Vocabulary word of the day: anodyne

I was, for many years, prone to writing any unfamiliar word I’d encounter on a bookmark (with the page number next to it) and immediately looking up its meaning in the dictionary.   Then I’d read the sentence armed with this new knowledge and understand exactly what the writer meant by using the previously obscure word. This excellent habit was instilled in me by some wonderful teachers.  I recall, in High School, taking the vocabulary sheets they distributed quite seriously.  Little else they endeavored to teach me in High School meant very much to me, but expanding the number of words I could use to express myself clearly always made sense.

Now, with Jeevsie here, constantly by our side on the ubiquitous internet we carry around with us in our pockets, it is very easy to instantly have any unfamiliar word defined for us.  So it was the other night, when, drawing some knives, relieved that my favorite pen was behaving properly after a few days of struggle with her, I suddenly, unaccountably, wrote the word ‘anodyne.’   


After I wrote it (I recall now hearing it months ago from Noam Chomsky describing the ‘anodyne explanations’ we get for each of our most unjust practices) I immediately looked it up.  Which took about 1.2 seconds with our modern data retrieval capabilities.  What a handy little fucker of a word!

We prefer the anodyne to the difficult, without a doubt.  An anodyne explanation usually smooths us down, a difficult conversation often churns us up.  Take American slavery, for example.  One can say, with great conviction and moral certainty, that it was a grave national sin that has not been practiced here for 150 years.  Abolished forever a century and half ago, our Constitution amended to make it perpetually so.  Done and done.  Nice and anodyne, wouldn’t you say?

 I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like a little anodyne myself, once in a while.  And you know how hard it is for me to lie.

The Seven Deadly Sins

Last night I was making a bookmark for a friend I promised months ago I’d send some bookmarks to.  I’d made them months back.  A few were nice, but I’ve mislaid them here in the quivering paper quicksand in this house of constantly shifting stacks of paper.   Most had gibberish writing on them, among the colors and drawings.  I decided to use my fancy Namiki Falcon to inscribe more meaningful words on the new bookmarks.  I made one with the Seven Deadly Sins on it, for handy reference. [1]    

Greed (avarice)
Envy (jealousy, covetousness)
Wrath (anger)
Sloth (laziness)

Reading the list I had a minor revelation.  Below the sins I wrote “7 for 7, impressive!”

I don’t have to say any more than that, I think.  Except perhaps to state the obvious, what is lacking in someone who exhibits all seven of these bad traits.

Pride keeps a person thinking they are more important than everybody else, removes empathy.

Lust turns other people into mere vessels for gratification, removes mutuality, makes the objects of lust disposable.

Greed speaks for itself, it places the desires of the self about all else.

Envy, as corrosive an emotion as there is, is an enemy of peace and driver of malice, it keeps bitterness and ill-will simmering.

Gluttony means you will covet and steal someone else’s portion to overfeed yourself.

Wrath is the same as just being mad, fucking nuts — it is the opposite of prudence, if you think about it, since an angry person literally cannot think straight.

Sloth may be the slipperiest sin.   It means you are perpetually too lazy to do the hard work that needs to be done.

Seven for seven! You’ve got to hand it to the motherfucker.   Every cardinal sin on the list and the pious Christian right loves him.  Now that is a unique species of fucking genius!

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[1]   The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, is a grouping and classification of vices within Christian teachings. … These sins are often thought to be abuses or excessive versions of one’s natural faculties or passions (for example, gluttony abuses one’s desire to eat).   source

Widaen Begins Freaking Out — study for the book proposal



Kurt Vonnegut had a great bit in Slaughterhouse Five, a scene where American POWs are shipped by cattle car in the brutal cold to serve as slave laborers in Nazi Germany.   The first day men were struck with dysentery, and the car filled with their runny excrement, which then froze.   To the groans and complaints a bum in the corner said, “you think this is bad? I’ve seen much worse than this.”

The next night, in frigid temperature, with no food or water, men began to die.   Conditions got progressively more desperate as the train made its way to Dresden.   “You think this is bad?” said the bum “I’ve seen much worse than this.”

The third day, writes Vonnegut, the bum died.  

Dig it.   Welcome to Widaen begins to freak out.