Monthly Archives: January 2015

Fans split on Super Bowl outcome

interested in fitness and athletics provided their picks for Sunday’s Super Bowl. The participants came up with an almost even split. And most predict a close game. Here are their opinions:

Albert Gonzales, a retired state government employee, is a Bronco fan who picks the Patriots because they have “power and all-around defense. It’ll be a close game.”

Jason Green, a fitness tech, is a senior majoring in forestry at Highlands. Like many others, he roots for the Broncos, but since his team isn’t in the big game, he picks the Patriots by 12 points. Why: “They’re better prepared … they want it more.”

Juan Jauregui, another forestry major at Highlands and a senior from Sapello, doesn’t have a favorite team; he expects the Seahawks to win. “From what I’ve seen, watching how they want to win, I pick Seattle in a close game.” Continue reading

I are right, amn’t I?

An inveterate verbophile, I’ve always been interested in words, what they mean, why they mean, why they can hurt and heal. Remember that bit of doggerel about “sticks and stones” that may “break my bones”?

I like to think my vocabulary is on par with the next person’s, but even after seven decades of pondering, deciphering, memorizing and manipulating words, I often come across new ones. A friend and frequent contributor to this column, Bruce Wertz, hit his Facebook friends with a word that is new to many: “hyperpolysyllabicomania.” Thanks to some fairly predictable Greek and Latin roots, we can figure out that Bruce’s new entry has to do with “ultra,” ”many,” “syllables” and a passion, as in the ending, “mania.” So without even looking up the definition, we safely come up with Bruce’s passion for long words.

But beyond long words, what about those with prefixes that connote similar things? For example, think of the myriad words beginning with “sp” that suggest water: spill, spurt, splash, sputter. How many more can you add to the list without consulting a dictionary?

And just recently (“recently” for a person my age could span decades, eons), I became familiar with the “fl” prefix which suggests rapid movement. Try it: fling, flick, flay, flip. Now, provide some of your own. Continue reading

Remember English usage exam?

As I look back, almost exactly 50 years, to the time when all Highlands students who hoped to graduate needed to pass the university-devised English Usage Exam, I realize it wasn’t so hard after all.

The anticipation of hurdles, in my experience, is far worse than the reality. “What if I don’t pass the exam? Will that mean I can’t graduate?” we’d ask ourselves. Indeed, failure to pass it meant taking it again until we passed, but I forget the requisite waiting period before re-taking. At the time, Highlands was under the quarter system, with each term lasting about 10 weeks. I suspect those who failed the exam needed to wait until the following quarter.

The word “English” in the title of the since-discontinued exam was a misnomer. That implied it was a specialized test for English majors that required learning and retaining hosts of terms like passive voice, run-on sentences, gerunds and fragments.

Not so. It was simply an examination that required clear, concise English. But unfortunately, in my years of teaching at Highlands, I became accustomed to hearing students posit that the test was something designed exclusively for English majors. Continue reading

Eating umble pie

This being my first column of the year 2015, I wish to return to my main preoccupation. Actually, the preoccupation properly expressed would be Katherine Zeta Jones. But for now I’ll settle for a less exciting passion: words.

I was surprised to discover that “vape” has become a word to describe inhaling those electronic cigarettes — or e-cigs — that I’ve never even seen, except in magazine ads.

And there’s that duo, “actually” and “literally,” now sprinkled into much teen-speak, as in “Actually, I literally ripped his lungs out when he insulted me.

And we have “like,” my guess to be the most common filler word in the lexicon, despite its usually having no meaning, no function in language, like except in constructions like “I like those wheels, man,” or “You look like my sister.”

But for now, let’s like narrow down this grammar lesson to a word that rears its head every election cycle. I’ve alluded to this speech mannerism in the past, but I’m convinced its use has become much more common lately. I’m referring to the word “humbled.” Continue reading