Tag Archives: OED

eudaemonism


eudaemonism n. a system of ethics that bases moral value on the likelihood of actions producing happiness.

I have always fought a losing battle with the concept of “happiness.” I’d like to think that someday I will find the true, innate meaning of the word, but I doubt it. I read a fair amount and know that few people really find the core, “holy grail-like” meaning of happiness. That is why this word truly intrigued me. To have a system of ethics that bases moral value on the likelihood that it will produce this enigma we call “happiness” is absurd – like the infinity symbol…some never-ending loop. Happiness doesn’t seem to have just one definition. It means so many different things to so many people. To a starving child in the Sahara, happiness is endless clean, cool water and food as compared to someone diagnosed with a terminal illness where happiness might be a night without pain or 10 extra days of their life to be lived with their family. Donald Trump deems happiness a much different thing than I do…or does he? It would seem that as life gets increasingly happy, the bar rises – like an addiction, a drug that makes us believe that we deserve much more than we actually do – but is that the case? Is happiness much more simple than one would think? Maybe Donald Trump find his true happiness in a box of Malomars while I dream of a yacht sailing on the mediterranean.

And then there is that lucky place in life where happiness becomes monotony. Where we reach a certain level of what we call “happiness” and expect that it will exponentially grow from that point. Somehow we begin to think that the world owes us the next level because we have earned a certain amount of points or reached a certain threshold, like a game. That is where things most often fall apart. This is the juncture of where happiness meets its counterpart – not sadness – but gratitude. Every truly happy person in life at some point must come to terms with gratitude. At the height of our life’s bell curve where we have reached the highest arch of happiness and when the line gradually descends, gratitude begins – where some turning point make us turn away from the easy happiness we have and make us grateful for ever having experienced it at all. This is the point where people find their greatness, their groove, their reason to live. I fear that there are few of us who get to this point. I believe the majority of people either find stasis and accept their level of happiness or – worse – constantly strive to a higher, unattainable level – possibly leading to greed and arrogance.

To follow the curve downward is much harder. Seemingly it leads to things like gratitude, humility and humbleness. I believe only the great can follow this path – Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa. It’s a completely selfless place – perhaps a power greater than ourselves – where we surrender things over and are happy just to experience life.

Or maybe, happiness is inconceivably simple…like a surprise party or unexpected treat. No bell curves or expectations…just a feeling of joy that seems so rare in life because it is meant to be truly enjoyed and not dismissed like every other minute we live – like that little kid feeling you got running down the stairs to see what was under the tree at Christmas. It didn’t last long…probably only as long as it took to rip that first piece of paper off the first package…just a few seconds. That fleeting, giddy sense of exuberance that makes your heart race and your face beam without trying…like the day your child was born…or the day you fell in love. That intangible feeling of being fully and totally appreciative of life and what is happening in the present – and not thinking about the future or past.

For me, true happiness is found in that short, fleeting moment and I am learning to accept that in the totality of my life, I may chase it relentlessly to only experience it a handful of times and constantly strive to be grateful for those hard earned moments.

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diaphanous


diaphanous adj. (of fabric) light, delicate or translucent

Image

I don’t think of babies as being light, airy and delicate. Perhaps it is because my own son is a toddler now and destruction seems always in his wake. Sure. Babies are delicate and “diaphanous” in some ways. In the grand scheme of life, however, I believe that at birth we are our strongest…let me explain.

When we are born, we are new. All of our parts have been oiled and our bones and skin have never been used. We are taken out of our packaging and arrive into the world in a most dramatic way. Even our lungs have never breathed air before. And from that day of birth, we grow to be more and more used. When my son walks around, he seems so solid and strong – like his legs are made of steel – but each day they learn a pattern, a gait. They get worn in.

