Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Evolution of a Word

As some of you might know, I have been doing a blog series lately on under-appreciated words. However, in considering that topic and in the last few years, I have begun to notice the evolution of some words even in our modern society. Most people (myself included) think of a word's etymology as something carved in stone by the ancients or something written by Noah Webster with a quill pen by candlelight. Yet, I see the evidence of how words are transforming before our own eyes, taking on new connotations, definitions, and (in the case of which I am writing) a new part of speech. This may seem to be a very foreign concept to some especially those of us who have studied the Empiricist Theory of Meaning and know that words are only representations of ideas and ponder the complex relationship when either the definition or the idea it represents change. Although, this is a very profound (and somewhat troubling) notion that I have spent more time than I should have thinking about, I will use a somewhat humorous example to illustrate my point.

Let us consider the word "Facebook." While this is not a word that you will find listed in the pages of any well-respected dictionary, we can give it thorough analysis and see the evolution of a word very clearly. Let us first look at the traditional definition (if such a thing exists).

1. Facebook - (noun)
Etymology: English
Date: circa 2004

- A social-networking site created by Mark Zuckerberg where users can join networks organized by city, workplace, school, and region. People can also add friends and send them messages, and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves.

Now, as silly as this may seem, is a harmless definition that most would consider to be an accurate description of the word. However, I find myself often using the word "facebook" in a different way and have heard others do the same. "Facebook" has expanded beyond the confines of noun-hood and entered the world of the active verb. No longer do I just "log in to Facebook" or "look at someones Facebook." Rather, I say that I will "Facebook that person" or ask someone have they "Facebooked so and so." While the word is related, you never hear of anyone "Myspacing" someone. Instead, you "send them a Myspace message." Yet, one would sound antiquated or out of touch if you used a similar phrase describing the process of sending someone a message via the Facebook social-networking site.

While this is a seemingly childish example, I think it illustrates my point well. In a world where many people fall short of the mastery of language and oftentimes even have trouble following the basic rules to express their ideas in a clear and concise fashion, what is one to do to keep up when the words we use can fundamentally change in such a short span of time. Granted this is a limited example, but you can see other examples all around you when you consider them.

So, to close, I will give you an old maxim that has been somewhat revised.

"Say what you mean, mean what you say, and make sure that what you think you are saying still means the same thing that you think it does."

- The Apprentice Philosopher

Monday, July 20, 2009

Under-Appreciated Words: Part 4

Here is the next part of my new series of words that don't get the attention they deserve or are used as much as I think they should be. Remember, just because a word may have a synonym doesn't mean that two words have the same definition or connotations. So, without further ado, today's installment:

4. Torpor \ˈtȯr-pər\ noun
Etymology:Middle English, from Latin, from torpēre
Date:13th century

-apathy, dullness

-a state of mental and motor inactivity with partial or total insensibility

-a state of lowered physiological activity typically characterized by reduced metabolism, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature that occurs in varying degrees especially in hibernating and estivating animals

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Under-Appreciated Words: Part 3

Here is the next part of my new series of words that don't get the attention they deserve or are used as much as I think they should be. Remember, just because a word may have a synonym doesn't mean that two words have the same definition or connotations. So, without further ado, today's installment:

3. Eschew \e-ˈshü, i-; es-ˈchü, is-; also e-ˈskyü\ transitive verb
Etymology:Middle English, from Anglo-French eschiver (3d present eschiu) of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German sciuhen to frighten off — more at shy
Date:14th century

-to avoid habitually especially on moral or practical grounds : shun

*I would like to point out my delight to hear Supreme Court Nominee Sonia Sotomayor use this word during her confirmation hearings last week even though it was already next on my list of under-appreciated words.

Under-Appreciated Words: Part 2

Here is the second part of my new series of words that don't get the attention they deserve or are used as much as I think they should be. Remember, just because a word may have a synonym doesn't mean that two words have the same definition or connotations. So, without further ado, today's installment:

2. Snarky \ˈsnär-kē\ adjective
Etymology: dialect snark to annoy, perhaps alteration of nark to irritate
Date: 1906

-crotchety, snappish
-sarcastic, impertinent, or irreverent in tone or manner

*As I side not, I would like to point out the fact that my spell-check does not recognize the word "snarky" providing further proof that the word is vastly under-appreciated.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Under-Appreciated Words: Part 1

I have always been a fan of linguistics and etymology. I just believe that people should say what they mean and the most precise way to do that is to use specific words for specific meetings. Even though two words might be synonyms, they may carry totally different connotations. So, to assist some other people and to express my affection for some words, I am beginning a series of blogs highlighting words that I feel are vastly under-appreciated.

