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Yesterday's Word




Pronunciation RealAudio

skookum (SKOO-kuhm) adjective

Powerful; first-rate; impressive.

[From Chinook Jargon, from a Chehalis word meaning spirit or ghost.]

"Beth Baker of Knik may be an Iditarod rookie, but she's a skookum one."
Opinion; Anchorage Daily News (Alaska); Mar 18, 1994.

"His big seller is the Zooper Buddy, an all-terrain vehicle with three inflatable tires, an adjustable handle bar, amazing suspension and a skookum reclining seat."
Karen Gram; Stroller Envy; Vancouver Sun (Canada); Oct 21, 2003.

A peaceful and rewarding new year to you!

The year 2005 has been designated as The Year of Languages in the US. There are numerous material reasons to learn a new language. But the one I believe most crucial is this: once we speak the language of a people, it's much harder to hate them. And once they are no longer alien to us, it's much more difficult to drop bombs on them.

Ninth century king Charlemagne once said, "To know another language is to have a second soul." His words are still true in the twenty-first century. Learning a language is more than just learning words in the new language. It's also learning the culture of the people, understanding their dreams, their spirit, and their values. When you learn another language, you can see the world with a whole new set of eyes.

If none of this convinces you that learning another language is a good idea, check out this article on research showing that learning languages boosts the brain.

This week AWAD will feature five words we've borrowed from different languages. Instead of the more popular languages like Spanish or French, we've selected words that came to English from lesser-known languages: Chinook, Basque, Turkish, Romany, and Persian. Even though they're not as well-known to most of us, they are still spoken by thousands or millions of people.

-Anu Garg


Time has no divisions to mark its passage, there is never a thunderstorm or blare of trumpets to announce the beginning of a new month or year. Even when a new century begins it is only we mortals who ring bells and fire off pistols. -Thomas Mann, novelist, Nobel laureate (1875-1955)

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