RE: Robert Lee, Confederates, and Related Nonsense
ESPN announced yesterday (or the day before—it doesn’t matter) that one of their broadcasters, an Asian American by the name of Robert Lee, who was scheduled to cover a football game in Virginia this weekend, was pulled from the assignment because (are you ready for it?) someone might be offended by the similarity of the man’s name to that of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who, as we all know, is offending plenty of folks lately with his frightening statues. What in the world is going on with these pantywaist ESPN execs?
So my question is, where will the insanity end? What’s next in Zanyville, USA? Continue reading “From the Wacky-News Desk”
How many of these do you know?
I wrote an article last summer for this blog about “clipped” words—longer words that are commonly shortened—and how to spell them. It’s easy to see how many multi-syllable words came to be abbreviated, because that’s the nature of informal communications. It’s is how we talk, and the spellings of most clipped forms are straightforward. For example, we obviously get phone from telephone, photo from photograph, and bio from biography—all easy to understand and simple to spell. Continue reading “Common Clipped Words and Their Origins”
Do you know where all ten of these Christmas terms came from?
The Christmas season is “the most wonderful time of the year” for many of us. Just think of all the words we use during no other season—which makes them “unusual.” The following ten words are among them. [Please do feel free to share this article and my blogsite.)
1. Advent – Advent is derived from the Latin word for “the coming.” By the end of the sixth century, Pope Gregory I had instituted in the Roman church the practice of conducting a special mass on each of the four Sundays leading up to “the coming” of the Christ-child. Similar to Lent, the season of Advent included fasting and penitence followed by a time of celebration. Eventually, the penitential nature of Advent gave way exclusively to the celebratory nature. Today, Advent is still celebrated in many churches, with each Sunday featuring a different theme, such as the prophecies of Jesus’ birth, the Annunciation to Mary, the visitation of the angels and shepherds, or the gifts of the wise men. Continue reading “Unusual Words Associated with Christmas”
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”
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”