Noah Webster 1828 vs. The World

Many years ago when my kids still submitted to public school, and still attended elementary school, my oldest broke my heart into little pieces of fierce bookish momma love when she hauled home a bunch of books the school librarian had given away. The librarian admitted some would be thrown away, which had startled the little bookish girl into saving what she could. She sniffed about the ones she had let go, saying they weren’t ‘very good anyway’. Which is quite possible. The ones she brought home caused some interesting changes in our lives.

One in particular was The New World Dictionary of American English, third college edition, apparently the 1991 publication. It is also the “Deluxe Color Edition”. Yes, with her school books, and with her other rescued books, my sweet, sweet apparently strong elementary-aged daughter brought home…a massive dictionary. It has its cool thangs going on. It’s hefty, fat, big, and a dignified dark blue. It has these incredibly cool inserts with pictures: weather patterns, anatomy, aircraft of the world, flowers…there are also some of those little sketches that add their subtle vibe to random pages. It’s kind of a cool dictionary, like I said, in some ways. But we don’t use it as a dictionary. We have flowers pressed in there, postcards, and a graduation announcement, among other things. We keep it as a contrast to The Other Dictionary, which I will get to in a moment. But as I paged through this dictionary, I became vaguely concerned at something I knew I was witnessing even if I couldn’t determine what exactly I was witnessing. I simply found the definitions unsatisfactory. I flipped here and there, reading bits and enjoying it too, but feeling that something was not quite right. I put it aside and avoided using it as a dictionary without really knowing why.

Of course, our technological access to internet dictionaries made the unwieldy book less likely to be used, as well. But the same problem can be found there. The definitions were somehow often lacking…they felt downright untrustworthy. I started to see what some of the issues were, but I hadn’t found the way to put it in words, as yet. And with a dictionary in front of me, no less!

A few years later, a home schooling friend put me onto Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. She had bought a paper facsimile, or a reprint if you will. We found it fully accessible, and free online as well, here:

A bit harder to randomly shift through delicate pages of knowledge, but the search bar is quick. You can see there what my copy looks like, too. It’s big and fat and hefty and a dignified green. Plus the golden eagle on the cover is a neat detail. That newer Webster’s has a tree on it, which is nice and symbolic, but also it was kind of simplified to the point of looking like a government agency logo.

So I got the 1828 edition for my birthday and sat down with both books in my lap…no, that would have been tricky. On a table, let’s say. And my eyes started to be opened. Let’s compare the 1991 edition with the 1828 edition. Let’s pick some words that carry a lot of weight in our lives, or they should. Words such as these shape thoughts, actions, and potentials.

The word ‘meek‘ (skipping the pronunciation, word origins, and word type):

1991 edition:

“1 patient and mild; not inclined to anger or resentment.

2. too submissive; easily imposed on; spineless; spiritless

3. gentle and kind”

And now the 1828 edition:

“1. Mild of temper; soft; gentle; not easily provoked or irritated; yielding; given to forbearance under injuries. ‘Now the man Moses was very meek, above all men.’

2. Humble, in an evangelical sense; submissive to the divine will; not proud, self sufficient or refractory; not peevish and apt to complain of divine dispensations. Christ says, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls.” ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’ “

See a difference? Feel the difference?

What have we lost in our language usage from 1828 to 1991? Maybe some depth of thought, richness of feeling, and strength of character? Maybe in the push to use language as a transmission of information (after all, that’s what computers do, so it must be scientifically clean, technologically right, and the best form of modern living possible, a somehow moral value call) we have lost ready access to some valuable traits of our humanity. I think we have.

Here’s another one, the word ‘humble‘:

1991 edition:

“1. having or showing a consciousness of one’s defects or shortcomings; not proud; not self-assertive; modest.

2. low in condition, rank, or position; lowly; unpretentious /a humble home/.”

1828 edition:

” 1. To abase; to reduce to a low state. ‘This victory humbled the pride of Rome. The power of Rome was humbled, but not subdued’.

2. To crush; to break; to subdue. ‘The battle of Waterloo humbled the power of Buonaparte’.

3. To mortify.

4. To make humble or lowly in mind; to abase the pride of; to reduce arrogance and self-dependence; to give a low opinion of one’s moral worth; to make meek and submissive to the divine will; the evangelical sense. ‘Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you’. ‘Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart’.

