Mark’s Awesome Word of the Week

Awesome Words
mores

Many have noted that there exist, in society and civilizations throughout the world, certain unwritten rules and standards that are peculiarly more significant and more pervasive than others.  Some of these rules don’t even make much sense, but are steadfast nonetheless.

In America, marijuana is, rather by default, considered more sinister than alcohol, even though science has thoroughly proven that alcohol is more destructive and addictive.  While plenty of people quietly (and only quietly, you’ll note) admit to smoking marijuana, it’s something that would instantly disqualify a presidential candidate or take the wind out of any serious business meeting.  The same presidential candidate, however, might be seen as manly if consuming a cold beer on a hot summer’s day while doing whatever men do—chopping wood, say.  Likewise, that formal business meeting is may be accompanied by fine liquor.  Nevertheless, our society holds invariably that marijuana is just, somehow, worse—or, more accurately, less acceptable.

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Mark’s Awesome Word of the Week


Awesome Words
scalawag

Way back in the 1860s, there were Southerners who rather disliked the notion of lopping half the country off and calling it something new.  They were of the thoroughly unpopular opinion that certain things which Northerners supported (such as ending slavery) were not such a bad idea after all.  Unsurprisingly, this view did not go down well with the majority of southern citizens (a category which, prior to the abolition of slavery, did not include the huge number of slaves in the south).

While white Southerners had never particularly fancied their above-the-Mason-Dixon-line neighbors, it wasn’t until after the Civil War that they started to consider themselves better.  Rather than accept the changing tides of racial equality, many Southern whites developed an attitude of cultural supremacy in addition to racial.  They coined the term “carpetbaggers” to refer to Northern whites who moved to the south (often carrying baggage made of disused carpeting).  Their dislike was not without reason—the whites, who were accustomed to living without the servitude of slaves, were often better able to adapt to a slavery-free environment and capitalize on the prospects of reconstruction.

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Mark’s Awesome Word of the Week

Awesome Words
auspicious

Somewhere between “good” and “lucky” there lies an elusive range of promising developments which portend a bright future, and for these, we need a word.  For example, suppose that you are a recent graduate of a certain University’s air traffic control program, and are waiting to get hired by the FAA.  When the FAA is considering hiring someone, they send them a “tentative offer letter” which—as the name suggests—is no guarantee of employment.  It is, however, an auspicious (aw’SPISH’us) development, at least letting the aspiring controller know that his or her application is being considered.

Auspicious does not mean “lucky”.  Luck is rather random, having little to do with planning.  It’s lucky, for example, if you win the lottery—it could happen to anyone [who plays the lottery].  Auspicious occasions tend to involve a higher degree of human involvement.  For example, Panera Bread restaurants generate huge quantities of fresh bakery items each day, many of which they don’t sell and must therefore throw away at the end of the day.  At the same time, there are plentitudes of food banks and homeless shelters which need donations.  The auspicious combination of these two realities creates a circumstance where the restaurant can bake lots of fresh goods each day and give the leftovers to the charitable organizations, thus maintaining a reputation for freshness without developing one for wastefulness.

The word “auspicious” simply means promising success, suggesting good things, or working out quite well in the end.

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Mark Jacobs.  Mark is a volunteer assistant editor for Jet Fuel Review.  He is double-majoring in Physics and Air Traffic Control Management at Lewis, but the left side of his brain is an avid writer.  Mark is a junior and works as a ramp traffic controller at O’Hare and at Panera Bread, from which he does not steal dozens of bagels every day.  He is also a tutor in Lewis’ Writing Center.

Mark’s Awesome Word of the Week

Awesome Wordsexiguous

Alongside such noble pursuits as attaining higher understanding and broadening one’s knowledge base for the eventual betterment of self and others, most will agree that a primary reason for obtaining a college education is to be able to get a job which pays relatively well. Indeed, many college students find themselves in precisely the opposite situation while taking classes; they eke out a meager living at a menial job which, ordinarily, is only a part-time occupation owing to the majority of their time being taken up by their studies. It is this exiguous (ex’IG’you’us) income which leads college students to drive clunkers for cars, and it is this exiguous lifestyle while they often seek to move beyond.

