By Evelyn Richardson Here and There

How in the world are we expected to know for certain the intended meaning of a word that is spelled exactly the same way for a multitude of meanings?

Developers of some languages have been smart enough to come up with different words for different meanings, so there is no struggle to figure out the context in which it is being used. Not always for us English readers.

Knowledgeable, up-to-date people can sort them out. I wouldn't recognize such chips if I saw one.

But we don't have to go into complicated electronics to be confused about the meaning of chips.

Chips are good to eat with a sandwich, be they corn or potato.

Chips to the edge of an antique china plate can bring tears to the eyes of a collector.

The accidental chip of a tooth caused by biting down on bacon is a bodily disaster.

Chips are needed to play certain games, such as poker. A chip shot in golf sends the ball up, it falls and rolls, hopefully to approach the hole.

Pardon, but cow chips provide a basic fuel supply for parts of the globe, valuable fertilizer in others.

"A chip on the shoulder" is symbolic of a fighting or quarrelsome attitude.

"A chip off the old block" means that a child resembles his or her parents in looks or behavior.

My first thoughts turn to our woodpile when I hear talk about chips. Behind the smokehouse under the shade of a big maple tree, space was laid out for dealing with wood for fires. Chips flew as the chopping axe made lick after lick on a log to bring it to a length that would fit in the grate or firebox of the kitchen stove.

A buildup of chips underfoot could become a stumbling block, so we periodically raked them into their own pile at the edge of the woodpile. Chips were used along with kindling in the layer just above crumpled newspaper or kerosene-soaked corncobs when we were starting a fire. We knew to look for smaller chips, cut from seasoned wood, not green, so they would ignite quickly.

Chips of varying sizes were handy leveling devices under the short leg of a sawhorse, or under the edge of a wobbly washtub on the back porch. They were great scraping tools to remove caked mud from our shoe soles.

We could figure out lots of ways to use chips for play. They could be stacked as building blocks, much more rustic than today's Legos. We laid them end to end to make circles, outlined playing fields for games, and threw them at buckets--or at one another. We had our wood chips under control.