Hi, my noun is John

One name re-inspires a movement, rekindles racial tensions, and rescinds beliefs in progress. Plus, are you ready for the final showcase in this week’s The Price (of Liberty) is Right?

What would we be without our names? Would we be we without our names? Would you be you without your name?

Names confer meaning upon us, and upon others who have names, and upon the things and critters who cannot name themselves.

If you never grew up with a name, would you still be you?

I was called “Johnny” as a young human. This name showed the world that I was the youngster of John, my father, who was once the youngster of John (Opa), my grandfather. My family knew me as Johnny; my schoolmates knew me as Johnny; I knew myself as Johnny. I was not Jonny, and I certainly was not a Jonathan! By no means was I a Jon!

As I got older, I wanted to drop the Johnny moniker because I felt it would forever bottle me as a youngster. Diminutive versions of names have that effect. One day, as a third grader, I declared to the world that I am “John”. I felt it was my rite of passage into being a big boy.

Ironically, as I aged and turned into an actual man, I devolved back into my “Johnny” persona. I believe that I wanted to retain what youthfulness I had. Living and breathing video games and adoring animated cartoon movies did not suffice as youth potions. Apart from legal documents, I use the name Johnny more frequently. Something about the name “Johnny” makes me feel youthful and spritely.

My name, John Jacob van Vliet V (yes, the fifth – that part is essential to my family history), imbues essence and a spark of divinity in me. And, yes, legally my name is John. Yet I will always carry the Johnny card with me as a de-aging utility.

The word “name” is the origin of “nouns.” Noun originates from Middle English, Old French, and Latin – and in all three roots, the word “noun” means “name.”

When we put a name to a face, we shape a collective meaning. The protests against abusive police power would not be what they are, I argue, if there was no name behind it. If these recent riots across America were just that – riots – they would not be unique. Yet, putting the name “George Floyd” on the proverbial banner of these protests – a name fused with the face of a man succumbed by abusive power – changes everything. Rightly or wrongly, George Floyd’s name legitimatizes the movement. Alternatively, withholding the name of a mass-shooting gunman from media publications (the ones who practice this) simultaneously withholds whatever notoriety or glory the shooter was seeking. We do not name the shooter because we do not want to dignify the person at all.

A name not only personifies persons, but animals, objects, places, and ideas. God told Adam to name the things that creep on the earth, the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the creatures of the seas. We name objects, plants, ideas, and feelings because they mean something to us. Naming confers dignity and worth. If we do not bother to know someone’s name, we defy their worth within our petty world.

The names of objects, persons, ideas are simply “nouns” in the world of grammar. Dig deeper into the noun—take the time to embody the noun—and you will see that that noun has a name, and its name is essential to how we perceive it. So, my noun is John. I nouned this blog series the Words of the Week for May 26 – June 2, 2020 according to Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Online Dictionary, one of the greatest collections of nouns (and other words) ever.

1. Sarcasm

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

A good dosage of satirical wit keeps you fresh and alive. Sarcasm is a type of humour that is “a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain.”

The word reaches back to the Greek word sarkezein, meaning “to tear flesh like dogs… speak bitterly, sneer.”

Imagine that: a joke designed to tear the flesh of its target like ravenous dogs! We can all use a laugh at ourselves sometimes. Nothing like a good ole’ comical dismemberment to humble ourselves a bit.

Why it is in the news

Most of what President Donald Trump, American, says is “sarcastic,” but his suggestion in late April to ingest disinfectants was the latest to really ruffle the news’ feathers. He also knows more about everything than you or I.

I would have settled for a president that has an approximate knowledge of most things.

2. Happy

Last week’s ranking: 1

Meaning and usage

I would love for “happy” to make a return to common use as verb. It would happy me tons.

The “hap” in happy is from the Middle English word, which itself was taken from Old Norse (happ) meaning “good luck”.

Why it is in the news

Happy times last week by having the word “happy” taking the corona of the list, subduing unhappy perennials such as “racism”, “fascism”, and “pandemic.”

Do yourself a favour and type in “happy” in your Google box via the News tab. People are happy to be at work; sportsmen happy to return to training.

