Friday, May 29, 2009

Toward the millionth English word

In high school English, years ago, I studied from a thin soft covered book titled Words are Important. There were several levels (colour coded) of this book introducing my classmates and I to increasingly more and more difficult English words. We learned their meaning, to spell them, use them in sentences, followed by periodic quizzes. It was drill and memorization, and all the supposed bad things about education, but it was effective and still remembered almost 50 years later. Why were the books soft covered, so flimsy and tenuous? Of course the answer was probably related to cost, but maybe the authors were prescient. English evolves, it grows, it changes, adapts and thrives. The soft cover books were the clue that this is not a static language. This week we are told that English will soon acquire its millionth word and I humbly offer up a new one that came to me while washing dishes. Bibledygook, it's not a word yet but here is how you can use it. Have you ever been in the presence of a deeply religious person who quotes scripture to you as though it was convincing scientific evidence? This could be from the New Testament, Talmud, Koran, whatever, words offered up to "prove" a point, illustrate a rule or demonstrate how to be righteous. Sometimes the quote is incisive, witty and appropriate. But more often than not I will roll my eyes because I hear jargon, gibberish and mumbo-jumbo. This is bibledygook, a noun, that refers to biblical gibberish or biblical gobbledygook. Not that I don't respect religions, well lets put it this way, I respect people's right to observe whatever religion they wish. The problem occurs when religious people think they know how other people should live, act, behave or run their lives. Frequently these religious types will try to entrench their beliefs in laws that we must all follow, based of course on the bibledygook that runs their own lives. That's where I have a problem. But isn't English wonderful?

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