Today is Wednesday, October 22, 2014

When Were Finished, Were Done Punning

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By ANNE DONNELL

When did everyone start using “done” for “finished”? I went to a Catholic School, and we were taught to use language carefully. When you concluded something you didn’t say, “I’m all done.” You said, “I’m finished.” -A Friend Just Wondering

No “just” about wondering; wondering is the soul of change and progress, of challenge and solution, of creativity and product, of observation and sensitivity.  Of art.  Our QPof T (Question Person of Today) has shown herself to be rather special.

 Not a person of interest, thank goodness; that’s been taken over by media speak to mean someone taken to a police station (or someone the police hope to take) for questioning in a criminal case and probably as a suspect.    A person of interest should have been reserved as a description of a true rara avis (Latin, literally “rare bird,” but extended to mean “rarity”), those persons one could hear quoting Tolstoy at the grocery (as if I’d recognize a Tolstoy quote without a nearby poster emblazoned with it) or humming some obscure Mozart quietly while walking a rescued dog (once again how will I know it’s some obscure Mozart and a rescued dog?  Mozart’s harder to recognize than a dog anyway).   Well, I have found jewels of people in surprising places, people with quiet knowledge, unique interests, and lovely senses of humor, people who, among so many other things,  reject violent, sex laden TV.   (And how about “reality” shows, featuring the realities of people with too much cosmetic surgery and too little morality?)

Redirecting to our path of wonder.   “Many a man has been a wonder to the world, whose wife and valet have seen nothing in him that was even remarkable.”  Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, Essays III. [Montaigne, 1533-92.  French bureaucrat (Charles IX) and author of three books of essays with profound influence on French and English literature.]  PS.  I wish valets were commonplace.

“Wonders will never cease.”  Sir Henry Bate Dudley, in a letter to Garrick, September, 1776. [Dudley, 1745-1824.  English journalist and canon of Ely.  Better watch what you write in letters, text, or e-mail.  It could whiff you right into immortality.  Garrick is probably David Garrick, 1717-1779.  English, actor, theater manager, dramatist, considered especially fine performing Shakespearean roles.  Although I have a new favorite on those performing Shakespearean roles: a local optometrist (and former student of mine) who mentioned on Facebook, “Peace, ho! Donnell speaks.” That would be Casca’s line in Julius Caesar if you’ll replace Donnell with Caesar. I like the update better.]

Finally, Arkansas is the Wonder State.  And that’s a wonder.  

OK, you’re ready for ONLINE DEPARTMENT (Thanks, DW) “PUNS  INTENDED” •  The roundest knight at King Arthur's round table was Sir Cumference. He acquired his size from too much pi. •  I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian .•  She was only a whiskey maker, but he loved her still. • A rubber band pistol was confiscated from algebra class because it was a weapon of math disruption. •   The butcher backed into the meat grinder and got a little behind in his work. • No matter how much you push the envelope, it'll still be stationery. •   A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering. • A grenade thrown into a kitchen in France would result in Linoleum Blownapart. •  Two silk worms had a race. They ended up in a tie. • Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana. • A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it. •  Atheism is a non-prophet organization. • Two hats were hanging on a hat rack in the hallway. One hat said to the other, “You stay here, I'll go on a head.” • I wondered why the baseball kept getting bigger. Then it hit me. • A sign on the lawn at a drug rehab center said: Keep off the Grass.” Now about today’s question.  Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, that shameless hussy of a dictionary which only wishes it could stick Oxford in its title, defines “done” as “arrived at or brought to an end…gone by, over…cooked sufficiently…”  This reinforces the contemporary use: done replacing finished.  

Do, did, done, coming from something meaning “to put or place,” is slightly older than finished, coming from something which meant “to limit, set bounds, end.”  Late twelfth century versus fourteenth. 

The Oxford English Dictionary, the one which anything with Webster in the title wants to be, says using done for finished has been going on for several hundred years, BUT in mid-twentieth century America objections were raised to the usage, favoring finished.  The rest of the English speaking world remained aloof and considered the American preference for finished more of our New World quirks (you know, like Studebakers).  Currently, we’ve slipped back to interchanging done and finished.

Good question, QP of T.  Keep wondering, please – that’s meant for the rest of you, too.BW (Bigtime Word) zugzwang – (chess) when any move open to you is bad news you are “in zugzwang.”  I vote we apply this to, say, men who forget birthdays, anniversaries, music played at their wedding.

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