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Don

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Don

Postby Dr. Goodword » Mon May 27, 2013 10:50 pm

• don •


Pronunciation: dahn • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun, Verb

Meaning: 1. (Verb) Put on (clothes). 2. (Noun) A university professor, especially a high-ranking member of the faculty at Oxford or Cambridge University. 3. (Noun) The head of an organized crime ring, a capo in the Mafia.

Notes: As you might have guessed, we are really dealing with distinct words here, though some of our student readers might see a connection between the second and third meanings. (They're right.) Not much may be made from the verb; it has an antonym doff. The noun, however, has been converted to donhood, donlike, even donly, as to speak in a donly manner.

In Play: Let's begin today with a university setting: "Several students watched the don doff his hat and don his robe before leaving for his lecture." But wait a minute: clothing isn't the only thing we may don: "Constance Waring donned an air of wounded pride when she wasn't chosen homecoming queen."

Word History: A hint as to the origin of the verb to don may be seen in its antonym, doff. The verb don is a reduction of the phrase "do on", just as its antonym comes from "do off". These phrases were very popular until the middle of the 17th century, when they began contracting to the single verbs they are today. The noun is an Italian and Spanish reduction of Latin dominum "lord, master". The Spanish version arose as student slang in 17th century England and the Italian was applied to the Mafia in the 1950s. Italian developed a feminine form of the same Latin word, donna "woman, lady", which we see in madonna, a reduction of the phrase mia donna "my lady". (Let us all don a smile reflecting sincere gratitude to Lin Strack, who suggested today's Good Words.)
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Re: Don

Postby Philip Hudson » Mon May 27, 2013 11:08 pm

Don and doff are good examples of "prepositions" used to complete the meaning of a verb. In these two cases the words merged. I wrote "prepositions" in quotes to raise this question: What part of speech are the words on, off, up, etc. I call them "verb completers" when they are used as they are here. I would be glad to know a formal name for them.
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Re: Don

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue May 28, 2013 12:09 am

Adverbs.
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Re: Don

Postby Perry Lassiter » Tue May 28, 2013 12:13 am

Dom is also derived from dominus, but technically is limited to Portugese and Brazilian leaders as well as some Catholic orders. But haven't I occasionally heard it in English backgrounds?
Last edited by Perry Lassiter on Tue May 28, 2013 11:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Don

Postby MTC » Tue May 28, 2013 7:25 am

Then there's "donnybrook," a fight between dons, e.g:

First Don: "It is time to think of abolishing the Oxford comma."

Second Don: "That would be a serial offense! Next you will suggest that eggs be eaten without spoons!"

First Don: "Nothing so earthshaking, old bean."

Second Don: "Perhaps you would retract--"

First Don: "Oh, I say!"

True, a bit tepid by Irish standards, but still not be be dismissed.
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Re: Don

Postby LukeJavan8 » Tue May 28, 2013 12:34 pm

Don Diego: Zorro.
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Re: Don

Postby Philip Hudson » Tue May 28, 2013 11:35 pm

Oxford and Cambridge Universities are not structured like other universities. It is hard to equate a don with an office in other universities. I have known one don personally and she told me dons tutor a small group of students, taking them through their university experience. Oxford and Cambridge also have lecturers who speak in lecture halls on specific topics. The don assigns lectures and reading to each student. The don discusses lecture and reading assignments with his students in private lessons and in group-discussions. The don prepares the student for examinations. Instead of having a "major in history", the student "is reading history." I have never met a don of students who were majoring in an experimental or scientific subject, so I don't know how research is done. A don was once required to live at the college she/he worked for and take his meals in college. This is no longer the case. Oxford and Cambridge are each made up of a group of colleges. Each college has its lodging, dining room, study facilities and chapel. One college at Oxford has a cathedral instead of a chapel. C. S. Lewis was a don at Oxford and became a lecturer at Cambridge. From this it seems to me that a don is a lower level teacher than is a lecturer. The University owns the libraries and lecture halls. Many people are critical of this teaching method and want it changed to the method most universities use.

J. Frank Dobie, a onetime neighbor of mine, was once an Oxford lecturer for a year. I never knew Dobie personally. He lived in Austin when I was growing up. Some Baylor University professors are visiting lecturers at Oxford.

I have not found much discussion of university dons except from an actual don. Since I got the above from knowing one Oxford dons and from reading English literature, I may not have the above totally correct. If someone should ask me how my professional duties were carried out, I may not be able to describe it to their understanding. So I stand dutifully to be corrected. Do we have any Agorans who have gone to a university like Oxford or has had similar experiences?

Don was a common title of respect for important men in Tex-Mex communities when I was a lad. Some curadors (healers) were called dons. The curadors were venerated by the community as if they were saints. Amazing stories were told of the curador’s exploits and miracles. Some dead curadors had altars built to them where candles burned 24/7. I have visited such altars. The Catholic Church frowns upon the practice.
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Re: Don

Postby MTC » Wed May 29, 2013 12:22 pm

Very informative, Philip. Thank you.
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