On One Palmy Day

As Palm Sunday is coming up, I thought a post on the etymology of the word palm was in order. I was originally only going to look up the word palm, but I came across palmy and decided it needed to be added as well. Yes, palmy is a word – a word coined by Shakespeare no less. But how did he get a hold of the word?  After all, there are no palm trees in England. Instead, as many English words do, the word palm comes from Latin. Palma meant a “palm of the hand” and came to mean a “palm tree”, as the fronds of the palm tree appear like an outstretched hand. This word was eventually adopted by Old French, Old English, Old Saxon, Old High German, and Old Norse. But how did it get there? And what does it mean?

The palm made its way through Europe not in form but in metaphor. As Christianity was carried through Europe, and eventually to the Isles, so too was the word palm. Palms were plentiful in the Middle East and the word was included in the Bible, mentioned in various Christian writings, and adopted in the languages it encountered. In fact, Chaucer used this word in his Canterbury Tales, within the ‘Second Nun’s Tale’, referring to the “palm of martyrdom”. It was Chaucer who started the path to the eventual word palmy; his usage meant more than a tree or hand but victory. Shakespeare then took the victory-filled word palm and morphed it into palmy, meaning “triumphant”, in his Hamlet. Strictly speaking, the word means “full of palms”. But as the palm was a symbol for victory, full of palms means “triumphant”.

But why did the palm change from a plant to a praise? Well, the reason this word came to these languages through Christianity is because of the account associated with palms: Palm Sunday. In Old English, this day was called palm-sunnandaeg. On this palmy day, Christians celebrate the triumphal entry of Christ into Jerusalem, oftentimes even giving palm fronds  to everyone in the Church that day (John 12:12-16). But why was Christ’s entrance triumphant? Jesus did not come in riding on a horse of war or with intentions of taking back Israel from Rome. No, instead the Christ was ridding to Jerusalem with the knowledge that He would die there on Passover. How was this triumphant? It was triumphant because with His sacrifice and Resurrection, He would defeat death. Thus, because of the day when palms were cut to welcome and praise in the King of kings, who triumphed over death, the word palmy was born “triumphant”.

Blessings to you and yours,


The Canterbury Tales

palm“. The Online Etymology Dictionary.

palmy“. The Online Etymology Dictionary.

palmy“. Merriam Webster Dictionary. 





On the Liberty of the Press


Author: David Hume

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company



In looking for something to read, I came across David Hume’s Of the Liberty of the Press. While Hume and I disagree, for the most part, on the best form of government,  I do agree with him on the importance of the press. He begins this essay noting that foreigners find Britain’s freedom of the press surprising. This is due mainly to the fact that other governments are absolute and they do not allow such political, social, or religious freedom. These freedoms were even better realized in America, but this essay was written before the founding.

Part of what makes the people free is the freedom to speak. Liberty is kept by people, and people keep it, in part, by speaking. But such liberty can be taken away if the people are silent or are silenced. This is why we in America have the freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom to bear arms, freedom to religion, and so many other liberties. These are natural rights, but as Hume says, such liberty can be taken away slowly.

‘Tis seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.

He compares such a loss of liberty with slavery. Slavery did not become so great or so well accepted all at once but it disguised itself “in order to be received.” This is true for any freedom, right, or liberty we enjoy: it can be taken away piece by piece. Liberty is not lost all at once, but it can be lost and perhaps not regained, at least for a time (unless there is a revolution, to which I direct you to the Declaration of Independence).

And this is why we should strive to defend our rights lest any person, group, or government try to deny us of them. One way to do this is to keep the press free. We should not permit people or ideas to be shut down or encourage censorship, even if we disagree with what is said! We should allow dissenting or opposing opinions! This is often how change happens. If something is wrong, we can speak out. If we believe something to be true, we can publish it without fear of a loss of liberty.  Let us keep the market of ideas open. In this way we shall preserve liberty. To do anything else would result in a loss of liberty. We must not allow “such a bare-faced violation of liberty” by a “despotic government” or anyone else. If we stand by while people – with whom we agree or disagree – are silenced, we may conclude like Hume that the liberty of our country “is gone forever when these attempts shall succeed.”


