Friday, July 29, 2005

Today's Word: Opprobrious

Today's word comes courtesy of 'Twisty Faster' of I Blame The Patriarchy, a wonderful and incredibly well-written blog about how our world has been built around a male-dominated mindset; sometimes in subtle ways, and sometimes in very overt ways! Twisty loves tacos and is an amateur entomologist! She has an unusual array of critters in her yard!

Opprobrious is a serious word! It describes an expression that is shameful and vile.

An opprobrious act is a disgrace, not only to the offending party, but to those involved, by association or insinuation.

Something that is opprobrious taints the source as much as it defiles the target. We're not talking about mere insult or abuse, no! We're talking about defamation that lacks any sort of moral sensibility. An opprobrious comment makes everyone in earshot cringe with embarrassment.

Some people are guilty of opprobrious crimes against our very culture! Politicians who claim to voice the opinions of their constituency, but who choose to profit from their position of influence, regardless of the effect those decisions make on the community they represent; those are the people responsible for the global disgrace and disdain that has grown so strong!

To call something 'opprobrious' is to take on a scornful tone and cast serious doubt on the validity and integrity of the subject.

It's not a light word used in annoyance, but rather a caustic and intense word, reserved for the highest disregard!

Twisty very accurately uses the word in her analysis of a popular magazine supposedly geared towards empowerment, but which in reality only serves to further justify and reinforce the stereotypes and patterns it derides!

Thank you Twisty for keeping language alive and passionate!


Thursday, July 28, 2005

Today's Word: Rubricate

Today's word harkens back to the days when books were laboriously printed by hand, and the work that went into crafting them imbued awesome value and power into the written word! Today's word applies directly to words!

To rubricate something is to highlight it or to give it added importance!

In the days when books were made from leather and parchment and ink was made from crushed berries and rare ores...books were highly prized luxury goods! Soon, simply writing out text became mundane, and scholars and monks and scribes began to play around with the look and feel of their work.

Capital letters, colorful inks, and even full pictorial scenes gave importance and beauty to script!

These so-called 'illuminated' manuscripts are now highly prized collector's items, with the legendary Book of Kells being among the most intricately adorned.

The root word 'rubric' means an established order or classification. This fits nicely into the world of books, as most titles and headings were most commonly highlighted, and color-schemes allowed for greater organization and ease-of reference.

Rubric, of course, comes from the Latin for 'red', and it still holds true today that red is used as the most urgent visual alert! (It is interesting to note that, in the medieval era, red was a color of wealth and power - particularly in the church. You can gauge the wealth - and sense of modesty - of a cathedral by inspecting the stained glass windows. Colored glass is created by including various metal ores in the molten glass, and red is created by including gold in the mix, thus red stained glass was very rare!)

Rubricate is now an acceptable term for anything that has been emphasized or otherwise made distinct. It is to place importance on something and to distinguish it as outside the regular order of things!


Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Today's Word: Lucubration

Have you been burning the midnight oil?

Are you an insomniac?

If so, then chances are that you've engaged in a little lucubration!

Lucubration is a word for the night-owls! It means study that is done at night! It is research done by the flicker of candle light...and meditation aided by the velvet shroud of evening!

The term is often used to mean any overly dramatic, pedantic work that is obviously so near and dear to the author's heart that it became an obsession.

I find that there are people who seem to switch on like a light as night falls. Not me! I'm a morning person!

I like to feel the day break open like a fresh egg, illuminating the world of potential that lies waiting for me. But I certainly understand the draw of the evening hours!

In this new world of non-stop information and the barrage of media, sometimes the day flickers by and you find that you simply never had the time to focus and create! The night holds a certain quiet that provides ample space for thoughts to roil about and come to fruition.

Lucubration allows the mind to home-in on ideas without the distractions of life to draw you away. It comes from the Latin word for "work by candlelight", and has since been used to mean written work of substance or intensity.

When contemplating death in Hamlet, William Shakespeare famously wrote:

"To sleep, perchance to dream-
ay, there's the rub."
-Hamlet (III, i, 65-68)

His meaning is clear; that even in sleep (and possibly in death), our minds do not lie dormant...they fill with thought.

