Category Archives: Words

Imagine if Your Parents Named You Marijuana Pepsi

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIn late June 2019, a 46-year-old African-American woman graduated from Cardinal Stritch University Wisconsin, earning a doctorate in higher education leadership. Her doctoral dissertation, titled “Black Names in White Classrooms: Teacher Behaviors and Student Perceptions,” analyzed the impact of nontraditional names on academic achievement. However, neither of these things was what caught the attention of the media — rather it was her incredibly unusual and memorable name: Marijuana Pepsi Vandyck (née Jackson).

I know what you are thinking — why in the world would parents name their daughter after a mind-altering plant and a carbonated sugary soda? In her hometown of Beloit, Wisconsin several rumors arose to explain the incredible moniker. One rumor was that her parents were smoking pot and drinking Pepsi when she was conceived. Given the time period, the post-Woodstock/Summer of Love era, that scenario was very plausible. Nevertheless, it was her mother, Maggie Jackson, who came up with the name, even though her father, Aaron Jackson, objected. Vandyck explains: “She said that she knew when I was born that you could take this name and go around the world with it. At the time as a child, I’m thinking ‘yeah, right — you named my older sister Kimberly. You named my younger sister Robin.'” Vandyck’s aunt, Mayetta Jackson, remembers when Maggie picked the unusual name back in 1972 during the hippie era, when smoking a joint was as common as… well, drinking a Pepsi. Mayetta added, “[After smoking weed, Aaron and Maggie] would cool off with a Pepsi. I thought it was crazy, but they were fun-loving people that it suited them.” Interestingly, it was in late 1971, that Coke introduced one of the most memorable commercials featuring one of the most famous jingles of all time: young people gathering on the top of a hill singing “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.” Perhaps it was a good thing that the Jacksons were not influenced by this, otherwise their daughter would have been named Marijuana Coke, which sounds more like two psychotropic drugs rather than a drug and a soft drink.

As you can imagine, it wasn’t easy for a little girl growing up with an unusual name like that. She recall relentless teasing during her school-age years. During her junior high school days, Vandyck dreaded roll call: “Every single class, the teacher is taking attendance out loud, and as they slowly get down through the J’s, I’m just like here it comes. ‘Marianna? Marijuana?’ And all the students turn to see who it is.” By the time she reached high school, her peers’ attitude about her name shifted — they thought it was cool. Vandyck explains: “They were like, ‘Oh yeah. Man, I wish I had your name. I love that. I’m going to name my kid after you.’ I hear that so much and I go, Lord, please don’t do that to that child.”

But despite the obstacles that her name presented, insisted on being called by her birth name: Marijuana, eschewing more common variations like Mary or Mary Jane. One of her high school teachers told the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel: “They could make a movie about her. I could almost write a book on Marijuana myself in terms of a young student who’s been so resilient and taken even her name and made it into a positive… She’s exactly what any kid in America needs to know about someone who can truly make it if they put their mind to it.” And that’s exactly what she did with her career: she wanted to share her own life struggles and eventual success in order to inspire students. Her doctoral dissertation, in fact, analyzes how black students with unique names are treated by educators in predominantly white settings and how this treatment impacts their academic performance. Specifically, Vandyck found that students “with distinctly black names” were subject to stereotypes, disrespect, and low academic expectations. This in turn led lower self-esteem, career choices, and ultimately fewer educational and career opportunities for students of color.

In an interview with NPR, Vandyck shares her optimistic perspective on life: “”It’s what you do after you recognize that you have this feeling about [having a nontraditional name]. And it’s what you act on from that point on. That’s the most important part…. We can’t always go through life-changing things to make other people happy … and I had to learn that early on.”

Ironically, Marijuana Pepsi has never smoked marijuana and her choice of beverage is orange soda.

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For further reading: http://archive.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/40874017.html
http://www.npr.org/2019/06/21/734839666/dr-marijuana-pepsi-wont-change-her-name-to-make-other-people-happy


There’s a Word for That: Euneirophrenia

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAlthough it sounds like a dreadful mental illness, euneirophrenia is actually a very wonderful, desirable condition, although the word is not found in most authoritative dictionaries. Euneirophrenia is the calm and content mood that a person experiences after having a relaxing night’s sleep and waking from a pleasant dream. The word is formed from the Greek words eu (meaning “good”); oneiro (meaning “dream”); and phrenia (meaning “state of mind”). The word is pronounced “you ne row FREE nee ah.”

The opposite of euneirophrenia is malneirophrenia, defined as the grumpy mood a person experiences after lack of sufficient sleep or a restless night’s sleep or having nightmares — also referred to as “waking up on the wrong side of the bed.” Incidentally, this phrase comes from a superstition held by the ancient Romans who believed that it was bad luck to get out of bed from the left side (the “wrong” side), as opposed to the right side.

