In my Toastmasters club our Grammarian shares a word of the day to help members increase their vocabulary and learn to use the new word as they speak. This is a valuable tool in expanding one’s understanding of the English language by listening to how others use the word. With training, your ears become attuned to words and the emotional connection they provide to an idea, a speaker, and the audience.
Our language is constantly evolving, and new meanings are applied to words. There are also new words added to the dictionary every year that seem more like amalgamations. Words like digital nomad a noun, which is a person who works remotely while traveling for leisure, especially when having no fixed, permanent address. Or nearlywed, a noun, which is a person who lives with another in a life partnership, sometimes engaged with no planned wedding date or with no intention of ever marrying. This verbiage sounds like “word salad” if you ask me. Interesting to look at yet I won’t touch it.
To keep words true to their origins they must be used with more frequency to understand their original meaning. Here are some examples:
Arduous from the Latin arduus, the origin of which means “high” or “steep.” The American Heritage Dictionary definition of arduous is “demanding great effort or labor, difficult.” Used in a sentence, “The true test of a leader is whether his followers will adhere to his cause from their own volition, enduring the most arduous hardships without being forced to do so, and remaining steadfast in the moments of greatest peril.” – Xenophon
Inviolate from the Latin inviolatus, the origin of which is to “not violate.” The American Heritage Dictionary definition being, ‘not violated or profaned or intact.’ Used in a sentence, “When the framers of the American Republic spoke of “The People”…they meant a sum of individuals, each of whom…retains his inviolate guarantee of individual rights.”– Ayn Rand
Subjugation from the Latin subiugationem literally means to “bring under the yoke,” to subdue. The American Heritage Dictionary definition being, ‘to bring under control, especially by military force to conquer.’ Used in a sentence, “…the state is the result of aggressive force and subjugation. It has evolved without contractual foundation, just like a gang of protection racketeers.” – Hans-Hermann Hoppe
Comports from the Latin comportare which means, “to bring together.” The American Heritage Dictionary definition is “to conduct or behave in a particular manner. To agree, correspond, or harmonize.” Used in a sentence, “No matter where you find yourself, comport yourself as if you were a distinguished person.” – Epictetus
Reconciliation from the Latin reconciliare, meaning “to make good again” or “to repair.” The Webster Dictionary definition being “the act of causing two people or group to become friendly after a disagreement or argument.” Used in a sentence, “Previously known for its six syllables of sweetness and light, reconciliation has become the political fighting word of the year.” – William Safire
These five words all have something in common. They were all said to be used at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia on March 23, 1775, by Patrick Henry. Commonly known as the “Give me Liberty” speech, it was perhaps the catalyst for the Commonwealth of Virginia to vote to enter the War for Independence against the mightiest nation known to the world at that time, the British Empire. The result of Patrick Henry’s words was the enjoining of Virginia into the war to become part of a new nation whose goal was to throw off the subjugation of British tyranny.
The rhetoric in the news, social-media, and in general conversation has been ramping up on all sides of almost any issue; pro or con, left or right. The use of words, especially those from the past, need to be dusted off and put back into fashion lest we create more schisms for ourselves to traverse. Presidents and pundits use disparaging words that divide citizens rather than use aspirational words that lift and motivate a nation to its potential.
Words like inviolate, comport, and reconciliation have the strength to heal and mend. They are tools for binding and enclosing the gaps that separate us as a people. There is too much at stake for our posterity if we do not actively use our ears more than our tongue. Pronouns have replaced, Sir and Madame. Identifying how one feels replaces how one is in nature.
Words have always had the power to move people to action. David Ogilvy wrote in his book On Advertising, “When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.” He went on to write, “When Aeschines spoke, they said, “How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said. ‘Let us march against Phillip.”
We are at a critical point where the advertisement of our language by politicians, bureaucrats, and interested parties is inching closer to actions there may be no drawing back from. Words ill spoken, like a lit flame, are an arduous fire to extinguish. The fire temporarily creates light and heat, yet ultimately leads to burning out into darkness. As a Grammarian may say, “speak your words wisely.”