It is as if the world erodes us and makes us more light and delicate as we journey through life. “Diaphanous” makes me think of the delicate, translucent skin of an old woman’s hands…or the thinning white, wispy hair of my long deceased grandmothers. And why cannot this be as beautiful as birth and youth? The fact the the world has washed away the newness of a person the same way the ocean waters erode the land and shores? I think it is just as beautiful, if not more so.

I think it best to live life in quest of losing more and more of yourself. Life is to let the world take of you what it will until there is nothing left. Sometimes perhaps it will be pain that leaves a permanent scar, but other times it will be the joy of laughter that will force a dozen breaths from your lungs…never to return again – permanent and beautiful all the same.

We are born with the strength of steel, and if we are lucky die with the delicate lightness of lace.

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youse


youse pron. you (usually more than one person)

I am absolutely amazed that this is an actual word in the OED. It really shouldn’t be. They should have a note in there somewhere about Italian Americans or New Yorkers. I am almost tempted to start using this word in my vocabulary as I have heard it enough in my life.

Here is a list of media where you can find the proper usage of “youse:”

The Sopranos

Jersey Shore (Ronnie especially uses this word often.)

A Bronx Tale 

Rocky I or II

You can also head to Federal Hill in Providence, RI or Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn if you want some active usage of “youse.” Just stand on the sidewalk and wait for someone to walk by.

I have also located a poem by e.e. cummings using this word…not that I am convinced that this is an actual word…I can’t trust a poet who doesn’t even use proper punctuation. I don’t usually like e.e. cummings but I actually enjoyed this one:

mr youse needn’t be so spry
concernin questions arty

each has his tastes but as for i
i likes a certain party

gimme the he-man’s solid bliss
for youse ideas i’ll match youse

a pretty girl who naked is
is worth a million statues

Now youse stop sitting at your computer and go get some fresh air!

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luck


luck n. success or failure apparently brought by chance

I have to confess that I chose this word on purpose because I really wanted to write about it. Over the years my husband and I have created a comfortable life for ourselves. We have a nice home, a happy baby boy and a great dog. We sit by the fire and drink wine. We have dear friends, plenty of good, healthy food, and have travelled well. We are grateful and feel blessed. However, if you say we are “lucky” I might have to punch you.

The word lucky inevitably comes up to describe my life after some piteous story about someone else’s hardship. I am forced to recall the adage “never judge a book by it’s cover” when I hear the word lucky to describe my life. I wish I could start spouting off the stories of my hardships – my brothers cancer, my father’s death from a brain tumor, how I worked in a factory out of high school because I couldn’t afford college, my first job as an accountant that I took so I could pay the rent…etc. etc. If one were to stack up all of the hardship and troubles I have had in my life, the pile would be equal to or higher than my good fortune pile. Good things come to those who work, and sometimes they don’t come at all even if you’re working really hard. Sometimes you have to keep working toward the light at the end of the tunnel however small that light may be.

I would prefer to say that we are blessed for having some of the good things in our life. We were blessed to give birth to a healthy baby, but it has taken skill and hard work to keep him healthy and growing well. I have definitely made sacrifices for it. Yes, we have a nice house in the suburbs – but you should have seen some of the shit holes (pardon my language) we have lived in – including a fourth floor attic apartment that was slanted and a duplex that had no subfloor that Stella (our dog) would pee through to the basement because she was scared of living in Brooklyn. We’ve had brand new cars that have been keyed and tires slashed. There have been firings from jobs, death and lots of debt. I have cried for whole days until my eyes were swollen shut…and I know my future has its fair share of pain and hardship waiting for me when I least expect it.

You can say I am lucky for one day or one hour, but not to describe my entire life. I am not entitled to what I have and I know it can go away tomorrow. I know what it means to have nothing at all and to have to start over from the beginning. Yet therein lies the beauty of a well worn life – there is always a beginning. When you’ve seen the bottom and looked up to the top the last thing you count on getting you there is luck.

