Words, Glorious Words

Over the weekend, our friends at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the Oxford Dictionaries Online added some new words to its listings

More than 400 of them, give or take a few.

I always think of Ammon Shea whenever these sorts of announcements happen.

Reading the OED He’s the author of Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,710 Pages, an account of the year he spent reading the Oxford English Dictionary.

“If you are interested in vocabulary that is both spectacularly useful and beautifully useless, read on,” writes Ammon Shea in this wonderfully quirky book. “I have read the OED so that you don’t have to.”

Ammon Shea loves words. He also loves dictionaries, and has amassed quite the collection. “By last count, I have about a thousand volumes of dictionaries, thesauri, and assorted glossaries,” he writes, adding, somewhat unbelievably, that he doesn’t view these thousands volumes of dictionaries as qualifying as a collection.

(Maybe someone needs to re-read the definition of that particular word. I’m just sayin’.)

Even more remarkable is that the Oxford English Dictionary – which he purchased all twenty volumes of, mind you – is not the first dictionary he’s read (I pity Shea’s mailman, who probably wished he had called out sick on the Monday morning that he brought five boxes of the Oxford English Dictionary – a total of 150 pounds – up a flight of stairs).

There’s only one way to pay homage to a book about one man’s determination to read the entire dictionary – the Oxford English Dictionary, no less, all 21,730 pages of it. Because Shea includes, with much wit and amusement, many of the obscure and bizarre words that he came across in his perusal of the dictionary, I thought I would randomly select one word from each letter of the alphabet … and try and write this review using these new (to me) 26 words.

Shall we begin? (Don’t worry, I’ll forgive you if you become a cachinnator while reading this baltering review.)

Reading the entire dictionary from beginning to end could be terriculament for most people, viewing it as a longueur. Either that or one could turn into a sansculottic noceur in order to finish it. Indeed, it is immutual for myself and the author, and I would be a minimifidian as to whether I could stick with this for an entire year, as Shea did. I would also imagine it would be a bit of of a kankedort for a significant other to discuss with others – kind of like the unpleasant experience of watching a couple halfpennyworth in public – unless you are Shea’s lexiographer girlfriend (or perhaps his wife, maybe a opsigamy situation?).

Never an ultra-crepidarian, Shea relates the experience of reading the dictionary, which is an agathokakological experience at times – probably not unlike that of being a deipnosophist (but still better than suffering from empleomania). I’d imagine whether to continue with this project may have been a quaesitum for Shea, who read the OED for upwards of eight hours every day. (I’d imagine there was lot of pandiculation going on!)

I can’t be a zoilus about Shea’s effort, and I admit I do have a healthy amount of velleity about this whole thing. I enjoyed Reading the OED, a repertitious find at the library (although I would have liked it as a xenium) and was finifugal at its conclusion, wanting to be introduced to more than the yepsen of new words I learned. (Kind of as one would be at a delicious jentacular gramaungere that you can only visit the buffet once.)

Whew! Assuming some of these words are new to you, too, here are the definitions:

agathokakological – adj. – made up of both good and evil

balter – v. – to dance clumsily
cachinnator – n. a person who laughs too loud or too much

deipnosophist – n – a person who is learned in the art of dining

empleomania – n. – a manic compulsion to hold public office  
finifugal – adj. – shunning the end of anything
gramaungere – n. -a superb or great meal

halfpennyworth – v. to bicker over minute expenses
immutual – adj. – not mutual
jentacular – adj. – of or pertaining to breakfast

kankedort – n. – an awkward situation or affair
longueur – n. – a long or boring piece of writing  (there aren’t any longueurs to be found in Eleventh Stack)
minimifidian – n. – a person who has the bare minimum of faith (in something)
noceur – n. – a dissolute and licentious person; a person who stays up late at night (Eleventh Stackers are known to be noceurs)
opsigamy – n. – marrying late in life
pandiculation – n. – the act of stretching and extending the limbs, in tiredness or waking
quaesitum – n.- the answer to a problem; the thing that is looked for
repertitious – adj. – found by chance or accident
sansculottic – adj. clothed inadequately, or in some improper fashion
terriculament – v. – to inspire one with groundless fear
ultra-crepidarian – n. – one who offers advice or criticism in matters beyond his scope; an ignorant or presumptuous critic

velleity – n. – a mere wish or desire for something without accompanying action or effort
xenium – n. a gift given to a guest
yepsen – n. – the amount that can be held in two hands cupped together; also, the two cupped hands themselves
zoilus – n. -an envious critic

If words and dictionaries fascinates you as much as it does me (and, apparently, Ammon Shea), Reading the OED is highly recommended as an amusing, quirky book.

~ Melissa F.

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