Ancient Words

Philology Ancient Words

I just discovered I am a philologist!!!

At least, that’s what Daniel Webster would’ve called me back in 1828 when he wrote the American Dictionary of the English Language and defined a philologist as:

A person with a love of words and a desire to know their origin.

That describes me perfectly!  I have a vigorous love for words and am especially enamored with where they came from.

If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I’ve written about what time and world travelers words are.  Most of our words are very, very old and have traveled far.  Many go back thousands of years having trekked to America from the other side of the world.

The study of word origins or derivations is called etymology.

The word etymology comes from the Greek word etymon meaning “true source of a word”, and that grew out of the even older word eteos meaning true.

So, etymology is the study of the birth and first meanings of a word, chronologically following its trail as it spread from one language to another, gradually changing in form and meaning.

I have found that reading its history or derivation (which every good dictionary gives) enables me to discover the truth of a word.  A truth I often find charming.

For example, I find it fascinating that the words friend and free both come from the same Indo-European root word which meant to love.   It turned into the Old English word freod which meant affection, friendship, peace.

Love, freedom and friendship.  Such a beautiful combination.  So deeply ingrained in humanity’s genetic code.

It makes sense to me.  A friend helps free you from pain, sorrow, worry, loss.  A friend helps you be truly free in the fullest sense of the word.

Free to be yourself, free to laugh, free to say anything, free to tell everything, free to believe, free to grow, to try, to go for it.

A friend helps set you free.

Another is the word journey from the Old French journée which meant a day’s travel.  That was considered quite a journey back then.  It’s the same root as the word journal, which is where you wrote about your day’s travel.

A fun example is the word Sophomore, which currently means a 2nd year student in either high school or college.  It comes from the Greek sophos “wise” + mōros “foolish”.  Anyone can see these students are described well, as they are both wise and foolish at the same time.

Back in Socrates time they eagerly studied word origins.  They believed the original meaning was put there by ancient name givers.  Etymology was the way to find the message in a bottle the name givers had placed inside.

Whatever way you look at it, the derivation of a word takes you straight to its DNA.

If you’re interested, here are some blogs I’ve written on the history of several words I’m particularly fond of:




Philology came from ancient Greek where it meant love of the word.

And, you are not going to believe this!  Today, May 25th,is Philologist Day!!!!  A whole day dedicated to Philologists!!!!

Of course, it’s only celebrated in Russia, but nothing’s going to stop me here in California!  I join them in spirit!

Wishing you not only a beautiful holiday Memorial Day weekend, but also a very Happy Philologist Day!!!



Mano Mamyte (My Mother)

Mamyte Knife Dance

You’re not going to believe this, but this is a picture of my mother, well before I came along.

She made this costume for a dance she created.  I have no idea when or where the performance was, only that she was very proud of it.

She was born in a small village in Lithuania.  Her parents named her Kunigunda, after an Austrian Duchess of Bavaria from the 1400s.

She was 43 when I was born. The doctors told her it was very dangerous to have a baby at her age, but by the time she had survived the bombings of World War II, she had decided she could survive anything.  Besides, she knew exactly what to do about it.

Lithuanians from small villages have many superstitions.  One of them is that if you keeping looking at beautiful things around you, you’ll have a beautiful baby.  My mother spent a lot of time at the Philadelphia Art Museum looking at beautiful paintings, believing this guaranteed I would be a beautiful baby. This was her antidote to doctors.  Quite worked.  I emerged healthy and sound.

We always spoke Lithuanian and I called her Mamyte, but she was never motherly in a traditional sense.  She treated me like a little adult from the time I was born.  She challenged me.

I learned many things from her.  My work ethic, perfectionism, to judge people based on character, to never whine, to treat guests like royalty, to never let anything stop me, to be the best I could be, to create my life.  She specialized in life lessons.

But I think the most important thing I learned from her was to never be ordinary.

She’s been gone physically for a while now, but never spiritually, emotionally or intellectually.

With deep gratitude I honor her this Mother’s Day.  In Lithuanian we would say, Laiminga Motinos Diena, Mamyte! Aš tave labai myliu! (Happy Mother’s Day, Mamyte!  I love you very much!)

May you enjoy a very rich day with your own mother!




Jazz hunting in the moment

I’m watching my cat, Jazz, hunt mice.

See if you can see him hiding in the ivy, the face of a beautiful orange Tabby.

So far we’ve spent 45 minutes with nothing happening.

He is very still, only moving his head, interested in everything.  Fully alert.

I am in awe of how he maintains such a high level of powerful interest simply in the present for so long.  He is noticing everything.  Absorbed fully.  Completely in the moment.

