A wordy column full of words about words

I’ve had an almost lifelong fascination with words. Over the years, I’ve written about words fairly often, but not lately. Whenever I have done so, I have always received positive feedback. So here for your edification is a column about words! Think positive!
Think of all the “onym” words you know and use. Don’t they all have something to do with words? What are synonyms? Words with similar meanings. Antonyms? Words which are opposite, or “anti.” Acronyms? Words like radar or scuba; they’re words made up of the first letters of a series of words and pronounced as one word. “Radar” is for radio detection and ranging. “Scuba” is for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus.
So you already know quite a bit about words. But I wonder, how many of you know about some of the “onym” words below?


Rhubarb can be tasty when prepared right

Is rhubarb a fruit or a vegetable? Actually, rhubarb is a vegetable that originated in China, Tibet, Mongolia and Siberia. In the American colonies, John Bartram, of Philadelphia, is credited with the first planting of rhubarb seeds in the 1730s.
Although rhubarb is a vegetable, for purposes of regulations in the United States, since it is used primarily as a fruit, it is counted as such.
Rhubarb is usually cooked and sweetened with sugar. It is called “pie plant” because it is often used as a pie filling. It can be eaten raw with a little sugar sprinkled on it, but it is commonly used with other ingredients to produce a dessert or sauce.
When preparing rhubarb, discard the leaves. They contain toxic levels of oxalic acid. Rhubarb stalks can be stored in the refrigerator for five to seven days, unwashed and sealed in an airtight plastic bag or tightly wrapped in plastic.


Musicologists weigh in on earworms

A few years ago, I read an article by Stephen King about “earworms.” At that time, I’d never heard the expression before, but I looked it up and evidently it’s pretty common. Why didn’t I know that?

From what King said, “earworms” are tunes or songs that get stuck in the phonological part of our brains. We hear a song (or part of a song) and then we sing it or hum it over and over, sometimes audibly, sometimes just in our heads. King said the one that was stuck in his head was the jingle about “free credit reports.com.”

It’s as if a computer virus or “worm” has eaten its way into your cranial cortex and taken up residence there, and despite your best efforts, it hangs around for a long time.


Column: Dad sure knew how to weave a story

If you had known my dad, you’d know that he was a good storyteller. He loved to talk about things that happened when he was younger, and he had a real flair for language despite his not having gone to school beyond the eighth grade. He had a nice feel for narration and a good sense of humor.

So in early 2000, I asked Dad to sit down and write some of his stories so that our kids would have some of the oral tradition of our family to look at. I thought it was important to preserve them. So, for a while, he was pretty diligent about sending me some handwritten stories, even though he said he “didn’t know how to write,” insisting that he didn’t know about “spelling and punctuation and all that.”


Column: An old dog learns a new game

I’m very close to 80 years old and, until last weekend, I had never seen a lacrosse game. But our grandson, Carter, plays lacrosse, so we went to see his game on a chilly Sunday afternoon in May.

It wasn’t very hard to pick up how the game is played, but there were whistles for violations that I knew nothing about. But that’s not surprising: I watched our daughter play field hockey for four years in high school and never understood all the whistles in that game, either.

Carter’s team was a “senior” team – seventh- and eighth-graders – part of the Brookfield Lacrosse Association. Like any sport involving kids in that age group, there were many different sizes and shapes on the field. Size didn’t seem to be important; speed and stick handling did.


Column: Farmers’ luck is wrapped up in IFs

Most of my readers know that I grew up on a farm on Konitzer Road south of Oconto Falls. Because of that, I have great respect for farmers and their philosophical approach to life. I have always felt that farmers are the world’s biggest gamblers. It’s a crap shoot every year for them. Luck plays a major role in their lives. They have to be willing to gamble that the work and expense they put into their farms will pay off. And if it doesn’t … there’s always next year.

In John 12:2, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”


Amazing feeding costs for the birds

Last week, I wrote about my fascination with watching the birds at our feeder in the backyard. In the week since I wrote that, we have had the good fortune of having some beautiful new visitors come in to chow down and entertain us. The most spectacular was an indigo bunting. Gorgeous!

While I was at Fleet Farm this week buying another 40 pounds of feed, I bumped into a former student from 50 years ago who was also stocking up on supplies for her feeders. She told me that she had read an article that talked about the astronomical amount of money which is spent annually on this activity, now second only to gardening as a hobby in the U.S. She couldn’t remember the specifics, so I went home and did a little research on the internet.

In 2015, the last year for which I could find figures, 52.5 million American households (almost half) were feeding the birds. Those 52.5 million households averaged $59.73 per year for bird food. That’s over $3 billion.


Bird feeders bring endless entertainment

Because of some health problems, I’m considerably less active than I used to be a few years ago. I used to spend a lot of time outdoors, walking 18 holes of golf several days a week, biking, hiking, doing yardwork, etc.

Now that I can no longer do all those “active” things, I take pleasure in less strenuous activities. I read a lot, I write, I carve, I play some cards with friends. One of my favorite activities is watching the birds in our backyard.

A couple of years ago, we moved to a new home in a neighborhood completely across the city from where we’d lived for the previous 18 years. At our old house, I fed the birds on a bunch of feeders suspended from the branches of the trees in our enclosed patio. I think the birds liked it there because it was protected from the cold north and west winds. We had many birds who visited the feeders every day. (Not to mention the squirrels and chipmunks who fed there every day, as well.)


Roger VanHaren: Dogs play an important part in our lives

Just in time for football season last fall, State Farm kicked off a new ad featuring Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers and LB Clay Matthews, but as it turned out the real star of the ad was Rigsbee (supposedly Aaron’s dog, but not really).

The ad featured Aaron and Rigsbee recalling the memories they’ve shared together after Clay has a mishap with a drone and Aaron’s truck over the seven years that he had it. They play Frisbee, sleep on the beach, ride with their heads out windows, tongues flapping. Rodgers and Matthews are stars on the field, but Rigsbee stole the show in this commercial!

Dogs play a crucial role in our culture. Some dogs are used to rescue those in need; others are used to assist people who may need a little extra help with everyday tasks; some are used in the war on drugs; others lead the blind or act as service dogs for disabled people.


Mother Nature must be colluding with Russians

As I’m writing this, it’s April 16, and I’ve just come in from snowblowing 10 inches of heavy, wet snow from my driveway. When I was finished, there was still a 2-inch-thick crust of ice clinging tenaciously to the concrete. It’s just not right to have to be doing that kind of work in mid-April. And I heard there will be more snow coming in the next two days! Whatever happened to April showers that bring May flowers?

I’m beginning to think that maybe Mother Nature (or maybe that stupid groundhog!) are in collusion with Russia. The Russians seem to be to blame for everything else that’s gone wrong in the world; why not the weather?


Subscribe to RSS - Opinions