Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Lexeme or Two

In an uneventful life, getting the Word of the Day e-mail from is an event. Sometimes, however, in the midst of more momentous events, the Word of the Day is overlooked, and a lengthy queue forms in my inbox. And so, the other day, having survived the storms and upheavals of relocation and safely returned to the doldrums of life, I sat down to go through the accumulated lexemes. I had no idea my inbox was full of lexemes until the word – which means a unit of language; a word – appeared in my inbox.
   That explains why the Word of the Day seldom makes me feel exceptionally stupid, and I can go on knowing I’m stupid, but only in a mediocre way. I’d never run across lexeme before, but so what? Chances are I’ll never use it. Although…
    “Oh, Tom, you luscious hunk of manhood, is it true you were a two-time All-American at Stanford and have three PhDs from Harvard and another from Yale?”
   “Yes it is, my sweet.”
   “I give you my lexeme.”
   See, lexeme is out of place in ordinary conversation.  That does not, however, alter the fact that attractive, libidinous women ordinarily assume that I am a world-class athlete and noted scholar. You have my lexeme on that.
   Which brings to mind another word: hircine. It is an adjective, according to Word of the Day, and its third meaning is “lustful, libidinous.”  But to get to lustful and libidinous, you have to go through the first two meanings: “1, Of, pertaining to, or resembling a goat; 2, having a goatish odor.” If that doesn’t drain all the lustful libidinousness from you, nothing will.
   Some of the words in Word of the Day are words I was better off not knowing; words such as fard, which means to apply cosmetics.
   “Hurry up, honey, we’re going to be late for the dinner.”
   “Give me a minute. I’m almost ready.”
   “For Pete’s sake!. You’ve been farding around for an hour.”
   The words I’ll never use, even in the unlikely event that I remember them, just keep on coming; first there was ephebe. For a word that means “a young man,” ephebe has a definite feminine quality. It’s hard to imagine the Marines looking for a few good ephebes. The person who walks into a biker bar and says, “Wow, look at all the ephebes in their leather jackets,” probably won’t walk out. And the congressman who rises in the House to praise the fine ephebes in his district will be accused by FOX News of trying to advance the gay agenda.
   Brisance means the shattering effect of a high explosive. But, is the average person feeling the effect of a high explosive likely to comment on its brisance? Or are his remarks more apt to begin with “Oh shit” and race downhill from there?
   All these words, according to one Word of the Day e-mail, are selcouth, which means strange or uncommon. And for better or worse, the selcouth words in my vocabulary are outnumbered by the uncouth words.
   Strangely, while the words of the day I don’t know rarely make me feel dumb, the words of the day I do know always make me feel smart. Yesterday’s word was besot, and as soon as I opened the e-mail I was besotted with pride because I was familiar with the word.
   But the real allure of Word of the Day are the days it makes me feel exceptionally brilliant. A recent word was pococurante. As a noun, Word of the Day said pococurante means caring little, indifferent, nonchalant; as an adjective it means a careless or indifferent person. A pococurante, who somehow matched the definitions with the wrong parts of speech, must have been the editor that day. A few days later, the word of the day was luxate, which means to put out of joint or dislocate. All of the Word of the Day words are accompanied by two or three quotations in which the word is used. For luxate, the editors selected a sentence from The Royal Society of London, The Philosophical Transactions and Collections, a name that makes MENSA sound like a bunch of high school dropouts. The sentence read: “But at the same time, he thinks the bone will not remain in it’s place, but luxate itself again.” The Royal Society confused it’s and its, and the people at Word of the Day failed to insert [sic]. But I caught the mistakes.
   And that’s why I look forward to the Word of the Day e-mail each morning

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