No past, no future, just a fascinating now.

It’s beautiful to watch him.

I find myself fully in the moment too, fascinated by everything around us, the ivy, the breeze in the leaves, the squirrel, the butterfly and bees, his beautifully alert eyes.

A glorious, incredible 45 minutes.  Feel completely refreshed.

Wishing you a beautiful experience of now.




Inspire beautiful path

Sacred is one of my most favorite words.  It means set apart from ordinary, something so pure, it must never be violated.  It originally meant to make holy.   

When something is sacred, you respect it, it’s special, you dedicate yourself to making sure it stays pure.

Many things are sacred to me.

A walk in the forest is sacred, the smell of the trees, whether pine, oak, eucalyptus or redwood, the light filtering through, the silence.  Redwoods are the most sacred to me.  They form a cathedral.

The symphony of birdsong that starts between dawn and sunrise.

Listening is sacred.

That realm of communication that supersedes logic and achieves communion.

Greetings.  My cats taught me a lot about this.  Greetings are sacred to cats, which is why many of them can seem aloof if they’re not greeted properly.  I just returned from a trip to Denver and the greeting with my three cats when I returned took a long time and was profoundly fulfilling.  The same is true for me with people, that moment where we say, “Hello,” even in a moment, is sacred.

Friendship is sacred.  A sanctum is a holy place, a private retreat.  Good friendship creates a sanctum, and my best friends are the ones who enter my inner sanctum.

Friday nights.  I work hard all week, Friday nights are sacred.  Saturday mornings.  Sunday dinner, the last beautiful moments of the weekend.

Doing nothing is sacred.  Spending hours just being.  Enjoying where I am.

Others.  I see in others a sacred quality.  I see who they really are and their goodness.  I see so many people transform in my work, that I’m no longer fooled by superficial reactions that make them appear arrogant or stupid or nasty.  I know there is an incredible being in each one of us.

All the beautiful churches, temples, mosques I have been in around the world, Catholic, Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Russian Orthodox.  Unforgettable Native American sweat lodges under dark starry skies on the shores of a remote island in the Canadian wilderness.

Mankind’s sacred attempt to reach the holy. The sight of others praying, their earnestness in reaching out, their faith.

The sound of the ocean crashing on the shore.

Rain on the roof.

A good laugh.

My inner voice.  Your inner voice.

An incredible conversation that nourishes our life force.  Especially if there is a walk, sunset or cup of tea involved.

Sharing secrets.

Other people’s beliefs, other people’s right to decide what is right for them.


Thomas Jefferson‘s writings, George Washington’s letters, especially the one to his wife.

Much literature, including Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat, published in 1889, that I listen to on CD driving when I want to laugh until my stomach hurts.

Louis Alan Swartz’s poetry, especially the poems on immortality and love.

Art, especially Diane Woods’s creations.

Virtually all of Shakespeare.


Sunrise.  Sunset.  The colors in the sky right before and after.

The butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, deer, and raccoon who visit my garden.

Life.  Being alive.  Each moment of my life.

The deeply personal journey each one of us is on, discovering our spirituality.

Love.  In ALL its miraculous forms. Possibly the most sacred thing for me is love.

May you have much of it!

And – please feel free to share what is sacred to you!  I am sure you have much that is.



Words over time

Inspire Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary

Humankind has been communicating since our beginning.  And we invented and used words long before we ever wrote them down.

As human beings began to evolve a vocabulary to express their thoughts, they also began to travel, and many traveled far.  As they went into new territories, with them they brought new words and, once there, they also discovered and started using countless new ones.  So, words made many journeys as well.

And as they traveled, words changed their meanings.  And as thousands of years moved forward and new generations used them, words changed their meanings yet more times.

It can be very surprising to open a dictionary and discover a word has many definitions.  And even more surprising to discover all the definitions it has had in the past.

To study a word is to study humankind.  It’s to glimpse generations of humanity explore, share, borrow and endlessly communicate rich concepts across wide spans of time and geography.

Hefty dictionaries lend themselves to this deep exploration.  They do justice to the robust, complex concepts words embody.

Recently I was doing a deep dive into words and fell in love with one I’ve known a long time, but never fully appreciated.  Surprisingly, this word is aggressive.

In Latin it meant simply to take a step toward something, to approach it.  That is all it meant back then.  Simply, to approach, to come nearer.

Aggressive experienced a metamorphosis as this word crossed oceans and centuries.

We find it in the 1961 Webster’s Third New International Dictionary (estimated weight 15 pounds) as bold determination, enterprising.

Enterprising is a word I’ve heard often, but I never use it and so decided to explore its essence.

