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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Word Up!

We just received three new books about language and thought it would be fun (ok, what we mean is that it would be fun for us) if we each chose one and shared our favorite words. I chose I Love it When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech. Tracy was lucky enough to read through Foyle’s Philavery: A Treasury of Unusual Words. That left Jesse with Weasel Words: The Dictionary of American Doublespeak. It was a coincidence, Jesse, promise!

Overall, Weasel Words has a strong right-leaning agenda with a healthy disdain for the dreaded “academic and governmental bureaucracies” whom, I suppose, these folks spend their time raging against. Maybe not for everyone, but either way, Weasel Words does contain some interesting phrases. Jesse’s favorite is “pulse,” which the authors define as “an inside the beltway term for pestering, as in ‘why don’t you pulse the Department of Justice about that?’” I think I’ll “pulse” Tracy to fix my grammar.

I was especially tickled by the entry on mattresses in the furniture section of I Love it When You Talk Retro. It seems that before the insides of mattresses were monitored by any sort of law, many new owners would wake up itching. I suppose that this is why the phrase “Don’t let the bedbug bite” first appeared. States started to require that a list of mattress contents be attached to new mattresses. This solved the original problem and opened a whole new can of bedbugs. It seems that the warnings against removing the content labels were so dire that the mattress-buying public was afraid to do so. A whole generation of mattress label hilarity was born.

Now, not to steal Tracy’s thunder, but I did find two words that I couldn’t resist in her book, Foyle’s Philavery. Bedizen means “to ornament or dress up in a gaudy and tasteless manner,” as in, Jethro has bedizened his lawn with one too many pink flamingos. Blennophobia also caught my eye. It refers to “an abnormal fear of slime or mucous,”as in, Sally’s blennophobia took hold when she was confronted with the ten-foot tall giant slug.

Tracy, who unfortunately had to go to the dentist, chose an especially apt word: haptodysphoria. This quirky word describes “an unpleasant sensation felt by some people in response to certain tactile sensations." Tracy said that she has a friend that experiences this around cotton balls, but I think she was foreshadowing something that happens at the dentist! Her other word of choice? Dringle. Dringle “means to linger, to trickle, or to expend time lazily or slowly.” I must say that this one might be my new favorite word. In fact, I think it might be my own personal mantra: dringle, dringle, dringle, dringle…

Foyle, Christopher. Foyle’s Philavery: A Treasury of Unusual Words. Edinburgh: Chambers, 2007.
Keyes, Ralph. I Love It When You Talk Retro: Hoochie Coochie, Double Whammy, Drop a Dime, and the Forgotten Origins of American Speech. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009.
Wasserman, Paul and Don Hausrath. Weasel Words: The Dictionary of American Doublespeak. Sterling, VA: Capital Books, Inc. 2006.

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