(In Shakespeare's time, the game of Cricket was played with a specially counter-weighted ball. It had a dense spot that would create a random bounce - a cricket ball must hit the ground once before it reaches the batter - making it difficult for the man at bat to anticipate the placement of the ball as it approached him. The dense spot was called the Rub of the ball. So, what Shakespeare was saying is that dreams are an unpredictable force that should strike fear in the souls of those who seek solace in sleep (or death), for as we all know; a dream may be pleasant and restful, or it may be terrifying.)

If the mind does continue to churn away in sleep, then we are all guilty of lucubration!


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Today's Word: Discursive

Today's word is one that I am often accused of embodying!

Be careful what you implicate!

You might be right!

'Discursive' is an adjective describing someone who leaps from topic to topic, stringing seemingly disjointed ideas together with reckless abandon! The term can be used in a derogatory manner to mean one who rambles and constantly digresses on minor points of interest. It seems, superficially, to indicate a lack of focus!

Discursive comes from the Latin discurre, a word meaning "to run in different directions".

Despite the flighty overtones, discursive has an upside! It also means someone who is analytical...someone who breaks down meaning and leaves no stone unturned in the search for meaning and truth! It is the opposite of intuitive! The discursive person is a true scientist, leaving nothing to faith or instinct and relying on the Scientific Method to provide a solid and broad base of understanding of the world. The discursive is an explorer - eager to fail and try again, prepared to retrace steps, and never willing to admit defeat in the face of complexity! The discursive brings to mind the old adage, "If at first you don't succeed, try - try again."

It may seem that my word definitions stray from course from time to time. If so, I make no apologies! Each word has so much potential! Even the small and simple words have the ability to open new ways of thinking!

So, maybe I am a tad discursive! Good! It makes life more interesting!


Monday, July 25, 2005

Today's Word: Rodomontade

Well, I think we're all familiar with people who fall into the category of today's word!

Oh yes! It's all around us! A person who is a rodomontade is that swaggering fellow who builds himself up through loud and argumentative boasting.

In the late 15th and early 16th century, a series of Italian epics was penned. They focus on the exploits of a legendary warrior king named Rodomonte. Rodomonte drew his name from the Italian words that meant literally, 'roller of mountains'.

Soon the name became synonymous with people who claimed to have achieved the impossible.

Too often, we eagerly succumb to the gregarious charms of the rodomontade. They urge us with vigor and confidence! They have unwavering opinions and appeal to our innate need for security and strength.

But beware!

The rodomontade is still human, and when the boastful braggarts make it into positions of power and influence, look out! They're never wrong! They are above inspection or critique! Following such a person may feel empowering, but in the end, it can destroy years of hard work and integrity.

People! It's time to wake up and realize that we are all fallible! There are no fast and hard rules! Life is far more complex than that! With that realization must come the awareness that those who present themselves as beyond-reproach are dangerous and vain! It might be hard - because in examining our relationships, we may find that some of our most beloved mentors have in fact slipped to easily into the abuse of power. But if that's the case, it's all the more important that we stand firm because unmerited power always comes at the cost of human suffering!

If we really want to encourage an enlightened and modern society, we must accept that none of us can move mountains alone. We must be open to debate, and free from pride and smug pretentions! We must refuse to accept totalitarian ultimatums and we must fight the urge to suppress critical thought!

It's Monday!


Friday, July 22, 2005

Today's Word: Pyrrhic

Pyrrhic is a term that is particularly applicable in times of war! Its use is pertinent in many arenas though.

A pyrrhic victory is one where the cost outweighs the spoils! It is the mark of an egotistical leader - hell bent on the glory of triumph, without regard for whether triumph is necessary or beneficial.

The adjective comes from the Ancient Greek warlord Pyrrhus who, at the tender age of 26, sent tens of thousands of Greek soldiers to their deaths in relatively inconsequential forays against the Romans. Plutarch, that legendary moralist who served as one of the two Priests of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, is said to have remarked, "Another such victory over the Romans and we are undone."