3. Noun

Last week’s ranking: 2

Meaning and usage

Origins of the word “noun”, be it of the Middle English, Anglo-French, Old French, or Latin spirits, means “name.” Everything we see and construe as real and existing has a name. If we do not name it, it does not exist. Naming “confers dignity upon life and vies meaning to existence.”

Therefore, if I do not name that feeling of requiring nourishment to fuel my body that is prompted either by a genuine lack of sustenance or by trickery of the mind, influenced by boredom or an sense of self-entitlement, then I will not be hungry.

Darn it.

Why it is in the news

Get your pencils out, we have new vocabulary to learn.

“Simp” (ˈsim-p), as discovered by the Evening Standard, describes men who try “too hard with women, with little romantic return.”

This noun, colloquially used in the TikTok world, can also be a verb: “simping.”  

The Evening Standard article also explains simps’ historic connotations, including being short for “simpleton”, and it touches on a vulgar adjective that I will not even bother to name here, even with the use of asterisks.

4. Pandemic

Last week’s ranking: 3

Meaning and usage

Merriam-Webster Unabridged has a new entry falling under pandemic.

“Interpandemic”, an adjective, occurs or exists between pandemics of a disease. The World Health Organization has four phases to describe the outbreak of a pandemic, with “interpandemic” being the first.

Why it is in the news

About a month ago, I noted Sweden’s loosey-goosey approach to lockdowns and quarantines. Their “marathon” approach to handling the ecdemic was a way to take on the inevitable peak level of infections early on rather than later.

Well, according to Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, the Nordic country will not reach herd immunity by the end of May as it had expected, suggesting that their marathon is not yet complete. NPR wrote that Sweden’s “controversial approach to fighting the coronavirus pandemic as so far failed to produce the expected results.”

It may be the case that Sweden is running a longer race against infections than they had expected. However, the wind-sprint approach taken by nearly every other country by exercising extreme lockdown and quarantine measures is causing everyone to speculate and outright expect a “second wave” of infections to hit us.

I would say that Sweden’s failure should not be a considered a failure if they do not encounter a second wave of infections.

5. Adjective

Last week’s ranking: 4

Meaning and usage

A deep dive into the unabridged version of Merriam-Webster produces a finding of this definition for adjective: “something that has only dependent or qualifying status or existence.” In other words, we would not know about a certain thing without the accompaniment of another thing.

An example used in Merriam-Webster is “a perceptual object is a true Aristotelian adjective of some event which is its situation.”

Why it is in the news

An op-ed from the venerable Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette by editor Brenda Looper succinctly lays out the case for using adjectives “judicially” in writing. Adjectives are important, she writes, but the noun and verb “should carry the bulk of the labor.” Instead of saying “the large, ornate, delicious-looking cake laid on the table,” we can say, “the sumptuous cake laid on the table.”

Looper’s piece hangs on words penned by Mark Twain: “If you find an adjective, kill it.” Might I suggest for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette to be rebranded as The Gazette?

6. Fascism

Last week’s ranking: 5

Meaning and usage

Fascism’s roots are said to have stemmed in the late 18th century by the Jacobin movement, a political movement during the French Revolution. Today, a “Jacobin”, in France, at least, is a supporter of a state with a strong, centralized government.

Why it is in the news

[Queue The Price Is Right’s final showcase jingle]

Showcase Number 1

Family is the most important thing in our lives, right? When things get tough and you need somebody by your side, there are no better people to call to your help then your own flesh and blood. Well, wouldn’t you want for that same sense of comfort to be had in our nation’s leadership? That is why, with this showcase, you will get a presidential cabinet that is chock-full of familiar bonds, including a son-in-law running peace negotiations in the most contentious area of the world, and a daughter acting as the closest adviser to the president. Feels consolidated and comfortable, right?

There’s more! In this showcase, your country will be respected around the world once again. No more being a pushover – your country will demand for those tiny nation-states to pull their weight; your country will speak brashly to get trade deals done in its favour. It is not all about being a bully. This showcase provides for your country to play footsy with the other feared nations in our world. That dream vacation to Russia or North Korea is within your grasp!

When you need to get away from the day-to-day grind of being a great nation, you will enjoy a trip to your country’s defensive space force station in your a new spaceship!

