Monthly Archives: May 2009

Sit on it — couch, davenport, divan, etc.

couch  Flickr mbaybor

Flickr mbaylor

So, there we were last weekend slogging through furniture stores.  As my mind glazed over, I thought about the different words for seating.  (I also was watching for lions, tigers, monkeys, etc. at that one furniture store.  None spotted, not even a leopard.)

A couch is armless like the “fainting couches” used in Victorian times and by some of us when we look at our investment statement these days.   Those who know French say it comes from a word derivation that means to lie down.

Over time, arms have been added, and in some cases, the legs removed to evolve into what we now call a sofa.  The term sofa seems to come from an Arabic word that means a bench or something else to sit or recline on but not for laying.  Typically, they have a back too, the furniture not the Arabs.

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Oxymorons–a few of my favorite

Oxymoron Flickr WordRidden

Flicrk Wordridden

Oxymoron?  Do you know what or who this is?  Will it’s not an imbecile from a place called Oxy.  Actually, it means contradictory terms that are combined.   Old standbys include jumbo shrimp, airline food (remember that?), military intelligence and postal service.  

A couple that may hit close to you are home office and working vacation. Interesting concepts that are becoming more popular.  Some who don’t work at a home office may be in an industrial park.  

How many times has someone asked you for an exact estimate or a detailed summary?  What a challenge. 

I think it is funny when they call the dump (post on euphemisms to appear soon) a sanitary landfill.  The ones I have seen don’t look all that sanitary.  

An oxymoron that has always puzzled me is the phrase legally drunk.  I guess this is as opposed to illegally drunk.  Try that argument on the police officer next time you are stopped. 

I am not a golfer, but the term metal wood seems odd.  So do some of the clothes golfers wear, but they are not oxymorons. 

Lastly, many senators and representatives in our government make lots of political promises. I’ll let you decide if these promises are classified as an oxymoron.

 I know there are tons more, so act naturally and send me an original copy of your favorites.

 (A reply to this blog will also work)

Bobby pins, Fort Collins and recession

Number 2  nimbu flickr

flickr nimbus

Bobby pins, part two.  Thanks to catfc a blogger in Fort Collins for offering more information on the “bob” hairstyle and bobby pins.  If you don’t read her blog called lostfortcollins, you should. 

She pointed out a song by Blind Alfred Read.  Reed was very religious, and could be thought of as an early “protest” singer.

He wrote. “Why Do You Bob Your Hair Girls?” that raged against women’s hairstyle fashion of the 1920s.   Here is part of the lyrics from Why do you bob your hair, girls?
You’re doing mighty wrong;
God gave it for a glory
                                               And you should wear it long .
                                              You spoil your lovely hair, girls,
                                              You keep yourself in style;
                                              Before you bob your hair, girls,
                                             Just stop and think a while.

I found another song he wrote in 1929 when the stock market was crashing.  Check this out:

How Can I Poor Man Survive Such Times and Live? Lyrics: 

There once was a time when everything was cheap,
But now prices nearly puts a man to sleep.
When we pay our grocery bill,
We just feel like making our will.

What goes around, comes around?

Sanction — good or bad?

Grace 2 years Sanction, as a verb is one of those interesting and quirky English words. If you slept through high school English class (and who didn’t?), a verb is an “action” word. Like sleep for example.

This elusive word has two meanings, and they are opposites. The label for them is auto antonyms which has Greek roots meaning a word is opposite of itself. I hesitate to have the word auto antonym in the heading. I did this with my retronym blog post, and got next to no hits on that post. Nevertheless, I forge onward.

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Guest post Thanks to Brian Fromme

Thanks to Brian Fromme of Cyborgsavvant for letting me be a guest blogger.  I talked about self-promotion and blogs/web sites.

(Thanks to writer/author Diane Fromme, too)

Bobby pin — origin of the word

flickr  Bitchbuzz

flickr Bitchbuzz

Bobby pins?
I am starting a new category on my blog called word origins.

I got an email from SAMUPA who I know personally.  She wanted to know the origin of the item called the bobby pin.  I can only assume this is an accessory she used as she was growing up.  Since she is rumored to produce lots of yummy baked good, I figured I would do this, and be rewarded with a lifetime supply of breads, cakes, muffins, cookies, etc.

Ok, here is the scoop on the bobby pin.

In the 1920s (right SAMUPA?), it became trendy for women to cut their hair short and set it tightly against their head in a wavy pattern called bobbed hair, or a “bob.”  To hold the hair in place they used a double-pronged hairpin that slid into hair with the prongs open and then the flexible prongs closed over the hair holding it in place

A unique feature of the bobby pins is its ability to look almost invisible since it is, or was, available in black, brown, bronze, blonde and gray to go with all hair colors.  (This was before red, purple and blue hair.)

Bobby pins are still used today for all kinds of hairstyles including buns, up-dos and twists.  A trademark on the term “bobby pin” was held for some decades by Smith Victory Corporation of Buffalo, New York.  The term is no longer a valid trademark, so go ahead and use it.

There are many other uses for this longstanding little metal loop.  In many old movies, they were used for picking locks. In Africa, bobby pins are sometimes used to repair defective sandals.  SAMUPA says they are better than q-tips for ear cleaning–her idea not mine.

Check out this blog about bobby pins and hair.

I will have more origins of words in the future.

How not to name a company



When I decided to set up my writing company, Words by Bob, I thought about the name quite a bit.  I wanted something short, memorable and flexible.  In addition, something that was easy to type as a web site and fit on a nametag.

 I hope I have achieved this. Being a simple guy (no comments necessary here), my company name, web site, and email are all the same. 

Some businesses apparently didn’t put much thought into their business names.  I know of two locally that incorporated a specific location in the company name.  The Madison Avenue Furniture Store is now on Lincoln Avenue, for whatever reason.  And, when the Fourth Street Bead Shop relocated, they had to drop the Fourth Street from the sign.

 Some people must not see the value of being unique. In the local phone book, here is what I found. 

Rocky Mountain was used to start the name of 75 very diverse businesses. Even more popular is Front Range with 84.  Being patriotic, 90-some establishments are called American something.

Fifty-eight are Western and 39 United.  So much for brainstorming.  Kinda hard to stick out.  If you think these are overload, look up Mile High in the Denver telephone book.

I know there are many web sites and blogs that feature unique business names. Many are cute, punny or a good play on words.  One that comes to mind here is Poppa Wheelie’s that sells car auto rims.

Think before you name!