5. To make to condescend. ‘He humbles himself to speak to them’.

6. To bring down; to lower; to reduce. ‘The highest mountains may be humbled into valleys’. 

7. To deprive of chastity. To humble one’s self, to repent; to afflict one’s self for sin; to make contrite.”

I looked up faith, hope, and charity. The same pattern showed: a rich and Christian series of definitions were stripped down to secular understandings of words. The loss of layers was obvious. There was a strong sense of morality being removed from words that we use to express moral thought. The loss of meanings caused a shift, or reflected it, and along the way a meek person became a weak person.

Given, the newer dictionary has many words that did not exist in 1828. The latest ones have even more, while other words have dropped out of usage. That alone would make a fascinating blog post as far as I’m concerned. What I want to focus on here is true loss, or the attempted loss of real meaning and usage of words we need today. The dictionaries reflect their times, this is true. They also shape them.

I believe that the purposeful shaping of our language has become more pervasive, and more blatant. Make a list of all the words you can think of that used to have multiple meanings. How many have been dropped from usage because they became burdened with sexual innuendo that made it difficult to even use them in regular conversation?

Homeschoolers may want to take note of this, if they haven’t already caught on. Enthusiasts of older reading materials may do the same. Everyone else should probably know that dictionaries are not quite the authority they used to be. This is similar to acknowledging that not all judges are dispensing true justice, and that not all schools teach to the child.

I took time out of my Sunday School class to teach the adults about this principle. We had been discussing translation, or how a specific word in some scripture had changed for us, or some such thing. Several parents took note and went home to think about this regarding their children’s education, at the very least. I am sharing the idea here. Noah Webster knew what he was doing. He should have his own holiday!

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Great Sayings From My Fridge #1

I’m introducing a new segment to my erstwhile blog. Some days I can write gloriously, and some days I can only quote somebody else. But those quotes are ones that have infused my being and linger on, unnoticed, sometimes unfelt. Their influence lives on even if their little paper copies in the kitchen have faded. So, today’s Great Sayings From My Fridge:

Robert Louis Stevenson

“A faculty for idleness implies…a strong sense of personal identity.”

I have often reflected on what this could possibly mean. The socially guilty part of me automatically wants to reject a quote that appears to endorse laziness, for isn’t that what this is about? NO! IT’S NOT! First, it helps to know that Stevenson was sick a lot of the time. He had to find ways to engage himself in solitude. He had to face both his boredom and his creative drive. Secondly, It is the strong sense of personal (shall we say divine?) identity that helps us throw off the shackles of social expectation and useless shaming. It’s nobody’s social business if I sit on my porch for two hours watching the trees. Or write. Or write on my blog while watching the trees. It’s just me, being me.

When I can toss aside the false notions and crazy-making shame that somehow washing dirty things is more important than writing creative things, I can use those behaviors considered ‘idle’ by society (writing, being in nature, sitting still and just being in the moment, not counting every minute by dollar signs) to be the greatest sum of my parts possible. The big trick here is being of a strong enough personality to disregard social norms and expectations. The bigger trick is weeding them out of ourselves, where so much of the damage to creativity is done by ourselves, to ourselves.

So naturally, when I came across this quote years ago, it resonated with me when I wasn’t sure I understood it very well. I trusted that resonance and posted the saying on my wall. I might even one day research it more fully for greater understanding, particularly where those three dots are, hinting at something more…

Disclaimer: I lied. These many quotes I have, including this one, are no longer on my fridge. But Great Sayings From My Dusty Bulletin Board just didn’t flow for me, ya know? This and all the other sayings used to be on my fridge. My fridge died. I moved all the sayings to the bulletin board so that the old dead fridge could be removed and the new shiny (smaller, more affordable) one could be brought in. And somehow the quotes stayed on the corkboard where I can’t quite see them as well, especially since many are twenty years old, which means, ahem, that I am twenty years old-er. I plan on rewriting them in larger print so I can see them away there on the wall over the flour bins and the crockpot.

My challenge to you: find the sayings that speak to you. Post them on your platform of memory and inspiration. The fridge, the bathroom mirror, social media, write them on your wrist, get them in front of you. Absorb them the way you do your vegetables, so they can heal your center, build new growth, energize your thoughts, actions, and personality, and so that even when you have no idea they are even there, they can do their work in deep and meaningful ways. Choose wisely! Your being is in question, here. What will you be? What will being do for you? What will doing be for you?

 

 

Guest Blogger: AESOP!

