Word Nerd Wednesday: Use Your Words as a Weapon

Happy Word Nerd Wednesday! Today’s story is about a battle, the kind of battle you might know very well.

Marissa is a hard-working, intelligent woman. She’s confident, and she knows who she is. These traits have attracted the negative attention of a man named Calvin. He regularly makes disparaging, belittling comments about her. Always wanting to take the high road, Marissa tries to ignore him, telling herself his comments are just childish taunts. But then, Calvin starts making negative reports about her to their boss.

“This has become war,” Marissa tells herself. She finally realizes that it’s time to step into battle. She will not let anyone diminish her. So she carefully creates a plan and takes aim, as she finally fights back against her enemy Cal.

“Enemy Cal” = inimical (in-IM-ih-coll), meaning hostile or having the disposition of an enemy. It isn’t until Marissa acknowledges Cal’s actions are having a significant negative influence that she realizes it’s time to fight back.

Sometimes ignoring someone is the right choice. But other times, when the other person’s actions become inimical and begin to have a significant, negative impact on your life, it’s time to step up and defend yourself before it’s too late. That’s the power of words, to label someone’s actions in such a way that you are able to see clearly and feel compelled to act. For Clarissa, labeling Cal her enemy gave her the clarity she needed to see it was time to act.

It’s admirable to take the high road, to turn the other cheek. But it’s also important to be able to see when someone is acting in a way that is hostile to you and your future. You and your life are worth defending. Even against an enemy named Cal.

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Word Nerd Wednesday: Against the Currents

Happy Word Nerd Wednesday! Today’s word is especially pertinent to the world today. And it starts with a situation in Lena’s workplace.

Lena’s new manager seems like a smart guy but he’s misinformed on a few details. In a meeting, he declares information Lena knows for a fact to be false, crediting one employee with a brilliant new idea when it was actually the work of one of Lena’s team members. Unwilling to let the misinformation stand, Lena speaks up to set the record straight, giving credit to the correct coworker and going against what her new manager is saying.

“Against the say” = gainsay (gain-SAY), meaning to contradict, oppose, or deny. In our story, Lena gainsays her manager regarding the true originator of the new idea. In essence, she speaks truth to power. It’s not an easy thing, speaking up against one person, much less an entire group. It requires an unequivocal certainty of what is true and the determination that speaking up is absolutely necessary. Sometimes such actions come at a significant personal cost.

So is it worth it, to gainsay those spreading misinformation? Lena’s coworker certainly appreciates it. Those who earnestly seek truth instead of bandwagons will always appreciate the gainsayers, those who go against strong currents to illuminate other perspectives. It doesn’t mean those who speak up to contradict information are always right. But the only way a society can grow and evolve is to allow those with opposing viewpoints to be heard.

It’s why free speech is so vital. History has shown us that silencing those who disagree is a first step toward a disturbing future. It’s important that anyone, even you, has the ability to gainsay authority. Use your power wisely.

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Word Nerd Wednesday: Cool, Calm, and Collected

Welcome back to Word Nerd Wednesday! Today’s word story is about a delightful older gentleman named Mr. Rutherford.

Mr. Rutherford is a kind soul, polite and respectful. From his clothes to his demeanor, he is a full-fledged gentleman. He’s enjoying his retirement, spending his time reading and visiting nearby attractions that he didn’t have time to see before. Today he’s visiting a local art museum, appreciating a range of works from masters and emerging talent.

Suddenly, there’s a commotion in a corner of the museum. A younger man is moving quickly through the space. He sees Mr. Rutherford and a woman nearby.

“Go, lady! Exit, gent! Now!” he urges, just before pulling the fire alarm to evacuate the building. It turns out there’s a gas leak in the museum. (Don’t worry, emergency services arrive quickly, and no people or works of art are harmed.)

“Exit, gent!” = exigent (ECK-sih-gent), meaning urgent or needing immediate attention. Exigent circumstances are ones that require quick thinking and decisive action, like what the younger man in the museum demonstrated. These situations can be remarkably revealing, showing you who can handle a crisis.

Having been in a few emergency situations, I can tell you, you never know exactly who will keep their cool. It may surprise you who steps up when there’s a need, who thinks and reacts quickly, shouldering the burden of helping other people. Maybe that person is you. Maybe it’s someone you know.

Exigent situations are like a flashbulb moment. When that bright light goes off, it blinds some people and spurs others into action. I think we can all be grateful for the people who are equipped to handle exigent situations. This world will always need them.

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Word Nerd Wednesday: The Place You Call Home

It’s Wednesday! That means the end of the week is in sight. All we have to do is hold on a little longer. And that also means it’s Word Nerd Wednesday! Today’s story is about a woman named Jennifer.

Jennifer grew up in a town she loved, a place called Demick, and she makes an effort to return often. She visits old friends, gets ice cream from her favorite shop, and visits all her favorites spots. But the one thing she loves the most about her hometown is the sunflowers everywhere she turns. It’s something Jennifer always imagines when she thinks about home: the sunflowers that grow in Demick.

“In Demick” = endemic (in-DIM-ick), meaning indigenous or characteristic of a certain area, either a physical region or a specific industry/field. It can refer to native plants/animals or describe diseases or other negative conditions plaguing a specific area, population, or field of study.

These endemic traits are particularly important to writers. When we write about a location or subject, we’re stepping into a very specific culture. And it is our responsibility to capture both the positive and negative characteristics respectfully and tactfully.

I grew up in NC, and I’ve personally experienced the powerful hurricanes that are endemic to the region. They’re part of the fabric of life there, but they also cause a lot of destruction and claim lives. Someone else who’s never seen the aftermath up close probably wouldn’t be able to capture it in the way I can.

It’s really the only time I actually like the tired adage “write what you know.” When it comes to capturing the nuanced traits of your specific culture, region, or career, who knows it better than you? So if you’re a writer, own your story and write about that place you call home.

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Word Nerd Wednesday: That’s Fake News

Happy Word Nerd Wednesday! Fall has come in swinging here in Virginia and I’m loving it. Somehow cooler weather makes everything seem better, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s just me. Moving right along . . .

Today’s word nerd story story is about a high schooler named Calum. Calum has been known to get into a bit of trouble occasionally, especially with his best friend, Yate. The two are as thick as thieves, as they say. And one day, neither of them is at school. The rumors start flying.

“I heard they stole a car and took off for Mexico,” one student says.

“My brother knows someone at the police department and he says they got arrested for dealing drugs,” another student asserts.

On and on, the rumors fly, about exactly what kind of trouble Calum and Yate have gotten themselves into now.

To create rumors about “Calum ‘n Yate” = calumniate (kuh-LUM-nee-ate), which means to slander or defame. No doubt you’re familiar with the concept, even if the word is new to you. Calumniating is as old as time, a weapon of manipulation and control, and it’s become a regular political tactic these days.

Like C.H. Spurgeon said, “A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.” If some piece of negative information flies fast and spreads quickly, be wary: it may be the result of some crafty calumniating.

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