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Posts Tagged ‘meaning’

Given several untimely celebrity deaths of-late, and the content of our yesterday’s blog post on the multiple definitions of words, this post is eerily related.

We saw this People Magazine news headline today, and it just reinforced the fact that our English language is complex. Many words have many meanings and perceptions can frequently transport us among those meanings …

“Quincy Jones Tears Up When Hearing Michael’s Music”

(click here for the real story)

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

quincy jones tears up

We are truly not trying to be irreverent here … let’s just take a look at an interesting four-letter word: tear.

1. tear.  noun. pronounced [teer]

  • a drop of the saline, watery fluid continually secreted by the lacrimal glands between the surface of the eye and the eyelid, serving to moisten and lubricate these parts and keep them clear of foreign particles.
  • this fluid appearing in or flowing from the eye as the result of emotion, esp. grief.
  • something resembling or suggesting a tear, as a drop of a liquid or a tearlike mass of a solid substance, esp. having a spherical or globular shape at one end and tapering to a point at the other.
  • Glassmaking. a decorative air bubble enclosed in a glass vessel; air bell.
  • tears, grief; sorrow.

tear. verb (used without object)

  • to fill up and overflow with tears, as the eyes.

tear. Idiom

  • in tears

2. tear. verb (used with object). pronounced [tair]

  • to pull apart or in pieces by force, esp. so as to leave ragged or irregular edges.
  • to pull or snatch violently; wrench away with force: to tear wrappings from a package; to tear a book from someone’s hands. 
  • to distress greatly: anguish that tears the heart.
  • to divide or disrupt: a country torn by civil war. 
  • to wound or injure by or as if by rending; lacerate.
  • to produce or effect by rending: to tear a hole in one’s coat. 
  • to remove by force or effort: to be unable to tear oneself from a place. 

tear. verb (used without object)

  • to become torn.
  • to make a tear or rent.
  • to move or behave with force, violent haste, or energy: The wind tore through the trees; cars tearing up and down the highway; I was tearing around all afternoon trying to find sandals for the beach. 

tear. noun the act of tearing.

  • a rent or fissure.
  • a rage or passion; violent flurry or outburst.
  • Informal. a spree.

tear. Verb phrases: tear at, tear down, tear into, tear off, tear up

tear. Idioms: tear it, tear one’s hair, tear one’s hair out

More coincidence …

Rip is a synonym for tear [tair], as in to break, split, or shred. And, R.I.P., as you likely know, stands for Rest In Peace, which is what we wish for all who have met their mortality.

Source: dictionary.com

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A few weeks ago, we were copied on an email that had this amusing passage:

“You lovers of the English language might enjoy this.

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is “up.”

up

It’s easy to understand up, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken [sic] in the morning, why do we wake up? At a meeting, why does a topic come up? Why do we speak up and why are the officers up for election and why is it up to the secretary to write up a report?

We call up our friends. And we use it to brighten up a room, polish up the silver; we warm up the leftovers and clean up the kitchen. We lock up the house and some guys fix up the old car …  At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir up trouble, line up for tickets, work up an appetite, and think up excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed up is special.

And this up is confusing: A drain must be opened up because it is stopped up. We open up a store in the morning but we close it up at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed up about up! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of up, look the word up in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes up almost 1/4th of the page and can add up to about thirty definitions. If you are up to it, you might try building up a list of the many ways up is used. It will take up a lot of your time, but if you don’t give up, you may wind up with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding up. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing up

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things up.  When it doesn’t rain for awhile, things dry up. One could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it up, for now my time is up, so … it is time to shut up! Oh … one more thing:

What is the first thing you do in the morning & the last thing you do at night? U-P.”

As comical as this is, we were curious about the claim re: up, “perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word.” For years, we have been under the impression that, in the English language, the word (regardless of the number of letters in the word) with the most definitions is “run.” So, we went digging around …

Here’s what we found out, per the Oxford English Dictionary, about words with the most definitions … the top ten:

  1. set (464 definitions)
  2. run (396 definitions)
  3. go (368 definitions)
  4. take (343 definitions)
  5. stand (334 definitions)
  6. get (289 definitions)
  7. turn (288 definitions)
  8. put (268 definitions)
  9. fall (264 definitions)
  10. strike (250 definitions)

Now we have learned that the word “up” doesn’t even make the top ten, nor does it come close to the two-letter word “go,” which graces the list at position three. However, we also learned that our impression about the word “run” was wrong. Can we even say we were close, being 68 definitions behind the number-one ranked word “set“?

