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Hard Words

June 16, 2008

I took a photo of the stack of books I made on the dormitory desk. Included are the two that we had to read for class. In addition, there is a collection of stories from Davidson alumni who served in World War II, Soldiers and Sentinels: Davidson’s World War II Veterans Speak, edited by 1984 graduate Matthew Merrell. That collection was not part of our focus, but I think it will be fascinating to read later. I also had Rosie Molinary’s book, hoping to meet her and get it autographed since she lives in Davidson and Russell Crandall’s book since he is one of the professors who led the class. I wasn’t able to meet Rosie on this trip, but I think we will meet soon. I left my copy of her book with a mutual friend. Dr. Crandall was very gracious in his willingness to personalize my copy of his book. On our field trip to King’s Mountain, I went into the visitor’s center and bought a book, Last Child in the Woods, to inspire me to plan more outdoor activities with my children. I also bought a bookmark that has drawings of historical American Revolution flags. So, that’s an explanation of the photo.

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stack of books

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Our reading assignments for the Insurgency and Counterinsurgency classes were quite challenging. I was challenged by the intensity of the emotions that the readings provoked, and by the vocabulary words I couldn’t understand, and by the insane pace which we needed to keep. Before the class began we got two books in the mail: The Quiet American by Graham Greene and A Savage War of Peace: Algeria 1954-1962 by Alistair Horne. Then once we checked in and received our welcome packets, we had even more reading to do. In the tote bag were photocopied chapters of On Guerilla Warfare by Mao Tse-tung, an article by Che Guevara, and even chapters from The U.S. Army-Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual. 😯

I kept a list of vocabulary words that I needed to look up in a dictionary. I even bought myself a paperback dictionary in the college bookstore. These were words that I came to understand as the classes continued, but since my brain was shocked by the change of pace I couldn’t process them at first. A sure sign that my brain had begun to rot, yet the trend was reversible. Now it is my goal to continue reading at this level and finish the assignments that I wasn’t able to get to.

Some of the words that I have added to my “hard words” list are:

eponymous: describing a person whose name is taken for a people, place, institution, etc. “The eponymous character is not quiet.” (from the 2004 Introduction to The Quiet American)

cadre: a group forming a nucleus of trained personnel in industry or the armed forces that can be increased when necessary. “If not a ruling class, it was certainly an administrative cadre and a self-conscious elite.” (from the 2004 Introduction to The Quiet American)

dispensation: ordering or management, especially of the world by divine authority; exemption from a penalty or duty.

heterodox: not orthodox. (lol, um, that doesn’t help me)

libertine: a person who lives an irresponsible and immoral life. “In fact, for most of his Anglophone Catholic readers, tyrannized by an intellectually and spiritually arid church, Greene seemed to exist by dispensation in some heterodox and libertine level of the church permitted to him alone.” (from the 2004 Introduction to The Quiet American)

milieu: environment, surroundings. “Sympathy for the socialist side in the Cold War was not at that time easily forthcoming from the world of English speaking fiction, attached as most of it was to character and milieu, the small canvas.” (from the 2004 Introduction to The Quiet American)

unduly: excessively, disproportionately. “He knows his story and, not being unduly attached to his life, is ready to put it on the line in that story’s earnest pursuit.” (from the 2004 Introduction to The Quiet American)

adroit: skillfull, ingenious. “The two other principals, Phuong and the American Alden Pyle, are present as metaphors and as soldiers of the plot, which is lively and Conradian, actually more well made and adroit than in anything by Greene’s master.” (from the 2004 Introduction to The Quiet American)

pithy: brief and full of meaning.

ostensible: pretended, put forward as a reason etc. to conceal the real one.

intransigent: unwilling to compromise, stubborn.

acumen: sharpness of mind, shrewdness.

constabulary: a police force in a small town.

apocryphally: falsely

sycophant: a person who tries to win people’s favor by flattering them.

anomalous: deviating from the general rule or the usual type, an irregularity or inconsistency.

I would define them, except I don’t want to run into copyright issues, so you’ll have to look them up for yourselves. Never mind, I’ll just define them in the interest of furthering our educations. The definitions are paraphrased from the Oxford American Dictionary; Heald Colleges Edition. Now if I can find ways to use these words, perhaps in future blog posts, the measurable reading level of my blog might go from junior high school to graduate school.

  1. Lofter permalink
    June 16, 2008 6:40 pm

    You go girl! Some of those words I know, but most I’m not too sure of. Needless to say, there will be dictionary time in my evening tonight! The class sounds fascinating, to say the least. I’m curious of the way the course was “leaned”… was it simply one of those “informational purposes only” classes, or was it more of a “wake up and smell the coffee” tone? Having delved (albeit quite shallowly) into survivalist courses in the past, all of which were definitely done in the latter leaning, I’m wondering how this particular course is supposed to work in application – or is it? Just curious…
    Sounds like you had quite an interesting time! I’d love to hear more about it! And welcome back! 😀

  2. June 16, 2008 9:24 pm

    Sounds like it must have been a fascinating course, though I think anyone would have found that amount of reading over such a short period of time challenging! Good for you for challenging yourself, and being inspired by the experience. 🙂

  3. June 17, 2008 9:22 am

    Wow… if you start using words like that on the regular, I might have to start reading your blog in the afternoon when my brain is filled to the brim with coffee and I can think better.

    The class sounds interesting and overwhelming all at once. How did you get involved with it?

    Try working antidisestablishmentarianism into a post. I’ll see if I can work it into one of mine. My readers would be all WHAT? What are you doing? haha Worth the effort to me 😉 What if you managed to write 1 post that had the entire list of words in it? You’d be a brainiac for real then 😀

    Glad you made it home safely

  4. June 17, 2008 10:12 am

    You can provide definitions without fear of copyright infringement. Federal law provides a fair use safe harbor for this type of situation.

    If you want to be a step ahead of class, check this out. Recently, a US Special Forces counterinsurgency manual was leaked by Wikileaks. How to train death squads and quash revolutions from San Salvador to you (covertly train paramilitaries, censor the press, ban unions, employ terrorists, conduct warrantless searches, suspend habeas corpus, conceal beaches of the Geneva Convention and make the population love it).

  5. June 17, 2008 10:55 am

    Lofter, Dr. Crandall is serving as a foreign policy adviser to Obama so the class leaned toward forming a sustainable foreign policy. It’s easy for Ron Paul to talk about non-intervention and letting other nations decide for themselves what actions to take. I had emailed Dr. Crandall this winter and asked him if non-intervention was realistic/sustainable and he said that it was not. He has lots of experience in Washington D.C. and in Colombia (where there are both paramilitaries and guerillas who threaten the people) so I really respect his opinion. When I found out that he was going to lead this class I wanted so badly to be a part of it. I wanted to understand more about how presidents and presidential candidates formulate foreign policy.

    Deb, that’s true. Thanks for being supportive of me.

    Chris, it was overwhelming. The alumni relations office sent out emails and postcards advertising the class, so that’s how I found out about it. We didn’t have to write any essays for the class, so my blog posts are a lame attempt to process what I learned.

    Johnny, thanks for the tip about the definitions. I didn’t know if it would be reprinting copyrighted material and therefore a violation. Dr. Crandall was telling us that the field manual was online and had something like 2 million downloads so far. We talked a lot about El Salvador because Dr. Crandall’s next book is going to be about counterinsurgency there.

  6. June 17, 2008 8:32 pm

    I often go to google and type in ‘define __’ and then just include the link back to the results when I give defns in my posts.

    I see a lot of words that I consistently write down over and over again when I encounter them.! Then, I look them up and go “OH YEA! I do know this!” Sycophant is such a word. When will I remember that I’ve looked this up a million times?

    I enjoyed reading The Quiet American and the movie has Brendan Fraser in it (for eye candy. (Did I type that?!) FASCINATING workshop. wow.

  7. June 20, 2008 4:42 pm

    LOL, CuriousC. I know what you mean about words that you look up a million times and the definitions still don’t stick. We watched the older version of the movie with Audie Murphy, but Dr. Crandall said the newer version was also worth watching.

    I’ve gone back and included the definitions for myself and anyone else who might be wondering. 🙂

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