I fell head over heels in love with the meaning:  characterized by a bold daring energetic spirit or by independence or originality of thought.

All that in one word!  I love the person who deserves this word!!!!!

Enterprising is still considered goodHowever, some of these bold and daring aggressive folks plainly used too much force and upset others, because aggressive has come to mean hostile and offensive, which is what it often means today.  Clearly not desirable qualities or actions.

Although not often used this way, aggressive can also simply mean courageous, unrestrained energy, determination and initiative to boldly and causatively step forth and make something happenBeautiful.

I love reading the old dictionaries for I find a sense of romance and adventure that is lost in modern ones.

Wishing you beautiful enterprising moments of bold daring in your own life, moments you feel fully alive!



Art and Poetry

Louis Swartz To Love Again

The combination of uplifting poetry and beautiful art fills me with joy.

I’m very particular about my art and my poetry.  I give them but a split second to capture my heart.

The poetry must be imaginative, penetrating, capturing an irresistible message of life.  The art must be aesthetically gorgeous, delightful.

Both must be uplifting.  Both need to move me emotionally.

Each week I receive an email containing a poem by Louis Swartz, illustrated by Diane Woods.  Artistic geniuses.

They send these illustrated poems so we can take one minute in our busy week to experience some aesthetic pleasure.  Just because.  The best reason ever.

Every week, no matter how I’m feeling, when the weekly poem arrives, I find myself shooting up the emotional ladder to a moment of pure joy.

I thought you might also enjoy a minute of aesthetic pleasure a week.

If you’d like to receive these weekly illustrated poems, just click on this link:

There’s no hidden agenda, only a moment of outrageously good poetry and art each week.  They never share your info with anyone.  These 2 artists just want to uplift humanity.

Here are some other examples of what they’ve sent out:

Louis Swartz A Place

Louis Swartz Mountains that Rise from the Sea

Louis Swartz Blue Iris

Louis Swartz Downpour

May your life be full of aesthetic pleasure!



Evidence of Spring

Ingrid Run Flower

Exploring my yard and neighborhood always fills me with surprise and wonder this time of year.

We’ve had nothing but rain for weeks now, which has made all of our yards luxuriant.

I’m not big on knowing the names of anything.  When someone asks me what kind of a flower something is, I often answer with the word “red” or “yellow”.

What’s amazing to me is that as I explore, I see flowers I have never seen before, living in the most unexpected places, coming out of nowhere and being beautiful.

I hope you enjoy the ones below.

Wishing you much unexpected beauty in your own life!  And clear evidence of a dawning Spring.



Rainbows in Sausalito

Sausalito Rainbow 1

Crystal, Anna and I played hooky Friday afternoon, an early birthday outing to celebrate rich friendship.  Betsy was very with us in spirit.

We went across the Bay to Sausalito. Sausalito Rainbow Downtown

Sun showers sprinkled, the sky a glorious contrast of shifting light and dark.

We had the usually tourist-mobbed, exceedingly picturesque town to ourselves, exploring enchanting art galleries, charming little shops, drinking in glorious views of the City by the Bay (please don’t call it San Fran or Frisco – makes us wince).

Sausalito Rainbow view of San Francisco

We feasted on a scrumptious, super healthy lunch at the Good Earth grocery and restaurant, sharing everything.

Gorgeous rainbows painted the wide sky with colorful testimony of our friendship magic. Sausalito Rainbow 3


I can’t even count the number of times we laughed.  Isn’t it wonderful to be with good friends where everything is funny?

Sausalito Rainbow Ingrid Crystal and Anna

As another birthday dawns on the horizon, as all my friendships deepen, as I am filled with wonder and find more and more in life that is meaningful, beautiful and joyful, I raise my glass of chilled sparkling apple cider to the sky and exuberantly propose the most beautiful of toasts, L’CHAIM!, the joyful Jewish proclamation, TO LIFE!

From my soul to yours,

With love,


California Rainin’

Running Rain

One of my neighbors made this sign.  We’ve had lots of rain here for the last couple weeks.  Let me explain what I mean.

When I lived in Philadelphia and Medford Lakes, New Jersey, we were limited to four kinds of rain: drizzle, rain, pouring, and thunder showers.

Here in the San Francisco Bay area, I can’t even begin to count the kinds of rain we have:  it starts with light misting, moves into heavy misting, then sprinkling, drizzling and soft rain.

Now we begin to get into actual drops of rain. They come in every size here. We have small, medium, medium large and large. That’s just drop sizes.  With each of these drop sizes we also have light rain, medium rain, and heavy rain.

Beyond that we have torrential pouring rain and also window-lashing-crazy-wind wild rain but this is not as common and doesn’t last as long.

