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A Christian Context

What is this wisdom that has been granted Him? (Mark 6:2) Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

A small group of self-styled linguists have compiled a list of so-called "brilliant new words" which they believe should be added to our present-day vocabulary. Included among them is the term "Nonversation" -- which simply means a completely useless conversation. Also suggested is the familiar-sounding "Cellfish," only in this case spelled C-E-L-L. The authors offered that brilliant new word to describe any person who carries on an obnoxiously-loud phone conversation, in a public place. Also on the list is the hybrid "Chairdrobe," which, as you probably guessed is a chair used instead of a closet for hanging clothes -- and should not be confused with the dreaded "Floordrobe" -- a messy situation which every parent of a teen is no doubt familiar with. The list also includes the word "Youniverse" -- which is spelled Y-O-U -- providing a handy label for those who think they are the center of the traditional spelling of that word! And finally, we have "Unlightening," which is defined as a process of learning something that actually makes you feel dumber!

With an estimated 1 million words in the English language, we may wonder why we need any new words at all -- brilliant or otherwise. And with so many choices, the average adult vocabulary ranges somewhere between an impressive twenty-five and thirty-five thousand words. The etymologists among us may be interested to learn that the largest English language dictionary in existence devotes more than 10,000 words just to the word "think" -- defining it in its various contexts. Of course the context in which a word is used is essential to its meaning. For example, the word "strike" means one thing on the sports page and another on the business page. "Dribble" refers to one thing on the basketball court and quite another to the mother of an infant. Everything derives its meaning from what precedes, what follows and what surrounds it -- that is to say, from its context. Nothing under the sun exists entirely unto itself. "No man is an island," the poet John Donne wrote. Only by seeing ourselves in the full context [...]

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