Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

vocabulary

 

November 12-18 is National Bible Week, a time meant to celebrate the power of the Bible in so many lives. The word bible derives from the Greek biblia, which means “books.” Indeed, the Bible is a whole library of books that contain many different kinds of literature — history, narrative, short stories, poetry, philosophy, riddles, fables, allegories, letters and drama. Many parts of the Bible are highly dramatic because they show in detail the sweep of grand events as experienced by a vivid and diverse cast of persons.

While the spiritual values of the Bible are almost universally recognized, the enduring effect of the Bible on the English language is often overlooked. The fact is, though, that a great number of biblical words, references and expressions have become part of our everyday speech, so that even people who don’t read the Bible carry its text on their tongues.

Not long ago, Peter Gold, a 25-year-old medical student at Tulane University in New Orleans, stopped his car when he saw a man forcibly dragging a woman to another car. When Gold got out of his automobile and tried to help the victim, the criminal shot him in the stomach. The media immediately dubbed Gold, who recovered from his wound, a Good Samaritan. Good Samaritan is a reference to a parable of Jesus found in the Gospel of Luke 10:30-37. In the story, a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho was attacked by thieves and left by the side of the road half dead. After other men passed by, a Samaritan came upon the victim and pitied him, binding up his wounds and taking him to an inn to recover.

Here is a sampling of other biblically inspired words: 

  • talent. In ancient times, a talent was a unit of weight, and this weight of silver or gold constituted a monetary unit, one that figures prominently in a famous parable of Jesus: “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability.” (Matthew 25:14-15). The most common modern meaning of the word talent — some special, often God-given ability or aptitude — is a figurative extension of the parable.
  • maudlin. In Mark 16: 9-10, we read, “Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first before Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. And she went and told them that she had been with him, and they mourned and wept.” Medieval and Renaissance painters portrayed a tearful Mary Magdalene so sentimentally that, over the years, her name was transformed into the word maudlin, which now means “tearfully sentimental.”
  • shibboleth. In the Book of Judges 12:5-6, we learn about a conflict between the peoples of Gilead and Ephraim: “And the Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites; and it was so, that when those Ephraimites which were escaped said, Let me go over; that the men of Gilead said unto him, Art thou an Ephraimite? If he said, Nay; then they said unto him, Say now shibboleth.” Because the Ephraimites didn’t have the sh sound in their language, they could not pronounce the word correctly, and 42,000 of them were slain. That’s how the word shibboleth, originally “ear of corn,” has acquired the meaning that it has today: a password, catchword, or slogan that distinguishes one group from the other.
  • When we call an obstacle a stumbling block, we are knowingly or unknowingly, echoing Leviticus 19:14: “Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shalt fear thy God.”
  • The Bible provides two words to describe something of enormous size. In Isaiah 27:1, we read, “The Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan, the piercing serpent, even leviathan, that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea.” And in Job 40: 15, 23, we find, “Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee. . . . Behold, he drinketh up a river and hasteth not; he trusteth that he can draw up Jordan in his mouth.”