Who really cares? Well, besides those of us who have obsessions with words, grammar, etc., many English language learners care because they want to learn to use our language correctly … bless their hearts. If you are a native English speaker, it’s likely difficult for you to imagine yourself making your way through a language that has almost 500 definitions for a single word, much less navigating its complex set of rules of grammar and usage. Wow!

Here’s one little three-letter versatile powerhouse … Set can be a verb, a noun, an adjective, or an interjection … it can be used with or without an object, and it is the mainstay of many phrases, such as: set about, set against, set ahead, set apart, set aside, set back, set by, set down, set forth, set in, set off, set on, set out, set to, and set up. Set also appears in several idioms, including set forward, set one’s face against, set store by, and get set! (definitions of which you can find at dictionary.com).

We will not list all of the definitions for set, rather, we choose to leave you with this … we’re off to set the table for dinner but we don’t need to set a fire because the 105 degree heat in Austin today set another record. We just watched a set or two of tennis on the TV set before writing this post to set the record straight. We discussed a set of words in our blog after we set the timer on the sprinkler, both of which set our mind at ease. The date is set for our next party at which we hope to set a good example of holiday entertaining. We must set down the pen to type, but we no longer need to set type to print our articles. That beautiful ring we saw the other day is set with gorgeous stones, but it would set us back too much to afford it. We didn’t fall on the stage set, however, once the bone was broken, the doctor had to set it for it to heal properly. Now, having set our minds to it, we’re now going for the set of golf clubs and hit the links … before we set ourselves down and watch the sun set

All set?

 

set

Sources: Oxford English Dictionary, dictionary.com

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Punctuation is a device used to assist the reader. Punctuation is defined as the practice or system of using certain conventional marks or characters in writing or printing in order to separate elements and make the meaning clear, as in ending a sentence.

Today’s subject: “end marks:”

1.        the period “.”

2.        the question mark “?”

3.        the exclamation point “!”

1. A statement is followed by (ended with) a period. Periods follow declarative sentences, sentences that make statements. Further, a declarative sentence containing an indirect question is followed by a period, not a question mark. “A reader asked why that is.”

The period is often used for terminal purposes when a sentence is not involved, as after numbers in a list:

1.        there is

2.        a period

3.        after each

4.        bullet number

In addition, the period is used to terminate many abbreviations: e.g., i.e., Mr., Dr., Ms., Rev., etc.. (Did you notice the “double period” there? the first period is to terminate the abbreviation “etc.,” and the second period is to complete the sentence.)

Our favorite … possibly overused … is the three periods … used to indicate the omission of one or more words or sentences in a quotation: “I pledge allegiance … to the republic …” Notice this additional period which terminates a sentence in a longer quote: “Shakesperare was born in 1564. … He married Anne Hathaway in 1582.”

2. Why is a question is followed by (ended with) a question mark? Again, to make meaning clear to the reader. Let’s look at examples:

  • A direct question with the word order as an interrogative sentence, “Why did you visit our site today?”
  • A direct question with the word order as a declarative sentence, “A fish can drown?” (This one could also be a statement, “A fish can drown.” (ended with a period).)

Remember, though, that a declarative sentence which contains an indirect question is ended with a period. “Someone asked us what keeps readers coming back.”

Here’s a twist … Readers sometimes ask us, “When are you going to post a new poll?” In other words, “we are often asked when we will post a new poll.”

3. We want to make a strong expression of feeling about this end mark! We caution against using the exclamation point to indicate only mild emotion. Most writing guides suggest that the overuse of exclamation points will dull the effectiveness of the mark. This is not nonsense! We totally agree!! Pay attention!!!

Helpful sources:

Warriner, John E., Mary E. Whitten, and Francis Griffith. English Grammar and Composition. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1965.

Hopper, Vincent F., Cederic Gale, Ronald C. Foote, and Benjamin W. Griffith. A Pocket Guide to Correct Grammar. New York: Barron’s Educational Service, Inc., 1984.

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