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Of Luck

Following in the footsteps of such esteemed scholars as our friend Sir Francis Bacon, I have decided to write an essay upon a topic which has been present in my mind for some time now, though it has been shoved aside repeatedly by the pressing responsibilities of my university studies.聽 Indeed, these still remain, but at this moment they are of such a nature that I feel I may neglect them for a few moments in order to write something that is neither required nor subject to grading, and I sincerely hope that these writings will make the reader think about something he may never have thought about before, and perhaps even challenge his usage of the English language.

We often speak of luck.聽 鈥淲hat is luck?鈥 one may justly ask.聽 Luck is an abstract thing that is apparently believed to work in the life of every person either for good or ill, depending on its whim at the time.聽 It may also be observed from usage that luck itself is neutral, for we speak both of good and bad luck.聽 A certain dictionary describes luck as a 鈥渇orce.鈥澛 I believe many people would not describe it thus, such as they might the 鈥渇orce鈥 of the Star Wars legendarium, but if I were to take a survey of English speakers I believe it would become evident that most agree that luck is more the manifestation of random chance.聽 The adjective 鈥渓ucky鈥 is applied to such serendipitous situations such as walking through town and discovering that a new ice cream shop has been opened, and is offering a free ice cream cone to whosoever may desire one, in celebration of their grand opening.聽 It may also be used to describe one who barely misses a dread accident, such as a man who, while telling of his recent visit to a swamp, says that it was lucky that he wasn鈥檛 bitten by the many unforeseen alligators that he encountered.

Another oft-encountered phrase involving luck is heard when one person encourages another with the words 鈥淕ood luck!鈥澛 Assuming 鈥渓uck鈥 is the action of random chance upon one鈥檚 life, is this phrase as uplifting semantically as the well-wisher intends?聽 Probably not.聽 If I am going out into a dangerous part of the world to teach the good news of Jesus Christ, would you rather tell me that you hope things will work out in a mysterious, random manner, or would it be more effective for you to express your wish for God to bless my endeavour?聽 If I am about to take an exam upon a difficult subject, I would much rather you wish me a clear mind and Godspeed than for you to say 鈥済ood luck.鈥

I do not know how God works.聽 As the esteemed poet Mr. Cowper wrote, 鈥淕od moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.鈥 However, I most definitely believe that He does act in the lives of men through His providence, and with the knowledge that all good things come from God, credit should be given to our Creator when something we may call 鈥渓ucky鈥 happens in our lives.聽 鈥淕od bless you鈥 carries so much more semantic and spiritual weight than 鈥済ood luck.鈥

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

So we can confidently say,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
what can man do to me?”
(Hebrews 13:6)

Blessed be the Lord,
who daily bears us up;
God is our salvation.
(Psalm 68:19)

He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
(Isaiah 40:29)

That ain't a word!

Actually it is. Unfortunately, some words in our language have faced great discrimination because of certain persons advocating a supposedly “purer” version of English, popularly known as “proper.” However, as a person with linguistic aspirations, I understand that there cannot truly be a proper dialect of a tongue, though through history many have esteemed one so highly as to consider it so, but this does not make it any better than the language of the old farmer out in the boonies.

But enough of this discourse. The purpose of this post is to inform you that it is indeed right and fitting to use the word ain’t in your everyday speech and writing. While many would consider this high treason, it really is logical if you consider it a contraction of am not. Think about it for a moment. He isn’t, you aren’t, and they aren’t are perfectly acceptable contractions. But how might you contract “I am not” after the same fashion? I ain’t, of course! Hopefully this satisfies those of you who would never utter the word, but I would also venture to say also that using ain’t with any subject is just fine, as long as you’re not trying to impress anyone.

So does this mean that now you’ll be hearing me say things like “I ain’t hungry”? No, it simply isn’t how I talk. However, I do not condemn any man who wishes to speak thus, and I hope that our tolerance in linguistic matters may expand as we realize that language is, after all, in continual development.

Many thanks to Dr. Goodword for his excellent article on this subject.

I shook the dictionary and this is what fell out

Ode to the pentevalent shanny,
Thou Sothic umbra of thremmatology!
How xerophilous thou art, and vesperal!
Thou impastest the horst in xanthous unau.
Jugulate me not, O vexillary lath.
Thy xanthous mirza is verdant
And entareth he who gazeth thereupon.

Actually, this is a nonsense poem that I wrote a while back as a school assignment. Believe it or not, all these are real English words. See what fun we homeschoolers have!

Back to the Roots, Part Two

While I was down in Mexico this past week, I had lots of fun improving my knowledge of the local dialect of Nahuatl–the language of the ancient Aztecs, in case you didn’t know. And I was discussing the topic of greetings with a friend of mine down there, who informed me that when one person meets another (providing they both speak Nahuatl) they say Kejyaui! or sometimes just Yaui! for short. Both of these words come from a longer phrase that was used in the olden days which means “How is it going?”

As a pursuer of greetings, I naturally asked if these words would be the equivalent of the Spanish word Hola!, which I noted was practically a meaningless greeting.

“A greeting?” he said. “Hola isn’t a greeting, unless you say 驴C贸mo est谩s? or 隆Buenos d铆as! or some similar phrase along with it. Do you really think hola is a greeting?”

“I certainly thought so,” I replied. I let the matter rest, supposing it to be some cultural difference. It wasn’t until a day or two later that I realized why he had maintained that hola was not a greeting.

The key lay within the simple word “greeting.” In Spanish this word is saludo, but until now I had never considered where this word originated. Obviously it comes from salud, “health,” which in turn came from the Latin word salus. Something cannot be a greeting, a saludo, unless you inquire about the other person’s health (“How are you doing today?”, etc.). Upon researching the English word greeting, I found that it comes from our Germanic heritage, and has always meant what it does now–saying “hail,” “hello,” or whatever other greeting is in style, whether health is involved or not.

So, next time something odd like that pops up in my interlingual discussions, I will go back to the roots! You never know what treasures you’ll find…