Thursday, April 3, 2008

I don't get it

I don't understand why "epicaricacy" isn't an accepted English alternative to "Schadenfreude." It first appeared in Nathaniel Bailey's Universal Etymological English Dictionary; the first edition was published in 1727 and it went through 20 or 22 subsequent editions. I don't own that dictionary, but I've seen it, and indeed the word is there, though spelled differently (it was the 1700s for heaven's sake; lots of words were spelled differently!): Epicharikaky - A joy at the misfortunes of others. The etymology is from the Greek epi (upon) + chara (joy) + kakon (evil).

Ammon Shea, a co-author of "Depraved and Insulting English" writes on Wordcraft: "I have seen it in a number of other books with what appears to be the modernized spelling. I can't remember all of these sources off the top of my head but aside of Mrs. Byrnes it also appears in a book of obscure words by Paul Dickson. I think Joseph Shipley may have it in his Dictionary of Early English. I'm hardly a scholar in such matters but I would say that the words in Bailey's Dictionary are rarely hapax, imaginary or inkhorns. Although he compiled his dictionary shortly after the inkhorn craze of Phillips, Blount and Bullokar he seems to have taken a somewhat more grounded approach to compiling his word list and would see no reason to doubt the authenticity of the word."

Currently, there are 6,230 Google hits for "epicaricacy," and it is cited in the following online dictionaries, cited by Onelook: Wikipedia, Worthless Word for the Day, and Luciferous Logolepsy. Funnily, it is entered into Wiktionary every so often, and then removed. On Wordcraft alone we've mentioned it 291 times, and it's mentioned countless times on Blogs. I couldn't even name my Blog "Epicaricacy" because the name was taken.

So what's up with the OED, and other dictionaries, refusing to cite it? There are lots of words (over 5,000, I am told) listed in the OED that have only been cited in dictionaries. So what's the problem with "epicaricacy?" Is this some grand scheme against a perfectly good word?


Kalleh said...

I have one correction, and as a new Blogger, I haven't figured out how to make corrections. The 5,000 number is incorrect. The correct statistic is that there are 1400 words, or senses of words, that are cited in the OED, and yet have only been included in other dictionaries...not in literature or other writing. Indeed, 14,000 words in the OED have only been cited in one other place, besides other dictionaries. There is no doubt that "epicaricacy" belongs in the OED. I also wish we'd begin to use it more frequently.

seanahan said...

There should be a little pencil next to your posts when you are logged in, which will allow you to edit your posts. I tend to put an "EDIT:" note, although some people prefer to strike-through text that is changed. I suppose appending is also a good approach. I disapprove of editing without leaving the original in most cases.

As for the S-Word, we've been fighting against it at Wordie, with little success. Our attempt to not refer to it by name didn't work. It remains the #1 Wordied word by a large margin, about 33% over the second place word. Casual Wordies think it is great, only the hardcore hate it.