The word came into common use in the English language in the mid 1800's and has since come to mean any conquest or achievement that is undermined through the very process of achievement.

In these turbulent times, we need to all take a step back from our daily battles - large and small - and give thought to whether we are being pyrrhic in our pursuits. In our fulfillment-driven society it's easy to overlook the fact that sometimes getting what we think we want may in fact bring greater and more substantial loss.

It's a deep concept! Thank goodness we have a word for it!


Thursday, July 21, 2005

Today's Word: Yttrium

Yttrium! What is it?

It's an element! From Sweden, no less.

It was discovered in 1794 in the Swedish town of Ytterby which is near Stolkholm. The little hamlet of Ytterby is responsible for the discovery of four unique elements! All from one quarry!

Yttrium is responsible for the red phosphors in your television sets! Yttrium is also a very strong element, and it is used to fortify alloys like aluminum and magnesium. In its natural state, it has a silvery metallic lustre.

Wow! Are you bored with Yttrium yet?

Well don't be!

When Yttrium is combined with aluminum in a crystal form, it becomes something spectacular! It becomes YAG - Yttrium Aluminum Garnet! YAG is a bright and durable crystal that has a place in both the fashion and the medical industries.

YAG is one of the most popular forms of synthetic diamond! All of those late night home-shopping show advertisements for faux-diamonds? YAG! It's easy for a trained jeweler to spot a fake diamond (they do it by flipping the stone over at looking at how light refracts through the stone - not by inspecting the cut or sparkle) but how many of us are professional gemologists? Not me! I say if it looks good, then enjoy it!

YAG has a more serious side to it than baubles and trinkets though.

Advances in technology have opened up the field of laser medicine. Lasers are used now for their extreme accuracy and minimal tissue damage. And you can't have a laser without a crystal. Rubies are often used but YAG gives lasers greater control because it can be altered with additional elements like neodymium! You can use lasers for everything from cosmetic surgery and hair removal to vision correction. YAG is used in all of these procedures!

Yttrium is a rare element that permeates out modern world!


Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Today's Word: Pronk

I got an email recently asking me if every word has a deep meaning hidden behind it - the answer is no!

Not every word I write about will require a lengthy aside!

Today's word is pronk. Pronk is a verb that describes a vertical jump. It hails from Australia, where it is used to describe the peculiar hop of the kangaroo!

That's it!


Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Today's Word: Kerma

Kerma is a ratio! Watch out, this one is long!

It sounds a lot like Karma, and it's not all that dissimilar in some ways. Karma, of course, is the Hindu and Buddhist term for the sum effect of a person's actions which then determines the course of their life - it accumulates, so some believe, and can have effect on future incarnations. Karma is some heavy stuff!

But Kerma doesn't have any linguistic or historical ties to Karma!

Nor does the modern term have anything to do with the ancient Egyptian trading center named Kerma. The city of Kerma was a hub of activity along the Nile that is a rich source of knowledge for modern archaeologists! Kerma pottery is distinctive because of its delicate tulip-like form and its bold red-to-black color transition!

Kerma, as it is used today, stands for 'Kinetic Energy Released in Matter'.

Kerma is a scientific term! It's a ratio that describes the release of charged electrons into a solid, usually due to radiation.

Kerma is measured in units called Grays. (Named after famed British radiologist Louis Harold Gray, who pioneered the use of radiation therapy to battle cancer. Gray loved the sciences, but couldn't stand languages! No, it took falling in love to bring literature to the scientist. He famously read volume after volume of classic stories to his wife who had been blinded in her youth. In addition to his warm heart and vast scientific mind, he was also an accomplished furniture builder and enthusiastic tea-drinker!) One Gray is equal to one Joule/Kilogram.

Kerma is important because by defining a measure of radiation's effects, Gray has given us the ability to control our exposure to radiation: Kerma gives us the ability to differentiate between radiation exposure that helps, and radiation exposure that harms. And that, my friends, is very important thing to be able to measure.