1.Queue \ˈkyü\ noun
Etymology: French, literally, tail, from Old French cue, coe, Latin cauda, coda
-a waiting line especially of persons or vehicles
-a sequence of messages or jobs held in temporary storage awaiting transmission or processing
-a data structure that consists of a list of records such that records are added at one end and removed from the other
-a hairstyle in which the hair is worn long and gathered up into a pigtail. It was worn traditionally by certain Native American groups, Indian Brahmins and the Manchu of Manchuria.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Pain of Knowledge and Wisdom

Why do we always ask some questions knowing full well that we don't want to know the answers? Is it for the sake of inquisitiveness or is there something inside that knows the pain of knowing is inevitable and it is just better to get it out now sooner than later. They say that ignorance is bliss and that wisdom is no road to fortune, but how can you be at peace once you have forsake that bliss and started down that road.

Maybe we are just always tied to the pain. It follows us around and we ask those questions thinking that knowing will make it go away, when our only reward for our knowledge is to find there is still pain in the answers. One of my favorite movies says that life is pain. Maybe there is just no escaping it.

What can you do with the knowledge and the pain? Is there any way to make it go away? You can't return to that ignorance but then you aren't sure that you would want to. You need to tell someone but you dare not in fear of sharing the pain with people who don't deserve it. I guess you do like always, you just keep it inside. It is your oldest companion, and maybe your only one.

"Much of your pain is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self. " - Khalil Gibran

- The Apprentice Philosopher

Monday, January 5, 2009

An Old Soul

This was a late night attempt at poetry, but it really speaks to how I feel sometimes.

An Old Soul

Some have told me before that I have an

Old Soul.

I have always been confused as to

What that means, but I am beginning now to


I once believed it to be a compliment on some sort of

Wisdom beyond my years.

I was impressed by this and took it as a deep honor.

Yet, now I have encountered in various forms

Those few I would consider to be

Old Souls,

And through these encounters have learned more about myself.

Whether through conversation in smoke filled rooms, or

The wonder of literature,

I feel a connection to these that reaches far beyond the confines of

Space and Time.

This connection assures me that they are in fact

Old Souls,

Yet also hints toward the fact that I too am aged.

I have seen one score and one year, yet I feel much


Many would laugh and think this is the misgiving of a youth who

Doesn’t understand longevity.

My life has been full of more blessings than I could

Ever deserve

And I will not pretend that

It could not have been worse.

Yet the age I feel goes beyond any count of years.

Socrates was undoubtedly an

Old Soul.

Three score and ten years did he live and breathe and think.

And although his sentence was firm, he could have chosen


Yet, I think I could live twice as long as he

And I would not feel any different than I do now.

I feel weary of this world and this existence.

Not sad or depressed of my corporeality,

But tired.

I have long struggled with my destiny and what the


Holds for me.

However, I now feel like my future is unclear because I am

Looking backwards instead of forwards.

Not longingly or regretfully,

But like one remembers places once visited or roads once traveled.

I don’t know, yet I suspect, that this is how Socrates felt when

He chose the hemlock.

What happens when an

Old Soul

Becomes weary of travelling the same roads?

When you feel your time wandering is drawing to a close regardless of

Any measure of success or failure.

Marcus Aurelius wrote that time is a river whose flow is ever


Yet, what happens when your youthful body becomes


With the feeling that you have ridden the length of the river

Over and over again?

These are not the desperate or suicidal ponderings of the depressed,

But the earnest queries of one who doubts that even the solace of

Death itself

Can bring any rest for a weary

Old Soul.


Such a simple yet so often misunderstood word.

Many have written of it and more desire it,

But few can truly give it


I will not make such an attempt but will only say that

While there may never be any


For being more weary of the world than one’s age allows,


Is the only thing that makes the age of your soul

Worth enduring.

No matter how Love crosses your path,

Don’t let it pass you by

And never let it go.

Yet, at the same time,

Remember that crucifixion is the

Ultimate price of Love.

There is not much more to say that can be said.

Maybe the true sign of being an

Old Soul

Is when you feel like there is so much you need to

Share with the world

But you can’t.

Not out of an arrogant desire to prove your wisdom

But out of some desire to validate your journey as meaningful.

Yet, you can’t.

Not merely because no words are enough to express true meaning,

But that something deeper within holds you back.

Keeps you from speaking from the only


You cannot escape.

The fear of ruining


Yours cannot be regained although you know in your


That you would not want it back though its price was

More than you ever agreed to.

Yet, though your very being begs you to release

Your innermost feelings and emotions to

Save the world from itself,

You cannot even force the words out.

The world has the capability to save itself.

But it has to make that choice itself.

An Old Soul.

I still am not convinced I know

What that means.

I am more persuaded that

I may never know.

Some say I have one.

I am beginning to believe them.

- The Apprentice Philosopher