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  • Monday, April 25, 2005


    Will Geek for Words

    Word Lover’'s Dictionary: Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words by Josefa Heifetz (New York: Carol Publishing, 1974, 1994)

    Word lover, yep, that describes me. But not, you know, in some inappropriate way; I’'m not an etymological version of Michael Jackson*. To communicate ideas, concepts, and stories, I feel a need for a large vocabulary to describe things in just the right way. This is part of nuanced verbal communication. Sadly, my desire for an excellent, expansive, and expressive vocabulary runs afoul of what most people can actually understand without resorting to a dictionary too often. Not that I'm blaming you, no, I wouldn't do that. You can't help being unfamiliar with or disinterested in the obsolete or obscure words I love. My problem is learning to write without either oversimplifying or putting more than a soupçon of unfamiliar terms in a particular piece. I don't have such a problem using unusual words conversationally because, frankly, my pronunciation of words I've never spoken before is crappy. I seem to have trouble deciphering the pronunciation guides in dictionaries for some reason. Slo-o-o-owly sounding them out sometimes works but I still have a tendency to accent the wrong syllables and slip in phantom letters.

    Perhaps if I was an academic I would be encouraged to cultivate my hobby, my lexcitation® into a career. But, being a classic underachiever, I must generally gloat over my little lexical finds in private. A blog, though, ahh... A blog can be a vanity showcase, an exhibit of quirks, tics, personal obsession, faux intellectual scenarios, and compulsive collecting. Heck, I could style myself "King Geek of Words®" and dig out a nice cozy cyberhomestead, dispensing "Word Geek'’s Word of the Day”©®". Just like "In space, no one can hear you scream," "on the web, no one knows your qualifications." Just don’'t call me “Bulldog

    Thus I come to Word Lover's Dictionary, my current bedtime reading. Yes, it's organized like a dictionary and yes, I'm reading from front to back, highlighting as I go. It's only about 280pp. All the words were found in at least one dictionary. Some were included because the author liked them for one reason or another. Some are slang. Here are some of my favorites so far:

    adevism, n.: the denial of legendary gods.
    altruipathia, n.: pathologic altruism.
    anachorism, n.: foreign to a certain locality; geographically impossible.
    anautarchia, n.: perpetual unhappiness.
    assification, n.: the act of making an ass of; an asinine act.
    babyolotry, n.: baby worship.
    belaud, v.t.: to ridicule by excessive praise.
    bibliotaph, n.: one who hoards or hides books.
    blatantation, n.: loud bragging or swaggering.
    boobocracy, n.: government by boobs; plebianism [sic] ad absurdum (slang).
    booboisie, n.: the mass, rabble (coined by H.L. Mencken).
    cacogen, n.: an antisocial person.
    callomania, n.: the delusion that one is beautiful.
    cerebropathy, n.: hypochondria resulting from too much thinking.
    chiliad, n.: one thousand [years].

    *Disclaimer: Mr. Jackson is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Really. Please do not laugh. So don’'t call him a pedophile or a child molester. Unless he'’s convicted, these labels must be prefaced by "alleged." However, feel free to call him a monster or freak; these are clearly appropriate labels and need no qualifiers.

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