A vocabulary, not even a vast and many-splendoured one like mine, can never have too many words. And so it is with delight that I have been reading a long-form essay in my New Yorker bristling with words and terms new to me.
I can barely wait to use them in my writing and my conversation, words such as heteroflexible, digisexual, objectumsexual and omnisexual and terms such as ethical nonmonogamy (apparently in conversation among the young and the dating often shortened to ENM).
But wait! Much as I love to make haste to use new-to-me words all of these polysyllabic little rippers, sparkling in Emily Witt's super essay "A Hookup App for the Emotionally Mature", are to do with the world of sexually adventurous dating.
At a desiccated 76 and living in little and unsophisticated Canberra these lubricious things can, alas, be of only academic interest to me. Ms Witt notes the average user of Feeld the hookup app she enthusiastically discusses, recommends and uses herself, is "between 25 and 30 years old and lives in a big city".
Then, another disadvantage of being 76, almost all of the people I mix with are similarly mature and I cannot imagine conversations with them into which I can easily drop words descriptive of sexual orientations and appetites.
I think I would be drummed out of my genteel petanque and tennis clubs if word got about that I was asking members about their heteroflexibility.
But it feels such a shame not to be able to write and especially to say heteroflexible (to be heteroflexible is to be mostly but not necessarily exclusively attracted to the opposite sex) because it is one of those lovely words so full of sounds.
Say it loud and there's music playing (and even clockwork clickety-clacking). Say it soft and it's almost like praying.
Ms Witt doesn't mention (and so I will, wittily coining the word myself) heteroflexible's obvious and similarly musical antonym heteroinflexible. A short sentence with both those words in it is, as I have just demonstrated, an action-packed, an assonance-packed little musical box of a thing.
Modern pronouncers unable to get their brains and tongues around all of a word's syllables rob our spoken language of so much of its music. None of ABC Radio National's presenters and journalists, or those they interview can ever manage words like particularly (shrinking it to partickly) or regularly (withering it back to reggarlee).
And yet some of these stuntings accidentally create new words that are interesting in their own right.
No one can fully pronounce the word inaugural now, so that it usually comes out as inorgrrrrrule with an exciting growl in it as if it is something being spoken by a dog or a werewolf.
And no one can manage the word gladiatorial now so that it becomes the stunted but evocative gladdietorial, summoning visions of two people (perhaps two Dame Edna Everages) come to blows, each armed with a bunch of gladdies.
The ramifications for Christians of the images and findings of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) surely ought to be surely faith-shakingly immense.
Conservative Christians believe God, getting an almighty wriggle on and doing it just six days, created the universe. They, the creationists, also usually believe He did this just 6000 years ago and evolution is a silly, secular, unbiblical fallacy.
But wait! Scientists are that the very first image sent to us by the JWST shows light first emitted in the universe 13 billion years ago. What's your answer to that, ye Christians?
Rambling among Christian websites to look at reactions to the challenge of the JWST I come across this intellectually nimble one at BioLogos in an opinion piece "The Webb Telescope and God's Evolving Universe".
"Here at BioLogos," the piece warbles, "we have found that evolutionary creationism offers a compelling answer to these grand questions.
"God chose to work through the elegant mechanisms of evolution over billions of years to bring about the rich biodiversity of life that we are surrounded by today."
As well as being excitingly nimble (I am half an atheist but in my discussions with Christians often find them, just as you think you've got them in a corner, very quick on their feet and capable of floating like butterflies and stinging like bees) this idea has a certain loveliness.
Even when I believed almost everything the Bible told me the insistence in Genesis on a frenzied, slapdash six days of the creation of everything, surely with its inevitable mistakes and cuttings of corners (in the way in which blocks of apartments flung together turn out later to bristle with defects) never seemed plausible.
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"What was God's hurry?" I used to ask marvel to myself. "Why did he set himself such crushing deadlines when, as we sing in the dear old hymn O God Our Help In Ages Past, for Him a thousand ages is the equivalent of an evening in the ephemeral lives of us poor wretches?"
So it is a lovely idea at BioLogos that God is so patient and painstaking a craftsman. In my mind's eye I see him as a kind of immortal Antonio Stradivari taking ages and ages to make the perfect violin) that He is always, always, for billions of years, shaping, polishing and refining things.
This explains so much. For example it explains why (and your columnist is member 58,212 of the Cloud Appreciation Society) clouds have never been so beautiful and get better looking each day.
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Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
Ian Warden is a Canberra Times columnist
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