Everything comes from the Earth.

This week I am cheating by posting a video. In this video, I talked about roots and how handy they can be when studying vocabulary.

I hope you enjoy the visual content once in a while.

Annotation:

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一期一会   –    Ichigo ichie   –   Nhất Kì Nhất Hội

“Ichigo ichie” literally translates to “one time, one meeting” or “one opportunity, one encounter”, meaning every encounter, every occurrence can only happen once in a lifetime.

This is a Japanese term originated from CHADO – the Japanese tea ceremony. The philosophy behind it is contemplating. People can have multiple rendezvous, can savor multiple cups of tea, but each experience is singular, unique, and unduplicable. It is this very meeting; this very cup of tea for this very moment. Any recurrence of the event is diverging and incomparable to the others.
Each moment in life should be treasured and treated with utmost sincerity.

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Which river would you drink from?

Welcome back to the Greek mythology series!

Writing about Zeus’s creative punishments all of which last for an eternity reminded Đề of the movie “Eternal sunshine of a spotless mind”. It was a romantic drama about two strangers who felt for each other at first sight then found out later that they used to be madly in love. Their story started when after two years being together, the two lovers separated and decided to undergo a procedure, provided by a company Lacuna, to remove all of the memories of their romance. People say sometimes the best memories are the worst. Just as much as they used to make you happy, beautiful memories hurt when it comes to the realization that those things you had were forever gone. Therefore it’s natural to have the idea of getting such painful part out of your head.

In Greek mythology, there was also a need of mind erasure, all mortals had to do this between their two lives, forget everything before being rebirth-ed. If in “Eternal sunshine of a spotless mind”, they needed a company and all kind of neuroscience technology to help them do that, go through their unconscious mind, find every single related piece and erase it, things were easier and simpler in the Greek ancient stories, all it took was to drink water.

Lethe was one of the five rivers in Hades, the underworld in Greek mythology. It was also known as Ameles Potamos, the river of unmindfulness. The river was told to flow through the cave of Hypnos, the god of sleep, who would murmur his drowsiness into the water. Just like most other rivers in in Greek myths, Lethe had a god or a goddess for its namesake, it was the same-name goddess, a personification of oblivion. One would experience complete forgetfulness of the past after drinking water from it. In the mythology, the souls of the dead would have to drink this water to erase their earthly lives before reincarnation. With some modification, Lethe came into modern English as the word lethargy. Lethargy characterizes a condition of extreme drowsiness, fatigue, laziness or torpor, and usually a lack of emotion or interest. Lethargic means unnaturally drowsy, dull or torpid.

Interestingly enough, there was another river which had just the opposite magic of Lethe, that was river Mnemosyne. It had the ability to make those who drink water from it remember all things and acquire omniscience. Greek mythology at the end of the day was human’s imagination, what they could not possess in the real world were fantasied here. If there was one way to completely obliterate one’s mind in the wink of an eye, there must be another way to fulfill it just as fast. This, to some extent, might as well indicate the ancient (Greek) people’s yearning for justice, which can also be seen in Zeus’ quite fair and elaborate treatment for the righteous and the sinner. The river Mnemosyne was powered and guarded by no other than goddess Mnemosyne. She was the personification of memory and remembrance, the creator of language and words. In some source, she was named the minor-goddess of time too, for she knew everything since the beginning of time. As you may have guessed, her name was the origin of the word memory and other “mnemo-ish” words. Mnemonics is the art or method to improve memory. Mnemonic (adj) is relating to improving memory. Mnemophobia is the fear of memory. So whoever has mnemophobia might consider going to Lacuna company if it ever exists. As for goddess Mnemosyne, she had quite a story as well, but that will come in another post.

Let’s get back to River Lethe and River Mnemosyne. One allows you to forget all the memory that was so beautiful it hurts, all the things you knew and all the events you have been through. The other lets you obtain the pinnacle of knowledge and wisdom. In one way, you basically become a new person with no history, in the other way, well, you will also become a new person except with loads of history of the whole mankind. Here comes the question, if you were given the option to drink from either of the two rivers, which one would you choose, Lethe or Mnemosyne?

Come way back to the couple in that movie, they chose Lethe, not for their entire mind though, just a part of it. But things worked out well for them. After becoming estranged, maybe thanks to their very last remnant of each other’s memory or for some inexplicable reason they happened to meet on a train. Coming across all the records of their relationship in the past, they were astounded and wanted to start everything anew.

