Etymology: like a word

Black and white photograph of a man looking straight at the camera
thomas merton by cistercaminante used under CC BY-ND 2.0

When I applied to open a bank account for my business they phoned me up to check a few things.

Which is kind of reassuring.

One of the things they wanted to check was the name of the company: The Likeaword Consultancy Ltd. The very nice and apparently experienced lady on the phone went about as close to saying…

“That’s a really stupid name”

…as I presume her employer would permit.

I’ll admit, it is an unusual company name.

People often think they can guess where it comes from. They adopt a knowing look and say…

“Clever: you’d like a word about our data I suppose”

And I nod encouragingly.

But that’s not it.

It’s a reference to a book called New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton (it’s the sequel to the well received Seeds of Contemplation). He was a Trappist monk in America in the first half of the 20th century, a profoundly spiritual person who was also deeply fallible and human. He was also a great, and I mean really great, writer.

New Seeds of Contemplation is a set of things to pray about (or meditate or contemplate). It is full of concepts that seem to float just out of reach of understanding. Like the gnomic phrases we often associate with Zen Buddhism (and Thomas Merton was also very interested in Buddhist practice) their purpose is to help bend your mind around new ways of thinking about the world. I read it many years ago at the suggestion of a friend (now, in fact, a monk himself (though not a Trappist)) and I was instantly hooked. One line jumped out at me…

“God utters me like a word containing a partial memory of himself”

Sometimes I think I see what he was getting at. Mostly I don’t. Always I think that it is beautiful.

So my company name is, in some sense, a homage to Thomas Merton. I’m not sure what he’d feel about that. But I don’t think he was very in to judging people.

Every time I see the word likeaword written down (which is many times a day) I think of Thomas Merton.

I didn’t say any of this to the lady from the bank of course.

I said
“It tested well in research”

If you care about writing and haven’t yet checked out any Thomas Merton I really urge you to do so. If you aren’t of a spiritual bent maybe start with the journals. I promise you you won’t regret it.