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.


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.


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.


Word Nerd Wednesday: Moochers Beware

Happy Word Nerd Wednesday! Is it just me or does it feel like this week is straggling? But we’ve made more than halfway. The end is in sight, my friends!

Moving right along. This week’s word story is about a woman named Cici.

Cici is bubbly and outgoing. She’s fun to be around. There’s just one major drawback to a friendship with Cici: she tends to ask for things, a lot, without giving back. Basically, she’s an emovamp,¬†someone who takes so much more than she gives. Her favorite phrase seems to be “Can’tcha? Please?” Every person who knows Cici has heard that phrase more than once as she badgers them to give her things they’ll never get back.

“Can’tcha” = cadge (rhymes with badge), meaning to sponge, beg, or mooch. We’ve all had to borrow from time to time, relying on the generosity of our friends. But mooching, always taking, never reciprocating, that’s just poor form all around. Don’t cadge, people.

So the next time someone tries to mooch off you, feel free to declare “don’t you try to cadge from me!” Or possibly, “alway with you and your cadging ways!” Whatever you prefer.


Word Nerd Wednesday: Bad Behavior

Welcome back to Word Nerd Wednesday! Since I was on vacation last week, I’m offering two word stories today. Such a benevolent soul, am I. Let’s venture forth.

Carly, Madison, and Renata are a group of hipster, foodie types who decide to host a pepper tasting. From the most mellow bell pepper to fiery peppers that would score a ten on the hotness scale, this group of friends is ready to expand their palates. Eager to try something new, Carly takes a big bite of a lovely-looking pepper. Suddenly fire burns her mouth and she begins to feel dizzy, her body weakening with every second.

“Oh no!” Madison cries. “That was a ten you ate!” Yes, Carly has inadvertently taken a bite of one of the hottest peppers.

“A ten you ate” = attenuate (uh-TEN-yu-wait), meaning to weaken or lessen, to reduce the vitality of something. When Carly shoves that freakishly hot pepper into her mouth without checking the facts, her health is significantly attenuated. The lesson here, kids, is always make sure you know what you’re putting in your mouth.

Moving right along to our second word story…

Julia has been invited to a glamorous cocktail party. Fancy clothes, fancy foods, fancy people. She eagerly dons her finest dress and steps into a wonderfully decorated party. As tends to happen to women alone at parties, she draws the attention of a rather smarmy guy.

“You look amazing,” he says. “You’re the most beautiful woman here, maybe even in the world. You have to dance with me!” But Julia’s not into it and she finally tells him to leave her alone. Walking away, she finds a group of other women to hang out with who commiserate over the man who simply cannot stop brandishing outlandish flattery. The host learns about the man’s behavior and tosses him out, because ain’t nobody got time for that. Meanwhile, Julia has found herself a fantastic new group of friends.

To “brandish outlandish flattery” = blandish (BLAN-dish), which means to coax with flattery or cajole. And while we can all agree that genuine compliments are great, flattery intended to manipulate is just plain wrong. And with every day, people (women especially) are becoming less willing to put up with that. So be genuine or keep your mouth shut, that’s pretty much the lesson I see here. Don’t blandish, people. It just isn’t right.

So there you have our new words for this week: attenuate and blandish. Go forth and call out that dude at work for blandishing the ladies and if you’re lucky, that will attenuate his bad habits. At the very least, it will confuse him long enough for everyone to get away from him. Words really are weapons. Use them wisely.