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Eclectic

Entry 502, on 2007-03-24 at 13:19:12 (Rating 3, Comments)

In my previous entry I mentioned one of my favourite words: eclectic. The word means to derive ideas, tastes, etc from a wide range of sources. Some definitions imply there is an attempt to choose based on merit, so that the best sources are selected. There was also a school of ancient philosophers who selected beliefs from a variety of sources. But I think that we should all be eclectic, anything else is being unnecessarily limiting. I often mention this idea when people ask about which religion or philosophy I support. I take parts from them all.

Because I don't believe in the supernatural, most religion is useless to me, but there is some merit in the philosophies the religions contain. Although I don't know a lot about it, I find Buddhism particularly attractive for this. And although I tend towards a secular, humanist, naturalistic, empiricist philosophy, I don't see any harm in borrowing ideas from other schools where they are appropriate.

A phrase I like to often use is "deeply superficial". Actually, its an oxymoron really, isn't it. Yeah, oxymoron is one of my favourite words too. Anyway, deeply superficial is what I think describes a lot of western culture today. The music industry, television, movies, politics, and most business is all just so shallow, but the facade is taken to a ridiculous extreme so that it appears deep. Figure that out, if you can!

Here's another word: schadenfreude. Its German obviously, and means the pleasure a person derives from someone else's misfortune. Many people have never heard it, but it has appeared in various pop culture settings, such as an episode of the Simpsons.

While we're on the subject of German words, how about zeitgeist? This also has a good sound to it, and it has an interesting meaning: its the spirit or mood of the particular time period being studied. The zeitgeist in the US recently might encompass Christian right-wing ideas, for example. Yes, I've always thought the words "Christian right-wing" are a sort of oxymoron and, coincidentally, most of them are morons!

Another good word is syzygy. I like using this one for word games like hangman, because it has three syllables but no conventional vowels, and because its an astronomical term I can use it occasionally. But if you want an even better word for games try: zyzzyva (its a tropical American weevil) although I must admit I have trouble working this one into conversations!

People complain about the complexity and inconsistency of the English language but I think that's what makes it great. English has borrowed words from so many other sources - I suppose its really an eclectic language.

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Comment 1 (572) by Chris on 2007-03-24 at 14:30:43:

Do you know about wordie.org? It's like del.icio.us for nifty words.

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Comment 2 (573) by OJB on 2007-03-24 at 15:21:47:

No, I didn't know about it. But I do now. Thanks.

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