Undesigning Words of the Week – Part 2

18. Draconian

Last week’s ranking: 14

Meaning and usage

I am going to be Draconian on the capitalization of this adjective from here on out. The word relates to the lawgiver Draco, the first recorded legislator of Athens in Ancient Greece. Since the word is inspired by a proper noun, and proper nouns are capitalized in the English language, I am going to be harsh and rigorous on the demands for Draconian to be capitalized as well.

I have made the same arguments for the capitalization of “Biblical” as an adjective. However, I have to go through argumentative gymnastics to reach this conclusion.

If you look up the definition of “Biblical” (emphasis mine), you will find its first definition to say “of, relating to, derived from, or in accord with the Bible” (my emphasis there as well). I am aware that “Bible” as a word has been used colloquially to describe anything that is the definitive manual or book about other topics, as in “the grammarian’s bible”, for example. Fair enough – people recognize the definitive nature of the Holy Bible. Why not, then, capitalize “Bible” in “the grammarian’s Bible”?

I would venture to guess that we would not dare use lower case “Torah” if it were to be made an adjective, nor would we do the same to “Koranic”, which is a adjective.

What about chauvinism (referring to Chauvin) or gargantuan (referring to Gargantua), you who write this blog? Should we capitalize those formerly proper adjectives?

Yes, why not? I am now a Draconian speller who will capitalize Biblical, Chauvinistic, Titanic, Gargantuan, Brobdingnagian (thanks, thesaurus), and Quixotic.

I am being Quixotic, here, sure.

Why it is in the news

About what was I talking? Oh, yeah, Draconian. Draconian as a word is in the news because some (or many, or few, depending on where you live) find lockdown measures as Draconian, or outright tyrannical.

Lockdowns at differing Draconian degrees have troubled cultures, as I have written about above.

19. Asymptomatic

Last week’s ranking: 12

Meaning and usage

A chiefly medical term – adjective – to mean “symptomless; presenting no subjective evidence of disease.”

Why it is in the news

Asymptomatic carriers of the coronavirus are the primary targets for lockdown measures and social distance warriors. One may be healthy and feel symptomless but they could be carrying the virus, thus unintentionally spreading it.

20. Rape

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

There are some words that had humble beginnings and used for different purposes. Take “gay” (happy or merry), “fag” (to become fatigued, or a cheap cigarette), or “ass” (of the genus Equus that are smaller than the horse). Reading these words here and now likely caused you some discomfort. I blushed at the typing of these words, believe you me.

But perhaps no word has undergone a transformation towards the ugly side more than “rape”. I fret having to cover this word on most weeks, but I was surprised to be greeted by the following definitions for rape from Merriam-Webster’s unabridged dictionary:

How did the Middle English word for rope, rāp, become the word used to describe one of the most heinous acts mankind can do to one another? And of turnip? What happened to the poor turnip?

Why it is in the news

It is in the news whenever a criminal is prosecuted for the said act. Stories coming out of India are more prevalent than others in terms of worldwide news coverage of rape. The plight of women in India has gone overlooked and disrespected for many, many years.

[This entire entry has been a supremely uncomfortable experience.]

21. Lagniappe

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

Lagniappe is an American French word of origin that is appears to have come from an American Spanish word la ñapa. This word does not turn up in the few pure French online dictionaries I consulted, making lagniappe a truly, chiefly American French word. Who said American English is not cultured and sophisticated?

 The number twenty-one most popular word for the past week is a noun meaning “a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase” or “something given or obtained gratuitously or by way of bonus or good measure.”

Why it is in the news

Detecting the primary current or popular event that inspired a mad, nationwide rush to find the word in dictionary is difficult. The word could have been uttered on a popular Netflix series or traditional cable TV show for all I know. Here are two of the top news topics I found for lagniappe:

A medical company called Lagniappe in New Orleans providing antibody testing to determine the exposure to the coronavirus is one collection of news articles spurring on the search for lagniappe. Another is of a Mobile, Alabama newspaper called Lagniappe that is cutting back its publishing schedule to just twice per week.

