Wednesday, November 27, 2019

What are Kangaroo Words?

What are kangaroo words?  If you guessed that they are some form of Australian slang, you're absolutely wrong.  In fact, a kangaroo word is a word that contains the letters of another synonymous word in its correct sequence, the same way that baby kangaroos, known as joeys, are carried in their mother's pouch.  The second word is smaller, but it means the same thing as the first word.  It's a sort of mini-me.

For example, MASCULINE is a kangaroo word because it contains the word MALE, which is a synonym of the first word.  Similarly, the word ALONE contains its synonym, LONE.  It also contains a second synonym, ONE.

BLOSSOM is another kangaroo word because it contains the synonym BLOOM.


There are countless kangaroo words.  Here is a list of some of them.

ASTOUND contains the word STUN.

BELATED contains the word LATE.

CHICKEN contains the word HEN.

CONTAMINATE contains the word TAINT.

DECEASED  contains the word DEAD.

ENCOURAGE contains the word URGE.

ENJOYMENT contains the word JOY.

FEAST contains the word EAT.

GIGANTIC contains the word GIANT.

INHUMANE contains the word INHUMAN.

INSIGNIA contains the word SIGN.

MUNICIPALITY contains the word CITY.

PLUSH contains the word LUSH.

RESPITE contains the word REST.

SALVAGE contains the word SAVE.
VERACITY contains the word VERITY.

Quote of the Day

"Some birds are not meat to be caged., that's all.  Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild.  So you let them go, or when you open the cage to free them they somehow fly out past you.  And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their 

- Stephen King (1947- ), American author
From Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption: A Story from Different Seasson

- Joanne

Monday, November 18, 2019

Don Cherry and the power of words

"Stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me."

The above aphorism is often used in schoolyards as  a response to bullying.  One of the earliest uses of the phrase can be found in the Christian Recorder, an American periodical with a large Black readership.  Here is the citation from March, 1862: "Remember the old adage 'Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me'.  True courage consists in doing what is right, despite the jeers and sneers of our companions."

Since childhood, I have been reminded of those proverbial "sticks and stones."  Yet the old saying has grown shopworn in the 21st century.  It has become outdated in the Age of the Internet and social media.  Not only that, but it is patently false.  Words do hurt.  They may not hurt physically, but they hurt emotionally.  They harm the human psyche.  Words may not break bones, but they certainly break hearts.  Words wield immense power.  Bruises and bones can heal, but the sting of hurtful words can last a lifetime. That's the reason why there is so much verbal bullying.

All of this brings me to the recent controversy in Canada over hockey commentator Don Cherry's firing and his remarks on "Coach's Corner."  Many Canadians have a soft spot for Donald S. Cherry.  They admire him for speaking his mind.  It's also true that the 85-year-old Cherry donates a great deal of his time and money to charitable causes.  For this, he deserves credit.  For his hurtful words, he does not.  He deserves to be fired.  Here's what he said:

"You people . . . you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple of bucks for a poppy or something like that."

For years, Cherry has had a large audience and a great deal of influence.  The man is as flamboyant and outspoken as his loud suits.  Although I rarely agree with him, he is perfectly entitled to speak his mind.  However, there are limits to free speech and Cherry crossed the line.  He spoke words that are untrue and very hurtful to many people.  He spoke words that sparked resentment toward immigrants and new Canadians. He came close to saying, like another Donald, south of the border, that they should go back to where they came from.

If Don Cherry wants to praise veterans, that's his prerogative.  If he wants to lament the lack of poppies on lapels, that's also his prerogative, although I did not notice that to be true.  (I saw plenty of poppies here in Toronto, where I live).  Cherry and his fans don't seem to realize that free speech cannot be absolute.  Even in a democratic society, there are limits to free speech.  Cherry crossed the line.  He was fired because he went too far.  If only he had ended his rant with his complaint about not enough poppies being sold.  Unfortunately, he did not.

Don Cherry is disingenuous when he denies that he holds bigoted views.  He regards himself as a great patriot. (I also respect veterans, but I find "Grapes" to be too jingoistic)  The issue, however, is not poppies and veterans.  The issue is not whether Don Cherry holds jingoistic views..  The truth is that Mr. Cherry is xenophobic and that he has aimed his criticism directly at immigrants and non-whites.  His devotees know exactly what he meant when he used the ugly expression "you people."  Immigrants and non-WASPS also know exactly what he meant.  How could Cherry identify "you people" except for the colour of their skin or their religious symbols?  When he talked about "you people," he wan't referring to Norwegian immigrants or Scottish immigrants.

The fact is that many non-whites have served in the Canadian military with distinction.  They shouldn't have to be insulted on national television.  Why do people like Don Cherry assume that immigrants do not have a sense of loyalty to Canada?  Why do they assume that if someone does not look Anglo-Saxon or Celtic, that he or she is not a "real Canadian" or that they couldn't have been born in Canada?  Cherry's words hurt.  As someone of non-Anglo-Saxon or Celtic background, Cherry's comments hurt me.  I am the Canadian-born granddaughter of immigrants from Italy.  I describe my self as a Canadian of Italian descent.  Although I am fiercely proud of my Italian heritage, I have never lived in Italy.  I am not fluent in the Italian language and I am not an Italian citizen.  My skin is olive and I look southern European, but I am Canadian to the core.

Don Cherry suggested that immigrants come to this land of milk and hone and don't give back in return.  He accused them of not even shelling out some money for a poppy,  He questioned their loyalty to Canada.  He was dead wrong.  I wonder if he has any idea about how much immigrants have contributed to this nation.?  Can you imagine if all the immigrants in Canada stopped working for one day or one week?   Our country could not function.  Due to his popularity and his huge following, Cherry's egregious remarks have sewn more seeds of division in Canada.