So how, you ask is kerma similar to Karma? To me, they are similar because they both measure the effect of energy on our lives - and in doing so, give us the choice to seek change for the better.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Today's Word: Nice

This one's a fabulous example of the evolution of meaning!

I bet you think you know what's nice! Santa knows who's naughty and nice, and so do you, right?


Nice as it was originally meant, wasn't "nice" at all!

Nice used to be a term for the overly-fastidious! It was an insult of character. A "nice" person was squeamish, and easily offended! In fact, it comes from the Middle English word for foolish, and that in turn was born from the Latin term for ignorant! To call someone nice was to suggest that they were weak or foppish!

In Shakespearian times, "nice" had an extra facet to its meaning. A nice woman was one who was being overly coy...affecting an attitude of modesty with the deliberate intention of titillation. In fact, nice was suggestive of potential wantonness!

How did it ever come to mean kind and good-natured and pleasant? I don't know, but maybe now you'll think twice about calling someone nice!


Friday, July 15, 2005

Today's Word: Omerta

Today's word was discovered on a fascinating blog called Mr. Kottke ate sour cream for an entire year - but more importantly, he designed his very own font! Think of that! Fonts are important! Without movable type, books and literature would have to be copied by hand! Fonts allow a clear and efficient transfer of knowledge - and some fonts even bring along their own style and comportment - they add to the language while delivering its message! Thank you Mr. Kottke!

On to our word, the ominous omerta!

So, you criminally minded readers, take note! An omerta is perhaps the most important concept in the world of illicit activity. But come to think of it, the term has application in any society that thrives on trust and exclusivity!

In essence, an omerta is a pact of is the solemn vow that even in the face of extreme scrutiny, certain information is to be held safe and not divulged - even when faced with personal risk.

An omerta can be a casual assumption, as when dealing with personal information, or it can be explicitly expressed - sealed with a signature or ritual. With an omerta, your word is a bond that ties you to the other parties involved and to their actions. Trust has to go both directions!

The word itself comes from an Italian derivation of a Latin word for modesty. Boasting involves a lot of exposure! If you're mindful, you can discover a lot about a person based on what they brag about!

The omerta is insurance against swaggering. It's a sly agreement that fosters a sense of security and fraternity!


Thursday, July 14, 2005

Today's Word: Sciolist

Sciolists are annoying!

I'll tell you why: Sciolists think they know everything. Nothing is ever new or surprising to these folk, no! They show off their supposed-worldly knowledge with superficial quips and a posture of superiority!

These people just can't be wrong.


I'm sure you know of few sciolistic people...or perhaps you've caught yourself behaving in a sciolistic manner...trying hard to impress someone, or defensively supporting a position based on the thinnest of facts.

Some people just can't help it...they gather loose factoids and tidbits of truth around them like a warm security blanket. They fear the unknown, and that fear rules them.

You can spot them at a party with ease! They always have the last word, and they never give pause in an argument to consider an alternative perspective...They never waver! Their insecurity turns them into pedantic know-it-alls. With a sciolist, every conversation devolves into an argument.

How do you deal with the sciolist? I'm not sure that you can effectively engage them...the rules of civil debate don't apply. When caught out, they will try to change the subject, through artifice or through insult (it's common in politics!).

So I just try to avoid or ignore them.

Don't get me wrong, the persistent pursuit of knowledge should be encouraged! It should be embraced by each and every one of us! But in doing so, we need to accept with humility that there is always more to learn, always another angle or new perspective that can provide more and greater knowledge! There's no reason to be pretentious!

Look around you! Examine the people who you learn from. Do they present a black and white view of the world? Life's not like that! Don't get suckered into becoming a sciolist too!


Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Today's Word: Potulent

Whew! It's late! To my East Coast readers, I apologize!

Today's word is potulent, it's a good word indeed!

Yes, potulent is a state of Being, one that many of us aspire to; but few of us can maintain. It's a subtle, transitory stage that is as seductive and dangerous as it is delightful.

Nirvana? NO!

Enlightement? Perhaps to some degree.

