Liberal Arts Blog — Vocabulary Day — Learned Any New Words Lately? How About Some Old Shakespeare?

Liberal Arts Blog — Tuesday is the Joy of Literature, Language, Culture, and Religion Day

Today’s Topic: Vocabulary Day — learned any new words lately? how about some old Shakespeare?

I am an evangelist of the idea that everyone should keep a magic word journal. You should always have a short list of favorites handy to share from memory at a moment’s notice to those who might not yet have experienced their delight. Just to remind anyone who may have missed or forgotten my top three: syzygy, chiasmus, and kairos. What are yours? Today, a few recent additions to my vocabulary journal. Plus an extended quote from Shakespeare. What is true of new words is also true of old passages from the greatest writers of all time. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.

WOLF MOON (January), SNOW MOON (February), WORM MOON (March)

1. I like the idea of each full moon having a special name.

2. This week I learned that many traditional cultures did this — most notably Native American ones.

3. Other pairings: pink moon (April), flower moon (May), strawberry moon (June). buck moon (July), sturgeon moon (August). harvest moon (September or October), full corn moon (October), hunter’s moon (October), beaver Moon (November). cold moon (December).


1. Are you a gunner? “He’s such a gunner!” “She’s such a gunner!” Synonym for an ultra-competitive over-achiever.

2. Whataboutism is “a variant of the tu quoque logical fallacy that attempts to discredit an opponent’s position by charging them with hypocrisy without directly refuting or disproving their argument.”

3. Somewhat embarrassed to admit it but just learned the origin of the expression into the breach: Shakespeare, Henry V. As penance the last third of this post is devoted entirely to it. This is one of three great speeches from the play. The most famous of the speeches is the St. Crispin’s Day speech. The third is called “Upon the King.” See the last link for details.


1. “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead. In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man As modest stillness and humility: But when the blast of war blows in our ears, Then imitate the action of the tiger; Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage; Then lend the eye a terrible aspect.”

2. “Let pry through the portage of the head Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it As fearfully as doth a galled rock O’erhang and jutty his confounded base, Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean. Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide, Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit To his full height.”

3, “Be copy now to men of grosser blood, And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman, Whose limbs were made in England, show us here The mettle of your pasture; let us swear That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not; For there is none of you so mean and base, That hath not noble lustre in your eyes. I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips, Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot: Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’

Traditional Full Moon Names

Henry V of England

Henry V (play)

3 Most Moving Monologues From Shakespeare’s Henry V

Click here for the last three years of posts arranged by theme:

PDF with headlines — Google Drive


Please share the coolest thing you learned this week related to words, language, literature, religion, culture. Or, even better, the coolest or most important thing you learned in your life related to Words, Language, Literature (eg. quotes, poetry, vocabulary) that you have not yet shared.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart. Continuity is key to depth of thought.

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