Review: Evolution Exposed


Author: Roger Patterson

PublisherAnswers in Genesis






One of the joys and duties parents have is to train up their children in the way they should go (Pro. 22:6). This training often comes in the form of conveying knowledge. Parents can train their children how to walk and eat; they can demonstrate the way a marriage is to look; they can instruct them in worldview and religion. Parents do these things, knowingly or not, because this knowledge is ingrained in them. But what about knowledge that they do not have? What happens when children need training in how to defend their worldview and parents do not know how to help? How can parents instruct their children then? Where can they turn?

I have often seen parents and children struggle when it comes to understanding and teaching apologetics. Apologetics comes from the Greek word apologia which means “to defend.” Thus, when Christians talk about apologetics, they talk about defending our worldview against attacks. Sometimes these attacks come from within the church or between doctrines. In this case, simply reading the Scriptures is the way to go. Other times, these are philosophical attacks, and one should read first Scripture and then perhaps church fathers. But what about scientific attacks? How do parents, who neither read science articles nor keep in touch with the latest research, aid their children in standing strong in their faith?

While the Bible is clear on when God created the earth and mankind, people can begin to doubt or question their faith when they are presented with information that they think or are told contradicts what they believe. These arguments are usually first introduced in science classes (e.g., biology, chemistry, earth science, etc.), though now evolutionary doctrine is infiltrating even children’s entertainment. Biology is, in many ways, the basis for evolutionary interpretations; demolishing this foundation causes evolution itself to fall. The issue arises when evolutionary interpretations are presented alongside and equal to actual observable facts, making it difficult for people to differentiate what is truth and what is not.

To counteract these interpretations, many people have written similar books to Patterson’s Evolution Exposed, and many of them are quite decent. I personally have enjoyed and appreciated reading them. Though the information and research is well done and useful, the writing is typically rather technical. This is not a bad thing, but it can be difficult for a middle or high schooler to know the information to defend his faith if he cannot understand the information. Thus, Patterson wrote his book Evolution Exposed.

Patterson wrote this book, and other books, for parents and children to prepare for the arguments they will be facing and teach them how to face those arguments. His writing is at a level that both middle and high schoolers can read, but this does not mean that a college student or parent would not enjoy or appreciate the book just the same. The book is neither dull nor too technical.

Patterson organized his book well, and began by laying down a foundation to build on. He defines the difference between historical/origins science and operational science, reminding readers that both evolutionary and creationist interpretations of facts are based on presuppositions and are origins science. He does not hide from this issue but faces it boldly, for we have Scripture and much evidence for our worldview. Patterson clearly and concisely lays out the arguments made by evolutionary scientists, explains where they fall short of being observable science, and explains the creationist interpretation and defense. He also provides summaries of articles, along with their sources, that explain in further detail the creationist perspective.

Additionally, Patterson makes it very clear that both people with an evolutionary worldview and those with creation worldview can be scientists. They both look at the same facts established by observational science. Yet they can both come to different conclusions based on their presuppositions. This he further demonstrates by listing many different Christian scientists of the past and present. He does this so that Christians can have confidence when we face something that sounds like a contradiction to God’s Word. We must know our faith, why we believe it, and how to defend it against all attacks. We must not mix secular interpretations with God’s infallible Word but look to see what the baseline observable evidence is and see how it is interpreted in light of Scripture.

The evolutionary arguments laid out in his book are drawn from a few textbooks commonly used across the United States. Patterson makes note that even if these specific textbooks are not used, these foundational arguments can be found in nearly every secular-based textbook. Evolution Exposed is meant to be a guideline. Each chapter is divided by subject (e.g., “What is science?”, “Classifying Life,” “Natural Selection vs. Evolution,” etc.). At the beginning of these chapters, he charts in detail where this information came from in the textbooks; at the end of each chapter, he lists articles that speak on the same subject and additional creation resources. He also provides questions a student could use, respectfully, in the classroom or in discussions with friends to challenge the worldview presented. He also gives suggestions on how to answer questions, like on homework or tests, that “give the answer” the teacher is looking for but do not compromise a student’s faith.

This book is a useful tool for teens or parents of teens concerned about what questions or challenges they might face in high school or college. This can help prepare Christians, young and old, to give an answer for why they believe what they believe and for the hope that is within them (1 Pet. 3:15-16).

