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Today's Word



May 6, 2019
This week’s theme
Words from singer-songwriter Roy Zimmerman’s songs

This week’s words
nanny state

Roy Zimmerman
Photo: Scott Hurst

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with Anu Garg

This week’s Guest Wordsmith, singer-songwriter Roy Zimmerman (roy at royzimmerman.com), writes:

When my wife Melanie and I write a song, the Idea is out in front. People often ask which comes first, the melody or the lyrics. We say the Idea, with a capital I. The Idea takes shape as a hook -- a little snatch of lyrics and melody -- and the hook gives birth to a tune, a meter scheme, and a rhyme scheme.

We both love words. We’re both aware that words do real work in the world, especially words that rhyme and meter well. That’s what we’re trying to do with these songs -- provide context, history, laughter, and encouragement for the work of social justice.

[I met singer-songwriter and satirist Roy Zimmerman when he visited Seattle last month to perform in a concert. His clever lyrics and hopeful music made for a lovely evening. I invited him to be a Guest Wordsmith and here he is. Visit his website or catch him on his tour. This week we’ll see five words from his lyrics. -Anu Garg]



noun: A member of a legion (a group of soldiers or former soldiers).

Originally, a legion was the basic unit of the ancient Roman army, typically about 5000 soldiers. Today, the word is used in a number of senses. It can refer to any large military force. Various veterans’ organizations call themselves legions, such as the American Legion or The Royal British Legion. Finally, a legion can mean a multitude, a very large number of people, things, etc.

From Latin legere (to gather). Ultimately from the Indo-European root leg- (to collect), which also gave us lexicon, lesson, lecture, legible, legal, select, cull florilegium (anthology), subintelligitur (something that is not stated but understood), prolegomenon (an introduction to a text), lignify (to turn into wood), and lection (a version of a text in a particular edition). Earliest documented use: 1595.

“We got the enemy in our sight, we say let’s take him out.
We vomit violent rhetoric like drunken legionnaires.
To the victims of this tragedy we send our thoughts and prayers.”
Roy Zimmerman; Thoughts and Prayers; 2018.
(lyrics; video 3.5 min.)

See more usage examples of legionnaire in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

Just as a cautious businessman avoids tying up all his capital in one concern, so, perhaps, worldly wisdom will advise us not to look for the whole of our satisfaction from a single aspiration. -Sigmund Freud, neurologist, founder of psychoanalysis (6 May 1856-1939)

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