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SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK


I’m writing this column to apologize to Rose Browning.

Remember way back in April, when I wrote a column about strange and interesting words? Remember, America’s number one favorite word was “defenestration”?

Anybody? Anybody?

Why do I hear nothing but crickets chirping?

Well, I did, and I got a lot of fun responses to my question about whether anyone could think of interesting words of their own. I received several e-mails, and responses on my LiveJournal internet account, where most of my friends are writers with their own interest in words.

And I got one actual, honest to goodness letter. In this day and age of instant e-mails, do you realize what a pain it must be to actually write, address, and mail a letter? It was so cool that someone appreciated my column enough to write one!

I put it in my little black bag of writing ideas (I really have one), with the plan of doing a sequel to the word column and including her comments. Then Real Life hit me, with all the speed of a Japanese bullet train but none of the gentleness, and there the letter lay all through the summer and fall. So, you see why I owe her an apology.

Mrs. Browning lives in Florida, and she was once a classroom teacher. Imagine that, a teacher writing to say she enjoyed my column. Let’s face it: my columns are a teacher’s nightmare. I’m the master of sentence fragments and odd punctuation, I usually can’t identify my own theme, and if I was getting graded as a traditional essay, my grade would rhyme with my brother’s name: Jeff.

But she was willing to look beyond that, because words are fun. Mrs. Browning told me that the first word she taught her sophomores, on the first day of school, was “obsequious” – to kiss up.

Why couldn’t I have teachers like that? (On an unrelated note, “sophomore” is kind of a silly word.)

Among her other favorite words:

“Pulchritude”. Must be horrible, huh? It sounds like something that happens to the head of lettuce that you forgot was in your crisper drawer. “Oh, my gosh, I’ve never seen such pulchritude!”

It means “beautiful”.

Mrs. Browning also mentioned that, and I have to quote here, “Pulchritude does not slide across the tongue like reciprocity. Reciprocity just feels good as it slips languidly out of the buccal cavity.” Makes you wonder whether to shower or take antibiotics, huh? Why can’t I write like that? Her vocabulary outstrips mine like a Vegas showgirl. Why can’t I find a five syllable word for “Vegas showgirl”? I mean, one I can put in a column?

She’s now involved in the International Baccalaureate Program where, she says, they find unique ways to say common things. What else would you expect, from a group with the word Baccalaureate in their title? It’s an international program, which makes me wonder if they sit around, discussing why English is such a strange language.

“We don’t have a general meeting, we have a plenary.” I had one of those once, but luckily I still had antibiotics left over from when I got that pulchritude in my buccal cavity.

“Students who are in their second to last year of school are in their penultimate year.” Ha, fooled her – I knew that word.

“People who give tests are not test administrators, they are invigilators.” Ha … heh … I know penultimate. Another word for invigilator is proctor, but you can imagine how that can cause trouble when you’re discussing buccal cavities.

Ah, I do adulate Rose Browning.

Over on the Livejournal side, my friend Redwolfoz (I’m fairly sure that’s not his real name) likes the word “disarticulate”, which I do while standing in front of crowds. Mr. Wolfoz (he never has given me permission to call him Red) isn’t so thrilled with the word “deglove”, because of an experience that can only be legally discussed in a medical journal. Please, I beg of you, don’t ask him to explain.

I got several good words from Beer_good_foamy. Did I mention these aren’t their real names? “Foamy” is a fun word, by the way, especially after several beers. Beer (it’s okay, we’re on a first name basis) suggested:

“Nincompoop.” I know several of those, although they’re not that much fun.

“Spiffy.” That’s a spiffy was of saying “neat”. Actually, it’s a neat way of saying “spiffy”.

“Gobbledygook”. This word is written, in Latin, above the main entrance to all of the federal buildings in Washington, D.C. It’s nice to know our representatives still stand for something, even if they don’t know what.

“Cromulent”. Okay, this is going to take a minute. Cromulent is, according to the Urban Dictionary, in an ironical sense to mean legitimate, so when you say cromulent, you’re saying something’s legitimate, but in a way that indicates it isn’t. I thought we were done talking about Congress?

“Far-fetched.” Which brings us back to cromulent. Or, possibly, to the pet dog of a major league baseball pitcher.

“Procrastinate.” I never got around to looking that one up. (An oldie but a goodie.)

And finally, “Antidisestablishmentarianism”. The great thing about double negatives is that you can insult someone, and be out of range by the time they figure it out. Beer_good_foamy is quick to point out that he (uh – she? Is Beer a boy or girl name?) is against that, and so is actually anti-antidisestablishmentarianism. Just so you know.

Next week: We’ll make Mrs. Browning sorry she ever brought it up. And we’ll look for a longer word that means “it”.