Blessings to you and yours,




While I am more often than not researching books and their contents, I do every now and then venture out into the world of music. It is not that I do not like music – I actually play a handful of instruments and sing – but I sometimes find it distracting when I am writing or researching. But even now, I am listening to the song that began me on this search for “bluetooth”: Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”. Recently, I was searching music with my husband when this song came up. We were listening and I thought, what is the band name again? Haven’t I heard this somewhere? So I did a quick search and found mostly stuff about their band until I found what I was looking for: a Swedish viking named Harald Bluetooth. Now, Blue Swede and Bluetooth do not have much in common with each other, unlike I first thought, but Harald has much in common with me.

Like many people of European heritage, I am a descendant of William the Conqueror. (Truly, the farther you go back, the more closely connected you are to other people. Though this is obvious with Noah and his sons, it is even clear with recent ancestry). While I was doing research on my ancestry, I came across this neat fact along with the name of one of his ancestors, Harald Bluetooth. Now I love history, and I have studied for a long time, but I never once came across this name before. And even while I was doing research on my ancestry and I did discover him, I did not do a whole lot more with this person except find out where and when he was born and when he died, and find out who his parents were. There was a lot of other research to do at the time. But now, as I was looking up information of Blue Swede, I decided to do a little more digging.

Harald Bluetooth was a viking. He ruled in Denmark and Norway and was a convert to Christianity. His daughter would end up marrying a man he helped in Norway, Richard the Fearless, and their son would become the grandfather of William the Conqueror. His nickname “bluetooth” is derived from “Blachtent” or “Blåtand” which meant a “blue or black tooth”, or what appeared dark. Color names were more broad than how we use them today. But what made Bluetooth more significant was that fact that he was a great communicator. He brought warring nations together in peaceful negotiation. He made these connections strong and with little conflict. And this is what makes this man of old culturally significant.

In case you have not already guessed it, this is where Bluetooth technology got its name. Just as Harald Bluetooth was a good communicator and great at making connections between people, so too is Bluetooth technology used to make connections between two separate devices. Unsurprisingly, the creators of this technology are Scandinavian. Like humans are prone to do, we take things from our ancestry and preserve them in landmarks, children, and even inventions. Thus, these inventors took a name from their heritage that was both fitting and memorable. No doubt those of Scandinavian heritage knew this story, even if some in the rest of the West, like me, did not. And what about that little symbol that appears everywhere Bluetooth technology is used? That symbol comes from the first futhark rune of Harald’s first name, ᚼ, and the first rune of his nickname, ᛒ. Combining these runes, called a bindrune, created the well-recognized Bluetooth symbol.

Though I have used the Bluetooth device before, I never once thought to look up its origins. I do not have a good reason why, but now I am more inclined to look up other tech names to find their origins. Perhaps I am late to the game, but I find the etymology of Bluetooth fascinating. History is all around us, especially in names. This is why I spend so much time researching names and different etymologies. I hope this encourages you to know more about the devices you use and why things are named the way they are, including why you have the name you do.

Blessings to you and yours,


Works Referenced

Why is Bluetooth called Bluetooth?

Harald Bluetooth

Harald I, King of Denmark

The Epic of Gilgamesh


Translator: Benjamin R. Foster
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company





Among the lessor known epics of our world is a piece called the Epic of Gilgamesh or simply Gilgamesh. It is also considered the oldest epic ever found, although the Atrahasis and Enuma Elis are next up. Despite its age and origin, this epic still provides new insights today. The epic is not entirely unique in its story as it tells the adventures of a great hero and shares a history of which we all are a part. Gilgamesh allows the modern-day reader to glimpse at a world we can no longer see. It also gives us a different perspective on events that, as Christians, we know quite well. Though Gilgamesh is not very long, its impact and importance is significant, and so we should read it.

Like most other epics, Gilgamesh is split up into sections that, in general, divide the narrative. For example, the first section of Gilgamesh introduces us to who Gilgamesh is and why this epic was written. The sections of Gilgamesh are mainly separated by the tablets they were written on, of which there are eleven. There is no single, complete, original copy of the epic. In fact, the epic itself says that it was written on a lapis tablet, which has never been found. Additionally, the story has been found in various collections from southern Babylon to Assyria in addition to individual stories unique to those places. One key fact of this tablet is the inclusion of the Deluge. Assyria has a flood story and so does Babylon in addition to the one found in ancient Sumer, which this translation is largely based on.

