Immured no more

Your usual batch of COVID-19-related suspects stay atop of the Words of the Week, but words like start, immure, kittel, and recusant add some variety to this week’s list.

Ashleigh and I were recusants this past weekend; we could not stay immured any longer.

On Saturday, 18 April, we retraced a favourite walking path of ours that we charted pre-coronavirus, one that takes us to the “top of the world” and to medieval towers along the coast of Malta.

This 17 kilometre (11 mile) route offers us samplings of everything great Malta has to offer: the coast and the sea, the farms, the houses of character that line the winding roads, stunning views, and colourful village centres.

Words of the Week – April 14-21, 2020

Before I begin, a correction is needed.

Three weeks ago in the comeback version of Words of the Week, I listed “grid” as one of the participants of the list. It is sometimes peculiar to find certain, seemingly understandable words on this list, and grid was one of them. Nothing in recent news suggested as to why people would be looking up grid in the dictionary.

Yet while cataloging past entries into a database this past week, I learned, with chagrin and embarrassment, that it was not grid that owned the #16 spot, but “gird.”

I apologize to gird for its omission from the list. This author regrets the error.

With that aside, gird your loins and follow me through this edition of Words of the Week for April 14-21, 2020 (1 on the Anno Coronavirus calendar).

As always, I give thanks to Merriam Webster’s Unabridged Online Dictionary for making it possible for me reflect on the meaning of life according to the top 25 words that people looked up in the past week.

1. Start

When will real life start again? This is a surprising word to find on this list, let alone at the number one position. Recently, US governors were given the green light to restart their states at a time appropriate for them.

The sooner we no longer have to immure ourselves, the better.

2. Furlough

The list of companies furloughing entire departments, sections, units, teams, staff, groups, and shifts piles up every day. Forty-three thousand Disney employees are being furloughed, yet with health benefits intact. All those Disney Park employees can come improve the line-waiting flow and experience at local grocery stores.

3. Pandemic

Most of the world is still operating under a pandemic atmosphere. I have been encouraged by the way churches have responded to everything. As my wife and I participated in a Zoom-powered Bible study one evening, I felt encouraged knowing that this particular church is able to operate relatively normally, and I am certain many other churches have been doing so as well. We are “scattered” and unable to meet under one roof, and yet we are able to carry on.

I was then thinking of churches across the world who are regularly persecuted for gathering or simply being Christian. They have been operating under unusual circumstances for far longer than most any of us have.

4. Corona

With Cinco de Mayo approaching (the one holiday that has no relevance to me and my household history that I really enjoying partaking in), I plan to purchase several highly priced Coronas to imbibe as a passive-aggressive act against the coronavirus and what it has done to us.

5. Coronavirus

It is number five here on the list, but it is the number thing everyone thinks about these days. All aspects of life and conversations circle back to this virus. It will be a grand day when we can make everything be about politics and now the coronavirus.

6. Noun

Three weeks in a row, noun is number six on the list. If this holds, I will really have to do some investigation as to why.

7. Quarantine

“Stay home!” is the new social media currency; a valuable hashtag to use.

A Facebook friend – but real-life an acquaintance; a friend of a friend – brought up sobering point in a Facebook post. While we Christians are enjoying church-from-home quite a bit, we have forgotten about the people in the church community who do not have a stable home or the means to connect online: the homeless, the fatherless, the widow, the poor. How are they connecting with their church family when most of church has gone up to the cloud (not raptured, but online).

8. Fascism

Odd chance to have to write about fascism on the day that a certain Führer known for his certain brand of fascism was born. I am waiting for the 2020 presidential election debates before I really start to breakdown why fascism remains so high on this list week after week.

With socialism also a frequenter to Words of the Week, it makes me wonder why communism has not made an appearance here. Does nobody really want to know about the other form of governance that is being kittled?

9. Draconian

Every week a government body somewhere announces some sort of preventive measure that are one step short of unleashing an army of drones… over… a population… to monitor… the population. Hmm.

Again, this is an issue I am wrestling with in my brain: do something for the good of others but at the consequence of civil liberty.

I think it is easy to see how slippery of a slope societies can put themselves on. We are first told to be mindful of our physical distance with each other. Next step: keep your eyes out for persons breaking quarantine. Report to the authorities and do not get near those who are meant to be in quarantine. Label them, and publicly announce they who are mandated to stay in quarantine. Though the virus has passed, we still must monitor them who are of other illnesses or conditions deadly to greater society.

10. Adjective

I recently copyedited an article for a client who wrote about “cultural omnivores”, or people who consume both “highbrow” and “lowbrow” entertainment. The former helps one feel better about themselves, while the latter helps one feel more integrated with the wider culture.

