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”?
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”.