The state of potulence is not for the teetotler or the abstainer. It is a condition of eminent-intoxication. It's that glorious moment between the third and the fourth glass of sherry. It's the feeling of anticipation just prior to a kiss. It is tipsy, it is the giddy potential of more.

Yes, potulence is an requires more than meditation and more than a little restraint. It draws its heritage from the lovely French term potable, which means "safe to drink". (You will often see fountains in France with little placards indicating the water's potability.)

The state of potulence is nebulous, by the time you're sure that you're there, you're usually already well on your way to decidedly past it. But you can't achieve its mysteries through inaction or fear. No, you must pursue potulence if you hope to experience it.

In the end, potulence may be an illusion...a trick that leads us into indulgence...but ah, what a fine illusion it is.


Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Today's Word: Fid

Today's word is a simple tool. It has no moving parts; no buttons or levers. Fids have been used for generations with no need for upgrades or improvements! That's pretty great!

But the fid is also a small part of a grand tradition that is rapidly being lost in our global embrace of a mechanized future!

You see, a fid is a simple pick, made of finely grained wood, used to work the tightly-wound strands on a rope. Sailors and other outdoorsmen use the fid to rapidly pull apart a rope in order to tie complex knots and splice ends together.

Ropework and knotwork were once considered essential and valuable skills. Ropework was both decorative and utilitarian. It gave people power over their environments, allowing them to secure themselves over cliff-edges, bind poles into latticework, and guide ships to sea. It also served as a medium of expression: From the tedium of tying the same knots over and over, improvisations and artistic flourishes gave idle minds an outlet.

Today, machines tie knots tighter and more efficiently than a person. Buckles, clips and nylon harnesses provide quick alternatives to laborious knotwork. But at what cost?

Certainly, these modern conveniences promote safety and improve productivity. There's no doubt about that! But there is something to be said for knowledge of a craft - particularly one handed down via person-to-person contact. It's how traditions are formed...where local flair comes from. Sadly, as technology presents us with new and exciting solutions, it also threatens to rob us of our character.

In time, a fid may lose all meaning...and then it will simply be a stick. But for a few hearty folk out there, a fid is still an essential tool!

So, most of us will never run across a fid. But perhaps there are local traditions where you live that could stand to be dusted off and re-examined, if not for a practical purpose...then for the simple comfort of tradition.


Monday, July 11, 2005

Today's Word: Obloquy

Friends, there's nothing good that I can say about this one. No.

I do my best to give accurate interpretations of words here, and most of the time, I find that even in the face of a negative connotation, there is a hidden lesson waiting to be discovered!

But obloquy is a dark and disturbing term. Yes, obloquy is the word for public disgrace in the face of mean-spirited and often false accusations. Obloquy is an abusive bout of ridicule. It is meant to shame, regardless of merit.

Celebrities bemoan their obloquy, citing their often unflattering personal affairs splashed across tabloids and slick-paged magazines in grocery stores nation-wide. Some say that the rich or famous deserve such treatment; they are privileged, and thus should be prepared to deal with more scrutiny. But normal people are subject to malicious public vilification for entertainment as well.

And the truly pitiful thing is that very often, we encourage this behavior. We are all guilty of the occasional revelry - gloating over the strife and misfortune of others. We tune in to the talk-radio and daytime TV shows. Often these programs hide behind the guise of public-service. But we all know; we're there to see someone worse off than ourselves. It raises our spirits to know that we still have further to fall.

How awful that we have a facet of our being that encourages public shaming. How wretched that people intentionally seek to disrupt each other through vindictive outing and rumor-mongering?

But there it is - right in front of us.

No, there's no happy ending to this one. Obloquy is what it is, and it's important to define it, because in some marginal yet inescapable way, it also defines a part of us.


Saturday, July 09, 2005

Today's Word: Peccadillo

Oh! The mighty peccadillo!

It's not a tiny armored mammal, no! It's not tex-mex either! No, the peccadillo is that tiny little quirk that makes you uniquely you. A peccadillo is a small sin, a slight imperfection of character.

Peccadilloes are no big deal...they're proof that you're human...minor foibles and slight personality flaws. I've got them, and so do you.