Showcase Number 2

Maybe braggadocio is not your thing. If you’re rather looking to quietly pull the strings in all aspects of social life, then you’ll love what this showcase has to offer:

It feels good to be wanted; to be relied upon. There is power in control. How would you feel about having this kind of control and power all the time? This showcase starts with a global pandemic, your perfect environment for getting people scared and seeking dependence. Economy failure and social disorder is just what you need for you to exercise authority.

Next in this showcase is a lifetime supply of profitable government mandates. A small family business gets out of line? Slap them a fine! Too many people gathered in one place? Issue a significant fee! Even when everything seems to be returning to normal, you have the control to keep business closures ongoing. Think of all the subsidies, each with strings attached to you, that you can dish out to the people!

We know that it is not enough to have a human police force to keep control of the population. That’s why this showcase is topped off with an unlimited supply of implantable human tracking microchips! These GPS-enabled chips no bigger than the button on your shirt monitors everything about your citizens: their health, their location, their activity – everything you need to know about every soul in your nation.

The choice of either one of these amazing Fascist Showcases can be yours if the Price of Liberty is right!

7. Hostler

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

A hostler, also spelled “ostler”, is someone who either tends for horses in an inn or a stable, takes charge of a railroad locomotive after a run, or is employed in a storage garage.

The word comes from the Middle English osteler or hostler (innkeeper).

Why it is in the news

Nothing in the news directly related to hostler could be found in the news by me, the author of this rambling blog.

Any Washington Redskins fans out there will be glad to know that Jim Hostler is now your club’s wide receiver coach. He worked with new Redskins head coach Ron Rivera in Carolina.  

8. Antiquated

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

The lifecycle of things: new, used, unused, antiquated, antiqued, refurbished, new.

Something that is antiquated (adjective) has “fallen into disuse or lack of esteem because of age.

Why it is in the news

Anything and everything that has been tested by the presentmath (because there is no “aftermath” until it is over, right?) is considered antiquated: essential medicine stockpiles, Center for Disease Control and Prevention record keeping, unemployment filing systems, and more.

Some hope for handshakes and general human contact to become antiquated post-coronavirus. This could mean that, one day, handshakes and hugs will be retro and cool. If that is to be so, I have a future business model in mind:

9. Racism

Last week’s ranking: 7

Meaning and usage

The ism with all the schism.

Why it is in the news

George Floyd.

The suppressing pressure of a knee burst open the festering American wound that is racism. It is debatable whether the act that killed George Floyd was motivated by genuine racism, but it certainly can be said it happened under the knee of abused authority.

Floyd deserved the dignity to stand trial as an American — as a God-crafted human being.

10. Cephalic

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

Of or relating to the head, this adjective is. It is especially used in reference to the head-first presentation of a newborn baby during childbirth.

Why it is in the news

You could not pay me enough money to be an entertainment reporter.

Going cephalic into newsfeeds evidenced me this: Actress Ulrika Johnson gave her just-turned -16-year-old daughter a book that a 16-year-old, nor any person, has business reading. The actress wrote a lengthy tribute to her daughter on Instagram that began with the daughter “stubbornly rejected the cephalic position” and ended with “Mummy hopes you enjoy your books…” about sexual fantasies.

11. Examen

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

An examen is “an examination, inquiry, or investigation especially when conducted to study or weigh the worth or state of something.”

The word’s origin is of the Latin nature, meaning “tongue of the balance, consideration.” It is from exigere, “to drive out, measure.”

Why it is in the news

Searching for “examen” in Google nets me several foreign language articles. Being a sort of derivative of the word “examination”, examen seems to be a multilingual word (perhaps a cognate, but not certain on that).

12. Inerrant

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

I would like to think that my blog is inerrant incarnate. Alas, I doubt it.

Inerrant means to be “free from error or mistake.” An obsolete definition, according to Merriam-Webster, is “inerratic,” which means “not erratic or wandering.”

Why it is in the news

Michael Abrahams, has many traits. Many traits has Michael Abrahams.

Do you ever browse through Wikipedia to read up on the lives of the great thinkers, doers, and creatives of the past? Many of them carry multiple titles with their names. Consider G.K. Chesterton, a writer, philosopher, lay theologian, and literary and art critic.

See Nikola Tesla, an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and futurist.

Heed Joe Rogan, a comedian, podcaster, TV presenter, and mix-martial arts commentator.

