Wednesday, December 25, 2013


I like words.

I can happily sit and read an unabridged dictionary.

Trouble is, I cannot spell very well, which means I sometimes reach a desired word via a most circuitous route.

Digging into a word's origins almost always is rewarding with interesting trivia.

For examples:

Fillet (fil-lay) is Latin via French. The British pronounce it "fil-it." The French and cultured Americans say fil-lay. Who is correct? According to the Latin root, the word is fil-it. Point to the Brits. But perhaps only in the U.K.

Pedant (pee-dant), which I insisted on mispronouncing as pendant, a thing to hang around a neck, is now a negative term for a person with OCD; a person who is picayunish to the enth degree. Mispronouncing the word creates a catachresis. Pedant in its Greek and Latin beginnings meant "teacher" or someone (a Greek's slave) who escorted children to their studies.

I don't know when I acquired "picayune" and its variations (ibid.); possibly on a Greyhound rest stop in New Orleans, a/k/a NOLA or Crescent City, home of the Times-Picayune newspaper.

I am without a doubt a curmudgeon - Sesame Street's Oscar the Grouch has nothing on me.

When I was an honest reporter (read "print" vs. "electronic" [tv] ) I used to pick up new and useful words from many and sundry sources.

A judge in Red Bluff CA gave me "recidivistic," the condition of a miscreant who appeared before him too many times. When I asked him to define the word for me he responded, forcefully: "Look it up." I did.

A fellow who wrote a column for Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent wrote to me via his amanuensis about how he came to have the same last name as this scrivener.

When I was documenting risks, I always included the "ubiquitous other," the one no one identified. Some folks call the "ubiquitous other" a "black swan," but I don't believe in black swans (as risks) any more than I believe in Santa Claus, the Easter bunny laying eggs, or the tooth fairy. Some might say failure to identify a risk was the hamartia of my plan. I may not have identified a risk, but I should have covered how to respond if any risk occurs despite my best efforts.

I suppose I can be considered superannuated , but I'm copacetic with that. Copacetic has been a favorite, and once oft-used word, of mine for some time. Still, superannuated or not, I can never be accused of having misocainea

M words and women: Misogamy , misogyny , miscegenation

Misology simply is unreasonable.

I'll never a have command of the language near that of Wm. Buckley or Abba Eban, but - and it is sad to report - I probably have a better vocabulary than most folks with Masters degrees. How did it happen?

I read and I read.

Words were the tools of my trade.

No comments: