Miguel Panao | Professor and Author

Finding ways to improve scientific writing and academic productivity.

Last word

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Zyzzyva. This is the last word in the English dictionary. But, what are words for, anyway?

According to the Oxford Dictionary,

” A genus of tropical weevils (family Curculionidae) native to South America and typically found on or near palm trees. Also (in form zyzzyva): a weevil of this genus.”

You know I’m Portuguese, thus, when I read the definition for “Zyzzyva,” I thought – ” what is weevil?”

Weevil is

” From Middle English “wevel,” from Old English “wifel” (“beetle”), said to be from the woven appearance of a weevil’s larval case.”

So, it’s a beetle. Our unknowledge of words can send us in a path of discovering the world. Words are our way of expressing our understanding of reality, but there is something more profound than words and toward which words point.

” The language of friendship is not words but meanings.” (Henry David Thoreau)

What are words for if devoid of meaning? It’s like Stephen Robles says,

” The Internet has stolen some of our best words. “Spectacular”, “Unbelievable”, “Astonishing”. These words used to be saved for those truly awe-inspiring moments. Now they are just cheap tricks to make a headline more appealing.”

It’s essential to chose words wisely.

” Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” (Buddha)

If words shape our world, our reality, and the way we live it, maybe we should respect words more to learn how can we respect reality better and, especially, people who live in it.

About Miguel Panao

I am a Professor at the University of Coimbra in Mechanical Engineering. I am also author of books in the fields of environmental ethics and Science and Religion. From the several research projects, this site is personal and dedicated to the search for the best approaches, tools, techniques to improve scientific productivity.

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