Learning in the “Wild”

Đề is reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir on the journey of the author herself hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). PCT, a long distant hiking trail, is 2,663 mile long with one end is on the U.S border with Mexico, the other is on the U.S. border with Canada. Averagely, the full hike requires six months to thoroughly prepare and six more months to hike. She finished half of that. The trail crosses 25 national forests, 7 national parks and covers a wild range of tough weather. Needless to say, it was an ultimate challenge for a woman to even just think about it, let alone to hike by herself in such wilderness. Cheryl was having a hard time in the grief of her mother’s death and going through her divorce to the man she was still in love with, when she decided the hike the PCT. But that’s another story, this post is about its vocabulary. 

It was a well-written book and wasn’t too hard to read. Each page only has three to four words that are new to Đề, but that’s enough to make a good list of vocabulary to learn from the book. Considering her “amazing” memory which manages to forget almost everything that should be remembered, it is obvious to Đề that she won’t able to learn those words just by folding each page of the book with the page corner pointing exactly at the new word. Writing them down here and getting to know them more might be a better idea. 

Avalanche

The PCT passes the High Sierra trail which, at the time the author hiked, was experiencing a record snow storm, the worst in at least the last decade. Given very little of hike-in-snow experience and her not-so-right hiking equipments due to her poor preparation, the author decided to detour to avoid risking her life with such weather condition. On the new path that she had to take to bypass the snowy part, she crossed the Sierra city. While taking a break in a small convenient store by the road, she noticed a brochure that said this city was wiped out by an avalanche in 1852. Here comes the first word of this post. An avalanche is a massive and rapid flow of snow flow down a mountain side. Simply put, it is a snow-slide or a snow-slip. This reminds me of a viral event last year when Vietnamese social media was hit by a story of a mid-20 Vietnamese female hiker survived the Nepal blizzard and avalanche. 

Feline and Canine

Feline means relating to or resembling cats, so does Canine to dogs. These were used by the author to describe the fox she encountered in the forest, “it looked half feline, half canine”. In that morning while hiking on top of the snow, she suddenly realised a fox coming her way, soundlessly thanks to the snowy ground. It was right in front of her, about ten feet away, sniffing around. “He was barely knee-high, though his strength was irrefutable, his beauty dazzling, his superiority to me apparent down to his every prestige hair”. Her heart was racing, thinking if she should scramble to behind the tree to hide. But lucky for her that day, when the fox noticed her, it studied her for few seconds then turned and walked away. These words can be used as nouns too, feline is a cat and canine is a dog.

Reminiscent

Due to the extreme hardship of the trail, not so many people hike it. Not only because people embark at different point of the trail, at different time but also their different hiking speed made it hard for them to come across each other. There were times that Cheryl had to hike through out days without seeing any human sight nor that of civilisation. That’s why when she walked down a jeep road and saw an SUV with stuffs of a modern life in the front seat like a hooded sweatshirt, a cardboard coffee cup or immaculate zip lock bags , she couldn’t help but feel reminiscent of her former life. Reminiscent means suggesting something by resemblance.

Euthanise

Cheryl has a tattoo of a horse on her shoulder. It was Lady, a dear horse of her mother. Cheryl’s mother was’t happy with her husband, Cheryl’s biological father, she was chronically violently abused by him. She lived a long time in pain before having the courage to finally getting away from him. Both mentally and physically weak, the mother needed something to hang on to and she, once a cowgirl, decided to get Lady, a beautiful horse to keep her company. But after she died from cancer, her at-the-time boyfriend started neglecting the horse. Furthermore, Lady was old and weak to the point that Cheryl and her brother believed it would be awful to let the horse die of nature. They had to euthanise Lady. Euthanise is to intentionally end a life to relieve if from suffering. Cheryl couldn’t afford to hire a veterinarian and she couldn’t let the horse to die in some stranger’s hands. Therefore, she and her brother had to take Lady down with a gun themselves.  

Infinitesimally

Because of the wild nature of such a long-distant hike, after days of hiking, Cheryl realised how much different her current life is from the past days, how her attention completely shifted and how she stopped concerning if she was “infinitesimally fatter or thinner than the day before”. All she could feel during the hike was the brutal pain on her shoulder while she had to carry the Monster, that’s how she named her back pack, which was so heavy that it was almost impossible for her to even lift it off the ground; and the agony that her feet had to bear. Her toes ripped off because she chose the wrong size of shoes. Again, if it wasn’t for her poor preparation, she could have had a lighter backpack and a fitter pair of shoes. Let’s have a closer look at the word infinitesimally. One can easily spot out the “infinite” part and would somewhat guess that this word refers to something infinite. And it’s natural to think of something infinitely large, or maybe just me. But in the contrary, this word comes from the modern Latin word infinitesimus which means infinite-th level in a defending scale. Thus, infinitesimal means unmeasurably small, but not yet to the point of none existence. 

