Bob Tamasy: A Little Of ‘Dis’ – And Something About Dat

Thursday, February 20, 2014 - by Bob Tamasy

We interrupt this program for an important announcement from our sponsor. Not really, but from time to time I like to divert into the fascinating (to me) world of words, especially since those are the tools of my trade.

Years ago I was in Hungary, the nation from which my grandparents immigrated. (I could have dangled a participle there, but chose not to – oops!) Possessing about 10 Hungarian words in my vocabulary, I commented to a new friend I’d been informed Hungarian is one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn. “Oh, it’s not very hard,” he replied. “All of my grandchildren speak it.” (Rim shot, please.) But in actuality, I can’t think of a harder language to learn than American English – unless you’re born in the United States and that’s all you’ve ever heard. Even then, someone from Maine speaking to someone in Louisiana might need a translator.

The problem is there are so many exceptions to the rules. There’s “i” before “e,” except after “c.” (Along with some other exceptions.) There are words spelled virtually the same, but pronounced totally differently – like rough, which rhymes with tough, but not with through, or cough, or bough. Huh?

And then there’s the suffix “dis.” In many instances, adding “dis” to a word makes it take on the opposite meaning. Like appear and disappear, or satisfaction and dissatisfaction. But sometimes if you remove the “dis” you end up with a word that doesn’t mean the opposite, or the letters remaining don’t even make up a word.

For instance, discombobulated means to be confused or bewildered. But we don’t describe clear thinkers as being “combobulated.” When we see someone poorly dressed or untidy, we might describe her as disheveled. But have you ever referred to a well-dressed individual as “heveled”?

We understand that a person that’s discouraged might be lacking in courage. We disassemble things that have been assembled, we disengage things that formerly were engaged (even though couples that were engaged to marry are not called "disengaged" when they call the whole thing off), and do a disservice when we fail to provide some type of needed service.

But although we dispense things like prescriptions, not handing them out does not mean to “pense” them. When we ease people’s concerns we say we dispel their fears, but if we cause people to feel afraid that doesn’t mean we “pel” them. And hunters may disembowel internal organs from animals they have killed, but putting organs into something or someone doesn’t mean to “embowel” them.

When we become disoriented, it may take time for us to “orient” ourselves to our environment (even if we’re not in Asia), and if we encounter someone that’s become disheartened, we try to encourage or “hearten” them. But while dissension means to cause conflict or division, we don’t refer to reaching consensus or agreement as “sension.” When we tell a crowd of people to disperse, we don’t ask them to “perse” when we want them to assemble or come together, and we dismiss people when they are permitted to leave, but we don’t “miss” them when we want them to stay. You could probably think of many other curious examples.

Sorry if this sounds like I’m “dissing” American English, but as a professional wordsmith I would urge you – the next time you encounter someone from another country wrestling to master our native tongue – to realize, it ain’t so simple as we think!

Our brand of English doesn’t make sense, sometimes even to us. But, returning to my usual subject material, that’s why I became so excited years ago when I was introduced to a contemporary translation of the Bible. The King James Version’s “begats” and “spakeths” and “whosoevers” and “quickens” and “thous” had me over a linguistic barrel. When I discovered God speaks modern, everyday language, it was one of the great “aha” experiences of my life.

When the young prophet Samuel said to God, “Speak, for your servant is listening” (1 Samuel 3:10), he didn’t worry about the Lord talking to him in Elizabethan English. God spoke to him in words he could understand – and that made sense. And He speaks to us today in the same way.

And dis is all I have to say about dat.

---

Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at btamasy@comcast.net.




'It Really God Bad In A Hurry' Is Sunday's Topic At Middle Valley

Middle Valley Church of God announces that Pastor Mitch McClure will speak on the topic, 'It Really God Bad In A Hurry '  in the  10:30 a.m.  service this  Sunday .  This is part of a sermon series titled 'We Have To Find A Way To Fix This Problem.'  This new sermon series will focus on the need for redemption ... (click for more)

Bob Tamasy: Social Media Or ANTI-Social Media?

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, families gathered around campfires, wood stoves, or in gas-lighted parlors to talk, share stories, or recapture family memories. Or they congregated at a dinner table, not only to eat but also to converse. They’d ask mundane questions like, “How was your day?” – and actually wanted to hear the answer. Then devices called radios were ... (click for more)

Stubbs Arrested In Carjacking At Lakesite McDonald's

The Sheriff's Office has arrested Jonathan Casey Stubbs in connection with a Feb. 13 carjacking at the parking lot of the McDonald's in Lakesite. Stubbs, 28, who gave his address as Ringgold, is charged with carjacking, aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, resisting arrest, unlawfully carrying a weapon and three counts of violating probation on prior aggravated burglary ... (click for more)

East Ridge Makes Needy Child Fund 501(C)(3); Considers Using Former Fire Hall For High School Field House; Approves New Sign Ordinance

East Ridge has operated a fund for decades, which helps the less fortunate residents of the city. Often, those working with The Needy Child Fund hear of people that need help through the schools or neighbors. The fund helps provide food, coats and clothing to families, especially around Christmas when it also gives gifts to children that are delivered by the police and fire departments. ... (click for more)

CVB Should Share Financials With The Home Folks

The recent debate over the Convention and Visitor's Bureau's funding and budget has gotten ugly. A Hamilton County commissioner has asked questions and made comments about the CVB. The director of the CVB has organized a campaign to dismiss the commissioner's questions and comments. The children on the playground are choosing sides and nothing useful seems to be happening. It's ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Haggling Must Stop

Far be it for me to suggest the Hamilton County Commission and the School Board need to spend more time at recess but it was obvious this week the two groups need to work at being better friends. We have nine county commissioners and just as many corresponding school board members to work together for the betterment of one entity – Hamilton County. Everybody who thinks that is happening ... (click for more)