Fans of Ernest Hemingway may recognize this column’s title as the title of his 1964 memoir A Moveable Feast. The OED definition of a “moveable feast” is a religious feast day that does not occur on the same calendar date each year. However, our use refers to the change in popularity of words.
Most people prefer to use words instead of grunts and overused four-letter standbys. Unfortunately, the nosey folks who tend to have self-esteem or overinflated ego-driven issues prefer the latter.
If you are a frequent reader of this column, you might have guessed this writer is a proud logophile. She is a person who loves words. A word nerd, if you will. However, she does not go to the extreme lengths as some folks do.
Do you think intentionally reading the dictionary is an unusual avocation? Probably. But please note countless folks do so. Hubby’s father was one. If you bother to ask, you may find that several of your friends or relatives are logophiles as well.
Another more prominent fellow also comes to mind: Dr. Ralph Bienfang, a pharmacy professor at the University of Oklahoma. Whenever publishers issued a new dictionary, he took it upon himself to read it. Then he wrote the publisher and pointed out the errors he found.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has had a prominent place on this writer’s books she wants to own. But with the internet, she modified her desire by coveting an online subscription to the OED.
English words are moveable feasts. Their popularity and use surge and wane partly because of relevance, historical context, and country.
There is nothing more eye-opening for an American than spending time with British or Aussie friends. Our overseas cousins by language are far more creative and colorful while cussing or in their general vocabulary than the puritanical and unimaginative Americans.
Some of this writer’s favorite British words are “Bugger” – a jerk or a fool are the milder meanings. “Blighter” – something or someone viewed with contempt or envy. Other definitions include cad, rotter, or swine. In the grand scheme of things, it is relatively mild. Another is “Bloody” – a medium and widespread word meaning Bloody hell. It carries a great deal of vigor.
Americans rely on a dull and overused word that begins with the capital letter F. Why, do you ask, is the word capitalized? For some reason, people think if they speak in capital letters (also known as shouting), everyone will pay attention. Big surprise. No one cares. When you shout, you can bet they will either yell over your word-spewing or ignore you.
If you happen to be a budding logophile, we recommend subscribing to Word of the Day on wordgenius.com. A free subscription brings you a word by email. For example, today’s was “Tohubohu” (toh-hoo-BOH-hoo), meaning a state of chaos or utter confusion. It appeared around 1619 with minimal use and popularity over the years to the present.
Do you want to stir up a bit of mischief? Drop that word into your next conversation, just to mess with peoples’ minds. There is nothing like a blank stare, especially from folks who consider themselves intellectuals. For example, due to COVID, tohubohu describes the state of the world.
Since COVID arrived on the scene, some phrases became ubiquitous. The front runner is “social distancing.” It fits into the politically correct headspace. But, when we engage the brain, things are not so clear.
Our good buddy, the dictionary defines “social” as needing companionship. Or an informal social gathering. On the other hand, “distancing” is the process of disconnecting from something or someone. The “geniass” thought and speech dictators glued together two incompatible words demonstrating their ignorance.
As we learned, to our dismay, the segregation of people from one another is unhealthy and unnatural. Yes, we realize that isolating folks keeps them from spreading COVID. But such separation has already caused far-reaching damage to the mental and emotional health of the population.
When discussing “government,” “useless representatives” pop up. Those geezers resemble Yoda before he faded into the mists of The Force but not as wise or productive.