Columns » Words

Icon, go on



In the sweet buying buys:

"There are periodic rumors and reports that Mr. Romney's campaign is dabbling with the idea of buying advertising buys in Minnesota, but he and Republican-aligned groups have spent almost nothing there." Buying advertising time or buying advertising space or simply buying advertising would be all right. Buying buys is not.

Aye, conic:

I saw a reference to Barbie as an icon, further evidence that one can hardly turn around now without bumping into one. Icon and iconic are gaining on eclectic in the over-use category. "With his eclectic choice of paper towels, Fanshaw is an icon in the world of men's-room attendants." The Oxford English Dictionary says that an icon can be "Any thing or person that is the object of excessive or supreme devotion." The OED goes on to say that in the Eastern Orthodox Church, icon came to mean "a representation of some sacred personage, itself regarded as sacred." An unbeliever who shattered such images was an iconoclast. Today, an iconoclast is someone who refutes popular beliefs.

The on-line Urban Dictionary defines icon as "a legend, role model or superstar," but let's get back to that "excessive devotion."

Come to think of it, "excess in all things" is pretty much the rule today, so maybe icon deserves the workout it's getting. Still tiresome, though.


In re re:

"The New York Giants waived former Razorback Mitch Petrus (Carlisle) for the second time this season Tuesday to reactivate tight end Travis Beckum. A third-year pro, Petrus was waived by the Giants on Sept. 1, but was resigned the following day." Does that mean he was "submissive or acquiescent" the following day? No, the writer wanted to say that the football player signed a new contract the following day. He was re-signed, not resigned. (But give the writer some credit. He didn't waver on waiver.)

The prefix re- is always followed by a hypen when the new word formed by adding re- already has a special meaning of its own. One of the examples given by the Associated Press Stylebook in explaining the rule is "resign (quit)" and "re-sign (sign again)."  Many of us need help in deciding whether or not to use a hypen with re-. Unabridged dictionaries provide this assistance, with long lists of re- words, some hyphenated, some not.

Add a comment