22. Denomination

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

There are religious denominations and denominations of measurement. The noun meaning “the act of denominating or naming” is widely used in Christianity to distinguish different communities of the Christian faith from the others.

Why it is in the news

This is no time to get into the theological differences of the Christian faith versus that of the religion of Mormonism, but news sourcing from the latter (Day Saints) is partly responsible for bringing denomination to the news. (In short, Mormonism makes claim to be a “denomination” of the Christian faith, and I, and other, believe that it cannot make this claim. This is again for another time.)

This happened in early April, but I missed it: the LDS Church unveiled a new symbol for itself during a virtual conference.

Source: Salt Lake Tribune

Church President Russell M. Nelson explained during the conference that the new logo that clearly bears the image of Jesus with outstretched arms is part of the objective to mitigate the world’s use of the church’s other monikers, such as “the Mormon church” or the “LDS church.”

Nelson said, quoted in the ABC News article, that “when we remove the Lord’s name from the name of his church, we inadvertently remove him as the central focus of our worship and our lives.”  

I guess when you lose out on the name “Christian” for your religion, you do have to think of branding alternatives.

23. Candor

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

Candor: we claim to want it, but we do not, really. Candor is “unreserved, honest, or sincere expression.” The primary, unabridged definition of candor is “whiteness” and “brilliance.”

Why it is in the news

Michael Jordan’s candor on the court and candor on camera are stunning.

Netflix’s The Last Dance is a wonderful documentary that is doing its best to fill the sport-less void we are all experiencing. The behind-the-scenes look of the last championship run of the Chicago Bulls is beautiful blend of nostalgia and discovery. I was just old enough to remember moments of the 1998 season, and I recall rushing home for a day out with close friends so that I could at least see the final moments of Game 6 of Bulls versus Jazz NBA finals. I was too young to know the backstory and the drama behind the Bulls’ dynasty; I was not alive during Michael Jordan and the Bulls’ playoff shortcomings in the 1980s.

The Last Dance is praised for its unfiltered look at Michael Jordan and the Bulls. It does not pull any punches when covering Jordan’s gambling history, nor the cold-hearted teasing of the team against the brilliant but spiteful general manager Jerry Krause. It was not pleasant to see Jordan, Pippen, and the others act rather bullishly towards the short and stout man in many of the clips shown in the docu-series. But that is exactly what makes the series is so great: the candor.

Jordan’s candor about his own greatness, about his still-bitter feelings towards Isiah Thomas, and about his love for gambling all show that Michael Jordan, the greatest basketball player of all time, is human. He has desires, and he has failures. His ultra-aggressive leadership and drive to be the best is inspiring.

The candor is so refreshing.

24. Colloquy

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

Last week we had obloquy, and I wrote at length about soliloquy. Another kind of loqui makes an appearance in the Words of the Week.

A colloquy is a conversation, a dialogue. Loqui is Latin meaning “to speak.” It is also said to be a conference, or a “high-level serious discussion.”

Why it is in the news

Articles on legal proceedings often contain this word. In criminal proceedings, a defendant must have a conversation with the judge when the defendant enters a guilty plea in court. This is to make the pleas valid.

Michael Flynn is in the news again. The former national security adviser had his case dismissed by the Department of Justice. You remember the case – the one about Flynn lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russian delegates. Several articles covering this dismissal utter “colloquy” in them.

25. Festoon

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

The list this week ends festively. A festoon is “a decorative chain, usually of flowers or leaves, hanging typically in a curve between two points.” You can also festoon as a verb – meaning to hang something in a festoon.

Why it is in the news

With Victory in Europe Day (VE Day) on 8 May, the seventy-fifth commemoration of the end of World War II, many articles described the patriotic festooning of national flags and colours in the streets across Europe.

Oddly, the event past by without a terrible amount of fanfare in the news here in Malta, but many villages and neighbourhoods spared no moment to blast music and sing from their balconies, all the while draped in the red and white of the Maltese colours.

One thought on “Undesigning Words of the Week – Part 2

  1. Pingback: Masculine and feminine words, He defined them – Oranjetaan.com

Leave a Reply