# Cypher

Cypher: (v) to calculate numerically; figure

### We live in a generation that touts its tolerance while simultaneously maintaining a tiny regional dialect.

Nowadays, folks are not only ignorant of words and terms, but proud that they were born long after said phrase was uttered.

I suppose I felt that way when I was younger, too.

I was guilty of looking for words and slogans from former decades so I could make fun of them.

Yet in the process of this alienation, a lot of good words get crucified on the “cross of cool.”

### So today when I saw our word—cypher—it brought back one single memory.

When I was in high school, there was a young guy who moved to our town from Bowtown, West Virginia. We thought he talked funny. He certainly dressed poorly. He was shy. And he always told us when he was discussing his algebra homework that he was “workin’ on his cypherin’.”

We just stared at him, having no idea what he meant. Exasperated, he explained that all reasoning, all math problems, all puzzles and all dilemmas back where he grew up had to be “cyphered.”

He described the process—you study the problem, look off in the distance seeking an answer, and then lick your pencil and “get to figurin’.”

### We called him a hillbilly.

It was not a compliment.

It was our way of saying that we were better than him because he had a weird word for mathematics.

Whatever his terminology may have been, his test scores were excellent. Matter of fact, he was so good at cyphering that he ended up with a scholarship to The Ohio State University, where he studied to be an engineer and ended up traveling the world, building stuff and benefitting poorer countries with better ideas.

I suppose one might consider that in these journeys he gained a certain amount of sophistication—and didn’t cypher anymore.

But I can still envision this alien to our community standing over a set of blueprints, looking off in the distance before licking his pencil…

# Caboodle

Caboodle: (n) a lot, a group

Nothing in the world identifies you as an old person as much as using words that are no longer in circulation.

Honestly, I’m astounded that “cool” has survived through so many generations. But don’t think that “boss, groovy” or “hip” made the journey.

I caught myself the other day, in trying to emphasize the need to use all available resources for a project, nearly saying, “Let’s include the whole kit and caboodle.

Fortunately, my radar spy sense was beaming three or four words ahead. I came to a halt–for a few seconds simulating dementia–trying to find a current terminology that equaled that ancient one.

I came up with a blank, so I said, “We need to include the…well…everything.”

It was awkward, but not nearly as devastating as having a bunch of younger folks try to figure out what “kit and caboodle” meant, while simultaneously jotting down suggestions on their I-Phones for Christmas gifts for me, which would include a tapioca maker.

Words can kill.

But in a greater sense, they can wound your fragile ego.

Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix

# Bungalow

Bungalow: (n) a low house, with a broad front porch

Words are tools, but just as in the case of a screwdriver, can be used to kill.

If placed correctly, they can make sense or communicate our thoughts. But if not, then they are dangerous or at least deceptive.

I have used the word “bungalow.” I have used the word bungalow to describe some home I was renting which was beneath my standards–or perhaps universally without any standards. I wanted to make it clear I was not living in some sort of cheap flat, but instead was inhabiting a bungalow.

I chose the word “bungalow” to explain my living situation because I knew that nobody had a grasp on what a bungalow actually was. But I was willing to take the chance that most people thought a bungalow was more ritzy than a one-bedroom/one-bath.

Nobody ever questioned me on it.

Heads would turn slightly to the left or right, as if considering what a bungalow might be–but human pride prevented them from inquiring about the exact appearance of the domicile.

Yet the description of one’s less-than-acceptable environs only works if nobody ever comes to visit.

The first visit will eliminate the impact of the word “bungalow” for all time.

Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix

# Bilingual

Bilingual: (adj) fluent in two languages.

Perhaps one of the better definitions of “honorable” is sharing one’s experience while freely admitting it is limited.

I have an exciting life, filled with many journeys, but most of them have occured within the confines of the United States. I have been to Canada several times, and made a ten-day journey to Haiti.

It hardly classifies me as a world traveler.

I share this preface because I want you, as the reader, to understand that it is fine to offer our testimony as long as we’re willing to warn the hearer of the limits of our scope.

So since Canada speaks English (though some of my brethren in the deep South would disagree) my only true experience of bilingual situations lies in my escapade to Haiti.

The thing I immediately sensed upon arriving in this country is that I wanted to be able to communicate with them in their own tongue. My lack of preparation for such a maneuver left me quite aggravated with myself.

