And the word of the day is...

Have you ever gone on your computer and just typed in "the word of the day" just for fun? I did and the word of the day that popped up on was "discern," a verb meaning to detect, notice or observe.

Have you ever gone on your computer and just typed in "the word of the day" just for fun? I did and the word of the day that popped up on was "discern," a verb meaning to detect, notice or observe.

Meanwhile, the word of the day on and was "catechize," a verb meaning to question closely or to question with reference to belief. That's two sites and two different words with a somewhat similar meaning. So if you believe in "signs" then you might have to believe that we're apparently supposed to be slightly on guard.

Words are a funny thing when you think about it. For some reason humans need them but animals don't. And yet, Fido seems to recognize his name or at least the inflection you tend to use when saying his name and he comes running, primarily because there is some kind of reward at the end, I suspect.

I love words and I love using them in a variety of sequences. And yet, when it comes down to it, words are usually inadequate for what you are trying to express. For example, love cannot be expressed with words alone. Because, more often than not, your actions, or looking into another's eyes, is much more effective than words, especially since words can often times muddy the water and instigate a debate or argument.

Now, anthropologists estimate that Hominids, who lived earlier than 300,000 years ago, are the first humans to begin using the spoken language. And if you're wondering what Hominids actually looked like you'd be better off checking out a photo of an ape rather than one of you, me and Uncle Pete. So I'm guessing that they may have been using words, but not necessarily reciting the Gettysburg Address. Similar to the super simple, mostly grunt vocabulary you use before prior to your first cup of coffee in the morning.


My girlfriend pointed out that we often use the phrase, "for lack of a better word," as a crutch or insurance policy for whenever our mind is not quick enough to express what it is we want to express, but we express it anyway, to avoid a moment of uncomfortable silence. Because, you see, we'll do anything to avoid those moments of uncomfortable silence, even if it means saying something stupid.

Some of my greatest moments of verbal stupidity have come just prior to a moment of uncomfortable silence.

Of course, there are many categories of words. There's a baby's first word, the last word in an argument, having a word with someone ... which never turns out to be one word, a dying person's last words, the words of a song, better known as lyrics, profanities and words with multiple meanings.

For example, in California people eat lunch at noon. In the rural areas of North Dakota, lunch is something you consume between meals at about 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. In California dinner is something you eat in the evening. In North Dakota dinner is served at noon and supper, which is not even a word in California, is served in the evening; which is very confusing.

Interestingly, actor Douglas Fairbanks Sr.'s last words before he died in 1939, were, "I've never felt better."

Actor Errol Flynn's last words in 1959 were, "I've had a hell of a lot of fun and I've enjoyed every minute of it."

And in 1900, writer Oscar Wilde said, "Either that wallpaper goes, or I do." So apparently the wallpaper stayed.

Then there are those famous words uttered by presidents or world leaders that'll mark them forever. Like when Franklin D. Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."


Neil Armstrong said, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

Martin Luther King said, "I have a dream."

John F. Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

And inventor Thomas Edison said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

If there was some place that was big enough, it'd be nice to take back all of the words that you wish you'd never said and store them, along with old chemicals, disarmed nuclear armaments and Spam, perhaps on a planet far, far way in another galaxy. Of course, it'd be expensive but if they're going to be stricken from the record forever it might be well worth it.

Wives and girlfriends seem to be particularly adept at remembering their husband or boyfriend's misspoken words and bringing them up at the oddest and most inappropriate and strategic times to buckle a knee and "put someone in their place." Meanwhile, they are equally adept at forgetting their own verbal miscues, which, apparently, is a God given gift of some kind.

At any rate, I've sometimes been accused of being too quiet and selective with my words as though that was some kind of deficiency. But at least I've never said, "It is wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago," like former Vice-President Dan Quayle did. Nor did I say, "Listen, everyone is entitled to my opinion," like Madonna did. Because both of them would probably pay plenty to have those and a whole bunch of other words shipped to another galaxy. Whereas, I am perfectly content to just try to avoid the expense.

Holten is a freelance columnist and cartoonist from Dickinson.

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