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Word Wisdom: MacGyver

The latest inspirational column from Rev. Dr. John Kreutzwieser.
Word Wisdom

I remember watching Richard Dean Anderson in the action-packed television series MacGyver in the late 80s and early 90s. Angus MacGyver was a secret agent with an amazing ability to use whatever was available to him to get out of tricky situations or to make a device to help him complete his mission. MacGyver used his ingenuity and encyclopaedic knowledge to use simple things, such as a paper clip, chewing gum, or a rubber band, to fix something or discover a solution to the immediate problem. He always has his Swiss Army knife and some duct tape on hand, just in case. [There was a remake of MacGyver that aired from 2016 to 2021, starring Lucas Till, who preferred to fight crime with ingenious feats of engineering rather than lethal force. Nothing like the original though.]

In the early 1990s MacGyver began to be used as a slang verb meaning to make, form, or repair something with what was conveniently on hand. In 2022 MacGyver was added to dictionaries due to its popularity of usage. Anyone who used ingenious thinking and improvised methods and contraptions was said to MacGyver a solution.

I received a present a few years ago – the Wallet MacGyver. It is a piece of metal about the size of a credit card that claims to have 46 functions, from bottle opener to eyeglass screwdriver, from cable bender to 15mm hex wrench, from a wire cutter to nail puller, and so on. It can come in handy in various situations. 

The TV show Hawaii Five-O, starring Jack Lord, ran from 1968 to 1980. It centred on a special Hawaiian state police task force called Five-O. (The remake version starring Alex O’Loughlin aired from 2010 to 2020.) A popular assumption is that Five-O is some sort of police code, but the show's writers were simply paying respect to Hawaii's status as the 50th state in 1959. However, the term Five-O has entered the English language as a slang for law enforcement despite its original intent.

The practice of giving someone a gift you had previously received has probably been around ever since gifts have been given. But calling it regifting became popular thanks to the TV show Seinfeld. In a 1995 episode a label-maker was received as a gift and then given to someone else. The topic of discussion centred around the morality of regifting. Merriam-Webster indicated the episode was the first use of the term which has now become popular in Western culture.

In the Bible it is recorded that “Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore, it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” (Genesis 10:8-9) In a 1940 Looney Tunes episode, Bugs Bunny called Elmer Fudd a poor little nimrod, a sarcastic reference to Fudd’s skills as a hunter. Since then, the term has been used in lieu of a bumbling fool.

The paparazzi are freelance photographers who aggressively pursue celebrities for the purpose of taking candid photographs. The term probably derived from the 1960 Federico Fellini film La Dolce Vita. In the film there was a fearless and determined news photographer named Paparazzo, played by Walter Santesso, who was always on the hunt for a profitable shot. In 1961 Time magazine labelled aggressive photographers as paparazzi, comparing them to a ravenous wolfpack. 

You never know where words might come from.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication. 

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