Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reading the OED

Ammon Shea has a new book out, entitled, "Reading the OED." Yep. He spent a year reading the entire OED, and he has highlighted some of the "most obscure, hilarious, oddly useful, and exquisitely useless gems he discovers along the way." If you remembered from one of my early submissions here, it was Shea who introduced me to the early citation of "epicaricacy" (Bailey's Dictionary). The other dictionaries defining "epicaricacy" merely listed the definition, and therefore one had to wonder about the legitimacy of the word. It was Ammon Shea who led me to the 1700's Bailey's dictionary that contains the word. I have seen "epicaricacy" in black and white. So Shea is a linguistic hero to me.

A few of the great words in this book follow. Remember, "epicaricacy" won't be among them because it has never been in the OED:

"Pavonize" - To behave as a peacock might - Shea says: "Which either means to flaunt one's appearance in a vain fashion or to peck at the ground in the hopes of finding bits of food and to clean one's hindquarters with one's mouth."

"Xenium" - A gift given to a guest - Shea says this about that word: "It is a very delicate balance to strike, this business of giving a gift to someone you do not want to offend and yet whom you also do not want to encourage to stick around too long. Unless you are one of those unbalanced individuals who actually enjoys having company, I would recommend xenium such as a pair of used socks, something that says 'Here is a gift - please go away.'"

Or how about "Forplaint" - Tired from complaining - Shea says this: "It can indeed be tiring to constantly remind the world at large that it does not quite live up to your exacting standards. We should recognize those among us who are forplaint and thank them for their selflessness in trying to better our world with their ceaseless haranguing and nitpicking."

Oh, for you logophiles, it's a fun book!

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