What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 111 of 127


“Wi” I was wrong…

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Smug. That’s how I felt after reading today’s Pickles. Wi-Fi, I thought, is an acronym for wireless fidelity. I congratulated myself on being so tech-literate.

Humble. That’s how I feel now after researching the term. It turns out that Wi-Fi is a play on words from the term hi-fi, an acronym for high fidelity. A marketing firm coined the term for its client, the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance, the originators of the wireless networking technology. (Now the firm is just known as the Wi-Fi Alliance.)

“The technical term 'IEEE 802.11' has been used interchangeably with Wi-Fi,” according to Wikipedia. I’m glad the Wi-Fi Alliance opted for a term easier to remember.

An acronym, by the way, is a word formed from the first letter or first few letters of a series of words. Radar is a good example. It is created from (ra)dio (d)etecting (a)nd (r)anging.
 

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Killing time’s benefits

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, November 2, 2010

After she tears her hair out, perhaps Jeremy’s mom can take solace in realizing her son knows what simile is. When he says, “Procrastination is like kryptonite to moms,” he is making a comparison using the terms “like” or “as.” That’s simile.

By mentioning kryptonite, Jeremy is alluding (referring) to something he knows his friend will understand: comic books and movies on Superman, a fictional American icon who has been around since the 1930s.

Kryptonite, an element found on Superman’s home planet, is lethal for the superhero. Bad guy Lex Luther discovers this and occasionally tries to end Superman’s storied career—and life—with it.

Two word parts of “procrastination” hint at its meaning. “Pro” is a word part that means forward, and “crastinus” was a Latin term meaning, “belonging to the morrow,” according to Webster’s. Procrastination means pushing a task forward to another day.

Procrastination is a fault, someone once said, that most people put off trying to correct. For many of us, it is probably worthwhile to heed Ben Franklin’s warning: “You may delay, but time will not."


 

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A courtier of Camelot

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, November 1, 2010

The “lead” (opening sentence) of this article is eloquent (strikingly expressive). It also requires some background knowledge. What’s a courtier? And where’s Camelot?

A courtier is someone who devotes himself to the needs of a king or another ruler. Camelot was a mythical palace overseen by England’s legendary King Arthur. King Arthur was a much-loved ruler who came up with the idea of the Round Table, a more democratic way of decision-making. His story was popularized by the Broadway play “Camelot,” a musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.

The term Camelot came to refer to the short but legendary presidency of John F. Kennedy, often just called JFK. Holding office for fewer than three years, Kennedy was felled by an assassin’s bullet Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas. The death of our 35th president sent shock waves throughout the nation. People 60 or older most likely remember exactly where they were the day JFK was shot.

Kennedy’s presidency was marked by an optimistic glow. Despite the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban missile crisis, many Americans felt that the country was in a golden age similar to that of Arthurian times. Significantly aiding that impression was Kennedy’s elegant wife, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. It was almost as if she were America’s “Queen Guinevere.”

A few weeks after JFK died, his widow told a Life magazine interviewer ”there will never be that Camelot again."

Translated into modern terms, then, the lead could begin as “Of the loyal aides to the president.”

Theodore C. Sorensen witnessed much of America’s Camelot. The rest of the article on this loyal aide appears in our print and/or e-editions.

 

John F. Kennedy speaking at Rice University
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
 

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy

Photo courtesy of Wikiquote

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Barnacle Bill

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, October 29, 2010


Score another point for the missus. If hubby manages to come to the table for a nutritious dinner, maybe he’ll find the energy to dress up as Barnacle Bill on Sunday.

Have a happy, safe Halloween!

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Sitting about for eons

By Debra Dobbins
Thursday, October 28, 2010

Score one for the missus. The correct word is sedentary. It means “marked by much sitting about.”

Sedimentary is “having the nature of, or containing sediment.” Sediment is “matter that settles to the bottom of a liquid [or] matter deposited by water or wind.” (All definitions are from Webster’s.)

Let’s give hubby a break, though. One could argue that sediment does a lot of “sitting about” after it’s deposited.

Want proof? Look no farther than the Colorado National Monument. Though the monument is testimony to the effects of erosion, some of its geological layers have sat for millions of years. To better understand this natural wonder, go to http://www.nature.nps.gov/geology/parks/colm.
 

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