I am pleased to introduce “Smith’s Dictionary,” a new section of the ISJ featuring a small but growing selection of words, as defined by me. Each time a new word is added to the Dictionary, I will alert readers by cross-posting that word here. Here is an example of what you can expect to find:
Atheism A strong faith in God’s non-existence.
(For more, see the “Smith’s Dictionary” tab to the right of “About Me.”)
My aims for the Dictionary are at once pragmatic and ideological. Practically speaking, I am very aware that if the ISJ is going to attract more readers, it will have to keep up with the Douthats and Chaits (no mortal could keep up with the Sullivans). The Dictionary will be, I hope, an easy — and fun — way for me to generate more posts.
Additionally, since I began blogging last July, I have become increasingly interested in the link between language and ideology. The meaning of a word like “freedom” is, it seems to me, by no means static or self-evident. Words are, rather, spoils for the victors of political warfare — golden bracelets or cups enjoyed by the lucky few, even as the rest of us continue to hunger for a vocabulary to express our interests. If a poor man can be made to believe that freedom is lower taxes or the reduction of social services, it is not he, but FoxNews who casts his ballot.
I am not so self-important as to think that the Dictionary will, in any way, alter the settled meanings of words. But if I am able to startle, perturb, or even irritate my readers — however momentarily — the project will have been a success.