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.

Word Nerd Wednesday: It’s the Climb

This week’s word is one I think everyone can relate to at some point in their lives. Here’s my little story about it:

One beautiful Saturday morning, Sarah and her friends, Maddie and Jake, decide to go for a hike in the mountains. The trail is steep, covered in branches and bushes. Sharp rocks jut out from every angle and roots twist through the dirt. The air grows thinner as they climb, and Sarah is struggling. With every step, her muscles burn and her lungs ache. Her feet keep getting snagged on roots, and thorny branches scratch her arms. She begins to wonder if this was all a huge mistake.

After an hour, they pause for a break and Sarah sinks to the ground. Maddie sits down beside her. “This is exhausting,” she admits. “It’s not just you. It’s this hike. It’s hard on you and us.”

“Hard on you and us” = arduous (ARE-joo-wus), today’s word. Arduous means strenuous or difficult to achieve. And the imagery of a steep climb is particularly appropriate since this word comes from the Latin word arduus, meaning high or steep. It doesn’t just refer to something that’s sort of difficult, it describes a task that takes you to the point of exhaustion, something that tests your endurance.

We’ve all encountered tasks in our lives that were particularly arduous, requiring every bit of effort we can muster. And like Maddie reminds Sarah, we’re rarely alone on our arduous journeys. Even if there’s no one beside us at the time, many people have walked the same difficult path before us and many will come after us as well.

So when you find yourself strained to the point of exhaustion, not sure whether you can carry on, call the journey what it is. Arduous. And in that word you can hear the truth: we’ve all been in a place just like that and it’s hard on all of us.