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There’s a Word for That: Zemblanity

alex atkins bookshelf wordsNo doubt, you’ve heard of the word, “serendipity.” It’s a wonderful word — both in sound and meaning. The word means “finding something valuable or interesting by chance” or “a fortunate or unexpected discovery by accident.” The word was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754 in a letter to his friend Horace Mann. In the letter, Walpole references the characters from a Persian fairy tale titled “The Three Princes of Serendip”: “[The princes were] always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.” Richard Boyle, a Sri Lankan English consultant of the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), argues that the definition of serendipity as “simple accidental discovery” is a watered-down definition of the word. Boyle writes: “Even the OED definition, ‘the faculty of making happy and unexpected discoveries by accident,’ does not meet Walpole’s prescription of a gift for discovery by accident and sagacity [good judgment] while in pursuit of something else. These ingredients are cumulative and all should be mentioned in the ideal dictionary definition.” [emphasis added]

Zemblanity, on the other hand, is the antonym of serendipity. The definition of zemblanity is making unhappy, unlucky and unexpected discoveries by intent rather than by chance. The word was coined by William Boyd in his novel Armadillo published in 1998. The word is derived from Nova Zembla (meaning “new land”), a frigid, barren land; specifically an archipelago of islands once used for nuclear testing by the Russians. Incidentally, the word is pronounced “zem BLA ni tee.” Here is Boyd’s introduction of the word: “So what is the opposite of Serendip, a southern land of spice and warmth, lush greenery and hummingbirds, seawashed, sunbasted? Think of another world in the far north, barren, icebound, cold, a world of flint and stone. Call it Zembla. Ergo: zemblanity, the opposite of serendipity, the faculty of making unhappy, unlucky and expected discoveries by design. Serendipity and zemblanity: the twin poles of the axis around which we revolve.”

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Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
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For further reading: http://www.sundaytimes.lk/090726/Plus/sundaytimesplus_24.html


There’s a Word for That: Thrasonical

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you have ever listened to a world-class narcissist speak (consider Kanye West or Donald Trump) you are very familiar with thrasonical speech. Thrasonical, as you may have surmised from the previous sentence, means “boastful” or “vainglorious.” More specifically, it means “resembling, or relating to, or characteristic of Thraso. “Who the hell is Thraso?” you ask. “Is it one of the new Marvel superheroes? Or perhaps it is one of their nemeses?” Nice try, but no; however he is a fictional character. Thraso appears in the comedy Eunuchus (The Eunuch) written around 2 BC by Terence (c. 185-1509 BC), a slave who was freed and emerged as one of Rome’s most notable playwrights. The play centers on forbidden love between Phaedria, a young Athenian man from a good family, and Thais, a courtesan (a fancy way of saying “prostitute”) from a foreign land. One of the individuals who indirectly thwarts their relationship is Thraso, a warrior and slave owner, who is an insufferable, ostentatious braggart. The word, pronounced “thray SON i kul,” is derived from the Greek word thrasos, meaning “bold” or “spirited.”

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What is an Archaism?

alex atkins bookshelf wordsIf you have read the Bible, Shakespeare, or legal documents you have encountered them time and time again. Consider the well-known commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” or Polonius’ advice to Hamlet, “To thine own self be true,” or the wedding vow, “With this ring I thee wed.” Which words seem to stand out in the context of contemporary language? I mean, who even speaks like that any more? There are four words that immediately capture our attention: “thou,”  “shalt,” “thine,” and “thee.” A word or a style of writing (or speech) that belongs to an earlier time is known as an archaism (from the Greek archaikos meaning “antiquated” or “ancient”). These antiquated words or phrases, also known as archaic diction, remain in the modern lexicon because they are kept alive by continued use, such as in literature and poetry, as well as legal and religious rituals. Here are some common archaisms we encounter in our daily lives:

albeit

aye

erstwhile

fealty

hath

heretofore

saith

shalt

thee

thine

thou

thy

thyself

whereas

wherefore

whereof

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World of Allusions: Moby Dick

alex atkins bookshelf words“All of us run into (and sometimes use) [allusions], these sideways references that are intended to add color and vigor to language. But they are lost on us if we have forgotten or never knew what they mean,” writes Elizabeth Webber, co-editor of the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Allusions. So that invites the question, when one encounters an allusion in a publication or book, where do we look it up? Most dictionaries, of course, only provide very precise definitions of discrete words, excluding phrases and allusions. Enter the Dictionary of Allusions, which is an absolutely incredible reference work; Webber describes it as “a collection of those tricky allusions that appear without accompanying explanations in our daily reading… The terms come from literature, sports, mythology, Wall Street, history, headlines, Shakespeare, politics, science, standup comics and Sunday comics, and venues from the locker room to the board room.” Today we will turn our attention to the allusion “Moby Dick.”

Many will recognize the title of Herman Melville’s magnum opus, Moby-Dick, considered the Great American Novel, published in 1851. And they may be familiar with its basic plot, told by Ishmael, the sole survivor of the voyage aboard the whaling ship the Pequod: Captain Ahab obsessively pursues the great white whale, Moby-Dick, seeking revenge for the whale that took his leg many years before. In the novel, Moby-Dick functions as a symbol on many levels: cetological, religious, philosophical, ontological, epistemological — to name a few. Similarly, as an allusion, Moby Dick refers to one of several general meanings: the incarnation of evil, an obsessive, perhaps impossible quest (that may result in the pursuer’s death), a representation of God (hidden, mysterious, unknowable, inscrutable), and finally, a representation of unknowable truth or reality.

Now you understand why Moby-Dick is a whale of a tale…

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There’s a Word for That: Palinoia

alex atkins bookshelf wordsWe have all heard that timeless adage “practice makes perfect” a hundred times. Well, did you know there is a more sophisticated way of saying it? The word is palinoia: the compulsive repetition of an act, over and over, until  the act is performed perfectly. Think of the athlete training for the Olympics or a pianist practicing a difficult piece of music. The word is pronounced “pa-li-NOY-ah.” The word is derived from the Latin word palinodia which means “repetition” or “singing over again.” So the next time someone shares that old chestnut, turn to them nonchalantly and ask, “Oh, you mean palinoia, don’t you?”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Esprit de l’escalier
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