What's in a Word?
Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel
By Debra Dobbins
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Leapin’ lizards! In the story below scientists say they have discovered fossils of two new dinosaur species in southern Utah. That’s exciting news for fans of terrible lizards (dino means terrible and saur means lizard).
By studying dinosaurs, we actually learn a great deal about the English language, because many dinosaur names come from Latin word parts.
As I looked over the information in typesofdinosaurs.com, I learned there are dinosaur names with the ending root “saur” for every letter of the alphabet. Though I can’t list them all, here are a few from that website:
allosaurus – other lizard
acrocanthsaurus – high spine lizard
aeolosaurus - wind lizard
argyrosaurus – silver lizard
barosaurus – heavy lizard
corythosaurus - helmet lizard
dryosaurus – oak lizard
enigmosaurus - mysterious lizard
gasosaurus - gas lizard
halticosaurus - leaping lizard
kritosaurus - noble lizard
nanosaurus - dwarf lizard
ouranosaurus - valiant lizard
plateosaurus - flat lizard
supersaurus - super lizard
sarcosaurus – flesh lizard
tyrannosaurus - tyrant lizard
xenotarsosaurus - strange-ankle lizard
zephyrosaurus - west wind lizard
The names of Kosmoceratops richardsoni and the Utahceratops gettyi, the two types of dinosaurs recently discovered in Utah, can be broken down, too.
In the first word, Kosmos comes from a Greek word for world or universe. Ceratops is also Greek, meaning horned face. The second word, richardsoni, stems from a proper noun. In a blog entry posted at news.blogs.cnn.com, CNN’s Emanuella Grinberg notes that the word honors “Scott Richardson, a volunteer who discovered the holotype specimen and many other fossils within the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.”
To explain the second dinosaur, Gringberg writes, “The bigger of the two new dinosaurs, with a skull about 7 feet long, is Utahceratops gettyi, whose name combines the state of origin with ceratops, Greek for ‘horned face.’ The second part of the name honors Mike Getty, paleontology collections manager at the Utah Museum of Natural History and the discoverer of this animal.”
Tear into the story below for more details on these terrible lizards.
2 dinosaur species discovered in Utah
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SALT LAKE CITY — Scientists said Wednesday they’ve discovered fossils in the southern Utah desert of two new dinosaur species closely related to the Triceratops, including one with 15 horns on its large head.
The discovery of the new plant-eating species — including Kosmoceratops richardsoni, considered the most ornateheaded dinosaur known to man — was reported Wednesday in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE, produced by the Public Library of Science.
The other dinosaur, which has five horns and is the larger of the two, was dubbed Utahceratops gettyi. “It’s not every day that you find two rhino-sized dinosaurs that are different from all the other dinosaurs found in North America,” said Mark Loewen, a Utah Museum of Natural History paleontologist and an author of the paper published in PLoS ONE.
“You would think that we know everything there is to know about the dinosaurs of western North America, but every year we’re finding new things, especially here in Utah,” he said.
The Grand Staircase- Escalante National Monument has been a hotbed for dinosaur species discoveries in the past decade, with more than a dozen new species discovered. While it is a rocky, arid place now, millions of years ago it was similar to a swamp.
THIS IMAGE PROVIDED by the Utah Museum of Natural History shows an artist’s reconstruction of the recently discovered Utahceratops.
The Utahceratops has a large horn over the nose and short eye horns that project to the side rather than upward, similar to a bison. Its skull is about 7 feet long, it stood about 6 feet high and was 18 to 22 feet long.
It is believed to have weighed about 3 to 4 tons.
The Kosmoceratops has similar facial features at the Utahceratops, but has 10 horns across the rear margin of its bony frill that point downward and outward. It weighed about 2.5 tons and was about 15 feet long.
The horns on both animals range in length from about 6 inches to 1 foot.
Paleontologists say the discovery shows that horned dinosaurs living on the same continent 76 million years ago evolved differently.
Scientists say that other horned dinosaurs lived on the same ancient continent known as Laramidia in what is now Alberta, Canada.
The numerous horns are believed to have been used to attract mates and intimidate sexual competitors, similar to horns on deer.
“The horns really are probably developed at puberty, because most likely these are signals for mate recognition, competition between males, things like that,” Loewen said.
“They’re sexual signals and really that’s how we think this group of dinosaurs divided,” he added.
By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
“Tantalize” comes from the misfortune of the mythological King Tantalus.
After incurring the wrath of Greek gods, Tantalus was sentenced to stand in a pool of water up to his neck for eternity. When he bent down to drink it, the water would drain away. Furthermore, lush fruit hanging from a tree was just inches away from his face, but he could not quite reach that either. Thus, he was constantly thirsty and hungry, even though sustenance was nearby.
In its narrowest sense, tantalize means “to tease or disappoint by promising or showing something desirable and then withholding it,” according to Webster’s. In a broader, more common, sense, it simply means to tease. In the headline above, a good synonym for tantalizing is tempting.
For the article on how tantalizing the price of gold is these days, check out The Daily Sentinel’s website, print edition or e-edition.