The Gilgamesh epic was written in the Sumerian language. For some perspective: Ancient Sumer was found on the plain amidst the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and vaguely encompassed an area that included a city called Eridu and a city called Ur (not the same Ur of the Chaldees Abram was from, that was in the north) that later became the city of Babylon, now modern-day Iraq. The plain of Shinar, mentioned in Genesis within the Babel account, is likely on this same plain between the Tigris and Euphrates.

The account begins by telling us that Gilgamesh built the walls of Uruk, but he did not build the city. He is the son of gods and man, so he is a sort of demigod, larger than life. He is the son of a man named Lugalbanda. Gilgamesh, the king of Uruk, is known for his stature (literally) and is the mightiest in the land. He was known as the greatest of kings. And this is typical for an epic – this is about a hero – so they are going to praise him as such. Because of his bragging and desire “to establish eternal fame,” Gilgamesh is often compared to Nimrod.

Cush was the father of Nimrod, who grew to be a mighty warrior on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.”

~ Genesis 10:8-10 ~

Nimrod built the cities of Babylon, Erech, Akkad, Calneh, Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen (Gen. 10:10-12). The first four cities were roughly on the plain of Sumer and the latter in the north towards the area that became Assyria and later part of Syria. Mostly importantly, Nimrod is also credited for inciting the building of the Tower of Babel. But as I said before, this was likely in the north, not in either Ur or Uruk in southern Babylon.

The Sumerian/Babylonian man credited with building the Tower is named Enmerkar, another sort of demigod. Enmerkar was king of Uruk before Gilgamesh, according to the Sumerian King list but well after the flood. While I will avoid saying either for certain, I am working under the presumption that Nimrod and Gilgamesh are not the same people, however similar they are, though they are probably related. If Enmerkar and Gilgamesh are the same people under different names, which is unlikely, why is Babel not even mentioned in this epic? Perhaps Gilgamesh simply wanted fame like that his ancestor had, but that is where their similarities end.

Gilgamesh includes other places that are also found in Scripture or are at least known in their relation to Scripture. One is just in passing, and this is Elam. While preparing for an epic journey and fight, Gilgamesh packs various weapons, including an Elamite bow. Elam was a people who lived southeast of Sumer in an area that is now part of Iran. In fact, the Persians came from them. Elam was a son of Shem, and he founded Elam. When the Bible talks of the Medes and the Persians, Elam is Persia and Media is Madai, a son of Japheth.

Another land mentioned is Lebanon. At first it is simply called the forest of cedars, but it is eventually called Mount Lebanon, an area known for cedars. Gilgamesh goes here for two reasons: he had to cut down a cedar, marking him king, and kill a monster called Humbaba, furthering his might. Both of these feats must be accomplished so that he might establish “eternal fame,” which is very important to our epic hero. He is reminded a few times not to rely on his own strength and is saved by gods and friends alike, to accomplish his feats. Though he succeeded, he also suffers great loss, sending him on another adventure, but that will be discussed momentarily.

First, who or what is Humbaba? Here is how this thing is described:

The guardian of the forest of cedars […]

Humbaba’s cry is the roar of a deluge,

His maw is fire, his breath is death,

He can hear the rustling for sixty double leagues.

Who can go into his forest?

Adad is first and Humbaba second.

Who, even among the gods, could attack him?


…his features are grotesque,

who is there who could face his weaponry?

II. 262-63

He let out a single bloodcurdling cry,

The guardian of the forest shrieked aloud


Humbaba was roaring like thunder.

V. 201-4

This creature also had his own river. He is called a monster, a guardian, who makes the mountains of Lebanon quake. What could do this? Perhaps he was a monster or a man. I tend to think more likely he was a dinosaur, or dragon to this Sumerian. How is he described? He is grotesque, he lives in a desolate area – on a forested mountain near a river – and his “maw is fire, his breath is death,” a description used multiple times, that implies the ability to breathe fire. What creature do we know like this? I believe a dragon-like creature, which we would call a dinosaur today, fits this description. In fact, I think the Leviathan is the next closest creature except that the Leviathan seems to be a sea creature rather than a land one. The only odd thing about Humbaba, the guardian of the forest, is that he can talk. However, so can a couple of giant scorpions. Though the talking is doubtful, and this is an epic, no one doubts the reality of scorpions. Why doubt a great beast of old?

