What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 114 of 127


Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, October 11, 2010

      


“Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto
(Thank you very much oh Mr. Roboto
For doing the jobs that nobody wants to)”

Listening to “Mr. Roboto” released by the rock group Styx in 1983, we could easily assume that “robot” came into English from Japanese. If so, we’d be thousands of miles off the mark.

According to Wikipedia, the word comes from "robota meaning literally ‘serf labor,’ and, figuratively, ‘drudgery’ or ‘hard work’ in Czech, Slovak and Polish.”

Wikipedia further explains that an influential Czech writer made the word popular. Karel Capek used “robota” in his 1921 play R.U.R. (Russian Universal Robots). Wikipedia also notes that Capek gave credit for the word choice to his brother, Josef Capek, a painter and writer who eventually lost his life in a Nazi concentration camp.

For more about the Capeks and their choice of this word, go to http://www.capekbrothers.net/word_robot.htm.  For more on robot cars, see the print edition or the e-edition of The Daily Sentinel.

photo and signature of Karel Capek courtesy of Wikipedia.

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A word to savor

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, October 8, 2010

I think words are delicious. Not literally, of course, but delicious as in delightful. Therefore, I savored (enjoyed with appreciation) the headline above.

According to Webster’s, the word “savory” specifically means “pleasing to the taste or smell; appetizing.”  Webster’s also gives a more general definition of “pleasant, agreeable, attractive, etc.”

When “savory” comes before “vampire,” well, all you fans of horror flicks can fill in the rest….

The full story is in today’s Out & About, appearing both in our print edition and e-edition.


 

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Campaign pain

By Debra Dobbins
Thursday, October 7, 2010

Below, Jeff Parker, a cartoonist for Florida Today, comments on the effectiveness of campaign attack ads.

Many folks would argue that such ads and fiction are both untrue. These ads are unlikely to go away, though. The strategy of “going negative” seems entrenched in the war of words that candidates wage to obtain votes.

It is not a big surprise, then, to read that “campaign” comes from the French word campagne, meaning “open country suited to military maneuvers,” according to Webster’s. Webster’s also notes that the word’s meaning has been broadened to refer to a “military expedition.”

In under a month, the war will mercifully end—for this election season, anyway. With luck, the ultimate victors will be voters who have managed to separate facts from fiction before filling out their ballots.


 

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Thank Popeye for the jeep

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The jeep has come a long way since its introduction in 1941. Originally used by the U.S. military, the jeep was an open-air, boxy vehicle with four-wheel-drive that was designed for use over rugged terrain.

If you watch reruns of MASH, you can imagine what the original jeep must have looked like. These days, though, a jeep often comes with a roof, air conditioning, CD player and a host of other amenities (attractive qualities) that G.I.’s in World War II might have found unimaginable. (G.I. stands for General Issue.)

“It was created as a word from the abbreviation G.P. for General Purpose,” Sol Steinmetz writes in There’s a Word for It. Steinmetz adds that the spelling of jeep “is said to have been inspired by the name of ‘Eugene the Jeep,’ a cartoon character … introduced in 1936 in the comic strip ‘Popeye the Sailor’ by cartoonist E.C. Segar.”

For more on the whimsical character of Eugene the Jeep, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_the_Jeep.


 

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Was Bradbury prescient?

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

To help you better understand today’s “Pearls Before Swine,” here are three definitions:

Hedonistic – devoted to pursuit of pleasure; self-indulgent

Anti-intellectual – opposed to the pursuit of advanced knowledge

Science fiction – futuristic fiction based on innovations in science and/or technology

Famous “sci fi” writers include Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451, as well as:

Isaac Asimov – “Foundation” series
Orson Scott Card – “Ender’s Game” series
Robert Heinlein - Stranger in a Strange Land
Douglas Adams – “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series
Frank Herbert – “Dune” series
Arthur C. Clarke - 2001: A Space Odyssey
H.G. Wells – The Time Machine

Was Bradbury prescient? (Prescient means knowing something before it happens.) Are we as a society devoting more time to self-indulgence and less time to improving our minds through reading and other academic pursuits? Is there a serious message within this funny comic strip?

Is my bias showing? Probably!
 

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Page 114 of 127




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