A Cascade of Adjectives

Fandango’s One-Word Challenge today is FRUGAL. A much more…well…frugal word than some others he posted this week. When I saw the provocative words Inexorable, Doleful, Deviate, Extraneous, Vehement, and Elucidate pop into my In-box, I really wanted to concoct some suitable responses. However, I seemed to be otherwise occupied all week – and/or my muse has headed down the garden path chasing a tale. Stay tuned…

Reading various articles this week, especially a comment from another blogger about “pastors ranting about..the need to promote the new Cyrus: Trump” – my mind started to form a picture…

Have you ever stood close to a thundering waterfall and tried to hear yourself think? Now, add to the turbulence of the waterfall a bunch of doleful, croaking frogs, several flocks of vehement gabbling geese, throw in the extraneous cry of a distant loon – and then try to listen to someone giving a speech. How much will you get?

Fast-forward to today. An author has written a book about the current presidential candidates and would like some feedback. I won’t mention the title, which would give the game away, but I read his blurb on Amazon elucidating his preference and I messaged him that it sounds like he’s doing some fiery preaching to the choir.

There’s a lot of that going on.

Often with politics there’s a whole lot of noise and few people who are actually listening in an open-minded way. Especially when I read the current US political scene, I envision two roaring streams of opinion coming from opposite directions, ending in two cascades of adjectives hurling themselves at each other and splashing onto the rocks below.

Cement-headed, fanatical, xenophobic, fascists and rednecks versus closed-minded, anti-American, neo-Nazi, self-serving opposers of law and order. One comment: “If said party chose a maggoty dead skunk as their candidate, I’d vote for the skunk.” With all these acrid opinions frothing about, the ultimate winner is clear: the English language, Adjectives branch.

The frogs could be a bunch of journalists analyzing the chaos; the geese may be various extremists on either side trying to make themselves heard. And the loon, dare I say, yet another prophet trying to fit current people and affairs into the grand scheme of end-times prophecy?

There’s always been speculation about people and events. J.N. Darby believed in the 1880s that the end of the world was very near. At the start of WWII, I’m told, evangelical Christians were thinking Mussolini was the anti-christ. My husband remembers speculation that David Ben Gurion would turn out to be the messiah. He also recalls a general alarm among evangelicals about the US electing JFK, a Catholic president! Then Henry Kissinger being pegged as the anti-christ.

Dear Christian friends, please don’t go there. The noise is already so loud; the chances of reading the signs wrong is so great. Isn’t it time to abandon all the adjectives and rather seek the “prayer closet”? “Be still and know that I am God.” There will be elections in several Canadian provinces this fall, too. I honestly believe we’ll accomplish more for the good of our nations by spending our time in prayer.

Brilliant or Erudite?

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is DISTINCTION

Which got me to thinking about the difference in meaning between DIFFERENT and DISTINCT. It’s rather slight: in both cases Merriam-Webster uses the one to define the other.

I then hopped over to goodreads and discovered this quote:

“A man with a scant vocabulary will almost certainly be a weak thinker. The richer and more copious one’s vocabulary and the greater one’s awareness of fine distinctions and subtle nuances of meaning, the more fertile and precise is likely to be one’s thinking. Knowledge of things and knowledge of the words for them grow together. If you do not know the words, you can hardly know the thing.”
― Henry Hazlitt, Thinking as a Science

I was intrigued by, but not totally sold on, this statement. He may be right. On the other hand, I’m sure there are people who are very intelligent who haven’t had much “book learning” and can’t explain “the subtle nuances of meaning” between different and distinct.

Here are two more words that may run parallel, but are not the same and may diverge quite a bit:
ERUDITE: having or showing knowledge that is gained by studying
BRILLIANT: distinguished by unusual mental keenness or alertness

Many times as I’ve been using knitting needles, I thought about the brilliant person who figured out how to wrap yarn around a needle and poke a second needle through, wrap more yarn around it, and actually create a fabric. How many different words did that person know?

What do you think? Is Mr Hazlitt’s statement true, or just an educated man’s understanding of knowledge and thinking?

Of Spider Webs & Goose Down

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is GOSSAMER.

If you’ve taken the time to check out this word over at Merriam-Webster, you’ll find that it has an interesting etymology. Gossamer comes from “goose summer,” a time that would roughly correspond to our Indian Summer. And not because they were flying south, but because they’re at their plumpest for the roasting pan.

Gossomer was also the Middle English word used to describe filmy cobwebs floating through the air in calm clear weather, apparently because somebody thought the webs looked like the down of a goose. If you see them in the early morning on the grass, wet with dew, you could almost think of down.

Today we use it as a rather poetic synonym for thin, light, flimsy, filmy. As in:
The weary travelers sighed for some break in the heat, but the gossamer wisps above offered no relief.

