• war •
Pronunciation: wawr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. Full-scale armed military combat between two or more nations or regions. 2. A major struggle between two or more sides on an issue that involves active, unbridled attempts for one side to defeat the other(s) and, in some sense, win.
Notes: Although much energy is expended in the fight against four-letter words, the worst word in English contains only three letters. Today's holiday remembers all those who have died in the many wars of the United States. It began as a memorial for those who died in the Civil War but was changed to honor those who died in all wars after World War I. The traditional date of Memorial Day from its founding in 1868 was May 30. In 1971, however, Congress changed this and other US holidays to "floating" dates, and Memorial Day became the last Monday in May.
In Play: War is not a word to play with, so we will treat it with the respect and dignity it deserves. Even though the invasion of Iraq was not legally a war (Congress never declared it a war), it was factually a war, not only for our daughters and sons suffering in it, but the Iraqis themselves. Today we salute not only those who have fallen in the past but those who, unfortunately, continue to fall today in war.
Word History: The history of today's Good Word is full of confusion even though we understand it perfectly. It goes back 5,000 years to a Proto-Indo-European root wers- "mix, confuse, stir up" which came through the Germanic languages to English as war and, most appropriately, worse and worst. It also turns up in German Wurst "sausage", mixed ingredients in a casing whose worst effect is a skirmish with the eater's stomach. Old French borrowed war from English but, having no W, it used the closest sound it had: GU ([gw] at the time), resulting in guerre "war", from which English guerilla "warrior" derives. Old French also borrowed ward and gave us back guard along the same route.