By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The Roaring Twenties, coming between World War I and the Great Depression, were full of ebullience and confidence. Americans lived it up, blissfully unaware of the dire times that lay ahead.
The light-heartedness of the decade produced a torrent of slang. For instance, Sol Steinmetz, author of There’s a Word for It, writes that the Twenties gave us words such as “wow,” “gaga” and “nah.” Instead of saying “the best,” flappers (flamboyant young women) and their dates said “the bee’s knees,” “the cat’s meow” or "the cat’s pajamas.”
Sometimes pinning down the exact origin of a slang expression is difficult. Long before communication went viral, the process of starting and spreading slang was still informal. People picked up words and phrases from others and made them their own, just at a slower pace than now and often without formal documentation. Historians do know, however, whom to credit for “cat’s meow” and "cat's pajamas."
The hep cat (someone keeping up on the latest trends) was cartoonist Thomas Aloysius Dorgan, who worked first for San Francisco newspapers and then for the New York Journal. Since he signed his drawings as TAD, he became known as Tad Dorgan.
photo of Tad Dorgan courtesy of Wikipedia
(originally from Project Gutenberg archives)
According to Wikipedia, “Dorgan is generally credited with either creating or popularizing such words and expressions as "dumbbell" (a stupid person); "for crying out loud" (an exclamation of astonishment); "cat's meow" and "cat's pajamas" (as superlatives); "applesauce" (nonsense); "cheaters'" (eyeglasses); "skimmer" (a hat); "hard-boiled" (a tough person); "drugstore cowboy" (loafers or ladies' men); "nickel-nurser" (a miser); "as busy as a one-armed paperhanger" (overworked); and "Yes, we have no bananas," which was turned into a popular song.”
Dorgan’s successful career as a cartoonist demonstrates how one can turn adversity into opportunity. “When he was 13 years old, he lost the last three fingers of his right hand in an accident with a factory machine,” according to Wikipedia. “He took up drawing for therapy. A year later at the age of 14 he joined the art staff of the San Francisco Bulletin.”
An inspirational story like that is truly "the cat’s meow.” So is the news that the lynx are again thriving in Colorado. For more details on that, see the editorial below.
By Debra Dobbins
Monday, September 20, 2010
Ancient Romans really got around. They dominated much of what we know as Europe and northern Africa for centuries. Because the Romans invaded the British Isles, we still have many Latin words in modern-day English.
The country we now know as Greece was also among Roman conquests. The Romans borrowed freely from Greek culture, taking words, gods and goddesses into their own way of life.
The word herculean is the adjective form of the proper noun Hercules. A Roman demigod, he was the son of Jupiter (Zeus to the Greeks) and a mortal woman. The Romans adapted this demigod from the Greeks’ Heracles, according to Wikipedia.
Hercules is best known for completing 12 strenuous labors. Thus, his name is associated with extreme courage, perseverance and/or strength. His name is also given to a large northern constellation, according to Webster’s.
Herculean is a good word to think of when one savors the delicious, but labor-intensive, creations of local Greek bakers such as those ladies in the photo below. As a lucky participant in past Greek festivals, I can definitely say their herculean labor results in delicacies “fit for the gods.”
By Debra Dobbins
Friday, September 17, 2010
Powerful people understand that words have power. Case in point: the phrase “evil empire,” coined by President Reagan in a speech he gave in 1983 in Orlando, Fla.
Speaking to the National Association of Evangelicals, Reagan took a hard-line approach to the Soviet Union, considered at that time our nation’s chief enemy.
Toward the end of his speech, he said, “So, in your discussions of the nuclear freeze proposals, I urge you to beware the temptation of pride - the temptation of blithely declaring yourselves above it all and label both sides equally at fault, to ignore the facts of history and the aggressive impulses of an evil empire, to simply call the arms race a giant misunderstanding and thereby remove yourself from the struggle between right and wrong and good and evil.”
The phrase “evil empire” has since made its way into popular usage. According to Wikipedia, Wal-Mart is sometimes called this because of its “controversial labor tactics,” and advocates of free software use it to describe Microsoft.
The phrase also shows up in popular music. For example, it appears in the lyrics of “Du Og Meg” (You and Me) in the 2007 album, Icons, Abstract Thee by the American band, Of Montreal.
In the sports world Wikipedia notes that the rivals of the Edmonton Eskimos, a Canadian football team, call them the “evil empire” because of their success over the last 50 years. The New York Yankees, again according to Wikipedia, have this nickname because of their astronomical salaries and their seeming ability to sign any player they want:
“The first usage of this term relating to the Yankees was from Boston Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino, after the Red Sox lost out to the Yankees in a bidding war for Cuban pitcher José Contreras. After initially not commenting on the signing, a frustrated Lucchino told the New York Times ‘No, I'll make a comment. The evil empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America.’ The nickname, though derogatory towards the team, has since been embraced by Yankee fans.”
Reagan, an actor turned politician, was acutely aware of the power of words. While he might have been well pleased that “evil empire” is now a common phrase, perhaps his biggest pleasure would have come from knowing the effect of his words on a Jewish refusenik in a cell in Siberia.
For that story, go to
To read the story on Denver Water, go to www.gjsentinel.com. or to our print or e-editions.