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    Thursday, March 02, 2006

    Mommy, What Does "Morally Decrepit" Mean?

    Why do we use a dictionary? What, truly, is a dictionary? It is a large book, using many words and phrases to approximate the meanings of other words. We use dictionaries when we do not understand the meaning or use of a word. Nobody opens a dictionary and looks up "house." Anyone proficient in English knows what "house" means (I am not talking about ESL speakers). However, sometimes we might look up a word like "onomatopoeia," because well, we just cannot remember what it meant from 10th grade English (or how to spell it).

    So, while helping my wife with her essay for American Heritage (one of two final general education classes she needs and an utter waste of time), I went to Merriam-Webster Online to find out the nuances of "mercantilism." Now I know that mercantilism was an economic system perpetuated by Europe during the late 1500s through the 1600s and into the beginning of the 1700s in order to promote globalization and economies of scale through the use of monopolies. I just wanted to see if M-W had a quicker way of saying it.

    What do I find when I get to the site? Why, "Merriam-Webster's Words of the Year 2005"--a collection of the ten most popular word searches on its website. Since you search for a word because you don't know what it means, such terms as #4 filibuster, #6 tsunami, #7 pandemic, and #9 levee make sense. Arguably the four largest news stories over the last 18 months have been the "nuclear option" filibuster fight in the US Senate, the Asian tsunami that killed hundreds of thousands of people, the Asian bird flu pandemic, and the hurricane Katrina/New Orleans flood fiasco (I guess that last reason makes #10 inept a logical choice too).

    It is a harbringer of things that are and are to come if the #1 most searched for word in the dictionary is INTEGRITY. What is happening to American society where people do not know the meaning of this word anymore? This word should be taught to our children from the moment they can learn to speak. It is the hub from which all spokes of our moral ethos should radiate. Without integrity, we have nothing. No trust. No truth. No love. No friends. No honor. I fear for the nation whose people do not know the meaning of integrity. Without it, people are "children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;" (Ephesians 4:14)

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