A Must-Read For Writers

One of the items in my In-Box this morning was an article by Sandra Gerth called The 50 Most Common Spelling & Grammar Mistakes. READ IT HERE

I read through her list, nodding all the way, and learning a few things as well. For example, I learned that T-shirt should always be written with a capital T. And alright is NOT a word.

If you want to improve your writing, do take a few minutes to read her article. She’s an editor and she lists many of the annoying grammar/spelling mistakes that have annoyed me when I read a book, or someone’s blog post. Enough of these blips will get your manuscript rejected at the Acquisitions desk.

Big one: it’s versus its. Maybe I am pedantic (our prompt word yesterday) but seeing the wrong one makes me want to shriek! The bird did not spread it’s wings. It’s is NEVER possessive. It’s is ALWAYS the contraction for the words IT IS. The bird spread its wings. End of rant. 😉

Years ago my penpal from Hungary touched on something everyone who learns English as a second language must twig onto:
She wrote, “We have to show American movies here.” But she didn’t mean “We have to show American movies here.” In fact, theaters over there were free to show whatever they wished. And if you’re free to do it or not, as you wish, then you don’t have to.
She really meant: We have American movies to show(see). Or, in their country they can go to a theater and watch American movies. I explained to her that ‘have to” means “must.”

To save us all from total confusion on this point, when English speakers mean “YOU MUST” the ‘v’ changes to an ‘f’. At least here in North America, the two words are run together and pronounced like “haff to.” Some authors, using colloquial dialogue, will even write it that way:
“She’s gotta go see him again.”
“Sue, you hafta go see him again. You hafta tell him how you feel.”
John snorted in disgust. “No, Sue does not have to.
Saying it carefully, with emphasis on the “not have to” expresses disagreement.

One blip Ms Gerth didn’t cover was WREAK and WRECK. I hear these words interchanged and see them wrongly written so often. Wreak means to bring about or cause. The storm wreaked havoc. Wrecked means damage or destroy. The car was wrecked in the accident. The storm didn’t damage the havoc. So close, but not quite the same.

A dictionary is a writer’s best friend — and it should be a speaker’s best friend, too. One day a friend pronounced the word “chasm” like “kasm” and I corrected her. “It’s said CH-asm.” And she corrected me. Her dictionary says it’s K-asm, like K-ristmas. So I looked it up — and she’s right. That’s the first pronunciation given.
Note to self (blush): ALWAYS CHECK.

Now I shall end my spiel and let you read the article for yourself. Here’s the link again: 50 Common Mistakes

Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning: PRONOUNCED
Word of the Day prompt: CHALLENGE
Jibber Jabber with Sue prompt: FREE

A Scintillating Discussion

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is PEDANTIC
The Jibber Jabber Daily word is LUCK

GETTING TO KNOW HIM

Pierce, relaxing on the sofa, looked over at his sister who was studying some paper. “Whatcha readin’, Lilly?”

“Something I just downloaded — this is some expert’s advice on how to get to know people better.”

“You really want to?”

“Of course. We should take an interest in other people or we’ll become totally self-centered.” She looked at him pointedly.

“Yeah, right. And I suppose you gotta ask all kinds of nosy questions, like, ‘Did you love your mother?’ Good luck with that.” Pierce popped the tab on his soft drink and took a swig.

“Well, this expert has given readers a list of questions that ‘should stimulate an intelligent discussion.’ Like this one. ‘Would you call yourself a pedantic person?’ How would you answer that one, Pierce.”

“Yes. No. Maybe. Dumb question.”

Lilly rolled her eyes. “This discussion hasn’t reached ‘intelligent’ yet.”

“Define pedantic.”

Lilly typed the word into her cell phone and read the definition. “Pedantic: ‘excessively concerned with minor details or rules; over-scrupulous, persnickety.’ I guess it means someone who sweats the small stuff and gets the fine details right.”

“I’m not much into fine details.” He guzzled more pop.

“You can say that again. Your room’s a tornado aftermath.”

“I can find things,” he protested. “But sometimes I do sweat the small stuff — like on a math exam. So it depends.”

Lilly sighed. “According to this expert, a question like this should lead to a scintillating conversation.”

“Define scintillating.”

“You’re being pedantic.”

Pierce shrugged. “Who cares?”

Whelm &Overwhelm

Today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt is OVERWHELMED

Of course my first question was: If a person can be OVERwhelmed, can they be just plain WHELMED? And Merriam-Webster says, yes they can.

The meaning is much the same:
to turn something –such as a dish or vessel– upside down usually to cover something : to cover or engulf completely with usually disastrous effect
L
ike smothering a candle flame with a snuffer.
To be whelmed means to be covered with something, or to be overcome with a thought, feeling, or other. As in OVERWHELMED by grief.
I was amazed to discover that the verb WHELVE means about the same:
to turn (as a dish or vessel) upside down usually to cover something. You can WHELVE your food dish with a cover to keep the food clean.

And now for an inspiring thought:

Desmond Tutu.quote
          Image by Connie Horne  —  Pixabay