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p.s. Only few words have already made quite a post, Đề feels like she could write a whole other book just to talk about the vocabulary of a given book. 

A Report on the Banality of Clichés

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Follow your heart.

Money can’t buy happiness.

Live each moment as if it is your last.

Good things come to those who wait.

When life gives you lemon, make lemonade.

What do those phrases have in common?

Yes, they have the impression of being captivating and powerful.  No, no one takes them seriously anymore.

To be fair, those expressions initially sound clever and inspirational. They describe the situation well. They are catchy. They are convenient to use, like instant noodles and microwavable meals. The problem is they get old quickly. Typically, people rely on these remarks because people either are lazy or lack imagination. They are unable to come up with anything fresh or original.

So at best, some people are dearly inspired by those expressions. These people find the need to share them, to repost them on Facebook. At worse, you see and hear them so frequently that you are sick of them. You cringe when your friend theatrically recites those remarks thinking she is restoring humanity’s passion, at the same time, wondering if everyone would realize how witty and ingenuous she is. Somewhere in the middle, those expressions were somewhat lovely and specific at first, but over time, they have become extremely poignant and generic. They got exploited to the point that they have lost their novelty, power and ingenuity.

So what do you call these remarks/sayings/expressions? Turns out that the English language has a handful of words to name them.

Cliché

Cliché is a borrowed word from French, which refers to a sentence or phrase that has been so overused that it has become dull, boring, and unoriginal. Think about the expressions “curiosity kills the cat,” or “never say never,” or “fake it until you make it.” A movie’s plot can also be called a cliché if it is trite and predictable through overuse.

Cliché is the French word for a printing plate. Since letters in a printing plate are fixed with the same expressions printed again and again, cliché is now used metaphorically to describe something copied and repeated without variation; a stereotyped idea, formula, plot, etc.

Platitude

Platitude is also a hackneyed saying that expresses a popular or common thought. You know it; everyone knows it. It is old and corny. The English language has plenty of theses recycled ordinary clichés, or platitudes. Phrases like “go with the flow,” “work smarter, not harder,” are so worn-out that they have lost their impact over time. Everyone is tired of listening to these lousy old remarks.

Platitude also originates from French, literally means flatness. If something is flat, it is dull, stale and unexciting. Similarly, a platitude is meaningless, conventional and prosaic.

Bromide

A bromide is a common phrase or proverb that is so obvious and trivial, like “it is what it is,” “what goes around comes around.” Such vô thưởng vô phạt, non-specific, clichéd sayings are bromides. A bromide is not helpful even though it is meant to offer comfort. Despite their good intentions, bromides don’t do anything to alleviate the situation.

The word bromide comes from the chemical binary compound made of the element bromine (Br), and another element. Historically, bromide was used as a sedative to suppress people’s feelings; making them dull and dormant, just as figurative bromides are dull and tiring.

Banality

A banality is a timeworn cliché, platitude or bromide. Banalities are sayings that everyone uses. They are so familiar, so ubiquitous to the point that they no longer spark any interest.

“Banality is a symptom of non-communication. Men hide behind their clichés.” -Eugène Ionesco

Banality is also the noun form of banal. As a noun, it is the state of being banal or mundane, as in ‘the banality of everyday life.’

Bonus:

Deus ex machina 

In a movie or a novel, when the plot develops to such a complex point that is unlikely to be resolved. Then at the climax, something ridiculous jumps out of nowhere and solves everything; that ridiculous thingy is a deus ex machina.  That thingy could be a fairy, a god, a super hero, an alien, a hidden treasure under the toilet, a new discovered ability of the protagonist, a resurrection of the main hero, a heart attack of the villain, a potato, or an everything-was-a-dream type of plot. In general, deus ex machina is the intervention of any unexpected character/event/object that has not been introduced earlier but now its presence offers an unconvincing solution to an impossible situation.

Deus ex machina is Latin, literally means “god from a machine.” In ancient theaters, a machine was used to hang actors who played god; he came out of nowhere, descended to the stage and cleaned up the unsolvable mess. In modern entertainment, the term has evolved with a negative connotation, referring to a mediocre denouement in a poorly written script.

Bồ.