What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 118 of 132


Pi defined

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Webster’s defines pi as:

1 name of the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet
2 a) the symbol designating the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter b) the ratio itself, equal to 3.14159265+

In an increasingly technological world, male math majors should be the ultimate chick-magnets. After all, Melinda Gates dated a math whiz and look where that got her!

0 comments

Weaving a word

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Jeremy’s use of “subtle” cracked me up today. I knew he meant “delicately suggestive,” a definition given by Webster’s Dictionary. I assumed it would be the first definition, but it is actually the fifth.

The first definition is “thin, rare; tenuous; not dense or heavy.” Webster’s notes that the word is derived (taken) from the Latin word subtilis, originally meaning “closely woven.” That word came from three words that meant “under the warp,” according to The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, which is cited by www.encyclopedia.com.

A warp is a machine used by weavers. So, we can assume that ancient weavers sometimes used thin threads in creating intricate (highly detailed) tapestries, rugs and other woven products. These products probably were most admired by those with a keen appreciation for detail that was missed by more casual observers.

We don’t pronounce the “b” in this word. We say SUH-tul. Why? One of the three words was “sub,” which means "under." I can only surmise (guess) that when the words were woven together the “b” remained. People probably found it awkward to pronounce. It must have morphed into a silent letter, joining words such as “debt,” “doubt” and “climb” that have vexed English spellers for centuries.

To include “b” or not to include “b” … yes, that’s been the question. Learning the history of a word sometimes gives us the answer.

0 comments

An albatross for merchants

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, October 18, 2010

 Some stores in downtown Grand Junction were flooded early Saturday. The story ran with the headline “Water, water everywhere.”

The “hed” alludes to “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Published in 1798, this narrative poem tells the story of a sea captain who is hit with bad luck during a long sea voyage.

When the mariner kills an albatross, the members of his crew come close to mutiny, because they feel the albatross brought them better fortune.

From this poem, we have the expression “an albatross around your neck,” which means a heavy burden.

The ship eventually becomes becalmed (motionless):

“Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”

The mariner survives to tell his hardships to a stranger he meets upon his return home.

Some of our downtown merchants also have distressing tales now as they figure out the cost of water damage to their establishments. Let’s hope that the flood damage will soon be an albatross lifted off the neck of every merchant affected.


 

0 comments

A not-so-merry merry-go-round

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, October 15, 2010

At first I didn’t understand this headline today, because I don’t pay much attention to football.

I do know, though, the importance of quarterbacks, so slowly the word “carousel” began to make sense.

A carousel is also known as a merry-go-round. People jump on and off a merry-go-round as the spirit moves them. The “hed” writer used carousel to suggest that many football teams are experiencing frequent changes in this vital position.

To read the entire story, see today’s print edition or e-edition of The Daily Sentinel. BTW, the word “myriad” means “a great many” in the caption below. 

1 comments

Venting one’s spleen

By Debra Dobbins
Thursday, October 14, 2010

 

Words to know before reading the editorial below:

Bilious – in a general sense, bad-tempered or cross, according to Webster’s. It more specifically means having some illness created by a malfunction of the bile or liver.

Adorns – decorates

Caricatures – cartoon depictions of people, usually with one or two features exaggerated

Modicum – small amount

Loathe – hate

Flatulence – gassiness; used in a more general sense in the editorial, it means crudeness

 

Since two words above refer to bodily malfunctions, I can’t resist asking the following questions:

How much should public figures accept “taking a ribbing” before criticism of them “goes below the belt”?

Was the financial backer justified in anonymously “venting his spleen” or should this person “have the backbone” to acknowledge funding the billboard?

Should the billboard’s buyer be given “the cold shoulder” or be lauded for making a “straight from the shoulder” statement?

Is the challenge of balancing our individual First Amendment rights with our social responsibility to disagree respectfully one that we all should “take to heart”?

   

0 comments
Page 118 of 132




TOP JOBS




THE DAILY SENTINEL
734 S. Seventh St.
Grand Junction, CO 81501
970-242-5050
Editions
Subscribe to print edition
E-edition
Advertisers
Sign in to your account
Information

© 2014 Grand Junction Media, Inc.
By using this site you agree to the Visitor Agreement and the Privacy Policy