Behold Maya Angelou, a poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist.

Reading about these men and women with multifaceted talents and achievements is inspiring. Yet, I wonder if there are omitted activities or achievements from these biographies? Maybe Chesterton’s stab at entrepreneurship failed miserably, or Tesla was a clumsy dancer.

And then you have Michael Abrahams, who I discovered when searching for the word inerrancy in the news this week.

He wrote a piece titled The Bible Is Not Inerrant. Please Stop Saying It Is. His primary argument against the inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures is that flawed men wrote it; “If God allows a man to arrange the death of another so he can fulfil his sexual fantasies with his wife, it is illogical to assume that He (God) would police his (David’s) writings and prevent him for erring there as well,” Abrahams says.

Curious to know who this Abrahams is, I scrolled to the bottom of the article to find the following byline: “Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet.”

Six months later, in defense of his article slamming religious folk, but primarily Christians, for “gathering in defiance of social-distancing laws” and his subsequent comment that “the blood of Jesus offers woefully inadequate protection against Covid-19”, Abrahams’ bio-blurb states that he is a “obstetrician and gynaecologist, social commentator and human rights advocate.”

I guess the comedy and poetry thing did not work out, and I know that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I do not expect very nuanced theological criticism from failed comics and practicing gynaecologist.

13. Verb

Last week’s ranking: 10

Meaning and usage

The verb is powerful. It alone can stand completely isolated and still carry the distinction of being a complete sentence.

Why it is in the news

Zoom, your new favourite chat platform and verb, will show their first quarter earnings on June 2, and this showing should exhibit a great boom in revenue earnings indeed. In the last three months since the onset of the ecdemic, Zoom has had to play host to a countless number of remote work meetings, church gatherings, Crossfit WODS, and general familial and friendly gatherings.

As ZDNet put it, “Zoom may have had one of the most torrid quarters of growth, crisis and rising expectations in recent memory.”

14. False

Last week’s ranking: 12

Meaning and usage

One man’s inerrant news is another man’s false news.

What is not true has to be false – there can be no in-between.

Why it is in the news

Falsehoods abound in the news. That is not to say the news is fake news; rather, it is to say that what was once reported in the news is false, and the subsequent correction in the news is true (or at least as true as possibly can be ascertained).


  • False claim targets wife of officer charged in Floyd’s death.
  • Trump’s claim that the DC police did not protect the White House from protestors is false.
  • A checklist of Trump’s “general false claim”, according to CNN.

You want the falsehood? You can handle all the falsehood you want if you watch daily news.

15. Doggerel

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

If you have a doggerel verse in poetry, it means that that verse is “quickly contrived”, or “trivial or bad.”

Truth be told, much of this blog series is doggerel. I come into each week, each word not knowing what I want to say. Whatever takeaway theme unfurls itself from my rambling prose is the result of impromptu contriving.

Why it is in the news

Searching for this word in my newsfeeds produces critiques on several poets: Rupert Brooke, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, or Bernard Mandeville.

16. Complacence

Last week’s ranking: dunno, don’t care

Meaning and usage

Perhaps it is my own complacency with my assumption that I knew what “complacent” meant, but having complacence does not purely mean being absent minded or naïve to something, but rather “satisfaction and pleasure” about oneself, especially one’s security and safety.

The word is derived from the Medieval Latin word complacentia, meaning “satisfaction, good will, pleasure.”

Why it is in the news

As businesses open up after two or three months of shutdown, many articles are warning for us to not be complacent about our health and safety.

Nor should we be complacent about the subtle escalation of government power during this ecdemic, others say.

I was taught to never be complacent about my athletic or academic performance. “Be one percent better every day,” one strength coach would tell me.

We can apply this principle to our lives during the coronavirus: be one percent more paranoid every day.

17. Enceinte

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

I am not sure if I have come across a word that means one thing when used as an adjective, and another when used as a noun.

“Enceinte” as an adjective means to be pregnant. This is the French word for “pregnant.”

The same word, when a noun, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a line of fortification enclosing a castle or town.”

The word comes from the Latin in + cingere, “to gird”, leading to incingere, to gird in. A baby is indeed protected by the enceinte that is the mother’s womb.

