The Lovely Carol Marie and I live in a semi-gated community. There is one road that runs through Winnipauk Village, our quaintly/historically-named condo complex. and one end of that road is wide open to all traffic travelling on Aiken Street (our mailing address). Traffic that moves along Linden St., the other end of the complex, find themselves confronted with a “gate” blocking entrance (photo right, above) to the “Village.” Hence, a “semi-“ gated community. Since the road through our “village” is replete with speed bumps and lots of curves, it doesn’t seem the “gate” is placed at one end to prevent hopped-up teenagers in souped-up jalopies from speeding through the neighborhood. Is it, then, a “security” measure, preventing ne’er-do-wells from sneaking into our community under the cover of night --- but only from Linden Street? Does some "element" live on Linden Street that we shoud be aware of? Whatever the case, the entire situation got me to thinking about that whole prefix: “semi.”
Maybe it’s because we recently saw W. Kamau Bell do his latest stand-up comedy tour, titled “Semi-prominent Negro.” Or maybe it’s just because there is such frequent use of “semi” in our day-to-day life that they simply go unnoticed --- semicircle, semicolon, semiskilled --- and are uncared about. Yet, “semi” can carry different weight, depending on its attached suffix. For example, we’re going to Madison Square Garden this evening to the NIT basketball tournament semifinal games. In the NCAA tournament, of course, the semifinal games become The Final Four and the attendant hoopla reflects just how big a deal it is to simply make the semifinals in collegiate basketball.
Some of the “semi’s” we use raise interesting questions. For example, what does it mean to be “semiprofessional?” Do you only get paid half as much? Every other game? I actually played several games (3) in what someone (at the time) told me was the Colonial League back in the early 1980’s --- a semipro baseball league. As it turned out, some of the players were actual minor league players (i.e. “professionals”) whose season had ended (we were playing in September ---after their “short season” NY-Penn League was over) --- making the league “semi”-professional, with some amateur players and some paid professionals.
How about “semi” tractor-trailers --- aka “Semi’s.” That’s a “semi” I was never clear about --- how about you? Here’s what I found out: the phrase is only about the trailer. By definition, it is a trailer without a front axle and requires a tractor to pull it --- hence a “semi” tractor trailer. And, also by definition, the word should be: semitrailer. Share that with your friends.
In doing research for this piece (http://www.morewords.com/starts-with/semi/) I discovered some very interesting “semi” words. For example, have you ever used the term “semiaquatic?” I know I haven’t. It made me think it was some kind of animal, like a toad or frog. But, according to Merriam-Webster, semiaquatic means “growing equally well in or adjacent to water; also: frequenting but not living wholly in water.” (italics, mine) Therefore, homo sapiens might qualify as “semiaquatic,” right? Don’t we grow “equally well adjacent to water?” And don’t humans frequent but not wholly live in water? Just sayin’.
Another curious word on the list was “semipornographic.” Probably not a term you have seen or used. If you’re thinking it means that something is about “half” pornographic (like 50 Shade of Grey, perhaps?), you’re pretty close to Merriam-Webster. They say it means “somewhat pornographic.” Now, as a former teacher, I’m going to say “You can’t use the word being defined in the definition,” meaning “somewhat pornographic” doesn’t give us the best possible definition. But, given the subject (pornography), Merriam-Webster seems to be falling back on former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of “obscenity” and “hard-core pornography: “I know it when I see it.” Semipornographic.
In conclusion, I’m going to take a drive around a semicircular driveway while munching on some semisweet chocolates after reading a semiweekly magazine and cancelling my semiyearly subscription. Ultimately, I’m thankful that I’m more than semiliterate and that I live in a semi-gated community.