also explains that Ray Charles brought the song back to national attention by recording it in 1960, and 18 years later, Willie Nelson’s country-western rendition renewed the song’s popularity once again. In 1979 it became the official state song of Georgia.

As far as names go, Georgia gets a workout. It’s a female name, the name of a state and the name of a country, formerly a satellite state of the Soviet Union. Geography buffs will also know of the Strait of Georgia, a gorgeous, 150-mile-long stretch of water between Vancouver Island and British Columbia, Canada.

Georgia, according to Webster’s, is the female version of George, which comes from an ancient Greek name meaning earthworker.


Sarah has her say

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, December 10, 2010

Ecstatic means overjoyed. It sounds as though Sarah delights in her grandson.

How does Sarah’s tone change in panel four?



A fib or a lie?

By Debra Dobbins
Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fib is a short word with a long history. It comes from fible-fable, slang used in the 16th and 17th centuries to indicate nonsense, according to Webster’s.

Fib and lie both mean being untruthful, but they have different shades of meaning, or connotation.

A lie is an out-and-out untruth. A fib is a small or nearly harmless untruth. We (yes, we, I’ll fess up to fibs and I suspect you might wanna fess up, too) often tell small untruths to smooth over a social situation. (“Why, darling, your beautician used a wonderful shade of purple for your hair!”)

When I fib, I also pray that someone else does not perceive my untruth as a lie. That’s the tricky part. I generally fib if I think there is little chance of being found out. If caught in a fib, I may just have to tell another one and before long, I’ll end up with a pack of lies and a Pinochio nose.

I think Sam can be forgiven, however, for saying fib and not lie. He seems like a good-hearted soul who is just struggling to write an appropriate letter. Furthermore, by using the word fib he’s created assonance, which is the repetition of vowel sounds. Both fib and sin have the short i sound, so they come close to rhyming. His question is fun to read because of the assonance and because of the two-word, two-syllable rhythm: Is it/a sin/ to fib/in a/Christ/mas/let/ter?

As promised yesterday, here are answers for the tone in yesterday’s “Freshly Squeezed”:
Sam starts out his letter in an upbeat, politically correct way. In panel three, though, he changes his tone by using words with a negative connotation: idiotic and careless. The negative tone continues in the last panel with the use of the words forced and starving. His tone becomes one of exasperation or frustration. The contrast in tone is what tickles our funny bones.



Life’s crossroads

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Frank and Earnest are alluding to “The Road Not Taken,” by American poet Robert Frost. The poem’s title is often mistakenly called “The Road Less Traveled” because of the popularity of the second-to-last line.

According to Wikipedia, Frost’s metaphorical poem can be interpreted either as inspirational or ironic. For more details, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_Not_Taken_%28poem%29. Or read the entire poem below and decide for yourself.

“The Road Not Taken”

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost, Mountain Interval, 1916

The poem reminds me of key decisions I’ve made on my life’s journey. I vote for the “inspirational” theory.

Page 110 of 132


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