What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

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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. 

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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”?

   

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How are madam and level alike?

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A palindrome is a word, phrase or sentence(s) spelled the same both forward and backward. Palindrome comes from a Greek word meaning “running back,” according to Webster’s.

One-word examples include eke, ere, eve, ewe, madam, level, refer and redder. An example of a phrase is top spot, according to thinks.com. The site also lists these sentences, among many others:

Flee, elf! Dot sees Tod. Dee saw a seed. Ma has a ham. Was it a rat I saw?

For more palindromes, visit http://thinks.com/words/palindromes/d.htm
 

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Er or or?

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A senator is someone who serves in a senate. For example, Republican Ken Buck and Democrat Michael Bennett are “shooting for” the opportunity to represent Colorado in the U.S. Senate. As noted in the caption below, Republican Steve King is running against Democrat Claudette Konola for the Colorado District 7 seat.

The letters “or” in senator form a suffix, a word part that comes at the end of a word. “Or” means someone who does something. We can apply that logic to words such as actor, advisor, conductor, counselor, moderator, narrator, orator and sculptor. A verb morphs into a noun with an “or” ending.

A more common English suffix for someone who does something is “er.” Consider these words: biker, driver, reader, rider, runner, skier, teacher, waiter and writer.

If there is a rule on how to decide whether such words end in “or” or “er,” I haven’t run across it. My advice is to read, read and read some more. If a word is seen often enough, committing it to memory is a snap for good learnors learners.

Republican Steve King and Democrat Claudette Konola flank moderator Jeannie Hicks on Monday evening during their debate in their race for state Senate.
 

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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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Page 119 of 132




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