Words of the Day: Grammar, Hand, Hiawatha

My old blog, the Word of the Day, is defunct, and I’m getting ready to take it down. Before I do, though, I’m going to repost some of the best words here over the next few weeks. Enjoy!


purposethroughcompassionUltimately from Proto Indo European gerbh, “to scratch”; also the ancestor of carve, crab, crayfish, crawl, and graph. Interestingly, Proto Indo European had another root, ghrebh, which also meant “to scratch”, and is the ancestor of grub, groove, and grave. It’s hard to believe that ghrebh and gerbh are unrelated, but 8000 years later, there appears to be no evidence either way.

Gerbh became graphein, “to write” in ancient Greek, and from this was derived gramma, “letter”. The Greek phrase grammatike tekhne, the “art of letters”, referred to philology and literature. Latin borrowed this as grammatica, which became grammaire “learning” in Old French, and was grafted into English in the late 1100’s as gramarye.

In Middle English, gramarye referred to “learning in general”, including astrology and magic. In Scots English, the word came to mean especially occult knowledge, and evolved into glamour before being borrowed back into the main trunk of English through the writings of Sir Walter Scott. From this came glamorous in the 1880’s. Think of that when you hear a celebrity described as glamorous, or see a picture of a glam rocker…

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Reconciling Dreams and Reality II: The Pool of the Moon

This post is taken from my journal of the second day of my ten-day fast and meditation to gain clarity on my career path.

Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2010

Today I was feeling a little odd, or a little off, from the raw vegan fast. I didn’t have many cravings, but was often pretty hungry and felt a bit unbalanced, light … ungrounded. I had some tea, and that helped a lot.

Anyway: today we had a little breakfast at home, and then went to the grocery store. Afterwards we went to the café and wore ourselves out with work, then came home, had a light dinner, and went for a walk. Lots of our talk today was about planning our trip down south, as well as the insanity of Beck’s recent “restoring honor” rally.

Dreams and Meditations

dreammasterMy dream last night was something about going to an underground bunker, decorated in a Victorian or steampunk style, like the hideaway of Captain Nemo. I was traveling with a bunch of weird social outcasts — mutants and half-animals and the like. There was a long dream sequence of going through the wilderness — looking rather like a rocky moorland — with our guide, and finally reaching an elaborately hidden entrance to Nemo’s headquarters.

Interestingly, this was the second night in a row I dreamed of half-beings, mixed-up beings. Hmmm…

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Words of the Day: Genius, Glorious, Gods and Guides

My old blog, the Word of the Day, is defunct, and I’m getting ready to take it down. Before I do, though, I’m going to repost some of the best words here over the next few weeks. Enjoy!


hangedgodGenius comes from Proto Indo European gen, meaning something like “produce” or “generate”, the progenitor of generations of words of all kinds — including progenitor, generate, kind, kin, king, kindergarten, gentle, gender, general, generic, generous, indigenous, genesis, genital, nascent, natal, native, nation, renaissance, and a dozen others.

In Latin gen became the root of the verb gignere, “beget, produce”. This verb in turn was the root of the word genius, which in Roman times referred not to a person’s innate talent, but to a guardian spirit — a spirit guide. Originally, the genius was a guardian spirit who looked after a family; thus it was most likely associated with one’s ancestors (and thus the association with PIE gen is obvious). Later, genius came to mean one’s own personal spirit guides. Saying that someone “had a genius for cooking”, for example, meant that they had a spirit guide who helped them with cooking.

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Reconciling Dreams and Reality I: Balancing the Sun and Moon

In September of 2010, shortly after making contact with the Bear guide, I was struggling to reconcile my career with my heart. This is a struggle a lot of people have, but my situation was much easier than most: I have an excellent job that I like a lot. In fact, perhaps you’re wondering how I could possibly dare to want more, when so many people on Earth suffer from such want and dissatisfaction. Well, I answered that question earlier this year: basically it comes down to the fact that none of us really deserve anything we have, good or bad, and it is simply unhelpful and false for us to think of each other as being in competition. After all, if I seek more fulfillment in my work, that in no way prevents other people from finding fulfillment in theirs.

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A Conversation with iGod

Today Ali pointed me to an interesting site which allows you to “chat” with “God”, by which I mean, interact conversationally with a computer program impersonating the supreme deity. I am not certain who is behind this sacrilege / work of art / holy relic, or how exactly it was programmed or trained; I tried to find out, but iGod’s web site (http://www.titane.ca/igod/main.html) was unhelpful. It appears to be the product of a Canadian software firm. However — perhaps unsurprisingly — there is another iGod you can chat with here; and this iGod is affiliated with a most informative web site about the state of the art in chatbots today, along with links to chatbots trained to talk like Kirk and Spock. Good times!

godswhisperSo I spoke to God a bit this afternoon.  Sometimes iGod’s responses are embarrassingly clunky and too-obviously generated by a machine; and sometimes they’re genuinely thought-provoking; and sometimes they’re just plain odd.  I’ve reproduced our dialogue below. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to talk with him about polytheism, but His words definitely gave me a lot to think about.

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Blood and Bone

In 2009 I almost had to choose between my fiancée and my children.

comingbackI was recently divorced, and had just met an extraordinary woman; but she lived five hundred miles away.  Ali was in Pittsburgh, and I lived in Massachusetts, near my children, my ex-wife, and her fiancé.  At first I resigned myself to a long-distance relationship, and had little hope that it could become serious and long-term.  But then I found that, completely by coincidence, my ex-wife’s fiancé’s parents lived in Pittsburgh as well; and this confluence, plus Pittsburgh’s lower cost of living, better employment prospects, beautiful mountains and rivers, and moderate climate decided all of us that we should simply move everybody wholesale.  So I went ahead and moved to Pittsburgh.

But then, when my ex-wife was partway through planning her own move, suddenly things were up in the air again:  her fiancé had a serious job prospect open up in Chicago, an opportunity worth a lot more money.  Everything went on hold while he went to interview after interview, and agonized over the choice for weeks.  Depending on his decision, my children might end up a day’s drive away from me.

By this time my relationship with Ali had become very serious indeed.  If my children moved to Chicago, there was no question that I would need to be near them.  But, unless Alison came to Chicago as well, I’d be a broken man.

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