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May 5, 2014
This week's theme
Biblical characters who became words

This week's words

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with Anu Garg

Growing up, I was raised as a Hindu. Not very devout, but one who went to the temple on special occasions. Also, I was told that all religions lead to the same god, even if they take different paths, just as many rivers merge in the same ocean.

I believed it all. In India, many Hindu festivals are official holidays (from holy + day), as are Christian, Islamic, and those of other religions. Schools, offices, and banks are closed on Diwali as they are on Christmas and Eid. Who can complain about the extra days off, after all? And if you have 330 million gods and goddesses already in the fold, what's a few more? Bring 'em all -- it's one big happy family.

Fast forward several decades. After I lost my religion, I read books of other religions. I read the Bible from cover to cover. I was shocked at what was in it. That's when I understood why scientist and writer Isaac Asimov once said, "Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived."

If you disagree with Asimov, please don't get mad. Just read the book, the whole book, not a few cherry-picked verses. If you don't have time to do that, check out this very readable summary by a man who read every single word of it and then wrote about it.

My reading of the book wasn't in vain. I did get something out of it. This week we'll look at words that originated in the Bible. Say hello to the five biblical characters whose names have become words in the English language.



noun: A liar.

After Ananias, who along with his wife Sapphira, was struck dead for lying. They sold a piece of land. Instead of giving away all of the proceeds from the sale, they kept a portion for themselves, to the displeasure of Peter. Earliest documented use: 1876.

"Their 'exaggerations' and 'inventions' were roundly condemned. The worst offender was the Ananias whose dispatches to the New York World from Fort Keogh told of dead cattle, sixty-below temperatures, snow eight to fifty feet deep and the like."
Helena Huntington Smith; The War on Powder River; University of Nebraska Press; 1966.

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

Once you label me you negate me. -Soren Kierkegaard, philosopher (1813-1855)

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