Don Cherry is an anachronism.  The world has changed and Canada has changed, but Cherry has refused to adapt to those changes.  He can't accept a multicultural Canada.  He wants to live in the past where almost everyone was white, Anglo-Saxon and Protestant, women knew their place and boys were boys.

Cherry is a polarizing figure.  Those who like him really like him.  I have heard complaints that "You can't say anything anymore" and that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wore blackface years ago.  Here is my response: Free speech has limits.  It does not consist of hateful untruths. Don Cherry has had plenty of time to express his opinions.  He has had his say for decades on Hockey Night in Canada.  As for the PM, Justin Trudeau has been severely criticized for his lack of judgement and he apologized profusely. He has always been supportive of an inclusive Canada.

Don Cherry's time in the spotlight has come and gone.  He has a vision of a Canada that no longer exists except in small pockets in small towns.  He may have kept his job if he had apologized.  His apology wouldn't have been sincere, though, because he meant what he said.  Like that other Donald south of the border, he doesn't believe he did anything wrong.

- Joanne

Monday, November 11, 2019

Five Guidelines for Living

Number 16 presents five guidelines to help you cope with the vicissitudes and difficulties of life.  Keep in mind that there are many more and that these are just a small sample.


1.  Groundhog Day is just a movie.  There are no dress rehearsals in real life.  Sometimes we are given chances to do better, but we can never go back in time and completely erase our original mistakes.  What's done is done and we have to live with the past and move on.  Time is not a renewable resource.  That is why the wisest among us learn from the past, live in the present and prepare for the future.

2.  To err is human, but there are many things we can do about our most egregious mistakes and shortcomings.  We can acknowledge them, learn from them, apologize for them, atone for them and try not to repeat them.  What we can't do or shouldn't do is pretend that they didn't happen.

3.  Some mysteries are beyond human comprehension and human understanding. No one has an answer or an explanation for everything.

4.  Try to look at all sides of an issue, even opinions you disagree with.  That doesn't mean you have to change your mind.  It just means you should not be so rigid as to refuse to give other views a thought, even those which are immoral and reprehensible to you  It is worthwhile to ask yourself why some people hold such opinions.  You should continually examine your own beliefs and those of others.

5.  Try not to panic.  In times of crisis, we always fare better when we remain calm and in control.  Panicking never put out a fire.

- Joanne

Friday, November 1, 2019

The language of Donald Trump


'When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’

’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.”     

- Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), English writer of fiction
From Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There

In Chapter 6 of Lewis Carroll's Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland, Alice meets Humpty Dumpty, the nursery rhyme egg.  In the course of their conversation, Humpty expresses his philosophy about words and language.  He boldly declares that when he uses a word, it means just what he chooses it to mean.

U.S. President Donald Trump's espouses the same philosophy as Humpty Dumpty in Looking Glass.
Trump is a master at using language to mislead and misinform.  He endlessly repeats words and slogans until his supporters are so completely brain-washed that they repeat his chants in a cult-like fashion.  How many times have we heard "witch-hunt" and "treason" and "no collusion?"  It's brain-numbing, exhausting and extremely annoying.

Let's examine two of Trump's favourite words - "witch-hunt" and "treason."

In its historical sense, a witch-hunt is a hunt for and subsequent persecution of persons accused of being witches, as in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts.  In a more informal sense, it is a campaign against a person or group holding unorthodox or unpopular opinions.  Since this is not the 17th century, and no one is accusing the president and his followers of being witches, Trump must be referring to the more informal meaning of the term "witch-hunt."  However, Trump and his followers are free to express their opinions as much as they want in a democratic country.  They are protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing freedom of speech.  The press regular reports on his rantings and he tweets to his heart's content. 

The truth is that what Donald Trump calls "witch-hunts" are the legitimate and necessary investigations into his criminal behaviour and activities.  Special Investigator Robert Mueller, in his report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, found evidence that Trump obstructed justice.  That is a crime.  Trump is now facing impeachment because he has admitted to calling a foreign leader (Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky) and asking him to dig up dirt on a political opponent - Joe Biden, and Biden's son, Hunter.  According to a whistleblower, the call was made as part of a campaign by Trump and his administration to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Bidens. 

Alexander Vindman, a decorated U.S, Army officer and top White House Ukraine expert, told congressional investigators that Trump was blocking $400 million in security aid to force that country to publicly announce an investigation into Biden and his son.  That is against the law.

Now, let's look at the word "treason."  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines treason as "the offense of attempting overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign's family"  It is a very serious offence, but President Trump justs throw around the word.  It's as if anyone who criticizes him or is disloyal to him is guilty of treason.  Treason involves disloyalty to the state or an attempt to overthrow the state.  Donald Trump is not the state.  He is not America. 

Donald Trump has broken the  law, and contrary to what Trump believes, an American president is NOT above the law.  That is why the process of impeachment is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.  A president must be accountable for "high crimes and misdemeanors.'  In addition, Trump and the White House have continually attempted to stonewall investigations by withholding information and ignoring congressional subpoenas.

Humpty Dumpty's theory of language, echoed by Donald Trump, is very dangerous to society and to democracy.  If words can mean anything, then words mean nothing.  They lose their meaning.  A drastic loss of communication ensues.  It can become downright Orwellian as in Nineteen Eighty-Four's "Newspeak."  Therein lies the path to authoritarianism or totalitarianism.

Below is an image of Donald Trump as King Louis XIV of France, known as the "Sun King."  Louis famously stated "L'etat c'est moi." ("I am the state.).

- Joanne