Word Origin Comics: If You Can’t Be a Dashing Figure Would You Settle for Being a Figurehead?

What’s a figurehead, Daddy?

Admiral. That part of a warship which does the talking while the figurehead does the thinking.

—- Ambrose Bierce

Dad has told me that he wished he would have showed the players how much he really cared for them, instead of always presenting himself as this stoic figurehead like he did at times.

—- Jim Mora

It’s a wonderful feeling when your father becomes not a god but a man to you- when he comes down from the mountain and you see he’s this man with weaknesses. And you love him as this whole being, not as a figurehead.

—- Robin Williams

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Government for the Birds

How did politicians come to rule the roost? First of all, it’s not a roost, but a roast, referring to either a council or ruling body of that name or to the role played by the Lord of the manor presiding over dinner — carving and dispensing the roast.

For the origin of those political chickens coming home to roost (c.1810), we return to their inauguration. It began with Ancient Roman soothsayers who studied the movement and formations of birds in order to forecast the success of an enterprise. Combining avis, “bird” and specere, “to see,” they created auspicium, a “divination,” to describe the process.

When we incorporated auspicium into English, however, we were only interested in signs portending well for us — making an auspicious occasion one where the birds only flew right, were “full of good omens,” or “gave promise of success.”

Priests called augurs interpreted these auspicious signs, eventually being identified with events heralding new beginnings, making both for our inauguration and our ability to augur or “foretell the future.”

The inauguration of new public officials represents one of our more auspicious political events. We like to think that a new administration augurs well for us, but in our heart, we know better.

Word Origin Comics: How Cosmopolitan Are You?… And We’re Not Talking About the Magazine

In an age of Donald Trump, Ben Carlson, Ted Cruz and the Republican right whose philosophy and politics stress the divisions between people, we need to rescue a word from vocabulary past to better understand the moral challenge they now pose. That word is “cosmopolitan.” And it is to the cosmos and its origins to which we must turn for insights.

“Although I believe identity politics ‘”produces limited but real empowerment for its participants,” it is important to note that it contains significant problems: first, its essentialist tendency; second, its fixed “we-they” binary position; third, its homogenization of diverse social oppression; fourth, its simplification of the complexity and paradox of being privileged and unprivileged; and fifth its ruling out of intersectional space of diverse forms of oppression in reality.”

“Cosmopolitanism seeks a “we” that does not rely on the exclusion of others but, instead, recognizes and confirms each other as part of the planetary “we.” The cosmopolitan “we”is not grounded in a monolithic sameness but in a constant alterity and ethical singularity of each individual human person regardless of one’s national origin and belonging, religious affiliation, gender, race and ethnicity, class ability, or sexuality.”

― Namsoon Kang, Cosmopolitan Theology: Reconstituting Planetary Hospitality, Neighbor-Love, and Solidarity in an Uneven World

Alas, the word had now fallen on sad times. Read on to follow its devolution:

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Word Origin Comics: What’s Trending? Being in the Flow of Things

Are you up on the latest? Following the most recent trends? Get with it people!

“When modern sociologists talk of the necessity of accommodating one’s self to the trend of the time, they forget that the trend of the time at its best consists entirely of people who will not accommodate themselves to anything. At its worst it consists of many millions of frightened creatures all accommodating themselves to a trend that is not there. And that is becoming more and more the situation…Every man speaks of public opinion, and means by public opinion, public opinion minus his opinion.”
― G.K. Chesterton, Heretics

“Cigars are all the rage, dad. You should smoke cigars!” – Calvin

“Flatulence could be all the rage, but it would still be disgusting.” – Calvin’s mom”

― Bill Watterson, There’s Treasure Everywhere

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Word Origin Comics: How to Jumpstart Your Life

Is everyone ready to take a quantum leap? Let’s begin:

“Those who don’t jump will never fly.”
― Leena Ahmad Almashat, Harmony Letters

“The sparrows jumped before they knew how to fly, and they learned to fly only because they had jumped”
― Lauren Oliver, Liesl & Po

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Word Origin Comics: Life Rubbing You the Wrong Way? Time to Get to the Root of It

Having trouble making it through the day? You’re probably caught up in the daily grind. The grind occurs when you push yourself to attain a certain goal but end up being caught up in the particulars, as in “I’ve been on the grind lately trying to pay my bills.” It’s closely akin to gears grinding when working beyond their capacity.

“Life was not to be sitting in hot amorphic leisure in my backyard idly writing or not-writing, as the spirit moved me. It was, instead, running madly, in a crowded schedule, in a squirrel cage of busy people. Working, living, dancing, dreaming, talking, kissing — singing, laughing, learning. The responsibility, the awful responsibility of managing (profitably) 12 hours a day for 10 weeks is rather overwhelming when there is nothing, no one, to insert an exact routine into the large unfenced acres of time — which it is so easy to let drift by in soporific idling and luxurious relaxing. It is like lifting a bell jar off a securely clockwork-like functioning community, and seeing all the little busy people stop, gasp, blow up and float in the inrush, (or rather outrush,) of the rarified scheduled atmosphere — poor little frightened people, flailing impotent arms in the aimless air. That’s what it feels like: getting shed of a routine. Even though one had rebelled terribly against it, even then, one feels uncomfortable when jounced out of the repetitive rut. And so with me. What to do? Where to turn? What ties, what roots? as I hang suspended in the strange thin air of back-home?”

― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Learning something new is a fabulous way to be refreshed. When work can grind you down, something about learning a new activity thrills the soul. It reminds you that the world is bigger than your desk and your to-do list.

—John Ortberg

Something new for today is that the Urban( slang) Dictionary also lists a “grind” as a “group of lesbians.”

“A gaggle of geese…a herd of elephants…a grind of lesbians.”

“I went to the coffeehouse to grab an espresso, but a grind of lesbians was protesting for fair trade coffee, blocking the door.”

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Word Origins As Comics: What Makes the News Easy to Swallow

The story behind tabloid journalism; what it’s all about and what makes it so palatable. A brief history of yellow journalism through a study of word origins and its beginnings.

Tired of a pedantic approach to word origins? Try our approach for size— a little bit of etymology, history and comics. all mixed together. We aim to both educate and entertain.

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Word Origin Comics: Ode to the Geeks, Dweebs, Wonks and Nerds: A Glorious Tribute in So Many Words

Let’s hear it for a much maligned segment of the population!

“… Nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff… Nerds are allowed to love stuff, like jump-up-and-down-in-the-chair-can’t-control-yourself love it. … When people call people nerds, mostly what they’re saying is ‘you like stuff.’ Which is just not a good insult at all. Like, ‘you are too enthusiastic about the miracle of human consciousness.” ― John Green

“You know that passage in the Bible that says, ‘And the meek shall inherit the Earth’? Always wondered if that was mistranslated. Perhaps it actually says, “And the geek shall inherit the Earth.” ― Neil deGrasse Tyson, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier

“Being a geek is all about being honest about what you enjoy and not being afraid to demonstrate that affection. It means never having to play it cool about how much you like something. It’s basically a license to proudly emote on a somewhat childish level rather than behave like a supposed adult. Being a geek is extremely liberating.” ― Simon Pegg

“Common people are often enough; that is why God made so many of them. Your job is to be — EXTRAORDINARY.” ― Shannon L. Alder

A small tribute to them and their origins:

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