And yet, a dragon is not the greatest part of this epic. No, the most fascinating part is the man whom Gilgamesh scours the earth to find. This man is known as the “Distant One,” though he likely lived not far from Gilgamesh. This man is also called a forefather of Gilgamesh, and I believe this to be true. This man is known as both Utanapishtim and Atrahasis in this epic (and others), but to us, he is better known as Noah.

Indeed, the whole reason that this epic is recorded, besides telling of Gilgamesh’s great feats, is to tell the story of the flood. The epic begins by telling us that Gilgamesh brought back “tidings from before the flood” from a distant land. Gilgamesh actually went there, however, to find the secret to eternal life, but he comes back with something much better, which is why this account closes the epic.

Utanapishtim lived in a city called Shuruppak, which was along the Euphrates. We know that two of the four rivers flowing through the Garden of Eden were named the Tigris and the Euphrates. These would have been destroyed in the flood. Why are there still two rivers found today bearing these name? Because the names were preserved by Noah and his sons and they renamed these two rivers after those original ones, a fact also included both in this epic. This was a common practice, and it helped preserve history in some ways.

Utanapishtim was the son of a man named Ubar-Tutu. This name appears in the aforementioned Sumerian King list as an antediluvian king of Uruk. How can this be? Likely, Noah was split into two people – Ubar-Tutu and Utanapishtim – over the centuries of descendants retelling the story of the flood and the founders of their land.

Utanapishtim reveals to Gilgamesh a “secret matter,” which is that a god (it is unclear which god it actually is) tells Utanapishtim that a flood is coming. Now, many of the gods had decided to send the flood, but only one decided to tell a human. He told Utanapishtim this warning:

Wreck house, build boat,

Forsake possessions and seek life,

Belongings reject and life save!

Take aboard the boat seed of all living things…


Unlike the ark the Lord tells Noah to build, the boat Utanapishtim is told to build likely would not float. The boat describe was a cube and divided equally, which is unsurprising considering the shape of Sumerian and Babylonian architecture. This flood story was passed down through the generations and gained cultural influences; it was not preserved as the inspired Word of God is. But like in the Scriptures, this god gives Utanapishtim instructions that he obeys, though instead of warning his neighbors of what is to come, he deceives them. He does say that rain is coming, but that it will be a blessing rather than destruction. Many people helped build this boat, and it only took 5 days! The boat was made of wood and covered in tar and pitch. Many people and creatures boarded the ship as well:

What living creatures I had I loaded upon her,

I sent up on board all my family and kin,

Beasts of the steppe, wild animals of the steppe, all types

of skilled craftsmen I sent up on board.


Then the god comes to him at the appointed time of the flood and tells him to close up the ship.

The appointed time arrived,

In the morning cakes in spates,

In the evening grains in rains,

I gazed upon the ace of the storm,

The weather was dreadful to behold!


The flood is described in more detail in respect to the gods, who regretted sending it. They “tore our the mooring posts (of the world)” and “made the dikes overflow” (XI.106-5). They “set the land ablaze” and “flooded the land … smashed it like a [clay pot]” (XI.110). The flood came down in such a torrent that people could not see one another and the water “passed over the people like a battle” (XI.113). It rained six days and seven nights, a common phrasing in the epic (sets of three are common as well). On the seventh day there was calm again. So not quite the 40 days, but one of these writers had Divine inspiration and the other by word of mouth and placed into an epic!

Utanapishtim then tells Gilgamesh that all people turned to clay, which has also been mentioned multiple times before in the epic. Dust to dust appears to have been accepted by the Sumerians. At this time, Utanapishtim looked to see what remained of the world, and all he saw was water. The boat eventually rested on a Mount Nimush and remained there for a week. On that seventh day, he let out a dove, which returned. Then a swallow that returned. Finally he released a raven that did not return. Then he knew he could open the doors again. Utanapishtim “set up an incense offering on the summit of the mountain” just as Noah made a sacrifice to the Lord after the flood and the Lord made a promise to Noah (XI.161). A similar statement is made by the gods to not destroy mankind with a flood. However, Utanapishtim is also sent to live alone with his wife, which is in part why he is called the Distant One and became like the gods.