Thank goodness!

That's right folks, it's hard to understand, in our stodgy world of black and white, right and wrong...but one great secret is hidden away in the peccadillo.

In our ever-vigilant pursuit of's the tiny flaws that make the world such a wonderful place. It's the imperfections...the little distortions from the mainstream that draw out the genius and complexity of life.

I'll give you an example. Take a pearl. A pearl in itself is a peccadillo. A perfect oyster doesn't make pearls. It takes a small irritation - a grain of sand - to start the process. Over time, the oyster's natural defenses build up layers and layers of shell around the grain of sand and before you know it, instead of an appetizer, you have a rare and breathtaking jewel.

Now look at that pearl...if the surface of that pearl is perfectly smooth and round, it won't look like much. The sheen will be uniform and bland...but if some flaw slips in and causes the pearl to distort or be slightly less than a perfect! Light diffracts, colors burst forth, and what was once white and unremarkable is an opalescent sight to behold.

So, take the time to acknowledge your own personal peccadilloes. You're not perfect, and the world would be a less brilliant place if you were.


Friday, July 08, 2005

Today's Word: Saturnine

Saturnine...say it out loud! It sounds pretty!

But it's not!

No, saturnine is not a pretty word at all. The wonderful and impressive thing about words is that they cover all the bases. We have words for everything - not just the good stuff. In fact, the words that define the bad things of life may be equally important. By giving those things substance, words allow us to handle and control them. Words give us power!

Saturnine is a mood of sullen melancholy. It's not depression or anger. It's less vibrant than either. It lacks the passion of despair or fury. It hangs dull and suffocating around your shoulders.

The particular bland and dour countenance is associated with lead poisoning. Lead being what ancient Romans believed the planet Saturn was made from.

What is startling about this word is that the Roman god Saturn was not a sad fellow! No! In fact, it was Saturn (according to Roman mythology) who taught man to till the soil and to harvest crops! It was Saturn who was celebrated by the Romans with a week-long festival in late December - a celebration of life and merriment that is believed by many to be the inspiration for the timing of the modern Christmas celebration!

(Christians take note, it is common knowledge and well documented that the actual calendar dates of Christian celebrations were deliberately placed to coincide with holidays of other religions - Easter, for example, was paired with an ancient Pagan fertility holiday. This was an effort by the early Church to help converts feel comfortable with their new faith. Don't take this news as disparaging, no! It's simply history, and that's ok. The more you know about your religion -whatever you believe in, the more confident and full your faith will be. Our current calendar is much different than the calendar of 2,000 years ago. In fact, Roman Emporers added the months July and August in honor of Julius and Augustus Caesar.)

Lead, that dense and malleable mineral...lead has poisoned the meaning of Saturnine in the same way that it can poison a person. Don't eat paint!

Do you catch yourself slipping into a saturnine disposition every now and then? I do! But I beat it back by going outside and paying homage to the Roman ideal of Saturnian celebration...I revel in the bounty of the sun and the wonder of the wild and exhilarating splendor of nature.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Today's Word: Hysteresis

Today's Word was requested by Spoketruce, an artist! He's a big fan of orange juice and cheese-toast!

Actually, he suggested three words, and that's ok. I'm only going to do the first one for now, because I only do one word a day, and it's important to maintain structure. I'll probably get around to the other two, because they're very good words!

Hysteresis is a period of's a state of lag between the moment of influence and the actual effect. Sounds complicated but it's not!

Imagine a firework....BAM! That's the cause. Now, imagine your reaction...awe, appreciation, excitement! Does it happen right away? NO! It takes a fraction of a second for your brain to process what's going on! There's a breathless pause of void where your senses are completely overwhelmed...nothing happens because so MUCH is happening. That is a hysteretic moment.

Why is that important? I'll tell you! Hysteresis can allow you to mold and shape experiences. It's a period of pause between cause and effect that gives the astute observer time to work.

