Although the list has been in its current form since the fifteenth century–even immortalized in a painting by Hieronymous Bosch–each of the words has held up very well, still just as meaningful and part of the common vernacular as when dudes wore ruffled collars and silk breeches.
Except for sloth.
When was the last time you heard someone drop “sloth” into a sentence? It’s a word that has lost its way. Sloth is an underachiever, the Fredo of the seven deadly sins. Oh sure it’s on the list, but still. Kind of like the bright-smiled high school cheerleader who years later is an unemployed nurse living in a trailer in the woods (yes, Traci, we’re looking at you…). Sloth rolls off the tongue about as easily as forsooth, boulevardier or zounds.
Compared to the other sins, the word itself and its interpretation have steadily changed over the centuries. It originally was a reference to sadness and depression. Unlike greed or envy, sloth shape shifted and came to mean an indifference or reluctance to use gifts and talents.
Even though the Vatican is slow to change (hey, those Michelangelo-designed guard uniforms aren’t really Kevlar, are they?) Catchword humbly suggests perhaps a new, more appropriate substitute for sloth.
There are plenty of meaningful options: lazy, slacker, idle, shirker, dodger, apathy, even careless.
Secretly, as a substitute name for sloth we prefer Sam Bowie. Picked ahead of Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft, he played unremarkably for three teams and was rated as the biggest bust in draft history by Sports Illustrated.
Pope Benedict XVI strikes us as a man of action. Hopefully he’ll warm to this task and relegate sloth to the dustbin of discarded words. And choose a more contemporary word. What a Christmas gift that would be!