Here at this small place in the universe, we enjoy the occasional guest blogger, favorite guest blogger, and only guest blogger: Aesop, former slave and all around clever fellow! So here goes:

A Fox That Lost His Tail

There was a Fox taken in a Trap, that was glad to compound for his Neck, by leaving his Tail behind him. It was so uncouth a Sight for a Fox to appear without a Tail, that the very Thought on’t made him e’en weary of his Life; for ’twas a loss never to be repair’d: But however for the better Countenance of the Scandal, he got the Master and Wardens of the Foxes Company to call a Court of Assistants, where he himself appeared, and made  learned Discourse upon the Trouble, the Uselessness, and the Indecency of Foxes wearing Tails. He had no sooner said out his Say, but up rises a cunning Snap, then at the Board, who desir’d t be inform’d, whether the worthy Member that mov’d against the wearing of Tails, gave his Advice for the Advantage of those that had Tails, or to palliate the Deformity and Disgrace of those who had none.

from Aesop: Fables

Not Ants On A Log

Recipe time! This one is Carrots And Cream!

I always appreciated recipes for young kids and we still use a couple of them on a regular basis. What I never appreciated was ‘ants on a log’ because bugs. Because celery. Because mixing bugs and food never appealed to me, though sometimes it did to my kids. Though not often.

So recently my daughter developed her own recipe that we so far call ‘carrots and cream’. This may appear to be a disappointing let down when you learn there is no actual cream in the recipe, but at least there are no bugs, either. But then, finding out there is no cream, and finding out there are no bugs, may elicit entirely different reactions, and therein lies the one fault of our recipe. The rest is just easy and delicious.

Ingredients:

carrot sticks

cream cheese

sunflower seeds

pepper or other spice

Directions:

Basically you make carrot sticks and make sure they have a flat side. On that flat side you smear on some cream cheese. Then you add some sunflower seeds, and pepper it up. There ya go! A more adult version of a simple snack good in hot or cold weather. Now with my new dietary restrictions, I have very little cream cheese. My daughter slathers it on some of the carrot sticks for her own enjoyment. I’m not quibbling at this point. All I know is that someone made a snack and they made some of it for me. ❤

Embracing Addiction

What an odd title, don’t you think? Why would a person even consider embracing addiction? Aren’t we supposed to be shunning addictions in all their tangible and intangible forms?

Well, according to much of our language and social cues, why yes, we are accepting and embracing not only our addictions, but everyone else’s. Yours. Mine. That guy’s over there…eyew.

See what I mean? How do I get there in my convoluted reasoning? Well, have you ever read an ad that stated that “this product is so good, it’s addictive”? Did you think “Oh, gross!” or did you think “Really? Sounds great!” I know I’ve fallen into the second trap. Addictive sounds like the ultimate in goodness, according to a warped society that feeds upon itself. Really. Since when in what world has any addiction been a good or healthy thing? It doesn’t matter if we call it a hobby or just declare with zeal that a food brand has our undying loyalty as if it were a football team or-gasp- a God.

The basest behaviors that grime up our humanity are addictive, and that includes p*rn. Celebrating addiction (and exploitative media) blurs our access to healthful living. It supports the predatory advertising methods we’ve all become so used to, even enamored with. It stunts people trying to overcome their addiction or even recognize they have one. Addiction uses people up as if they were the ultimate in addictive materials, objects to be used, bruised, and tossed aside when they’re all used up.

So when I go cruising the internet and I look up images of libraries because hey, books are a deeply held interest of mine, I come across words like bookp*rn. The first couple times I saw that, I immediately thought, “Yes!” and I clicked in excited to find a hub of library pictures, book pictures, and wise memes about the joy of reading. This doesn’t mean I was a consumer of real p*rn and had become excited about that. It meant that I recognized the intended meaning that here be pages of pictures of books for your eyes to consume. Which is good in that yeah, books, and it was also bad because I accept p*rn as a defining institution within my life. It defines my perspective, my interests, and my language. Heck, even the consumption part sounds less than healthy under poor circumstances.

Think about it: not being one who looks at p*rn, I accept its words and phrases in my life as part of my language and thinking patterns. Do I really want that? How does that help anybody that this has become an acceptable way of measuring the worth of a thing or of enjoying life? Do I really want any aspect of consumptive, exploitative, cannibalistic business practices that ruin lives and destroy families to have any influence over me?

The answer is NO. I aim to not engage in normalizing criminal, immoral, horrendous behavior and business practices. Not p*rnography, and not addictions.

Clean language: a healthy choice for spirit, mind, and body. Maybe we can take back the word ‘adult’. That would be a good start.

