• Coming in Late July

    It’s a turbulent time on the island. A grandmother has disappeared.  Resisting her parents’ objections to her going back into the violence they had fled to settle in the U.S., Claire Wynter returns to the place of her childhood to help the family members there search for the missing grandmother. Right from the start, Dark Days on the Fairest Isle catapults the reader into a world  of conflict, betrayal, intrigue, and blossoming romance. Sharing the good news, Judith

  • Uncomfortable

    UNCOMFORTABLE: (adjective) causing discomfort or distress . painful . irritating . uneasy . conscious of stress or strain In popular culture, some words spring up like wild mushrooms after rain.  They proliferate with repeated use and  get a lot of air time, but then they fade out.  Remember “firestorm”? It’s use has waned. “Surreal” has also seen a lot of use over the past few years and is still viable, but it’s not as ever-present as it once was.  “Deal” is a word that rose to popularity about  two years ago.  Now governments don’t negotiate agreements or accords. They make deals. This week’s word, uncomfortable,  like “deal,” is  enjoying its…

  • Quotations

    The word this week is quotations, but this post is a bit different from the usual pattern, in that there is no definition or commentary on the word.  Quotations are used on  a variety of occasions, perhaps because they can be inspirational, motivational, affirming, or merely humorous. We can learn a lot from the force of a few words. Over the years, I have collected quotations from a variety of sources–books I’ve read, speeches I’ve  heard, professional conferences I’ve attended, sermons I’ve listened to.  Wherever I go, I listen for a good phrase or  a memorable thought, and I usually write it down to mull over later.   As a result,…

  • Influence

    INFLUENCE: (noun) effect  .  impact  .  power Some people, perhaps in an attempt to be modest, will insist that they have no influence, but everybody, to  a  greater or lesser degree, has influence. One  simple definition of the word influence from the Cambridge Dictionary is “the power to have an effect on people or things.”  Teachers should be the first to admit that they have influence–a lot of it. I forgot to celebrate  Teacher Appreciation Day last month. The event falls on May 7 each year.  When I was a high school principal, I was impressed by the way students and  their  parents showed their appreciation for their favorite teacher,…

  • Apostrophe

    APOSTROPHE:  (noun)  a punctuation mark that shows possession or marks the omission of one or more letters (contraction)  .  a figure of speech I have heard academics—mainly religion scholars  strutting their Greek—complain about the limitations of English  when they want to make a distinction in the meaning  of a word so that their audience will better understand what they’re trying to say. They bemoan the fact that English has only one word for love, whereas the Greek has three or four. Well, with the word apostrophe, English has two totally different meanings for the one word. I hope this is  good enough to mollify those scholars. We  know about the…

  • Cliche

    CLICHE:  (noun) a commonplace or trite expression  .  banality  .  a phrase or opinion that is overused I know you don’t wake up every morning with the word cliche on your mind, and perhaps the closest some of us  have come to thinking about the word may have been that time back in high school when an overzealous English teacher underlined a phrase in one of our essays and wrote “cliche” in the margin, leaving us wondering what a cliche was. Cliches are expressions that were once new and fresh but have been used so often and so extensively that they have lost their impact and are now empty of…

  • Fragrance

    FRAGRANCE: (noun) a pleasant, sweet smell .  scent .  perfume .  aroma .  bouquet This week we have a well-known, easily-recognized word.  Fragrance carries its own aroma;  it appeals to our senses. Some people, both male and female, are perfume aficionados. For them, the perfume counter in department stores is a favorite spot when they go shopping. Even those who aren’t buying anything linger there, attracted by its particular ambiance;  they try out the testers and sample their allure. The perfume industry today is huge, but ancient peoples loved their essences too.  Archaeologists have discovered that Egyptians were big fans of perfume. Hieroglyphics in Egyptian tombs have revealed that people…

  • Pugnacious

    PUGNACIOUS (adjective) combative . aggressive . belligerent . antagonistic . defiant . threatening . quarrelsome “I think I have a pugnacious style. My style is not pretty. I don’t use words like “amber” and “opaque.” Ishmael Reed In just a few words, writer Ishmael Reed has  captured the spirit of pugnaciousness that is  true  of both his poetry and his prose. Reed’s brief assessment of his style can be applied broadly  to the word in general.  Pugnacious is not pretty. It has  an arsenal of unpleasantness that can be unleashed on the world to send people scrambling for shelter from its harshness.  I recently came across an article in which…

  • Rhetoric

    RHETORIC:  (noun) the art of convincing and persuading people by language through public speaking  or writing .  the art of persuasion used by orators, writers, media The term rhetoric isn’t used much anymore, today mostly in a pejorative way. When someone says that what another person is saying “is mere rhetoric,” it is meant to  dismiss what is being said as just empty  talk, no substance.  However, rhetoric has a respected past, originating with Aristotle and trickling down to modern English.  Perhaps the reason for the slippage in the word’s standing  is related to the decline in an emphasis on quality speech. There was a time when  what was called…

  • Euphemism

    EUPHEMISM: (noun) agreeable or inoffensive word to replace a rude or offensive one . an indirect term substituted for a more direct or unpleasant one . a mild alternative word If you are like me, you find pleasure in knowing about words  and enjoying their unusual qualities. Euphemisms fall into a special class of  interesting words. A  euphemism is “a mild or indirect expression substituted for one that is considered too harsh or stark when referring to something considered blunt or embarrassing.”  Are euphemisms  passe in this anything-goes age of ours? They may not be, but since times change—actually, it is attitudes that change—we might expect to see less effort…