I believe that the works of Monty Python are an all-you-can-eat buffet for cultural omnivores: you get savoury chunks of classic literature with seared fillets of history and are all marinated with the sweetness of absurd and nonsensical laughs.

11. Asymptomatic

A home-state newspaper ran a thorough report on the actual number of cases (or at least as best the reporters could gather) versus the number of reported cases by the state of Idaho. One of the last four states in the Union to be affected by the coronavirus, Idaho and its health officials are grilled and examined about their methods of reporting cases. Some companies do not report the case if they feel the person is not a health threat, the Idaho Statesman article reads.

12. Socialism

Contrary to my prediction from last week, socialism actually jumped way up into the list for this week. Now I presume this word will be propped up in the list for many, many weeks to come because of speculation on the new world of economics post-corona.

13. Culture

Continuing for #12 on the list, culture is ripe for change after the coronavirus. My social scientism is not acute enough to project how Western/American/Idaho culture will be when this passes (perhaps we will be even more Internet-reliant than ever before; maybe movie theatres will officially die now; maybe we will never care about live events again!), but I do predict a boom of innovation and creativity. Web communication and streaming services are going to be sharpened and enhanced like never before. See 20 Novel in this list for more of my bold predictions about humanity.

(I can’t wait to not reference coronavirus in each of these words.)

14. Ballistic

A new word in the list this week that shot itself right to the middle of the pack, ballistic joins this week probably because world powers are flaunting their ballistic capabilities again and football stars “went ballistic” after hearing their pay was reduced by 30 percent.

And, oh yeah, wars are still raging on.

15. Happy

Happy asserts itself at #15 this week. I will be very happy when the coronavirus passes so that every single bit of life and news will not have to be couched by the topic of the virus.

16. Verb

This week’s list features another new verb: immure. Jump down three spots to read more about it.

17. Love

I love this song.

18. Recusant

At this point in this week’s list of words, we are getting to some interesting stuff.

A recusant is a “nonconformist”, one who dissents. Another specific definition is “a person (as a Roman Catholic) refusing to attend the services of the Church of England”, and even more specifically of an “English Roman Catholic of the time from about 1570 to 1791…” To be recusant was a statutory offense.

Day by day we are seeing “recusants” defying public gathering bans. I never saw myself as a nonconformist, but the simple act of walking outside makes me feel dangerous, brave, and a recusant.

19. Immure

A verb meaning “to enclose within or as if within walls”, immure makes the list thank to, yes, the virus and journalists looking for synonyms of quarantining and social distancing oneself. It is evident that many writers are getting sick of talking about the cultural and economic effects of the virus when one must dig deep into the thesaurus for a new way to describe our respective lockdowns.

20. Novel

It is likely that we will have a novel way of living post coronavirus. Post-911, we are accustomed to undergoing stringent security checks at airports (yet somehow train stations are a walk in the park). Post-corona, it may become normal to stand six feet away from acquaintances when bumping into them in public. Asking “do I keep my distance or can we at least bump elbows?” will be added with our checklist of questions such as “what’s that person’s name again?” and “what excuse do we have for not agreeing to do that thing with them?”

21. Plyometrics

Gyms are closed everywhere, giving rampancy to home workouts being filmed and Instagrammed.

I took a detour from my usual bodyweight and/or cinder block workouts to do a plyometric hop-around session this past week. Thankfully there was no urgent need to use my legs after a session of squat tuck-jumps for 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off for five rounds.

22. Kittel

“Kittel” is absent on Merriam Webster’s, but “kittle” is there. So, we have two different words for the price of one.

Kittle is chiefly Scottish for “to tickle” or “to enliven”, whereas a “kittel” is a white linen or cotton robe worn by religious Jews on holidays leading up to Passover seder. With Passover come and gone, it is sensible that kittle was being mentioned and subsequently looked up by many.

23. Inclined

This is a now popular adjective thanks to reports of state governors feeling “inclined” to open back up their state for business and for NFL GMs feeling “inclined” to select or trade to select a certain prospect.

24. Maundy

For three decades of my life and of experiencing the traditions of pre- and post-Easter, I never was aware of Maundy Thursday or Maundy in general. Perhaps it is a chiefly Catholic thing; me as a Dutch Reformist was oblivious to this word.

Maundy is a ceremony of washing the feet of the poor on Maundy Thursday. Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is an example of a great act of love and servanthood. I never fully appreciated how significant this is until I actually got to know and be with poor people in Poland. There were some feet belonging to troubled but endearing souls that would have required much courage to even get near let alone touch and wash.

25. Racism

This ornery word stayed on my past Words of the Week breakdowns because people tend to toss it around too freely at one another.

By the way, is there a more ornery word to spell than “ornery”?

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