What's in a Word | All Blogs


Taking a turn or two for the better

By Debra Dobbins

"Versatility” is the noun form of the adjective “versatile.”

We generally think of versatility as the ability of a person to easily go from one skill to another or a thing to have many uses or applications. (Let’s face it: Smart phones these days are pretty darn versatile when one considers they also serve as cameras, hand-held computers, music players, Day Runners, alarm clocks, etc.)

Zoologists use the term to describe something “capable of turning forward or backward,” such as a bird’s toe, according to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary. Botanists use the term to describe “turning about freely on the filament to which is attached, as an anther,” according to my trusty desktop Webster’s.

“Versatile” came into English about 1600, the Online Etymology Dictionary notes. It came from the “Latin versatilis - turning, revolving, moving, capable of turning to varied subjects or tasks," from past participle stem of versare ‘keep turning, be engaged in something, turn over in the mind.’"

Illustration special to the Sentinel

I will never forget the pleasure and instruction I derived from working with a true master of his art, such as Edward G. Robinson was - and is. Surely his record for versatility, studied characterization - ranging from modern colloquial to the classics - and artistic integrity is unsurpassed.
Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.

Edward G. Robinson in 1930s publicity photo
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

 

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