What's in a Word?
Pondering word play and power in The Daily Sentinel
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.
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
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.
By Debra Dobbins
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
"Daze” is still the operative word for many Western Slope students on Day Two of the new school year.
Used as a noun in the headline above, it means bewilderment, “as by a shock or blow,” according to Webster’s.
After the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, many students are understandably dazed. After all, they’ve had to figure out the combinations to their lockers, locate new classrooms, meet new teachers, learn classroom procedures and cram into their backpacks such necessities as textbooks, course syllabi, gym shoes, and, of course, combs and cell phones.
“School daze” is a play on words, taken from “school days,” a time-honored allusion to the song by the same name. Will Cobb and Gus Edwards wrote the song in 1907, well over a century ago.
According to Wikipedia, the song is about “a mature man and woman looking back sentimentally on their lifelong friendship and their days in primary school.”
Wikipedia adds that the best-known part of the song is its chorus:
“School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
'Reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hick'ry stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful, barefoot beau
And you wrote on my slate, "I Love You So"
When we were a couple o' kids”
While slates and hickory sticks aren’t in modern-day schools, let’s trust that the Golden Rule still is.
By Debra Dobbins
Monday, August 23, 2010
“Velcro parents” is a phrase that means parents who cling to their children, refusing to let them do anything on their own.
Velcro is a trademarked name for a product that often replaces zippers or shoelaces.This product has two layers, a hook side and a loop side. When the layers are put together, they stick.
Velcro joins other trademarked names that are now second nature to us. For example, instead of saying, “I’ll photocopy this,” we often say, “I’ll xerox this.” Xerox is a trademark, but we tend to use it as a verb or a noun without capitalizing it. It has made its way into our common speech and writing. That is probably just fine with executives and other workers at Xerox Corporation.
In the same way, we may ask for a Coke or a Popsicle at a lakeside concession stand without realizing that both treats are trademarked names. If we are lucky enough to use a pair of Jet Skis at the lake, we are enjoying personal watercraft with a name trademarked by Kawasaki.
As for those doting, Velcro parents, I think they are just doing their jobs.To deflect their critics, they should develop Teflon skins and go right on sticking to, by and up for their sons and daughters.
Friday, August 20, 2010
Life is about choices, it’s commonly said, but I simply cannot choose the best comic among three that caught my eye today. Here are quick comments on each.
“Those blasted horns” were vuvuzelas (voo-voo-ZAY-las), long, slender horns that nearly punctured ear drums in July at the World Cup in South Africa.
An enigma is a mystery. It comes from a Latin/Greek word meaning to speak in riddles, according to Webster’s.
Nope, fiction is definitely not a place. Webster’s states that fiction is “anything made up or imagined, as a statement, story, etc.”
As school resumes, students can expect to delve into plenty of great fiction, everything from Charlotte’s Web to To Kill a Mockingbird.
Best wishes to all students for a successful new school year!