Wednesday Wordplay: Shirley MacLain’s anger, the origin of see-saw, and Rita Dove’s poetry

Fun and Inspirational Quotes

I’m not crazy…I’ve just been in a very bad mood for 40 years.
            — Shirley MacLaine

Enjoyment is not a goal, it is a feeling that accompanies important ongoing activity.
            — Paul Goodman

The words that enlighten the soul are more precious than jewels.
            — Hazrat Inayat Khan

There ain’t no free lunches in this country. And don’t go spending your whole life commiserating that you got raw deals. You’ve got to say, ‘I think that if I keep working at this and want it bad enough I can have it.’
            — Lee Iacocca

To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act.
            — Anatole France

You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.
            — Vernon Howard

One must also accept that one has ‘uncreative’ moments. The more honestly one can accept that, the quicker these moments will pass.
            — Etty Hillesum

Greatness is more than potential. It is the execution of that potential. Beyond the raw talent. You need the appropriate training. You need the discipline. You need the inspiration. You need the drive.
            — Eric A. Burns, Gossamer Commons, 08-12-05

He felt about books as doctors feel about medicines, or managers about plays – cynical, but hopeful.
            — Dame Rose Macaulay, Crewe Train, 1926

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.
           — John Adams

It’s always been about the experience of life and of not being passive. If something so excites my curiosty, I want to go there, be a part of whatever it is that’s either pushing me or pulling me toward it. That desire for experience has made me very rich in life experience.
            — Tish Grier, love and hope and sex and dreams, 04-12-2006

Some days you’re a bug, some days you’re a windshield.
            — Price Cobb

When you can’t have what you want, it’s time to start wanting what you have.
            — Kathleen A. Sutton

You miss 100% of the shots your never take.
            — Wayne Gretzky


POETRY: "Black On A Saturday Night" Rita Dove


 From World Wide Words:


Q: What is the origin of the word “see-saw”

Aside: I’ve always thought “see-saw” was so named because of what happens when you’re on it – when you’re in the high position, you can see an object, and when you’re in the low position, when you can no longer see the object, you then say you saw the item.  (I actually was told this by a relative).  I realize that I was (gasp) wrong! 

ANSWER: The term “see-saw” was first mentioned in a play by Richard Brome, The Antipodes, first performed in 1638. Later references support the idea that it may have been part of a chant, a work song, used by pairs of sawyers to keep their rhythm while alternately pulling a big two-handled saw. They might have been working on the level or they could have been pit-sawing, with one man above the other.

Brome’s version of the chant goes “see saw, sacke a downe”, while another from about 1685 records “see saw, sack a day”. A third is in another play the following century, Gammer Gurton’s Garland, as “See Saw, sacaradown, / Which is the way to London town?” With this example it had turned into a children’s rhyme, with a version of another rhyme, “See-saw, Margery Daw”, turning up in the same play.

Nobody knows when the playground see-saw was invented. The evidence from language is very late, with the first explicit references not found before the early nineteenth century. But so basic a play toy must surely be very much older. Iona and Peter Opie conjecture in The Oxford Book of Nursery Rhymes that it may have arisen through children watching sawyers at work and borrowing a plank and a log to play out their up-and-down motion. But this must surely be no more than a guess based on its links with saw.

The device certainly predates the word see-saw, which is the successor to another reduplicated term — the one you mentioned that some Americans have retained — the splendid teeter-totter. Various spellings of it are recorded, one being the East Anglian teeter-cum-tauter and another titter-totter. The latter is the oldest known version, which is first recorded in John Palsgrave’s Lesclarcissement de la Langue Françoyse of 1530. In that, it’s given as the English equivalent of the old French balenchoeres (now balançoire), from balancer, to balance.

Two men sawing a fallen tree with a two-handled saw


Might this have been the origin of see-saw? These two men are sawing a fallen tree using a two-handled saw.





Q: How is it that “lbs” is the abbreviation for “pounds”?

Answer:  Actually, “lbs” isn’t an abbreviation of “pounds”. It’s shorthand for “pounds weight” but isn’t an abbreviation of the word pounds.

The form lb is actually an abbreviation of the Latin word libra, which could mean a pound, itself a shortened form of the full expression, libra pondo, “pound weight”. The second word of this phrase, by the way, is the origin of the English pound.

One symbol for the astrological sign LibraYou will also know Libra as the astrological sign, the seventh sign of the zodiac. In classical times that name was given to rather an uninspiring constellation, with no particularly bright stars in it. It was thought to represent scales or a balance, the main sense of libra in Latin, which is why it is often accompanied by the image of a pair of scales.


Find other great word and phrase facts at World Wide Words.

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