To be exiguous is to be skeletal, minimal, scant, or meager. An exiguous income is one which is hard to live comfortably on; an exiguous love life is one in which your significant other has moved to another continent for work and, but for a few phone calls a week and two or three intercontinental trips a year, there is no contact between the two of you. At Thanksgiving, you may enjoy quite a feast, with ample food to go around; the rest of the year, and especially the day before you get paid, you might find yourself eating exiguously, on whatever free food you could scrape together from your job at the restaurant and your roommate’s leftover pizza.

Like many great words, ‘exiguous’ can be applied to just about anything when the need exists to describe it as thoroughly minimal and barely (if at all) sufficient. If the lights flicker often or dim whenever someone switches on the air conditioner, you might wonder what sort of exiguous power supply is being provided to your building. In an argument where your opponent’s ability to reason is highly questionable, you might ask what kind of exiguous logic they’re employing.

— Mark Jacobs, Assistant Editor

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Mark Jacobs. Mark is a volunteer assistant editor for Jet Fuel Review. He is double-majoring in Physics and Air Traffic Control Management at Lewis, but the left side of his brain is an avid writer. Mark is a junior and works as a ramp traffic controller at O’Hare and at Panera Bread, from which he does not steal dozens of bagels every day.

Mark’s Awesome Word of the Week

Awesome Words

zeitgeist

If you’ve been to see the new (at the time of this writing) movie Lincoln, you may have wondered at the numerous scenes in which congressmen sit in the House of Representatives and hurl colorful insults at each other.  Surely, one imagines, this is not the behavior of gentlemen.  Why, a congressmen in recent years was censured by the House simply for shouting, “you lie!” at President Obama.

In fact, America’s political history is far less constrained and proper than one might imagine.  In times past, the passion for politics very much involved great magniloquence and the use of all manner of offensive speech.  It was understood that this was an expression of one’s freedom of speech.

We have lost that sort of fervor, for certain—and not, many suppose, for the better.  Politics, today, has become too staid and boring, which should not be the case given the important issues with which politicians deal.

When we speak of the past, of the episodes of famous forefathers standing up and speaking boldly, accusingly, and derogatorily of their fellow congressmen, the word which is used to describe that period-specific fever of excitement and passion is zeitgeist (TSITE’guy’st).

Zeitgeist does not refer specifically to the erstwhile colorful tones of American political speech, but to any spirit associated with a given time.  Any time period in which an entire community (or indeed, country) is consumed by the attention surrounding an experience can be described as having its fair share of zeitgeist.  Zeitgeist is merely the word that refers to the greater spirit of the time, the underlying excitement and energy that seem to penetrate all.

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Mark Jacobs.  Mark is a volunteer assistant editor for Jet Fuel Review.  He is double-majoring in Physics and Air Traffic Control Management at Lewis, but the left side of his brain is an avid writer.  Mark is a junior and works as a ramp traffic controller at O’Hare and at Panera Bread, from which he does not steal dozens of bagels every day.

Mark’s Awesome Word of the Week

Awesome Words

sangfroid

As smoke and flames billow from the engines, pieces of metal peel away and flake off into the air stream, the plane shakes violently, alarms blare, teenagers scream, and flight attends bellow, “Assume the crash position!”, with the ground racing upwards and warning sirens screeching, wouldn’t it be nice to know that the pilot on the flight deck has sangfroid?

More importantly, as James Bond careens around the corners of narrow mountain roads with no guard rails in his exorbitant sports car, with hordes of villainous villains armed with semiautomatic weapons in hot pursuit, wouldn’t you say that it’s crucial for Agent 007 to demonstrate sangfroid when—in addition to everything else—a deer steps out in front of him?

You would if you knew that sangfroid—pronounced (because it’s a French word, really) “sahn-FRWA” (with the R close to, but not quite, silent)—means keeping one’s cool in stressful or dangerous situations.

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Mark’s Awesome Word of the Week

Awesome Words

pedantic

Suppose that you’re telling a story.  It is a grand story, too.  Full of lust and adventure, with ominous threats and feats of astounding courage and cunning, this is an episode none should miss, which you’ll be happy to share anew with many different groups and passersby.

And then suppose that, right as you approach the climactic moment of your story—when you should happen to say, “we couldn’t believe how much data we got”—a member of your audience interrupts by pointing out, “data is quantifiable, actually, so you would say ‘how many data’, not ‘how much data’.”

That, of course, quite thoroughly takes the wind of your story’s sails.  And you might wonder what sort of accusatory word you could apply to this person to indicate that—while they might be right about the point of fact—their decision to interject it in the middle of your story was decidedly inappropriate.

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