So I set about to rectify the situation by learning as many phrases as possible. Since I was actually doing some public speaking, I was issued a translator. He was a delightful young fellow with a desire to please.

As I gradually assimilated a few words here and there, I realized that this fine youthful translator was editing many of the things I was saying.

So after one of my little talks, I confronted him. A bit red-faced, he candidly replied, “Well, I tried to make sure that everything you said would meet the approval of the audience so they wouldn’t be upset with you.”

I laughed, but instructed him to be more faithful with my content.

We are so afraid of words that even as they are translated into other cultures, there is a gnawing fear that we might say something unacceptable.

The chances of that happening are highly likely.

So that is the reason–whether we’re speaking our native tongue or a tongue that is native to our audience–we always need to remember that humility should precede our words, gentleness should accompany them and a willing spirit should follow.

Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix

# Bastard

Bastard: (n) a person born of parents not married to each other.

Words of separation.

Perhaps our greatest mission during our Earth journey is to find terms, insults and references that separate us from one another, expose them for their prejudice and make them unpopular to use.

Without this, we begin to let the self-righteous and the domineering elite control the dialogue.

When I was eighteen years old, I got a girl pregnant. We loved each other. She got pregnant the same way people get pregnant who have marriage licenses. We just didn’t have the paper.

Yet there were people in my home town who had the audacity to refer to my unborn son as a “bastard.”

A little smile came across their face as they said it. It was reassuring to them that they found a way to be superior to me without needing to blame themselves for pridefulness, but instead, claiming to be advocates for morality.

About four months before my son was born, my girlfriend and I got married and have remained so for forty-five years.

Yet I will tell you, if I were to go back to my hometown and any of those judgmental people were still alive, they probably would recall that brief season when they were able to belittle me and relegate my child to insignificance.

What are the buzz words of bigotry? They are everywhere.

• Hunt them down.
• Mock them.
• Kill them.

And bury them as quickly as you can in the cemetery of ignorance.

Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix

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# Argumentative

Argumentative: (adj) given to the expression of divergent or opposing views.

Our society has become proudly argumentative.

In the quest for individuality, place, purpose and respect, we have taken the chip off of our shoulder and thrown it at anyone who would challenge our alleged supremacy.

It’s time we lose some things:

1. Lose the desire to always win.

The greatest lessons in life follow an exhausting failure. Winners are those who comprehend the experience of losing.

2. Lose the need to be best.

You will be bettered. Our culture requires an ever-growing improvement which will occasionally place you in the rear instead of the front.

3. Lose an over-emphasis on self-esteem.

You need just enough self-esteem to have the confidence to humbly try the next project. Anything more is arrogance.

4. Lose the competitive edge unless you’re competing.

Not everything is a contest. It’s not important that you triumph in every disagreement. Your sex appeal depends on your ability to be sensitive, not overwhelming.

5. And finally, lose manipulation.

Life requires truth on our inward parts. If you think you can lie to people to get them to do what you want them to do, you will find that others utilize the same approach and you will never be sure exactly how good you are, or even who you are.

To avoid becoming an argumentative mob always on the verge of disaster, we must learn what to lose and what to gain.

Mainly, lose our false confidence…and gain opportunity.

Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix

# Aren’t

Aren’t: (contraction) are not.

Tricky business, this game of words.

One wise men said by them we are justified, or on occasion, condemned.

Aren’t is one of those words which has caused more trouble than we can imagine. It is the favorite contraction, and verb, of prejudice and bigotry. For after all, it has no personal application. I can’t turn to you and say, “I aren’t.”

The word is only applied to others, to limit their capabilities:

• You aren’t pretty.
• They aren’t talented.
• We aren’t as dumb as they are.

It is a word without a mirror, peering at other planet-dwellers with a jaundiced eye and dipping into the well of our experience to determine their value.

It is always ambiguous and never leads to a sense of understanding. Even when we say something like, “They aren’t coming to the party,” hanging in the air is a sense of uncertainty about the reason for their absence.

Beware of words that are geared to attack others and have no function in revealing oneself.

Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix

# Arena

Arena: (n) a place or scene of activity, debate or conflict.

I grew up hearing stories about Christians being killed in various arenas of the Roman Empire. Recently, I’ve discovered that some of these reports are erroneous and that the Romans didn’t really deem such uncontested murder to be entertaining enough to bump the gladiators off the sports line-up.

