Words Matter

When I read the word “revanchist” in Sunday morning’s New York Times in a story about Vladimir Putin, I knew I had to look that word up again. It popped up on my NPR news feed earlier in the week, and I saw it when I scanned my Fox News App. Now it demanded my attention as a new word for my lexicon. The New York Times quote: “Or was he transformed over time into the revanchist warmonger of today….”

Revanchist from the French word for revenge, is the “political manifestation of the will to reverse territorial losses incurred by a country, often following a war or social movements” (Wikipedia) and certainly describes Putin’s goals for his tragic invasion of Ukraine.

Words matter, and often we can’t find the right ones to express our thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, however, the right word falls into place, and revanchist certainly describes the current crisis fittingly.

My father was a logophile and inspired my brothers and me to study them. Index cards were stored in our unabridged Webster’s Dictionary and turned into flashcards for the new words we encountered. I remember how blasé he was when I, as a preteen, asked about the word “masturbation.” “Look it up,” he told me, “Put it on a flashcard and then tell me what you found out.” Whew, that was an embarrassing few minutes for me.  My father handled it like just another word with a bit more explanation.

Resilience is a word that helps me understand my inner capacities and the ways I can help my clients improve their work and home lives. I don’t feel defined by the word, even though it often colors my perception of events, both successes and failures. My thinking of our capacity to prepare for challenging circumstances, navigate them successfully when we are in the middle of them, and then learn from them, so we do better in the future is my definition of resilience.

I’m onto new words today. In the book Sapiens last night, I read about memetics (the root of the commonly used “meme” that we hear so much about). I’ve got to make a flashcard for that one; it kind of blew my mind.

Have a good week!

© Richard Citrin 2022

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