Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Oh, sweet dictionary. How I love thee.

If you haven’t discovered the Merriam-Webster website, consider this an early Christmas present – or late birthday present, if I unwittingly missed your special day (I’ve been a little distracted this year, I’m sorry): Sign up for their Word of the Day and you’ll receive an email with a word you may or may not know and a little history lesson to boot.  It’s like those old flip dictionaries, you’d put on your desk but with no pesky papers cuts.  And you’re contributing to the whole green thing.  It’s all good.


As a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was to curl up in a corner with the dictionary, a Strawberry Nehi soda and a dill pickle.  When I point that out to most people, you might be surprised at how many find the dictionary part odd, not the soda and dill combination.  Whatever.  For me, the dictionary was this amazing book of magical possibilities and places to go. While the idea of learning other languages was exciting and romantic, the concept that English had tens of thousands of words still to be learned was intoxicating to me and the words had roots connecting them to foreign lands anyway!  Page after page, words from abscission where you can almost hear the snipping sound of shears in the word with Latin roots (to cut off) to zest which comes from a French word and describes the peel of citrus fruit or meaning something enjoyably exciting (and it’s another one of those great words that sounds like what it means. In fact, I think it is actually hard to say without a little enthusiasm in your voice).


Remember the dad from the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and his fascination with words, their meaning and how they tied to his beloved Greek language?  He’s the kind of guy I would like to sit next to at a boring rubber chicken dinner event or long plane ride.  It wouldn’t even matter if he was making up the etymology of words (“…from the Greek etymon plus logia…”) as he went along, because I’d still find it wildly entertaining and besides, I’d look them up when I got back home anyway.  Some women dream of wordless moonlit walks with the strong silent type, but not me, I’ll take the chatty guy in the window seat, as long as his words have weight.


The dictionary still entertains me, but one of my favorite things each morning now is to open my email from Merriam-Webster to see what they’ve chosen as the Word of the Day.  Back in the middle of November this year the word was ennui. Say it out loud: ennui (ahn-WEE).  Easy to guess that it’s French, right?  Now, say it again but this time say it like Inspector Clouseau after he’s had his bell rung after being whacked in the head by Kato.  Then you’ll have an auditory clue close to what it means: a feeling of weariness and dissatisfaction; boredom.  It is a French word that comes from the Latin word that gave us “annoy” (inodiare – to make loathsome).  It is often used to describe the kind of boredom that comes from living a life of too much ease.  In 1823, in his work Stanzas to Ennui, poet Charles Lloyd called the world weary sensation a “soul-destroying fiend” which visits with its “pale unrest / the chambers of the human breast / Where too much happiness hath fixed its home.”  I can’t relate, but I know I’ve spotted those afflicted a time or two in my travels.  Lucky for me, I wasn’t sitting next to them on a plane.


This holiday season I’ve decided that I don’t want to travel anywhere.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I would dearly LOVE to travel somewhere, but time and money are parceled out in small packages nowadays (unless you’re initials are GM or some such thing).  As a result, I won’t have the luxury of boarding a plane anytime soon, so I will take advantage of our chilly SoCal weather (oh, Wisconsin – I hear you chuckling), curl up with a mug of my favorite Candy Cane Lane tea (I’ve evolved slightly from the taste of soda and pickles) and a dictionary.  Through the pages of my dog-eared dictionary I will dart around the world and see what I’ve missed.  With tens of thousands of words, there’s still plenty to learn.


If you happen upon some great words in your own travels or from the comfort of your cozy armchair – share them with me.  To celebrate, I’ll go a little crazy and crack open a jar of Tabasco Spicy Dill Pickles to go with that mug of tea.  Joy & jubilation (French exultation = Spanish exultacion = Portuguese exultacao = Italian esultazione, from Latin exulare … a leaping up, a rejoicing).

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