Sunday, July 23, 2017

Misinformation & Disinformation


Ben from Traverse City asked about the difference between disinformation and misinformation. Let’s start with the base word information. Information is knowledge communicated about some particular fact, subject, or event.

According to the Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd ed., there are about 33 negative prefixes – variations on the concept of  “not.”  Some of them simply signify the absence of something; they are not judgmental. Some of them are pejorative or point to blame.

The prefix dis- carries more than a whiff of blame. It can signify that something was deliberately withheld or manipulated. The word disinformation falls within that realm. It signifies the dissemination of deliberately false information, something practiced by many governments and all spy agencies.

The prefix mis- is neutral in its connotation. It signifies that something is factually incorrect, but not because information was manipulated.  Misinformation is inaccurate, but it is not an attempt to deceive. People of goodwill will scramble to correct their mistake when it is discovered. Dissemblers will continue to lie with a straight face to protect their disinformation.


Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about two year’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.






Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Portmanteau Words


Veronica from Traverse City, Michigan, asked for the name of words that are formed by mashing them together. Traditionally, they are called blends. Thanks to Lewis Carroll (Through the Looking Glass), they are also called portmanteau words because two meanings are packed together, as if in a valise.

Some of them are so common that we no longer see them as two words blended together. This is true of goodbye (God be with ye), smog (smoke + fog), and motel (motor + hotel).

The internet (international + network) has produced many blends. Among them are webcast, podcast, webinar, netiquette, bit, netizen, digerati, emoticon, shareware, malware, and sexting. Crossbreeding has given us labradoodle, cockapoo, jackalope, liger, and beefalo. Showbiz (show + business) has contributed docudrama, biopic, edutainment, infotainment, mockumentary, simulcast, and sitcom.

Other blends frequently encountered include affluenza, avionics, brainiac, bromance, chillax, cremains, guesstimate, metrosexual, sexploitation, stagflation, and workaholic.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about two year’s worth of podcasts herehttp://wtcmradio.com/words-to-the-wise/





Saturday, July 01, 2017

Hot Dog!


Jim from Petoskey, Michigan, asked why the humble hot dog has more than one name. As often happens when naming food or drink, territoriality is involved.

Those who maintain that the item was invented in Vienna call it a wiener. In German, that means of Vienna. Others tout Frankfort, Germany, as the source of the delicacy. They opt for the name frankfurter – of Frankfort.

The appellation hot dog seems to have been invented by Yale college students in the late nineteenth century, a sarcastic reference to meat whose provenance was in doubt. Disgustingly, some unscrupulous butchers in the 19th century (and earlier) were buying slaughtered dogs to add to their sausages. SeeBarry Popik’s column.

Speaking of territoriality, many cities or regions have their own version of the hot dog, and each claims to be the best. Visit the website of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council for a rundown on hot dogs across America. I was raised in Chicago, where it is a mortal sin to put catsup on a hot dog. Or even ketchup.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now

You’ll also find about two year’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.






Saturday, June 17, 2017

Udderly Slow



Jim from Northport wrote: “The other night on Wheel of Fortune, the contest phrase was, till the cows come home. I say that the use of till in that clause is incorrect, while my wife argues that it is correct. My logic is that you don't till cows. The word is supposed to be a contraction of the word until. Therefore the contest phrase should have been ‘til the cows come home. Please point us in the correct direction.”

As far as meaning goes, if you observe cows milling about, they are notoriously leisurely, and they wander almost aimlessly. So the image tells you that something is going to take so long that frustration is almost guaranteed.

Jim, I fear that your wife is correct. The heart of the matter here is that till is a word all by itself, not a shortened version of until. In addition,‘til is a fairly recent invention. It is not universally accepted as a contraction of until, and its use in formal writing is discouraged.

Adding to the difficulty is that the word till has multiple meanings. Additionally, it can function not only as a verb and a noun, but also as a preposition, a conjunction, and an adverb. In the case of till the cows come home, till functions as a subordinating conjunction; its role is to complete or enhance the meaning of the accompanying independent clause: “Junior, you can beg for the car keys till the cows come home, but it ain’t gonna happen.”

As a conjunction, till means “up to the time of,” and the first use cited in the Oxford English Dictionary is 1154. As a matching conjunction, until means “up to the time of,” and it doesn’t appear until 1330. So till and until are pretty much interchangeable in that sense.

What drew Jim off target was one of the verb meanings of till – to work the soil for planting. The figurative use of the verb means to cultivate some quality of mind or spirit. As a noun, till can refer to a drawer or money-box in a business, or to a stratum of hard clay or shale. But those meanings turn out to be irrelevant in this case.

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





Sunday, May 28, 2017

Whoever or Whomever?


Fran from Suttons Bay was watching reruns of Criminal Minds when she heard the following dialogue:  “The killer wants to inflict fear not only in the victim, but in whomever finds the body.”  She wonders if that should have been whoever.

The preposition in certainly does need an object, but an object isn’t always a single word; it can be a phrase or even an entire clause, which is the case here.

When trying to determine whether the pronoun in this sentence should be whoever or whomever, you have to determine exactly what it is doing -- what its function is. Whoever is the subject form; whomever is the object form.

A verb always needs a subject, whether overt or implied. The verb finds in this sentence needs a subject, and in this case that duty falls to the subject form of the pronoun, whoever. That means that whoever is automatically locked in and can't be used for two separate functions. The object of the preposition in is the entire clause: “in whoever finds the body.”


Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.





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