Dordt College News

Schelhaas publishes new book

January 13, 2004

A new book by Dave Schelhaas, Sioux Center, combines the author’s two favorite hobbies into one fascinating book.

Angling in the English Stream: 100 Ordinary English Words: Caught, Filleted, and Served Up in Tasty Little Essays, uses the analogy of words and fish, for an appealing book designed for the ordinary reader. Schelhaas teaches English at Dordt College, Sioux Center, and was presented recently with a 2003 Literacy Award from the Iowa Council of Teachers of English. Angling in the English Stream

“Words can be as slippery as minnows,” says Schelhaas in one essay. “No matter how we try to squeeze them into our hands and make them stay put, they refuse. In my own short life I have seen a number of words dramatically shift in meaning.”

From alas to yahoo, Schelhaas spotlights 100 common words in his book, usually introducing the word with a personal anecdote, then delving into the word’s historical roots, and often concluding essays with analogies to the Christian life.

“ My hope for Angling in the English Stream is that it will enhance the reader’s sense of delight and wonder: delight in the hidden stories most words contain and wonder at the marvelous, erratic journeys most words have taken as they have been used across the centuries,” said the author in his foreword.

Schelhaas has been “catching and filleting” words for about seven years on a weekly radio program, “What’s the Good Word?” aired on KDCR Radio each Monday at 8:10 a.m. and 4:10 p.m.

“I began ‘What’s the Good Word’ because of my own fascination with the stories in words and my conviction that most language users would find these stories as interesting as I do,” commented Schelhaas. He recalls earlier in his career, as a high school teacher, often getting acquainted with new students at Western Christian by telling them what their names meant in Dutch (Schelhaas translated from Dutch means “scared rabbit”). After 39 years as an educator (16 at Dordt College), Schelhaas has a trove of dissected words to draw upon. His offering of 100 word essays, include:

· Why it might be good to be described as crotchety or your child to be called a brat;

· How a “bank” went from being a bordering slope to a place to store money;

· Bonfire’s origin as the burning of human corpses;

· The unlikely common origin of the words carnation and carnivore from the same Latin word;

· Use of the words disgruntled (when we’re upset) and gruntled (when we’re content);

· And inkle, the whisper or hint at some truths about human existence and the relationship between God and humankind.

Schelhaas has filled his book with “inklings” that entertain, enlighten and challenge readers in both their daily talk and walk.

Angling in the English Stream is published by Dordt College Press, and is available at the Dordt College Bookstore (722-6420 or

Media Access: Download Word Version