We actually have a type of rain here (and I really get a kick out of this one) that we all call, “Not really raining”.  This is usually in the neighborhood of a very light drizzle..

We also have, of course, a type of rain called, “It is really raining”.

Why we care about these two is that the difference determines whether or not you need an umbrella or whether your hood will suffice.  “It’s not really raining” means, “It’s raining, but your hood is plenty, don’t need your umbrella.”

We also have sun showers where a good bit of the sky is sunny and a good portion of it is very dark and under which a whole area is raining.  These are often sprinkles or drizzles.

In Texas and Florida I’ve experienced thunder showers that split the sky and deafen your ears.

We very, very rarely get thunder showers here and it’s always a huge event when we do.  Next day everyone’s asking each other, “Did you hear that?”  It’s newsworthy.

And of course, no monsoons here.

I was laughing the other day because I walked outside with a woman I work with and another woman who is our client. The moment we walked outside and felt a sprinkle, all three of us put up our hoods.  Simultaneous motion, like synchronize swimmers.

In the Bay Area, 95% of women’s raincoats come with hoods.  The reason is that a good bit of the time you don’t actually need an umbrella, your hood is just fine.  You never know when it’s going to rain, so you most definitely need to have a hood at all times.  Living here it’s inconceivable to me to buy a raincoat that doesn’t have a hood.  It’s what you wear during the rainy season between November and April.

I remember when I first arrived and I walked into Macy’s to look for a winter coat, 90% of them were raincoats.  So different than the winter coats I was used to in the Philadelphia and New York department stores.

So when someone says, “It’s raining outside.”  We all go to the window as we’re asking, “What kind?”  Because, “It’s raining” could mean anything.

By the way, our winters are very mild, compared to others I’ve experienced. When you live out here, your definition for “cold “changes.  I recently saw a headline that said, Californians brace for a 50° cold front.   So true!  We consider 55° cold .  If the wind-chill takes it down to 40°, you see us bundling up, shivering and discussing it.  We’re prepared for rain.  Not for cold.

With all the rain, starting in January, by now it starts to feel like spring has come early, many flowers already blooming.  For a girl from Philly, this is 4 months early.

It’s pouring as I write this.  This year we have rain, lots of it.  It’s making everything green, the world smell fresh, it nurtures the life around us.

May you too be surrounded by all that nurtures your life force and makes you feel like Spring.




Running after rain

This is one of my favorite words.

Luxuriate means reveling in that which lavishly produces a high degree of pleasure, comfort, satisfaction or contentment.

To revel (another great word) means to take GREAT pleasure or delight in.

Lavishly (and yet another great word) means in GREAT profusion, plenty, extreme abundance.

So, luxuriate means experiencing great pleasure in something that produces a profusion of enjoyment.

This satisfaction can be physical (like something absolutely delicious you eat that takes over your senses), emotional (like finding love or being with a fabulous friend), intellectual (like reading a great book with powerful ideas so well expressed, you swoon over the pages) and spiritual (like those incredible moments where you feel yourself transcend the human condition and experience a spiritual divinity or connection).

Whatever it is, it gives you supreme happiness, utter joy or perfect contentment.

Luxuriate means to really let yourself go, to fully experience with all your senses, no thinking, simply BEING and experiencing with everything you’ve got, total pleasure.

It’s WAY more than noticing or appreciating.  It’s luxuriating.  Reveling lavishly.

Although luxuriate is closely related to the word luxury and people often think of luxuries as sporting expensive price tags, the word luxury can quite simply mean indulgence in pleasure and it’s quite possible to luxuriate in unrestrained pleasures that cost nothing.

For example, I luxuriate in the smell of the trees and flowers after it rains, falling asleep to the pounding surf of the ocean, hiking in the redwoods, riding my bike to work, the fresh fruits and vegetables at my farmer’s market and talking to each of the farmers, sleeping with a cat on the top part of my head, homemade cabbage soup (I have the absolute best recipe), seeing the people I work with smile, kindness in someone’s eyes, the way someone who loves you looks at you, an airport greeting after a long absence, a cup of tea with someone who understands everything about you,  great art, the sound of birds in the morning, watching robins eat the red berries on my trees, reading a really good book, music, most every sunrise, most every sunset, the light right before the sun rises and right after it sets, stars, laughing, wild flowers in the spring, California poppies, seeing the hills turn green with winter rain (much of the year here they’re golden, but the second it rains, they’re a vibrant green), having friends over for dinner, writing and so much more.

Luxuriate originally meant to grow exuberantly.  Now it means to experience joy exuberantly.

Wishing you much in your life to luxuriate in!  And I would love to hear what that is for you!