What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 115 of 132


See you around

By Debra Dobbins
Thursday, November 11, 2010

Peripheral vision is the vision that we have on the sides of our heads. If someone says, “I saw you out of the corner of my eye,” that person has used peripheral vision.

“Peri” is a Greek word part that means around. It is included in words such as perimeter (“meter” means measure) and periscope (“scope” means look).

The illustration below shows two simple periscopes. To learn how to make one out of milk cartons and pocket mirrors, go to http://www.exploratorium.edu/science_explorer/periscope.html.

BTW, grandparents, parents and teachers all have excellent peripheral vision. It comes with the job.

Principle of the periscope. The periscope on the left uses mirrors at location "a" whereas the right uses prisms at "b". The observer is "c".

Caption and illustration courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Answers for yesterday's question on musicians in an orchestra:

pianist, cellist, tympanist, clarinetist, flutist, trombonist,
cellist, bassist, bassoonist, contrabassoonist, oboist, harpist
 


 

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Getting the gist of “ist”

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The word orthodontist has an interesting prefix, root and suffix. “Ortho” means straight. “Dont” means teeth, and “ist” means someone who works in a particular field or someone involved in a cause or way of thinking. Examples: Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, became a famous scientist. Through his efforts to rid the U.S. of slavery, William Lloyd Garrison became a well-known abolitionist.

If we had never seen the word orthodontist before but we knew each of its word parts, we could correctly infer (make an educated guess) that it means someone who is in the business of straightening teeth. Of course, anyone who has worn or is wearing braces right now probably knows the meaning of the word all too well!

Other people involved in a particular field include geologists, florists, biologists and chemists.

A fun way to remember that “ist” means someone is doing something is to think of many instruments in an orchestra and decide what those playing them are called. For example, a musician who plays the violin is a violinist. I’ve come up with at least ten others, which I’ll share tomorrow. How many can you think of?
 

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One number at a time

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sudoku is Japanese for “one number." The Daily Sentinel prints Sudoku puzzles at levels ranging from easy to hard.

Since the level of the puzzle below is easy, I’ll attempt to solve it with a pencil that has a good eraser. I suspect I’ll need a number of tries to get it right.

You may find the answers in today’s print edition and e-edition.

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Sweet repletes

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, November 8, 2010

Yes, history can repeat itself.

To make a pun out of this saying, the current creator of Frank & Earnest had to turn a perfectly good adjective into a verb. No wonder students have difficulty learning the eight parts of speech. It is a clever pun, though, so let’s forgive Tom Thaves, who has taken over the cartoon from his father, Bob Thaves.

Used as an adjective, replete means “well-filled or plentifully supplied,” according to Webster’s.

Webster’s also gives a noun form that means honey pot. I investigated that term on the Web and came up with a fascinating lesson on how some honeypot ants keep other ants called “repletes” stuffed with honey and then use them rather like vending machines whenever they cannot find honey in other ways. The repletes are poked until they upchuck some of their honey. Yum!

My source was a NASA blog; it’s worth checking out:

http://blogs.nasa.gov/cm/blog/whatonearth/posts/post_1286569125761.html

Obese honeypot ants cling to the roof of a nest
Photo courtesy of Greg Hume at en.wikipedia

 

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Super-sized words

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, November 5, 2010

Mega is a prefix that means large. It starts out words such as megabytes and megalopolis.

A megabyte is about a million bytes. When computers first came out, most of us considered a megabyte of memory more than we could ever use. Now we generally want at least one gigabyte (1,000 megabytes.) Some people say that soon we'll want even more, so we may decide on storage of one terabyte, or 1,000 gigabytes.

Megalopolis comes from two Greek words meaning “great city.” In modern terms Webster's says it is “an extensive, heavily populated continuously urban area, including any number of cities.”

Below are photos of two megalopolises taken by NASA, our country's space agency. The top photo shows the Eastern Seaboard of the United States, which contains a chain of cities from Boston in the north to Washington, DC, in the south. The bottom photo shows a string of cities on the southern tip of Honshu, a major island of Japan.

If you’re wondering how many bytes of memory it took to store these photos, I’m afraid I haven't a clue!
 

NASA photo courtesy of Wikipedia

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