Category Archives: words


So as we all know, last year was the year of the selfie. See the following from the Oxford Dictionary:



  • a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website: occasional selfies are acceptable, but posting a new picture of yourself every day isn’t necessary


early 21st century: from self + -ie.

I just want to know why now? I mean, I have proof that people have been taking selfies for at least nine years now. It may not have been taken with a smart phone, but I present to you the vintage selfie:

vintage selfie

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“naked and shivery and without any bones”

A collection of Willa Cather’s letters is soon to be published. Here’s a beautiful excerpt:

In other matters — things about the office — I can usually do what I set out to do and I can learn by experience, but when it comes to writing I’m a new-born baby every time — always come into it naked and shivery and without any bones. I never learn anything about it at all. I sometimes wonder whether one can possibly be meant to do the thing at which they are more blind and inept and blundering than at anything else in the world.


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PIE, but not the kind you're thinking of

nope. just kidding.

Even though that pie is strawberry rhubarb, which has to be one of my favorites, PIE stands for Proto-Indo-European, the theoretical language root of Indo-European languages (a vast linguistic grouping), and is probably the most fascinating thing in the world. Then again, it might be the most fascinating thing in the entire universe, thanks to its starring role in Prometheus.

I remembered PIE this morning while researching the etymology of seminary, and from thence semen, which has roots in three non-Romance languages. Ridiculously entrancing. Meaning that the next step was for me to research Oxford’s DPhil program in Linguistics, Philology, and Phonetics.

And from there, sadly, to be overwhelmed by the abundance of things in this world that I want to learn and know everything about. Or, as Cosmo Brown says in the first 10 seconds of this video:

And then I got excited because I thought of heaven, and of the possibility of learning for all of eternity, of becoming a physicist, a philologist, a philosopher, and other pursuits that don’t even start with the letter P. But mostly I thought about being a Professor of Philology at the . . .  uh . . . Pearly Gates Institute for Universal Language . . . I’m getting carried away now, but the question that gave me pause was this.

Will our language evolve in heaven?

We’ll all be speaking one language, obviously. (Although the presence of babel fish or a TARDIS isn’t necessarily out of the question, for the purpose of this argument I expect one language.) We might even be speaking PIE.

But PIE, as we know, over the years, became Old Church Slavonic and Phoenician and Latin, and Italian and Spanish and Romanian . . . And somewhere along the line came this bastard child of all languages, English, which has taken its own road from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Proust, and not to esteem myself so highly, but I bear this mantle too.

Any quick search of a good etymological dictionary will show that over time words change in meaning, and new words are birthed, and dialects are formed and branches split off, and suddenly we’ve cursed our own heaven-reaching towers and spread far and wide, each to his own tongue.

But does this natural turn of events continue in a perfect world? Will meanings continue to metamorphose as they whim, or will we have finally reached the Perfect Understanding, where evolution is an exercise in blasphemy?

This prods at the sleeping question–does change imply imperfection? By naturally morphing, does language define previous meanings as inherently bad?

In case you were wondering, I don’t have any answers. I just ask the questions.

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Whisky-Driven Etymology

I was walking along one day with my good friend Jessie, and she was making fun of me for hearing about a £200 bottle of Talisker and thinking that it actually weighed 200 pounds. We had been listening to a British radio show (Cabin Pressure’s BRILLIANT, by the way), so I really should have known better.

Then I thought of a curious thing. Pounds as a currency have the symbol £, derived from a capital letter L. Pounds as a measurement of weight have the symbol lb. The meaning for these two instances of the word “pound” are disparate, yet their symbols both have “l” in them, which, incidentally, the word “pound” does not.


Jessie said it was coincidence and to stop thinking about it and after all no one cared?

BUT I CARED. I DID. And thank you, Wikipedia, for telling me that I was right. The use of the word pound comes from the Latin libra pondo, an Ancient Roman measurement of weight. “Pound” comes from pondo (originally the British pound had the value of one tower pound (~334 grams) of silver), and lb and £ come from libra.


By the way, here’s a picture of a £200 bottle of Talisker. I don’t think bottles of Talisker weighing 200 pounds actually exist. If you find one, let me know.

I wish this were a 200 pound bottle of Talisker

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A bit on writing, and then a few jokes.

I was editing a news release today and had to come up with a bit more filler copy, but I had some really ridiculous jumble of phrases running around in my head, phrases that would sound completely absurd in a news brief. I’m pretty sure the words “tutelage” was there, and maybe “adulation.”

Stop being idiotic, I told myself, and write a proper sentence like a grownup.

But seriously, these words wouldn’t leave. So I grudgingly wrote them down (with a pen, on a piece of paper – it’s how I write best), and realized that I had, in essence, freed myself. I’d appeased the beast of my imagination by writing down what it gave me, and when I did, it offered more and more until finally I had written something worth reading.

It was a good reminder to keep on writing on, through the cruddiest bits, until something good somehow appears.


And finally, some jokes.

My favorite childhood joke:

What did the man say when he sat on a pin?

NothingIt was a safety pin.

A joke that only makes sense to Texans:

Why did the chicken cross the road?

To show the armadillo that it can be done.

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My current attire unfortunately does not convey my level of commitment.

This is the definition I’ve chosen to maintain today (and for all foreseeable time):

Vested interest: Harboring so much admiration for an idea/institution that one is willing to wear a vest in support of it. Varying levels of investment can likewise be indicated by cladding oneself with a scarf, parka, or bikini.

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In Which Matthew Bellamy Disagrees with Carl Rogers

“Hoodoo” – Muse

And I’ve had recurring nightmares
That I was loved for who I am
And missed the opportunity
To be a better man

Inspired to Thankfulness

At the beginning of this school year, part of me didn’t want to return to Taylor. And a good part of me is ready to leave now. I was loathe to return to the spirit of complaint I find it so easy to fall into here. Classes…professors…chapel…the DC…campus…the dorms…the LTC… Everything gets complained about in turn, and it’s even the cool and funny thing to do.

I know that complaint exists other places than Taylor too, so I can’t expect to leave it all behind when I go in February. But I’ve decided to wage war against it, and arm myself with an arsenal that will be useful once I graduate too. I’m going to cultivate a spirit of gratefulness, of gratitude, of awe and wonder at this blessed world I’ve been given to live in. I won’t condemn or criticize others, especially about their complaints, and I’ll just hope that they choose to join with me in thankfulness to God. He’s truly wonderful.

I was inspired more practically by a blog entitled “A Holy Experience” that mom introduced me to. And every Monday, Ann Voskamp lists a number of things that she’s grateful for. It began in 2003 as a quest to create a list of 1000 “gifts,” from God (she’s over 2000 now). And so, on this my own Monday, I thankfully join her Gratitude Community with the humble beginnings of a list of my own. I’d encourage you to begin to count the ways that God pours His love on you!

#1 – A weekend home! (Truly a rarity.)

#2 – A clear blue day.

#3 – The realization that even though I was in the throes of the worst headache I had ever had in my life (and that’s saying a lot), I was having a good day – Not controlled by circumstances!

I’ll post thankfulnesses as often as I think of them, and I hope this exercise will cause that to be more frequent.