Comments

( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
synaptikchaos
Nov. 15th, 2007 07:28 am (UTC)
some days i want to defenestrate my cats. i knew that without looking it up....sadly. why did i know it? this is even more sad. facebook. there is an application on facebook that lets you virtually defenestrate someone.

i can't believe i missed your interesting word entry! i have so many!

i wouldn't feel too bad about being bested by Browning. 10 dollar words are still just 10 dollar words. and i bet nobody's reading her blog.
ozma914
Nov. 15th, 2007 11:48 am (UTC)
That's the first time I've ever been interested in facebook! :-)

I wonder if Mrs. Browning actually has a blog? After all, this is a lady who sent me a snailmail letter, hand written ... she doesn't strike me as the computer type.
kazzy_cee
Nov. 15th, 2007 08:00 am (UTC)
Some of my favourite words are not good to say in mixed company, but one of my current favourites is 'feisty'.... nice ring to it.
ozma914
Nov. 15th, 2007 11:49 am (UTC)
Feisty, I like that! Maybe in another six months I'll end up doing another word column ...

I assume you've heard of the "Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say on Television" ... George Carlin was a master with words.
spikeslovebite
Nov. 15th, 2007 10:25 am (UTC)
vituperative...and yes, i have used it in a fic LOL
ozma914
Nov. 15th, 2007 11:50 am (UTC)
What character used *that* word? :-)
elizalavelle
Nov. 15th, 2007 12:11 pm (UTC)
Heee this was just a pleasure to read :)
ozma914
Nov. 16th, 2007 06:53 am (UTC)
Good! Hearing that is a simple pleasure I'll never get tired of.
strangexgirl
Nov. 15th, 2007 04:51 pm (UTC)
Heh, reminds me of when you were reading my story for British Lit and oogled the words I used. ;p
ozma914
Nov. 16th, 2007 06:52 am (UTC)
I heart google!
strangexgirl
Nov. 16th, 2007 03:51 pm (UTC)
'oogle', not google...*quirks eyebrow*
ozma914
Nov. 17th, 2007 12:38 am (UTC)
Sorry, thought it was a typo ...

...

um ...

what's oogle?
curiouswombat
Nov. 15th, 2007 08:09 pm (UTC)
Hmm - I like meander, correlate, and colposcopy (the word - I'll cope without having one.)

I really dislike decimate - because these days people seem to use it to mean 'almost all destroyed', when it actually means one in ten destroyed. As in 'The town is decimated - there are almost no buildings left standing'. Wrong! If the town was decimated nine out of every ten buildings would be totally undamaged!
ozma914
Nov. 16th, 2007 06:26 am (UTC)
Hm ... I didn't know that, about decimate ... I'm going to have to keep that in mind, as my writing has been known to meander through the language.
curiouswombat
Nov. 16th, 2007 08:30 am (UTC)
It was originally a form of punishment in the Roman army for legions who had totally failed at something - one in ten of the soldiers, chosen at random, was executed and the legion was said to have been decimated.
ozma914
Nov. 16th, 2007 10:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, yes, I remember that story ... it would be quite the incentive, wouldn't it?
gillo
Nov. 16th, 2007 12:52 am (UTC)
Let’s face it: my columns are a teacher’s nightmare.


This teacher has actually used one of your columns in class, remember? It went down well, too.

Odd - "invigilate" is a word routinely used in my trade over here - invigilation is something I waste way too much of my summer term doing - it is one of the most boring activities known to (wo)man to be an invigilator. And the IB is gaining currency here - it has a broader range than our A Levels, but a high standard, and foreign and native language study is compulsory.

Tolkien once said "cellar door" are the most beautiful-sounding words in the language. Personally I like "incunabula" and "palimpsest" (both book-related.)
ozma914
Nov. 16th, 2007 06:49 am (UTC)
used in class
Oh yes, I remember -- but mentioning that would have taken away from the joke, and I'm always willing to sacrifice accuracy for funny. :-)

Cellar door? Hm ... much as I hate to disagree with Tolkien ...

In Indiana you can get arrested for invigilation. *checks dictionary* Oh ... never mind.

I just spent a very interesting few minutes reading about incunabula and palimpsest. :-)
gillo
Nov. 16th, 2007 07:01 pm (UTC)
Re: used in class
You forget - Brits would say "seladore" or wtte. Sounds nicer.

Invigilation is not a joke. Too much of it makes you go mad...

ozma914
Nov. 16th, 2007 10:33 pm (UTC)
vigorous invigilation
I can make *anything* into a joke ... but that doesn't mean other people would find it funny!
enigmaticblues
Nov. 16th, 2007 01:10 am (UTC)
I like poignant. And ennui. And many other, little-used words that you can drop into a conversation to sound smart. :)
ozma914
Nov. 16th, 2007 06:50 am (UTC)
I like the meaning of poignant, but I always seem to stumble over the word itself. As for sounding smart, in small town Indiana people actually think *less* of you if you use big words; they'll call you really awful names, like "lawyer" and "politician". :-)
enigmaticblues
Nov. 17th, 2007 03:44 am (UTC)
Hee! Well, I will be a lawyer...

I got a lot of flack for the large vocabulary in high school, which just made me learn more big words. I'm stubborn like that.
ozma914
Nov. 17th, 2007 08:30 pm (UTC)
I didn't get much flack, simply because I never talked much -- I was busy reading and avoiding the bullies. strangexgirl actually likes my larger than average vocabulary; apparently I've fooled her into thinking I'm intelligent. :-)
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )

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