It was for this reason, to gain eternal life, that Gilgamesh sought out his ancestor, but he fails the test and loses what could have made him youthful again. But he did gain something greater, and that was the account of the days before and during the flood that was foretold at the beginning of the epic. In fact, this epic ends much the same way that it begins. Our epic hero is still human, but he has returned a changed man with the prize of knowledge that would be passed down to the next generation.

This collection of interesting facts found in Gilgamesh does not tell you the details of the adventure; that is for you to find out for yourself, and I encourage you to do so. Despite it being an epic, it is also rather short, much shorter than Beowulf. This is likely because much of the text has been lost. For example, one adventure is mentioned in passing that does not happen in the epic. But the story is fascinating and the details intriguing. Without reading, you would miss the tale of Enkidu and how he became a friend of Gilgamesh; you would miss the interaction between the gods; you would miss what this world looked like through the eyes of someone who lived thousands of years ago. Much can be learned in this epic in addition to the great flood and our forefather Noah. And like most poetic works, retelling it in prose simply does not do it justice.

Blessings to you and yours,



Works Referenced

“Gilgamesh.” Benjamin R. Foster, trans. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. Vol. 1. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. 2009. Print.

The Account of Noah, the Flood, and Babel

The Sumerian King List (For the lineage of Ubar-tutu, Enmerkar, Lugalbanda, and Gilgamesh, go to pages 77-91)

Problems of Convenience: A Modest Propsal



a_modest_proposal_1729_coverAuthor: Jonathan Swift
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company


Jonathan Swift, Irish by parentage but Englishman by citizenship, wrote A Modest Proposal in 1729. During the time he wrote this, there was great suffering in Ireland, and the English seemed to be at a loss as to how to deal with that problem. As the name might suggest, Swift hoped that his readers would be convicted to respond to the plight in Ireland by considering his “modest” proposal. Though he is possibly best known for his novel Gulliver’s Travel’s, Swift was at his best when he was writing satire, and that is what A Modest Proposal is: satire. Those who first read this piece probably did not think this “proposal” was satire at first. Their assumptions may have been based on many things, including the somewhat misleading subtitle and the fact that something really did need to be done in Ireland. Although what Swift wrote was for a specific time and place, his message still applied 100 years afterwards and still applies in the present.

As was true during most of the time Ireland was under British rule, Swift’s time saw a great oppression of the Irish people. It is not as though the people were intentionally abused, but their suffering was there nonetheless. They were poor, dirty laborers. Many of the imports to England came from Ireland, while the Irish starved. In general, the Irish were treated as the lessor of society. Because of their great suffering, the Irish often sold themselves to various shipmasters, traders, and colonists so that they might leave their wretched land and eat. Selling themselves for work, often to pay for their passage, was the only way for most of them to find prosperity and freedom because they had no money.

Swift saw the plight in Ireland and the apathy in Britain. Therefore, he wrote his proposal in hopes of waking up the British to the reality they were ignoring. There were many problems in Ireland that the English saw. For one, the Irish had far too many children, who were a “grievance” to society and their parents. They were beggars, thieves. They even demanded the charity of England, who took most of their goods through trade. Moreover, they were Catholic, leading in part to the great number. Swift also notes some of the horrid practices among these people who, as it was well know, were dying and rotting before them in filth, misery, and starvation. Swift writes,

There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children, alas, too frequent among us, sacrificing the poor innocent babes, I doubt, more to avoid the expense than the shame, which would move tears and pity in the most savage and inhuman beast.

This was a great grievance, and the English looked down upon the Irish because of it. But the British missed how their deeds were causing the death via starvation of those same children. Indeed, much like the supposed cannibals of Montaigne’s essay, Swift compares the English to a similar inhumanity. But what is Swift’s solution to this great problem? Well, since the English are already devouring the Irish by devouring their only supply of food, already withholding the support that Ireland needed, already treating them as livestock, Swift proposes that they eat them.

Yes, literally. Or figuratively. His proposal is straight-faced satire, and Swift does in fact go through the many ways a person could eat a child. You can fillet them, roast them, boil them, and, to make sure that nothing is wasted of so plentiful a crop, use their skin for gloves and boots. Indeed, the mothers and fathers would care so much for their children if they could make even three pounds per child. Even a few shillings would give them enough for bread! And then, since they will not have to care for their children after about a year, which before they would have had to raise the babe to adulthood – what an expense! – they can have more children which they can sell for money. The meat will be good and nourishing and the land better able to support others because of their sacrifice. Even if the meat cannot last long, Swift writes, he is sure that there is a “county which would be glad to eat up a whole nation” before it went bad.