When you make soap, you turn a liquid into a solid via the chemical process called saponification. But it doesn't happen right introduce the catalyst and then wait and stir. If it all happened at once, you'd have a giant pot full of hard soap. But since the reaction takes a moment or two to kick in...the soap-maker can pour the liquid into molds and create whatever your heart desires!

Scientists use hysteresis as a measuring-stick. Magnetic fields, chemical reactions...there is always lag between cause and effect, and the amount of lag can be measured and manipulated. In many cases, the absence of effect is just as important and useful as the effect! That's Zen!

Hysteresis is a transition period full of potential. You can ignore it, sure...the wheels of change are already in motion. But if you act with deliberate intent, you can use hysteresis like a tool to refine the raw experiences of life. Not Bad!


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Today's Word: Bromide

You probably recognize the word bromide. It may conjure up old-timey syrups or potions for ailments and infirmities. But the word has more layers to it than that!

Potassium Bromide is essential in the craft of photography. Taking it's name from the Greek bromos (bad smelling), Potassium Bromide is used to create Silver Bromide, the photo-sensitive chemical that many scientists believe is responsible for the image found on the Shroud of Turin! That's right, the Shroud is now thought to be a very early form of photograph, created in the early Renaissance! Oh, there are plenty of arguments on both sides of the position! Any beloved relic that is given a thorough examination will raise the hackles of fundamentalists of all sorts, faithful and skeptics alike!

Potassium Bromide is also a powerful drug that acts as a sedative. It's very commonly used to treat seizures in dogs. In Great Britain, the term "bromide" is used rather loosely to refer to drugs that treat depression.

Since many early anti-anxiety and depression treatments simply suppressed all vitality and emotion, the term has carried over to mean dull-witted or a boorish personality.

A dull or overly-conventional person or phrase can be said to be a bromide!

What a history! There's nothing dull or conventional about religious forgery or alchemical concoctions, and yet, there you have it!


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Today's Word: Poshlost

Note: I take off holidays, and every now and then I need to give my typing hands a rest. I can only look at the screen for so long. I appreciate all of the emails from friends wondering where the daily word had gone!

I hope all of my American readers had a wonderful holiday weekend! America's independence was the first step in a grand adventure that has become synonymous with freedom and liberty across the globe.

But beware! The trappings of a free-society are easy to mimic and distort! A beautiful building with rotten support beams and a weak foundation is doomed to crumble. The same holds true for cultures that focus so hard on the spoils of freedom that the fundamentals that define freedom are neglected!

Today, with a nod towards the Melbourne Bookworms and to Russian author Vladimir Nabokov, we look at the word poshlost (which is slowly gaining use in English, frequently transmuted into term "poshlust" which adds accurate, if unintentional, dual implications.)

Poshlost refers to an inescapable banality...a vulgarity that runs like an infection through a culture. It is a term that describes not just the obvious perversions and grime but also the patina of beauty that lures people in like a poisonous flower. As many an overnight-celebrity will confirm; a fancy cage is a cage none-the-less.

Poshlost is a warning and a lament. It's a recognition of a seemingly indefatigable human disposition towards greed and self-serving egotism. It ties nicely into the Buddhist concept of suffering as the basest form of human existence.

But don't worry! The ability to recognize and define poshlust gives us the ability to overcome and transcend it. By encouraging integrity and substance, we can fin our way into the clear.


Friday, July 01, 2005

Today's Word: Nidifugous

All of you eager adventurers, take note!

Nidifugous is a word that is about wanderlust and that bold passion of youth! Island fever strikes us all, whether your island is a suburb in Detroit or a blip on the radar of an approaching submarine, the confines of comfort and familiarity eventually grow too tight, and the brave among us find ways to strike out and find new ground.

Typically, the term nidifugous is used when discusing our avian friends, as some birds are notorious for flitting away from their nest at first opportunity.

But as with all things that are hallmarks of bravery; nidifugousness can backfire on the ill-prepared. The antsiness of youth can encourage rash decisions that feel well thought out and responsible. Many a first-flight has resulted in a bruised-ego and sometimes worse.

So, all of you would-be explorers, tread lightly, measure twice, and enjoy the rush as you venture forth into new and unclaimed skies!