Word of the Week: Shibboleth

Word: shibboleth

Pronunciation: SHI-bə-ləth

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: a custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, especially a long-standing one regarded as outmoded or no longer important

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Here’s another new word I learned from reading political articles. When defining the beliefs and principles of certain political parties, it’s easy to form stereotypes about how these groups think and behave. The problem is that once these stereotypes become common enough, we start using them to distinguish one group from the other, which can lead to some bitter and downright hostile arguments down the road. The lesson: it’s important to remember that we’re all human beings; our “shibboleths” shouldn’t define who we are!

A “shibboleth” is a belief, principle, or custom that distinguishes certain groups or classes of people, typically one that’s outdated or no longer important. The word arose in the mid 17th century and comes from the Hebrew noun šibbōleṯ, meaning “ear of corn”. The current sense of the word derives from a biblical account in which it was used as a test of nationality for its difficult pronunciation.

Though its modern use has nothing to do with its original definition, there’s an interesting story behind the word “shibboleth”: according to an account in the Book of Judges in the Hebrew Bible, after the Gileadites defeated the Ephraimites in battle, the former used this word to identify fleeing survivors among the latter, whose dialect resulted in the mispronunciation “sibboleth”. Today, the word is used to define repeatedly cited yet incorrect sayings or customs that distinguish in-groups from out-groups. If your characters are divided by antiquated beliefs and principles, you can easily use their “shibboleths” to color your story!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

Make Your Fate (Ronovan Writes Haiku Challenge #159)

Every day I make
Promises that I will work
To change my own fate

The fate of your world
All depends on what you choose
To make of yourself

Don’t believe in fate
Take control of your own life
Make your destiny


My responses to Ronovan WritesWeekly Haiku Challenge #159: Fate & Make. Hope you enjoy the haikus! Thanks for the prompt, Ronovan!

16 More Wordy Phrases You Should Simplify in Your Writing

Remember that list I shared a while back of wordy phrases you should edit out of your writing? Well, there’s a lot more where those came from! The Clarity game in the Elevate – Brain Training app is full of long and passive phrases that can easily be reduced to single, clearer words. It never hurts to learn how to simplify as many as you can!

So for your reference, here are 16 more wordy phrases you should simplify when editing your writing. Enjoy!

1) Able to: indicates that someone has the ability to do something. Simplify “able to” to “can”.

2) An adequate number of: a long phrase referring to an appropriate amount of something. Simplify “an adequate number of” to “enough”.

3) An appreciable number of: indicates a large amount of something. Simplify “an appreciable number of” to “several”.

4) An estimated: indicates an approximate number of something. Simplify “an estimated” to “about”.

5) By reason: refers to why something happened. Simplify “by reason” to “because”.

6) Conduct an investigation: passive form of the verb “investigate”. Simplify “conduct an investigation” to “investigate”.

7) Extend an invitation to: passive form of the verb “invite”. Simplify “extend an invitation to” to “invite”.

8) Have an adverse effect on: passive phrase meaning to produce an undesirable outcome. Simplify “have an adverse effect on” to “set back”.

9) In addition to: passive phrase indicating something extra. Simplify “in addition to” to “besides”.

10) In anticipation of: passive phrase referring to something done prior to an event. Simplify “in anticipation of” to “before”.

11) In connection with: a longer way to say concerning. Simplify “in connection with” to “about”.

12) It is crucial that you: a long phrase indicating something that is imperative. Simplify “it is crucial that you” to “you must”.

13) Made a statement that: lengthy phrase indicating that someone conveyed information. Simplify “made a statement that” to “said”.

14) Make reference to: passive phrase that indicates something being referenced. Simplify “make reference to” to “reference”.

15) Point of view: indicates how someone interprets a situation. Simplify “point of view” to “perspective”.

16) Realize a savings of: lengthy phrase that indicates an amount saved. Simplify “realize a savings of” to “save”.

Are you guilty of using any of these phrases? What other wordy phrases would you add to this list?