 

 

“Fur-Babies”: Please stop

Please stop using this

One of the things I am improving in my life is my use of language. So since I don’t swear and that seems the obvious place to start, where do I go from there? Well, believe me, swear words are not the only sloppy or offensive words we use. There’s also tone, too, of course. But I started working on my use of slang, for instance. I found out many, if not most, slang comes from horrible sources, questionable sources, and fleeting sources. So I’ve dropped most slang from my language as well. Then there are words that just serve in a kind of nickname kind of linguistic slot. One of these is the use of the word “fur-babies” to mean one’s pets. Why would I advocate against this? What right do I even have??

Well, I have the right of any English speaker to have my opinions. I can advocate for this behavior over that one. It’s not about my authority- I am just another English speaker. But in advocating, I do not demand that society immediately accept my opinion as fact and make PSAs or pass laws binding everyone to my chosen behavior. This word we’re talking about is rather a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of lives. We will simply call this one of my pet peeves. OK?

The question of ‘why’…let me give this a try.

The Family

I don’t think I’ve ever used the word ‘fur-babies’, but I’ve considered it. After all, my pets are loved, they have their place in our family dynamics, and the connections we have with them run deep. I was a bit tempted. However, I have these other creatures called children. It took a lot of effort to have those children. The infertility, the difficult and complicated pregnancies, the agonizing choices that have had to be made…this is part of parenthood and part of motherhood, some of the most glorious, divine, and world-maligned roles we embrace in this life. It is an essential attribute of any species to procreate and make more of the littler versions of themselves. It is also, in our place as children of a living God, one of our greatest blessings in this life.

So when someone refers to animals in a way that equates them with human children, I really do cringe. It’s not accurate. It may help contribute to other forms of language and thought that both intentionally and unintentionally muddy the word waters. If I refer to my dog as a fur-baby, is it cute, or just kind of childish? Does it demean the nature of my children? I didn’t say it changes the nature of my children. It demeans it. They are my daughters, and I can teach them so much. We can learn and grow together, laughing and crying, loving our ancestors, dreaming of the next generation, and they take such excellent care of me. What wonderful things my dog does simply do not compare.

The dog wags her tail, licks my face, is happy to see me, loves to nap with me, loves her walks, and enjoys other things. It’s all great. I can reach out and dig my fingers into her fur and my own heart is soothed. Humans can make wonderful homes for dogs and cats (and whatever else). Dogs and cats are a great blessing. They are not the blessing of children.

The family, the natural family, of our species, is under attack like no other species has ever encountered. Other species have been physically hunted to extinction, yes. Others have some protection. But the human family is under other kinds of attack as well. We’re supposed to feel bad for being naturally human families. Nobody guilted passenger pigeons into extinction, they just shot all of them because some people were stupid.

Yes, there do seem to be plenty of people who want to refer to human children with horrible slang terms. Sometimes they are the same people who want to call their pets fur-babies. I don’t know. However, motherhood, fatherhood, parenthood, childhood, even girl and boy, brother and sister, are all words that are under attack. The strategy is to redefine them into so many ways that 1- we don’t know what we’re even talking about and along with that we’re afraid to refer to our own reality, and 2- we become so incredibly disconnected from one another we lose the natural love of family, the protection of family, and the sense of humankind as a family. We lose the sense of what family can be! We split into factions who oppose each other and make all life more complicated and difficult.

I have a mother and a father, brothers, and a sister. I have some cousins, nephews, nieces. I have grandparents, great grandparents, and more, going back into the past. I assume I may yet have descendants who continue to build the same links.

Our pets are part of that. They are a precious part. They are not the actual links, however.

If you do not have children, that is OK. If you have pets instead, that is OK. In fact, if anyone were to use such a silly little word like fur-baby, perhaps you have the most right. Or at least the greatest opportunity. Which is OK. It’s just one word.

The Individual- human or animal

Too many aspects of our lives are being actively redefined in sloppier and sloppier ways. Accuracy fades as people try not to offend but still can’t understand the many new words usages that are demanded of them. Language change tends to be slower than that, because people need time. The only times word change is forced on a deadline are when a tyrant wants to grasp thought, language, and behavior control from the people they control.

Oh! See what I did there? “They” as a kind of indeterminate singular-possibly-plural individual or group.

I actually find the new and rising uses of ‘they’ kind of handy.