Why it is in the news

How is your French? Seeking “enceinte” in the news produces French articles, many of which cover the issue of pregnancy during Covid-19.

18. Culture

Last week’s ranking: 13

Meaning and usage

“The typical behaviour or standardised social characteristics peculiar to a specific group,” is culture.

Why it is in the news

Those dreaded masks are changing European culture, some speculate. Mask-wearing is normal in many Asian countries, and citizens from those areas often wear masks when abroad. Perhaps now we will see more cultures adopt the cautious fashion of covering faces for health reasons.

This is all the more reason to invest in an authentic Star Wars stormtrooper uniform, a much cooler way to combat viruses (and Jedi scum).

Me, shopping in 2023

19. Cavalier

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

A “cavalier” person is one who is “marked by lofty disregard of others’ interests, rights, or feelings; highhanded and arrogant or supercilious.” That is the adjective form, and it is a far-cry definition from the noun which refers to “a gentlemen trained in arms and manege (horse care).”

Why it is in the news

Joe Biden self-assessed himself as being too cavalier when he made comments about the voting choices of black Americans.

Biden said in a radio interview that African Americans who support Donald Trump “ain’t black.” (Remember, this guy and the Sultan of Sarcasm are slated to run for the presidency of the USA.)

20. Per capita

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

Meaning “per unit of population”, per capita is the go-to population descriptor in regards to economic data or reporting, or just about anything.

Per capita, in Latin, means “by head.”

Why it is in the news

Deaths per capita is the litmus test by which we measure the severity of the coronavirus’ effect in our respective countries. Sweden is reported to currently have the highest coronavirus death rate per capita in the world. They are at 5.59 deaths for every one million persons per day, more than 10 times higher than the world average of 0.49 and which the Daily Mail calls “astonishing.”

The Swedish “marathon” model is now the subject of scorn, and its health officials are formulating new approaches. The Nordic country’s current high death rate is still well below the peak mark set by Belgium or the UK a few weeks ago (see the figure below).

“Astonishing” is a drastic word choice, I feel. This 5.9 death rate is not even Sweden’s own personal record of 10 back in late April (assuming this chart is accurate and reliable). You can see Belgium’s mark was way above 16 at one point.

21. Furlough

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

I have qualms about how the word furlough is being used in the media. Most definitions say that a furlough is the “permission” to leave a job, but the media use this understanding when, I argue, they should be more accurately saying “laid off.”

Why it is in the news

Despite businesses slowly reopening in the US, 2.1 million Americans were reported to be out of work just last week. This brings the total to 41 million Americans who have filed for unemployment.

22. Indomitable

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

Despite the bad news reported above under “furlough”, I believe the American spirit is indomitable – incapable of being subdued.

The origin of indomitable comes from the late Latin word “indomitabilis. Domintare is “to tame”, and abilis is “able”

Why it is in the news

Google “indomitable” in the news and you will find many stories about certain individuals with a certain indomitable spirit. A girl with artificial arms playing the violin is a particular highlight.

23. Quarantine

Last week’s ranking: 14

Meaning and usage

We have all exceeded our recommended quarantine dosage. Forty days has turned into nearly one hundred and twenty days.

Why it is in the news

Travel is slowly opening, too, but that means some self-quarantining is required upon arrival. The UK last week made demands for travellers to isolate after arriving, and so too are Alaska and Hawaii.

In Africa, quarantine escapees are still on the run.

24. Transitive

Last week’s ranking: 22

Meaning and usage

A lot of transitive actions are taking place in the world. Plenty of subjects (protestors, rioters) carrying their actions (fists, rocks, fire) towards their objects (cars, policemen, CNN).

Why it is in the news

Last week’s news about vulnerable open-source libraries remain on Google News like last week’s newspaper on the spare chair in the kitchen.

25. Asymptomatic

Last week’s ranking: unranked

Meaning and usage

An adjective meaning “presenting no subjective evidence of disease.”

Why it is in the news

Last week’s Words of the Week was asymptomatic of the word asymptomatic, but indeed this blog could not go for long without the presence of all coronavirus-inspired words.

Asymptomatic carries of the coronavirus keep frontline medical personnel on their toes. A few research articles cited by The Guardian says that the number of asymptomatic carries is probably more than what we want to believe.

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