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.




Proceeds Of The Momentum Network's Gather Gala To Benefit Single Mothers In Chattanooga

The MOMentum Network will kick off its second annual GAT HER : Grit and Grace celebration on  May 6,  at Calvary Chapel, with proceeds of the event benefiting single mothers in Chattanooga. Women of the community are  invited to come and experience a night of intentional support, encouragement, and  uplifting fellowship with all proceeds from the event ... (click for more)

JFEST To Be Held At Camp Jordan May 21

JFEST Christian Music Festival will be at Camp Jordan on Saturday, May 21.  Gates open at 11 a.m. with the Jfest/Run for God 10K  beginning at 7:30 a.m. and the Run for God 5K will begin at 8 a.m.  Artist lineup includes: Crowder, Jamie Grace, Chris August, 7th Time Down, Jason Gray, Hollyn, Zealand Worship, Mending Wall, and one of the nations top Christian ... (click for more)

Federal Judge Rules That Hutcheson Medical Center And Its Trustees Owe Erlanger $36,379,968.20

A federal judge at Rome, Ga., has ruled that the Hospital Authority of Catoosa, Dade and Walker counties and Hutcheson Medical Center are liable to pay Erlanger Health System $36,379,968.20. Judge Harold Murphy, in a 90-page opinion, discarded a counter-claim brought by Hutcheson against Erlanger. He directed that Erlanger be paid $20 million for money it spent while managing ... (click for more)

Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson Hospitalized; 2 Cleveland Police Officers Injured After Altercation With Man With History Of Assaults

Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson and two Cleveland Police officers were injured Thursday while intervening in a domestic assault in progress. While driving on 25 th St. N.W. Sheriff Watson witnessed the assault, it was stated. When the sheriff tried to intervene, the man involved in the assault attacked him. During the scuffle the man struck Sheriff Watson numerous times, ... (click for more)

Jill Levine Is An Educational Rock Star

No one has covered the Hamilton County Department of Education drama better than Roy Exum.  Thank you, Roy, but I take issue with your unnamed sources.  Professional jealousy and sour grape darts should not be anonymous.   HCDE is so dysfunctional, and there is good cause to place this public organization under a microscope, dissect it into pieces and discard all ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Cancer Is Not A Battle

I read a marvelous essay not long ago where the author urged, “Stop telling the lie that cancer is a battle … a battle implies a fair fight, and there was nothing fair about my cancer or the cancer that took the life of my friend. Those experiences were about as fair as getting hit by a car – and nobody says people lose their battles with automobiles.” Mary Elizabeth Williams, ... (click for more)