Glossary: What’s in a Word?

Words are powerful. With words we can create worlds, bring joy and laughter, share our dreams and innermost thoughts, pass on our knowledge, educate and learn. We can also destroy, confuse and mislead.

Words are notoriously slippery.

Many creation myths say the world was born from a vibration – a sound or a word. In spiritual traditions mantras are used to transform the mind and to awaken the soul to its true nature. Although it’s impossible to capture reality in words, we still try. The Taoists say that the way that can be spoken isn’t the true way – or something like that…

So with that in mind, I’d like to introduce a new occasional series that aims to define some of the words I’ve encountered in spiritual literature. These words often mean a variety of things to different people and my definitions won’t be definitive – they’ll also probably change over time as my understanding grows. The meanings are informed by my spiritual practice and study, and although I tend to lean towards Buddhism, I’m also quite spiritually curious – so other perspectives will be explored too.

Some of these posts first appeared on my website, but I’m now transferring them over here to my Addled blog because it makes more sense for them to be hosted on this site. And what better place to start, than with the name of the novel that gives this site its sub-title: Addled.

Addled is an adjective with two meanings:

  • unable to think clearly; confused.
  • (of an egg) rotten.

It comes from the Old English adela which means ‘liquid filth’ or ‘liquid manure’, although I don’t know how you get from a putrid egg to being confused. The Online Etymology Dictionary suggests the word was given a figurative extension from putrid to ‘empty, vain, idle, confused, muddled, unsound.’ So it’s all in the mind.

I chose ‘Addled’ as a title for the novel because of the double meaning. Zoe Popper is unable to think clearly – she’s confused because she might be going mad, or she might be a mystic. And driving the confusion is her fear that she’s basically rotten – no good, like her poor old dad…

Next word up: Satori