Monday, July 23 , 2018, 6:47 am | Fair 64º

 
 
 

Tim Durnin: Finding Deeper Meaning in Changing Vocabulary

From weltschmerz to perspicacity, some words seem particularly relevant

In an effort to expand my vocabulary, I signed up for Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day. The service sends me a new word daily on my iPhone.

Last Saturday I was sitting at home — contemplating everything I should be doing but wasn’t — when the word weltschmerz popped up. I had never seen the term before.

The definition is straightforward enough: “Sorrow that one feels and accepts as one’s necessary portion in life; sentimental pessimism.” I like it when the sound of a word gives a feel for its definition, and weltschmerz does seem to capture the essence of its meaning. For example, “The country has fallen into a general weltschmerz over the current political and economic conditions.”

This being my first attempt to use the word in a sentence, I will leave it to the linguists to decide the accuracy of my effort. But I like it. The word captures the general malaise that has set in, and the timeliness of the word’s arrival is not lost on me. I admit my own feeling of weltschmerz.

Weltschmerz was followed on Sunday by the word mendacity, “A tendency to lie; untruthfulness.” Again, the connection to our current circumstance did not go unnoticed.

I can’t help but wonder if Dictionary.com isn’t writing a subtle commentary, one word at time. Going out on a limb, it seems our current weltschmerz was fueled by mendacity on the part of those in the seats of power. I love words.

If Dictionary.com is indeed writing a commentary, word by precious word, I have a few suggestions for the next several days. My personal choice for the next entry is truckle, “To submit obsequiously; be subservient; kowtow.” For example, Americans will no longer truckle in the face of poor leadership.

In fact, Americans actually threaten with my second word choice, apostasy, “a total desertion of or departure from one’s religion, principles, party, cause, etc.” As in, both major political parties are facing mass apostasy given the current state of their respective factions.

Following apostasy, I explored synonyms for courage and came up with two favorites — temerity and tenacity. I’m inclined toward temerity as it implies boldness and, yes, even recklessness. It’s going to take temerity to overcome years of political cronyism and decades of leadership driven by spin and self interest. I think a little political recklessness may be in order. Reckless honesty might be a good place to start.

I did some research identifying words for this column and stumbled onto a site sponsored by Wayne State University. The site is Word Warriors, with the tag line, “Bring Back Great Words.” I discovered truckle there, tucked among some other truly great words. My final two entries find their origin there as well.

I perused the Word Warriors’ list of terms, and perspicacity caught my attention. It’s defined as, “Discernment. Sharp and insightful intelligence.” I believe it will take our inherent perspicacity to discover workable solutions to find a way of our current crisis.

And, finally, I offer indefatigable, “Tireless; endlessly persistent.” As in, the indefatigable American spirit can overcome any adversity. Indeed it will.

That is my antidote to cure my own and others’ weltschmerz, a large dose of perspicacity and indefatigable attention to the work that lies ahead.

— Tim Durnin is a father and husband. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) for comments, discussion, criticism, suggestions and story ideas.

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