As millions of Americans will be counting their blessings and gathering with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, I thought it would be fun to investigate the origins of several words commonly associated with the holiday. Enjoy!
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Thank comes from the Old English word thanc, which is derived from the prehistoric Germanic thangk, with a root idea of thoughtfulness. The English word think comes from the same root. It’s easy to see how our word for expressing gratitude originated from the concept of thinking or giving thoughtful consideration. A twelfth-century translation of Matthew 15:19 reads, “From the heart come evil thanks.” By the early sixteenth century the same verse was rendered, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts” (KJV). To give thanks is to think about and express one’s gratitude for something. And what better way to say “thank you” than by enjoying a big feast. Continue reading “Five Thanksgiving Words”
Do we use an apostrophe or not?
[First published in November 2013 on my Why a Duck? blog, the following post was one of the more popular ones. With thirty-seven short days until Christmas, it seemed a good time to pull it out of my barrel and share it with you .]
’Tis the season to send greeting cards and party invitations and to exchange gifts. How do you sign a card or gift tag when you want to say it’s from you, your spouse, the kids, and the dog (okay, even from the cat)? That is, the entire [insert appropriate name] family. Specifically, where do you put the stinking apostrophe? Or is there an apostrophe? Continue reading “How to Sign Your Holiday Cards, Gifts, and Invitations”
A short history and punctuation primer.
Today we honor and thank those who have served our country in the U.S. armed forces in wartime. Originally called Armistice Day—to commemorate the signing of the armistice that ended World War I on November 11, 1918—the name of the legal holiday was changed to Veterans Day in 1954 to honor all Americans who have served during times of armed conflict. The proclamation, signed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, read in part: “Whereas, in order that . . . a grateful Nation might pay appropriate homage to the veterans of all its wars who have contributed so much to the preservation of this Nation, the Congress, by an act approved June 1, 1954 . . . changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day.”
Why is the holiday written Veterans Day without an apostrophe in there somewhere? Why not Veterans’ Day or even Veteran’s Day? After all, don’t we always use an apostrophe with possessives? Continue reading “Veterans Day”
Should we ever use “irregardless”?
Congratulations to the Chicago Cubs for breaking their 108-year World Series championship drought. I’m an LA Dodgers fan, but I appreciate the Cubs’ achievement and give them kudos for it. It was a great Series, in which the Cubs beat the Cleveland Indians in seven games.
Early in the deciding seventh game two nights ago, announcer Joe Buck used the word irregardless. I heard him and made mental note of it because irregardless is not accepted English usage, something well known to language mavens. I didn’t think any more of it—after all, this was a live, unscripted television broadcast, and even the most scrupulous grammar police can slip up on occasion. But evidently it sorely bothered a lot of folk, who took to social media to complain. Merriam-Webster Online even joined the fray with a supercilious attempt to put word nerds in their place by asserting that irregardless is in fact a word and is in the dictionary. Here’s a line from their article: “Irregardless last night reared its monstrous head, and, bellowing its unspeakable name, caused a nation of terror-stricken waifs to whimper and mewl.” Continue reading “It Was a Great Series Irregardless”
Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, coined a term for words created by combining the sounds and meanings of two (or more) different words: he called it a portmanteau [port-MAN-toe] word. The next time something tickles your funny bone and makes you chuckle and snort, you can thank Mr. Carroll for the descriptive word chortle. He also gave us galumph (gallop + triumph, or a triumphant gallop). I challenge you to work those words into a meaningful conversation tomorrow with a loved one, teacher, or client. They will be impressed.
A portmanteau word is created when smoke is blended with fog (=smog), when gigantic is combined with enormous (=ginormous), when information is combined with commercial (=infomercial), when education is combined with entertainment (=edutainment), and when Oxford is combined with Cambridge (=Oxbridge).
Now that we’ve been enlightened by this life-changing term, portmanteau word, here’s a list of ten more, used somewhere in the world every day:
- aerobicize (aerobic + exercise)
- blog (web + log)
- brunch (breakfast + lunch)
- docudrama (documentary + drama)
- emoticon (emotion + icon)
- fantabulous (fantastic + fabulous)
- motel (motor + hotel)
- simulcast (simultaneous + broadcast)
- televangelist (television + evangelist)
- Vitameatavegamin (a portmanteau word on steroids: vitamins + meat + vegetables + minerals. From I Love Lucy, season 1, episode 30.)
Your turn. Please share a portmanteau word you’ve used or have heard used. If it’s your own made-up word, that’s great—as long as it’s one you have actually used with real people. Kindly observe proper netiquette (Internet + etiquette) at all times. Δ
 Linguists use the term blend.
 The source for most of the information in this post is Bryan A. Garner, Garner’s Modern American Usage (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 644.
© 2016 by Dean Christensen. All rights reserved.
Most “God” words are actually “god” words.
When I write a word with “God” in it, I sometimes need to pause to make sure I’m capitalizing—or not capitalizing—the word appropriately. Given my lifelong Christian faith, my first thought is to capitalize almost all such words. If “God” is in it, out of reverence, the word should be capitalized. But is that necessary or grammatically correct?
The truth is, most “God” words are actually “god” words, with lowercase g’s, and writing them according to long-established and widely accepted conventions of Standard Written English does not make a person of faith less faithful. Let’s consider the most common “God” words. I’ve consulted several sources for this, including Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed., and The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style. Continue reading “How to Write “God” Words”
Recommended for church leaders and interested believers.
I’m grateful for the opportunity the past few years to copyedit several books authored by Dr. John L. Amstutz, missionary, professor, leadership trainer, pastor, and long-time denominational leader in the Foursquare Church. Beyond that, he is a genuine Christian and a godly man. A few days ago I completed a fourth manuscript for Dr. Amstutz: Great Commission Church Movements: Learning from the Early Church, God’s Missionary People, to be published early next year.
Pictured here are two earlier titles I had the privilege of copyediting. Dr. Amstutz is making a positive difference in the world and I’m thankful to help in a small way.
All are published by Editorial RENUEVO (www.EditorialRenuevo.com).