John Clark celebrating the beginning of Cabin Fever, an annual rite of Northern New England nuttiness. It’s the time when supposedly sane human beings do all sorts of seriously funny and occasionally scary things. Best friends are at each others throats, armed guards are required at town meeting (more about that come March), sweet church-going folk channel Jack Nicholson’s performance in the Shining when the pothole/frost heave index goes above a certain level and the night echoes with werewolf-like howls under a full moon.
As writers, this event provides endless grist, particularly for short stories and we’re wise to take advantage of it. Good stories can fall in our lap almost at will, but we need to be willing and able to tuck these nuggets away for future use. Last week, I had breakfast with a very diverse group in Augusta, thanks to an invitation by a former co-worker and long time friend. One fellow, who had a pretty important job before retiring, dropped a gold nugget in my lap and had no idea how great a plot it would make for a short mystery story. It might even end up in a Level Best Books entry in a month or so. I hope all of you approach Cabin Fever with an attitude of opportunity and if you find a dandy or two, feel free to share it here at MCW.
I’ve been fascinated with words for as long as I can remember. I even attempted to read the entire dictionary around age ten. I don’t think I made it all the way through, but the vocabulary boost drove teachers nuts, much to the delight of other students. Imagine, if you will, a fifth grader asking the teacher if masticating during recess was all right, or telling her that his father engaged in flagrant philately in front of his children. It’s still fun to drop things like that on kids today.
My fascination was fired up not long ago when I saw the list of words added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2015. It got me thinking about the concept of language inflation. After all, most folks I listen to these days use a fraction of what’s included in the OED, while plenty use ones not in it, or butcher those that are.
As writers, is it not be our duty to help those less fortunate by mounting a campaign to hold the line on word proliferation? I’m proposing a campaign to keep a steady state status for the English language. Add a new word, delete one that’s obsolete, misunderstood or no longer relevant. I’m certain each of us who contribute to the blog, as well as regular readers could create a list of five words easily eliminated. If we start small with five per blog member/reader, there are bound to be duplicates. When we’re ready, we can vote for the top 50 or so useless ones and petition the folks in charge of the OED for a de-inclusion protocol.
Here are my five: integrity (modern politics has destroyed it), seersucker, houndstooth (neither is coming back in style), chastity (with apologies to the Bono family) and perambulator (heck most people can’t pronounce it, let alone define it.) On a related note, I’d start a campaign to eliminate hackneyed phrases from the language as well and ‘you know’ would be atop my list. Want to drive yourself insane, listen to an interview with a professional athlete and count the number of times this is uttered.
Below is a list of some of the words added to the OED last year as well as a link to the complete list. I chose this batch for their ‘huh?’ value and used them to create a piece of flash fiction. If you’re so inclined, write your own using my list or words of your choosing from the full list. Feel free to share in the comments section.
Antikythera mechanism, n., backronym, n., batchmate, n. bluff-charging, n., camming, n., chiffonade, v., chiffonaded, adj., chossy, adj., cisgender, adj. and n., comedogenic, adj., diabulimia, n., eliminationism, n., flocculant, adj. and n., freegan, adj. and n., gharara, n., gointer, v., hardware woman, n., heterokont, n. and adj., interleading, adj., jeggings, n., Masshole, n., nanosized, adj., papsak, n., presidentiable, n., redpointing, n., shizzle, adj., sunchoke, n., tenderpreneur, n., ubiquinol, n., utang na loob, n., whoonga, n., yarn bomb, n., zama zama, n.
Durwood Freeb detested the decidualized influx of Massholes, even the nanosized ones. Whenever he found an antique lamp at one of the flea markets he frequented, he bluff-charged it, camming the seller, usually a hardware woman or one of those reformed heterokonts so prevalent up and down Route One. As soon as he could, he’d rub it, hoping this was the one with that freegan genie inside.
More often than not he’d end up with another useless Antikythera mechanism to throw in his papsack, destined for the shizzle pile once he returned to his backronym, a three room hovel overlooking the Belfast transfer station.
Durwood hadn’t always been so dour, but after the love of his life a cisgender batchmate of his best friend, twice removed, yarn bombed him at zama zama practice when they were sophomores in high school, he’d been prone to redpointing anyone remotely comedogenic.
Eventually this flocculant condition resulted in chronic eliminationism coupled with embarrassing bouts of diabulemia. After two years of pretending he wasn’t ill, Durwood could no longer ignore the bulging gointer on his forehead.
Belfast was rife with new age practitioners. Despite his having a natural distrust of such charlatans, Durwood was so desperate he tried sunchoke therapy, but that just made him run around on hot days screaming that he was being pursued by untan na loobs who wanted to chiffonade him.
Even a stint in a steam tent drinking chossy whoonga failed to relieve his growing anxiety. He was so terrified he even went to a presidentiable rally where that tenderpreneur Donald Trump was interleading the beguiled by promising he would lay waste to the fools ruining the country
Sadly, not even the Donald was powerful enough to protect Durwood from interleading immigrants from Gharara, whose ubiquinol threats of terrorism were everywhere. “Screw this,” he said, rolling up the legs of his jeggings, “I’m hitching to Millinocket and nevah comin’ back.”