By using the workers for food, the tenants of the land could have food to give to their lords, “as they have already devoured most of the parents, [they] seem to have the best title to the children,” like one would treat a mare or sow and their offspring. Some will have to be kept for breeding, but all of the extra people can be slaughtered without hindrance. After all, Swift writes, they are going to die of old age, disease, accident, or starvation anyway. And there really were, he reminds, too many Papists. Why not make the best use of them for the whole country, not to mention those poor starving, struggling parents? This will then support the parents and the country. As his proposal is “of no expense and little trouble,” he can see no reason why anyone would object to it.

Now Jonathan Swift was not actually saying that the English should eat the Irish. Rather, he was pointing out the problem with England’s apathy towards the plight in Ireland. They saw Ireland as a means for trade and supply. Ireland was better off forgotten until they needed it for food, like corn, wheat, or potatoes. The land and its people were not good for much else. Swift is merely pointing out that if the English are so calloused that they are willing to let the Irish starve so that the citizens that live in England may live, then they might as well go the whole way and literally eat the people themselves. They already were being devoured.

Swift’s writing seemed to have fallen on deaf ears, for a similar problem arose during the Victorian Era. During this time, a great famine broke out, and, like before, England basically ignored it or came up with excuses: they are lazy; much nutrition can come from other common plants; we cannot let them become dependent; what would happen if our citizens found out we were financially supporting the Irish?; and so on. In their eyes, the Irish were the unwashed masses, not really citizens of England. They were those who practiced Catholicism and brought this upon themselves by having too many children. They did not really deserve the help of England.

In short, many were practicing ideas that had long since been growing in popularity. These ideas were first plainly written by men such as Thomas Malthus. In his book  Principles of Population, he stated that it was good for the masses, the lessor of society, to die out so that, plainly speaking, the strong could survive. If the land could not produce enough to support the people, they would naturally select themselves to reduce the population.

Many different groups of people were viewed this way – from Africans to the Irish. In fact, only a handful of years after the Famine had basically ended, Darwin wrote his infamous book On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Not many know the full title of his book, but he meant what he said. Many during Darwin’s time felt the need for the lessor races to die out so that the higher races might live on and not be burdened by those below.


The above image comes from a book called Ireland from One or Two Neglected Points of View written by H. Strickland Constable. The point of this drawing was to show that the Irish are actually descended from Africans, thus making them less human than Europeans. This idea is false on two counts: first, while the Irish and Africans are brothers in the sense that they descend from Noah’s sons, they are not related in the way that Strictland, or others, proposed; second, their origin of descent does not make them more or less human as all are of one blood and are children of Adam formed in the image of God. We may think it barbaric that brothers would treat each other this way, but we are not far from this reality in our own society today.

This was both the main problem and the mainline idea that permeated societies of that time: different races existed and those different races were more or less human. Because of this, millions were oppressed and killed. And while the Irish, among others, were killed for the sake of convenience and apathy among the British, today such an apathy and desire to murder for convenience happens with abortion. Do we really think this practice is any different from England’s? Do we not devour the children? Do we not see them as animals, not quite human, merely a burden to us and society? And if we do not think this, do we not hear it? Do we not find ways to excuse their deaths and encourage their mothers to lead them to the slaughterhouse? Thousands die each day via abortion, yet many people do not care, do not know what it is, or desire it. While the culture is changing, it is not happening quickly enough. Many more will die to the hand of convenience before this horrendous atrocity ends.

Whether people wish to admit it or not, the genocides that have happened around the world – African, European, or otherwise  – all of them are committed because of ideas purported by Malthus and his followers, like Darwin, Galton, Sanger, and others. People are killed for difference, hate, and convenience. They are killed because at one point in time, after years of whispers, men finally began to say what they desired to be true, that it was not only natural, but good for certain people to be eliminated, or left to die, for the sake or progress and convenience. And as Swift wrote, we have propped up these people as if they were the “preserver of the nation” despite the fact that they are among those who aided in its destruction. Do we really think we are any different from the British in the way they viewed their subjects as our nation treats abortion? So I ask you: will we look on in horror at our current state, as we do at Swift’s modest proposal, or will we continue to be those who future generations will look on with disgust?

