What's in a Word?

Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel

Page 124 of 132


‘Suitcase’ words

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Since today is International Literacy Day, I was pleased to see a front-page story on Sarah Palin’s coinage of a new word: refudiate. It’s a blend of refute and repudiate. You may read the story in our print edition or e-edition to get the definitions of both words.

The article goes on to give more examples of blends, such as splatter (splash and spatter). Here are several of my favorites:

smog   - (sm)oke and f(og)
snazzy - (sn)appy and j(azzy)
brunch - (br)eakfast and l(unch)

Lewis Carroll, author of “Jabberwocky,” Adventures of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, gave us these:

slithy    -   (sli)m(y) and li(th)e
chortle -   (ch)uck(le) and sn(ort)
snark   -   (sn)ake and sh(ark)

These words are sometimes called portmanteau words. A portmanteau is a type of suitcase that folds in and has two separate sides to it.

But, what’s in a name? Whether they are termed blends or portmanteau words, they demonstrate how adaptable, and often delightful, the English language really is.
 

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A take-away word

By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The word “desegregation” has a historical connection to words such as “egregious” and “gregarious.”

As noted in the Aug. 18th entry, these words stem from a Latin word, greg, which meant herd.

“Segregation” is separation from the herd, or, to use a modern term, society. Growing up, I learned many instances from news reports of how blacks were excluded from society. They were forced to go to separate schools, could not eat at certain lunch counters, saw public drinking fountains marked for white use only and had to use waiting rooms set aside “for coloreds” in train and bus stations.

The word “desegregation” was formed by adding the prefix “de.” This prefix means, among other things, taking away. (Think of the math term “deduct.”) So, in a way, desegregation is the taking away of the practice of taking away the fundamental rights of every American.

Achieving desegregation has been a long battle in our nation. See the story below for a few details on how Jefferson Thomas helped make a difference in that battle.

 


 

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Lady Who?

By Debra Dobbins
Friday, September 3, 2010

 “Antebellum” is an Americanism that means “before the war.” In the United States, it is used to note something before the Civil War. People visiting the South can still see a number of pre-Civil War residences, which are called antebellum homes. (The prefix “ante” means before.)

Wikipedia says that the three members of the pop/country band  “Lady Antebellum” had an interest in photographing large plantation homes in the South. In the course of this pastime they had an epiphany (a flash of insight) and decided that antebellum should be part of their band’s name.

The story below notes that guitarist Dave Haywood has asked his mom to the Country Music Association Awards, but she can’t go. (Dave, if you read this, call, text or tweet. I’m available.)


 

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A catty remark

By Debra Dobbins
Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kitty – a tender name for a cat, but also a pool of money for a specific purpose. In “Pearls Before Swine,” the rat uses the word “kitty” with no small amount of sarcasm.

Whoa, let’s hold our horses! A rat is controlling a cat? That’s downright unnatural and a doggone shame. Good thing this is just a cartoon.

Or, is it just a cartoon? Who really are the rat and cat? Does syndicated cartoonist Stephan Pastis know something we don’t?

OK, I’m over-reacting. I still remember, though, studying George Orwell’s Animal Farm. In it, pigs symbolize leaders who become dictators, dogs symbolize the police/military and Boxer, the horse, symbolizes the working class. First published in 1946, Orwell’s novella is a classic tale of how power corrupts.

Pastis writes on his blog (http://stephanpastis.wordpress.com/) that he’s read two plays by Russian author Anton Chekhov. Knowing that, I bet that he’s also read—and learned greatly from—Animal Farm. If you haven’t yet read this book, I strongly recommend it.
 

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Plein-air paradise

By Debra Dobbins
Wednesday, September 1, 2010

As the ad below notes, Montrose will celebrate Chipeta Day Saturday, Sept. 4. Chipeta and her husband, Chief Ouray, achieved historical recognition as peacemakers with the whites in the 1800s.

While all the day’s activities sound interesting, the first one caught my eye for its use of a French phrase, plein-air, which means “open air.”

According to Webster’s, plein-air art refers to “the manner of certain schools of French impressionist painting of the late 19th cent[ury], engaged mainly in representing observed effects of outdoor light and atmosphere.”

What better place than Western Colorado to try one’s hand at this art form? After all, from red rocks to rivers and lakes to mountain peaks, our stunning scenery certainly does impress anyone fortunate enough to observe it.

 


  

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Page 124 of 132




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