An enigma is a puzzle, a riddle, a mystery. You may not know that Indiana University has a puzzle collection in the Lilly Library. This collection was donated by The New York Times crossword puzzle master and IU graduate in Enigmatology, Will Shortz. He is also the puzzle editor for NPR’s Weekly Edition.
Will Shortz allowed his passion for puzzles to shape his entire career! On NPR’s and KUNC’s All Things Considered, Shortz reflected on his journey, saying
“Well, it’s a dream job for me. I’ve been there almost 26 years now. I have the world’s only college degree in puzzles, which I earned at Indiana University in 1974 in a self-designed major. Indiana allows you to make up your own major and I devised an entire curriculum in puzzles. So really this has been a dream job. It’s creative playing with words every day, we brainstorm clues, we laugh a lot. I’m always learning stuff and always stretching myself.”
When your passions drive your work, it hardly feels like work at all. Isn’t that fabulous? Each one of us has a unique passion or interest, and we can use that passion or interest to color our perceptions and shape our learning. That is what we want IU High School students to do every day. Find the relevance in whatever you are studying to your own life. Learn from everyone, everything, everywhere. Share that learning with others so that they might learn from you as well.
When I was teaching high school English, every class period began with a Word of the Day. It is in that tradition that I share this word with you. I hope you will try to use this word and weave it into your daily vocabulary. Words help us express meaning; the more we have in our tool belts, the more we can say what we really mean. This post’s word, definition, example, and explanations were drawn from Merriam-Webster.
With that stated, here is this post’s Word:
enigmatic \en-ig-MAT-ik\ adjective
: mysterious; of, relating to, or resembling an enigma
Example Sentence: “The magic of the Mona Lisa‘s smile is that it seems to react to our gaze. What is she thinking? She smiles back mysteriously. Look again. Her smile seems to flicker. We glance away, and the enigmatic smile lingers in our minds, as it does in the collective mind of humanity.” — Walter Isaacson, The Atlantic, November 2017
Did You Know?
The adjective enigmatic describes what is hard to solve or figure out. An enigmatic person is someone who is a bit mysterious to others. Behind an enigmatic smile are thoughts impossible to guess. The word enigma originally referred not to people or smiles but to words, and specifically to words that formed a riddle or a complicated metaphor that tested one’s alertness and cleverness. This meaning is clearly connected to the word’s origin. Enigma comes from the Greek word ainissesthai, meaning “to speak in riddles.”