I was always curious about it.

I know the Romans were quite brutal, but what would be so harmful about the Christian philosophy, requiring it to be condemned in a public arena?

It is a message that attempts to be inclusive, and blend in to the mixture like yeast in dough, allowing for expansion without destroying the surroundings.

But of course, there are certain things that need to be placed into the arena of public debate, which are too often taken for granted. Perhaps I should remove the phrase “public debate.” We certainly have enough of that. There are people who make a living by stirring up trouble and never hanging around to clean up afterwards.

Perhaps I should say there are certain ideas which should be taken into the arena of our hearts, where they can be battled through to a conclusion which causes us to be non-harmful to ourselves and others.

1. Drug use.

Even though we’ve tried to make it an issue of freedom, in the long run, it is a medical dilemma.

• What happens when any drug goes into our bodies?
• How does it alter us?
• Does it improve us?
• Is the improvement worth the alteration?

2. Killing.

The trouble with killing is that it’s very permanent. There is no such thing as a temporary murder. Since it tends to hang around forever, we might want to think a bit more about enacting it–whether it’s war, guns or abortion, would it (pardon the expression) kill us to consider, in the arena of our thoughts, the ramifications of our deeds?

3. Intolerance.

First, I don’t like the word. It has an arrogance about it which connotes that I reluctantly “tolerate” something or someone. I actually prefer the word “indifference.” There are many things I disagree with, but since I don’t have to participate, why should I care?

Do I really think God in heaven is sitting around musing over color, culture, sexual orientation or preferences? If He is, He’s a real nudge and a brat.

Since He made us inconsistent, He might just want to be patient with our inconsistencies.

Every single day of my life, I try to go into the arena of my heart and think about these three monsters that have basically been welcomed into our midst and devour parts of humanity without our permission as we allow them to lumber about.

I don’t like drugs.

I’m against killing.

And it’s not hard for me to be indifferent about things that aren’t my business.

Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix

# Annex

Annex: (v) to add to one’s own, especially as relating to property or land: Ex. Moldova was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940.

You have to watch words. They’re tricky, especially when uttered from the tongues of deceivers.

Often in an effort to disguise greed, selfishness or oblivion, we use language that is vicious at its heart, but drenched in a bit of honey. Or maybe it’s not vicious at all–just misleading.

• Can I borrow a Kleenex?
• I don’t mean to be critical, but…
• You know me–I like to get along…
• Does anybody else think that Bob is …?
• It’s just the way we do things over here…
• It may be old-fashioned but I still think…
• I believe women want to stay at home…
• I’ve always found men to be stupid. How about you?
• I think the races don’t want to mix. Birds of a feather, you know…

These and many other statements are spoken daily by people trying to hide their real intentions, while annexing huge portions of human dignity, feelings and righteous freedom.

Hitler annexed part of Austria. He called it an annexation instead of an invasion. If somebody had questioned his use of the word, who knows? We might have avoided a world war.

So even though I occasionally make people angry by insisting they use the proper term for their actions instead of “annexing” different terminology to clean up their actual motivations, I believe I will continue to do so, and perhaps by pursuing such a noble adventure … stop a war or two myself.

Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix

# Abo

by J. R. Practix

Abo: AUSTRAL, INFORMAL, OFFENSIVE 1. n. an Aborigine. 2. adj. Aboriginal.

Words.

Sometimes we think if we make them “cuter” they don’t sound quite as mean. You always have the standard insults–the really nasty words which communicate anger, frustration, bigotry and rage.

But sometimes we like to just communicate that we’re better than other people in a merely condescending tone. So normally at that point we fall back on words that end in “o.” It sweetens them up enough that people can’t become TOO offended, but at the same time, we can still establish our supremacy.

I think that’s what abo is. If you live in Australia, you don’t want to completely attack the natives by referring to their skin color or the size of their lips or nose, so you come up with a “cute” put-down, like abo.

Of course, there are many others:
How about weirdo? If you tell somebody he’s a weirdo and then you smile afterwards, you can be sure they are stung by your criticism without any real ability to strike back in anger.
Same thing would be true of retardo.
In the sixties, Negro. We all know what the good ole’ Southern boys wanted to say.