What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 120 of 127


Missis … now what?

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, August 31, 2010

 

Wilberforce Thornapple is right; Mississippi is hard to spell.

Remembering that the word has four i’s, four s’s and two p’s helps. So does breaking it down to its syllables: Mis/sis/sip/pi. This word is a good reminder that we often split up double letters (bub/ble, for example.)

Mississippi was borrowed from the Ojibwe word, misi-ziibi, which meant “great river,” according to Wikipedia. Maybe a lengthy name is just right for such a long, magnificent river. The Mississippi snakes its way from Minnesota down to the Gulf of Mexico in Louisiana for more than 2,300 miles.
 

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Salud/Salut!

By Debra Dobbins
Monday, August 30, 2010

Lendale White probably scored a point or two in the hearts of servicemen and women when he made a classic gesture after his touchdown in a Denver Broncos preseason game. (See photo below.) A salute is a common sign of respect among military personnel.

“Salute” comes from a Latin word that meant greeting or health. From it, we get “salutation,” the greeting of a letter (Dear Sir, for example). We also get “salutary,” meaning healthful, and two favorites of mine, "salut" (French) or "salud" (Spanish). They both mean “to your health,” a common phrase during a toast.

With a 34-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, it seems that the Broncos’ season is off to a healthy start. Now that’s worth a toast or two.

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Wiki-wiki!

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, August 27, 2010


Want to quickly guess how the name WikiLeaks was created? (There’s a hint in that question, by the way.)

Wikileaks is formed by taking a part of one word, wiki, and putting it together with another word, leak.

The word leak, in this sense, means a secret release of information by someone such as a government official to the news media. Perhaps the best-known man who leaked information to the press was Mark Felt, a former FBI official. Known only as Deep Throat to Washington Post investigative reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, Felt released information on the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s. Ultimately, the scandal forced President Richard Nixon to resign in 1974.

“The word wiki is a short form of the Hawaiian wiki-wiki, which means ‘quick,’” writes Will Richardson in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. A wiki, Richardson says, is a “collaborative Webspace where visitors and collaborators can add content and edit content that has already been published.”

I often rely on Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia. Wikipedia has enjoyed success all over the world. In fact, Wikipedia notes that as of 2007 about 75% of its articles were “contained within non-English Wikipedia versions.”

So, now a Hawaiian word has recognition in places as far-flung as China, Russia and Israel. And, thanks to the power and scope of the Internet, that word recognition happened pretty darn quickly.


 

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Notable quotes gone astray

By Debra Dobbins
Thursday, August 26, 2010

The author of the letter to the editor below makes a good point. If we quote someone, we need to ensure that the quotation is accurate.

Numerous inaccurate quotes have pervaded our common speech. Here are three examples from U.S history, pared down from a lengthy list provided by Wikipedia.

Paul Revere did not shout, “The British are coming!” as he rode through the Massachusetts countryside in 1775 to warn colonists that British soldiers had begun to march. It would have been foolish, because many colonists were still loyal to Britain. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow made this phrase famous in his poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.”

Anyone who has watched the movie Apollo 13 remembers this quote: “Houston, we have a problem.”
Command Module Pilot Jack Swigert actually said, "OK, Houston, we've had a problem here.” Fifteen seconds later Commander Jim Lovell added, "Ah, Houston, we've had a problem. We've had a main B bus undervolt.”

Sarah Palin, who ran on John McCain’s ticket in 2008, did not say, “I can see Russia from my house.” When ABC’s Charlie Gibson interviewed her in 2008, she actually said, "They're our next door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”

Chalk one up for Tina Fey. A Palin lookalike, the comedian popularized this quote in a skit on “Saturday Night Live.”

The Fey quote is a good reminder to check our sources of news. If we rely on late-night comedians for our understanding of current events, then yes, we’ll have a laugh or two. If we learn inaccurate information such as misquotations and then pass that information along, though, we likely won’t be having the last laugh. Someone out there in a nation blessed with a free exchange of ideas will probably set us straight.


 


 

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Bard of Avon

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Frank and Earnest always deliver the most wonderfully horrible puns.

Today, they are leaving the Globe Theatre, where many of William Shakespeare’s plays were performed. Visitors to London may still see a modern version of the Globe, not far from the banks of the Thames River.

The pun is based on the wrestling phrase, “no holds barred.” If you think of cage wrestling, you get a fair idea of what that means.

Shakespeare was a bard, a poet among poets. He is best known, though, for his plays, both comedies and tragedies.

According to Wikipedia “His surviving works, including some collaborations, consist of about 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and several other poems. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.”

Shakespeare is often called the Bard of Avon because his birthplace was Stratford-on-Avon.

A prolific writer, he popularized scores of phrases in the English language. Here are just a few:

Brevity is the soul of wit
Fight fire with fire
Foul play
Heart's content
I will wear my heart upon my sleeve
Love is blind
Star crossed lovers
There's method in my madness
Woe is me

Still another phrase of his comes in quite handy in wrapping this entry up: All's well that ends well.
 

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