After raising animals to the level of children, and then to humanity in general, we now have people who want animals to have the same God-given rights that we humans have. It’s silly. It’s unnatural. It’s unfair to humans and animals alike. Using the word fur-babies may or may not contribute to this. I don’t think every use of it contributes, let’s put it that way. But I suspect that most uses of the word do contribute to the rise of inaccuracy in our conversations and legal matters and social mores.

And like I said, it’s not fair to anyone. Let’s look at it from the dog’s perspective: should my dog be expected to act like a human? Is she really just a fuzzy baby? NO! She needs to be allowed to be a dog. Hundreds of animal behavior problems stem from people treating their dogs like cartoon humans. The dog is only a puppy for months, not years. The dog can’t digest some of the foods we eat. The dog can not grasp legal matters. The dog has her own natural instincts as well as her experience as a dog and her judgments as a dog. The dog must not rule over the children, for everyone’s safety. The dog is not a fur-baby, not a not-a-dog. She is a dog. A wonderful and amazing creature that has, as a group, a long history of living with humans. But not a human.

Would we decide that baby impalas must grow up in the pride of lions, and expect them to behave as lions do? There are a few real cases where a lion has temporarily adopted a baby impala or other animal. Exceptions happen. But really, how can an impala ever be a lion? It can’t. Can a lion grow up as an impala? How about that?

It’s not fair to the impala or the lion. Whether you believe in evolution or God-designed creation, you see that most of nature follows a general set of natural rules.

Finally

Nature is a part of our world, and we are part of nature. When we remove ourselves from nature we lose wisdom and stability that we desperately need. In order to learn about the cosmos, we need bigger and better words than just calling the entities out there ‘twinkly things’, or even ‘stars’. Settling for cutesy language murks up our awesome and naturally occurring reasoning organs that we as humans have. As a word game, yeah, ‘fur-babies’ has its place…with things like ‘ring around the rosy’ and ‘mama, I gotta go pee’. Which reminds me of how when I was a kid, nobody over the age of three used the word ‘pee’. Baby talk, people.

Spiritually we belong to an amazing entity who is the most supreme and grand and loving parent one could ever have. We can’t grasp His nature any more than we can grasp the totality of the universe. He knows each human just as well as he knows each sparrow. His plan for each human is very different from the one he has for sparrows. And finally, he has asked in the scriptures that we use ‘yea for yea’ and ‘nay for nay’. Anything beyond or below that is less truthful, less accurate, and therefore thus more devilish. Did I know I was devilish? Not sure how much I thought about it, in years past. But now I recognize it in my behavior, in my words, and in my thoughts. I’m trying to eliminate the dross and devilish so that I can see myself as the shining purified work of God’s hands. Anyone can do this! Start with a word or a habit. See how much each of these things is related to other things. Clean up one and see what you see afterwards. Find good alternatives. And like I say to my kids whenever they go out: “Do good, be good, and have a good time.”

And Nobody Starves

I like recipes as much as the next person. I’ve also learned to set limits for myself. For instance, I usually limit myself to recipes with only five or six ingredients in them. This naturally reduces the number of steps involved as well. And Momma stays sane in the midst of yet another decade of cooking for people.

The way I write recipes is a little free and easy, too. I usually copy the one I borrowed from somewhere else, but sometimes I stumble on something myself. So today I’m offering my Baked Quesadilla recipe of cultural acquisition.

Baked Quesadillas

Ingredients:

*tortillas

*cottage cheese, or any delicious shredded cheese that cottage cheese is a humble substitute for at the end of the month

*meat of choice, cooked and shredded (not judgin’ y’all or anything)

*veggies of choice, and yeah, refried beans fall in that category, as well as rice, quinoa, corn, other beans, and green beans

*other stuff like garlic and salsa and so on

Directions:

  1. Mix meat, cheese, veggies, and other stuff.
  2. Place tortillas in lightly greased pan.
  3. Fill halfway with mix.
  4. Close tortillas and spray lightly on top, because you’ll want to flip them once while they bake.
  5. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 min. Alternatively, 400 degrees for about 20 min.
  6. Remove from oven, let cool, and serve with toppings.

It’s easy, it’s flexible, it’s lower fat than frying AND I don’t have to stand there watching it burn. AND it makes leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch. AND not only that, but nobody starves.

Optional: once I came this close to making tuna fish and shredded carrots in the quesadillas. That makes the cottage cheese seem perfectly ordinary! And while I have not done this, yet does it lurk in the middle recesses of my brain lest I should encounter a longer month than this one has been. Because perception has its portion of influence along with the moon and the IRS upon calendar designations.

Add quesadilla recipes, comments, and awkward silences below!