Mother to Son 

By Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now —
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

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opine


opine v. hold and state as ones opinion

I have been bad and haven’t written in a few days as I have been interviewing for a job. My head has not been in the game of learning words recently, but I am back with the word of today.

Opinions are a wonderful thing and, just like assholes, everyone has one. To be quite honest, I am really weary of opinions and politics. I feel like my whole life I have either been talking about what I believe and what everyone else believes, etc. Opinions are complex things. They make or break friendships, they get you fired, they cause dissent. I have always been an opinionated person but lately I have been refraining from opining.

My reasoning is that life is a little more pleasant NOT standing on my soap box. My head is so full of information that I pick up that it’s hard for me to decide what to think sometimes. I also find that my opinion changes over time as I experience and live through more difficulties and good times. As I grow older, I am less likely to opine and more likely to examine my thoughts and keep my opinions personal until I am sure of how I really feel.

At this rate, I hope to have some decisions made about what I really believe by the time I am old and gray. At that time, I will dust off the soap box, get back on it and tell you what I think.

Call me wishy washy, a coward or a loner, but I am tired of being self righteous and determined to have my voice heard. I have to do some research and learning. I want to be fair. Instead of being seen as opinionated and strong I am more interested in being a decent and good person. I want to enjoy life as much as I can and absorb the world around me – for better or for worse.

I have spent my life trying to be something, trying to collect all of the things to use to build a picture of who I am or want to be. I have always had a strong opinion. I have never just let me be me. So instead of looking at things and forming opinions I am going to focus on acceptance and learning to take in all of the world around me without the pressure of having to say what I think. Maybe some meditation…perhaps a few sun salutations…hopefully a prayer or two.

Let’s see how long this lasts…

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mendacious


mendacious adj. untruthful

2 + 2 = 5 is a mendacious statement…it is also an amazing song by Radiohead.

This “untrue” statement is also found in Notes from Underground by Dostoevsky, one of my favorite books which I have not read in a very long while.

I admit that twice two makes four is an excellent thing, but if we are to give everything its due, twice two makes five is sometimes a very charming thing too.

I think I must have written several college essays on this quote. We spend most of our lives striving for honesty and truth in our lives and yet when we break its confines we enter a new realm of creativity and invention. Yet in Orwell’s 1984, 2+2 = 5 is a statement used by the state to oppress its people.

Something to think on for the day…

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My Triumphant Return to Literacy


As I grow older it seems that my vocabulary and mastery of the English language grows younger. I increasingly find myself unable to speak intelligently or searching for words. Maybe this is due to too little reading and too much mindless television. Nonetheless, I came up with an idea to help me return to literacy.

The other day when I was walking past the library and listening to my iPod too loudly, I reminisced back to my college days as an English major and immediately remembered the OED. It was the gold standard of dictionaries for all references in college. Merriam Webster was just not up to snuff. Yet somehow I don’t own an OED…possibly because it is huge, possibly because the web has taken over the literary universe. So the idea for this blog was born. Today I am venturing out to the Barnes and Noble to purchase an OED of my own (OED stands for Oxford English Dictionary) and each day flip randomly with my eyes closed through the pages to pick out a word for the day. I have discovered that you cannot access the OED online without paying $30 a month for  and you can’t randomly find a word either. Buying the book is cheaper and I want my son to someday know what the original OED looked like.

Now here’s the big idea. Instead of just taking note of the word and memorizing it uselessly, or simply writing it down, I am going to force myself to use the word in a creative way on this blog. The idea is to create a short work of fiction with the word or perhaps even find a photo or video illustrating the word to help burn it into my memory. I am going to attempt to do this everyday for as long as I can…until I am less illiterate. Hence, OED a Day. Technically, it should be Word a Day or OED Word a Day. OED a day just had more pizzazz.

I don’t really care who reads the blog…it’s really for my own edification. However, if you want to read my posts and learn a word a day, by all means, join me. Even write your own examples or pieces that you come up with. Stay tuned for my first word!

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