Blessings to you and yours,



Review: How to Read Literature like a Professor

I was introduced to a book called How to Read Literature Like a Professor, written by Thomas Foster, in the past year, though I only recently found the time to read it. I was apprehensive to reading the book at first because I though it might be stuffy, or inapplicable, or even repetitive. And while many of the “ways to read” he presented were familiar to me, they were neither stuffy not inapplicable. In fact, I found them refreshing and exciting as he applied some in ways I had not considered before.

Anyone who has taken an English class probably knows the basics of what to look for when reading literature, especially good literature (then again, I might just say, generally “old” literature). But I think only those who have taken a good literature class would have gone through most of the approaches that Foster takes in his book. In fact, while I was reading the book, I wondered if perhaps my professors had read this book before or if they simply had a stroke of genius. I prefer to think it was a little of both, as I had some particularly good literature professors, in my humble opinion.

Foster goes through some major themes, motifs, interpretations, and inspirations of literature that I hope most students or avid readers would have at least stumbled across. His book, though, takes these ideas and explains what and why they are as well as giving a sample of literature that contains them. These are such as: the quest and what it means; virginity and vampires; poetry, its forms and uses; the versatility of a character across literature; Shakespeare and his offspring; the weather; symbols; sex and when it is not; social motivations; morality; physical appearance; and of course, how Christ and Christianity influenced literature. The latter I found to be most intriguing, along with his dealings with politics. Throughout the book, though I did try to guess, I could not decide if the writer was a christian or not. I have my own opinions, but I have withheld myself from doing research on the author, as I am often apt to do. While I will eventually try to find out, I appreciated him taking a moderate approach so as to present things in the light of literature and her applications rather than to push an agenda one way or another.

I found his writing balanced and decently informed in various subjects. His work is concise (if I had not been so busy, I could have finished the book in a handful of days, though it took me a solid month). The chapters are short, but clear, to the point, and entertaining. As I said before, Foster’s writing is most engaging. You can tell that he not only knows what he is talking about, but is well read and enjoys his work. He does not write nor teach for necessities sake, but because he actually likes it.

Throughout the book, Foster mentions dozens of pieces of literature. I attempted to keep a running list of pieces I wanted to read at some point on my Goodreads page, but I did not record every book, poem, or play that he happened to mention. Thankfully, he placed a list of works at the end of his book so that readers, like you and me, could be sure they could get around to reading the ones we did not want to forget or miss by trying to flip back through the book.

One thing that I appreciated most about Foster’s book was that it gave me a better glimpse at what it is like to read like a professor. I do not mean to be quaint. While I do love literature, and there were only a few very surprising things that he presented in the book, Foster took apart literature I have and have not read and placed them in categories I may not have considered, presenting those pieces in a light I never saw. How to Read Literature Like  Professor really helps a reader to see with the glasses of one who reads for a living. While it is good to read for fun, I find that a book has greater depth when I know why a writer was writing what he wrote, when he wrote it, and what his influences were.

I like to know these things. I also find them to be beneficial. For example: I wrote a paper on the Aeneid, but not on the adventure, but on whether or not Aeneas was a Roman or a Greek. I took apart the poetry found towards the beginning that, if my memory serves me well, talked of foundations, children and families, men leading, and honey. There were a few other examples, and my paper expounded upon the subject more, but in general, those things supported the Roman Pietas rather than Greek Cleos. But, I only knew to look for these things because I knew the difference between Roman and Greek mentality – both of which have permeated Western culture – and why those differences mattered, especially to Virgil.

What does this have to do with Foster’s book? In short, he shows why knowing these things matter and why readers should look for them, even if they are reading for pleasure rather than work. Not only does it expand our minds and learning, but knowing the backdrop and the fine-print aids us enjoying a piece. Knowing Greek literature helps us understand modern American writers; knowing Arabian Nights prepares us for the Canterbury Tales; knowing history helps us understand the present; knowing the details explains the big picture. A story can be a good story, but reading it with the correct glasses will make it great and impactful. I have often found that authors seem to hide bits, waiting for the right person to find them. Their works are enjoyable without the reader knowing them, but having the satisfaction of “Aha!” makes them all the better. This, and so much more, is why Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor is a great book, not only for its educational purposes, but also for the world it opens up to a reader.

Blessings to you and yours,