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May 2, 2011
This week's theme
Biblical characters who became words

This week's words
jonah
jezebel
jehu
judas
jorum

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

This month marks the 400th anniversary of the translation of the Bible commissioned by King James of England. The King James Version, as it has been called, may be the best known English translation, but it wasn't the first one. About a hundred years earlier, in 1525, William Tyndale undertook an English translation (from which most of the KJV is derived), and ultimately paid for it by getting burnt at the stake (his interpretation of the book was at odds with the King's). Mixing of state and religion never did any good.

If there's a god, I don't think he/she/it would care what book or which version (or any book) you read, or what name you addressed him/her/it with, or how many times in a day you bowed, or what direction you faced, or how many rituals you observed, or which animal was clean and which wasn't, or what day of the week you did what, or how many people you "saved".

Any entity worthy of being called a god would be above it all and would probably care more about how kind you were to others, and whether you left the world just a little bit better.

At any rate, the stories of the Bible have had much influence on the English language. Many of its characters have become words in the language and this week we'll meet five of them. In honor of King James, we have picked people whose names begin with the letter J.

Jonah

PRONUNCIATION:
(JOH-nuh)

MEANING:
noun One believed to bring bad luck.

ETYMOLOGY:
After Jonah, a prophet in the Old Testament, whose presence on a ship was believed to bring a storm. He was thrown overboard and swallowed by a fish or a whale and returned three days later. From Latin Jonas, Greek Ionas, from Hebrew yonah (dove). Earliest documented use: 1612.

USAGE:
"Chairman Ned Sullivan is a Jonah of the corporate world. Ned is a chairman of the currently disastrous McInerney Properties. McInerney shares have collapsed from €2.50 twelve months ago to today's price of 57¢.
Shane Ross; Ghosts Haunt Greencore; The Sunday Independent (Dublin, Ireland); Jun 29, 2008.

See more usage examples of jonah in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
Talking of successful rackets / modesty deserves a mention. / Exclamation marks in brackets / never fail to draw attention. -Piet Hein, poet and scientist (1905-1996)

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