Word of the Week: Mulligan

Word: mulligan

Pronunciation: MƏ-li-ɡən

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: (in informal golf) an extra stroke allowed after a poor shot, not counted on the scorecard

Source: Oxford Dictionaries


Today I’m shaking things up in my Word of the Week segment with an informal word used in games. Though it’s most commonly associated with golf, I first learned this word while playing the mobile version of my favorite collectible card game: Pokémon TCG. One of the rules of the game states that each player must have a basic Pokémon in their starting hand; if you don’t, you must shuffle your cards back into your deck and redraw your hand until you do. This practice is part of the long-standing game tradition of the “do-over”, otherwise known as taking a “mulligan”!

A “mulligan” in any game is a second chance to perform an action, typically after the first attempt fails through a mistake or bad luck. In golf specifically, it refers to a free extra stroke allowed after a bad shot and which doesn’t count against the player’s score. The word arose in the early 20th century and comes from the surname Mulligan.

The exact origin of the word “mulligan” as a golf term is uncertain, but the conflicting stories all agree it was named after a golf player whose last name was Mulligan. Aside from its meaning in games, “mulligan” can also mean “a stew made from odds and ends of food”. Note that this word is chiefly informal and of North American usage, so it will likely work best in dialogue and colloquial writing. If your characters often take advantage of free second chances in games, “mulligan” may be a useful word for your stories!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

Gaslighted

My first mistake was trusting him enough to give him everything. My second was getting caught taking it back.

Sanity’s a funny thing. You take it for granted your whole life, until one day you hear the neighbors calling you crazy as they watch you being shoved into a police car. Whatever happens in between is a mystery.

We started out fine. He was sweet, charming, everything I looked for in a man. I fell head over heels for him. It was after we got married that things went south. That was when he started calling me names and putting me down. At first I dismissed it as playful teasing, but then he started exploiting my deepest insecurities. The words became more painful, bitter, and downright cruel, until I wasn’t laughing about anything anymore. The worst part was that I believed every word he said, and he knew it. He knew exactly how to hit me where it hurt.

The real trouble came when he started casting doubt over everything I said and did. He was so confident in contradicting me that it got to a point where I couldn’t disagree anymore. I lost all sense of what I knew and who I was. I stopped trusting my own judgment. I became dependent on him to tell me what was real and what wasn’t. Everything that happened to me became a question of my own sanity.

So you can imagine my confusion that night when I walked in on him in bed with another woman.

My first instinct was to scream, then to cry, then to curse at him for cheating on me. But he shrugged my words off like they were nothing. He didn’t even acknowledge the woman lying next to him; no matter how much I yelled or how many times I pointed her out, he just shook his head and stared at me like I was crazy. So finally I gave up and stormed downstairs in tears, once again questioning my perception of reality.

And I might have walked away believing he was right, that nothing I just saw had really happened… if I hadn’t found her bra hanging over the banister.

When I took that foreign garment in my hands, I realized that I didn’t need anyone to tell me it wasn’t mine or that it really existed. It suddenly became clear that I never needed him to tell me what was real because I knew all along. I never imagined anything. Everything he ever did to me, he did to hurt me, to manipulate me, to break me. He took everything from me. And he had to pay.

Now when I say I can’t remember what happened next, I mean it. One minute I was in the kitchen staring at the stove, the next I was out on the sidewalk watching the house go up in flames. Sometimes flashes of candles and a lit match cross my memory, but that’s it.

I still wonder if I might have gotten away with it if the neighbors hadn’t heard the commotion upstairs or seen me leave the house minutes before the explosion. To be honest, I don’t really care. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but it’s the truth. I’m just glad he got what he deserved.

I don’t know how I let him push me to that point. But I do know why I killed him.

Whether all this warrants conviction for double homicide is up to the jury. I’m sure as my lawyer, you’ll want to spin this story in any way that makes me look like the victim, and that’s fine. I just needed someone else to know the truth, so I could prove to myself once and for all that I know what really happened.

The bastard gaslighted me. I simply returned the favor.

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