Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sesquicentennial

Blogger tells me this is my 150th post. That might take into account the odd private post I throw in, but that seems like a lot. I remember thinking when I started blogging at the new year that I was so far behind every other blogger that I wouldn't have much to offer. I'm still not sure about what I offer, but I apparently have a lot of it. Thanks to all who read it - I'm way more pleased about having readers than I expected to be.

My topic for today is weird words. Like sesquicentennial. It's one of the words I acually remember learning. I was visiting my grandparents and everyone in town was going on and on about the sesquicentennial like everyone should know what that was. I eventually found out it meant the 150th anniversary celebration of either their town or the state of Illinois. People were in an absolute tizzy over this word and worked it into nearly every conversation from groceries to gas to god. But it struck me that probably only three people in the whole town had ever even heard that word by year 148, but when the advertising started it got picked up like a rally cry despite being a a little long winded and awkward. I suppose it's 10 syllables less awkward than saying "one hundred and fiftieth anniversary celebration".

Often times the use of awkward words annoys me. I find it awkward when people use what I would consider an incorrect words in a place where a perfectly good word already exists. For instance, I have one friend who might soon be driven mad by the over use of "up" as a verb. It now appears to be inescapeable. [Tangent: I still want a T-shirt that says "Make 7up Yours" but is split to say "Make 7" on the front with the rest on the back.] My blood pressure rises when people mistake effect for affect or adverse for averse.

But other words, made up, misused, or whatever entertain me to no end. I'm not sure where I draw the line between "this is fun" and "you're a dope" but I'm not too worried about it. Here are some words that make me happy.

  1. "Sesqui" means "one and a half" and is usually multiplied with the numerical root. Kvarko had a roommate for a while who was quite taken with it and tried to work it into daily conversation. He would say things like "when I crashed my bike, it hurt like a sesquibitch." Which even now makes me chuckle.

  2. "Strategery" I like for the irony and ability for subtle mockery. Although the original use was definitely in the "you're a dope" category.

  3. Then there are the combination words that just seem to work better than the orignials. Ginormous - gigantic and enormous - adds a little emphasis and fun to a a description. Prezactly - precisely and exactly - does much the same.


I have to run if I want fresh veggies this week, but let me feel free to comment with your favorite "made up" word or your least favorite word that is being used where a perfectly good word already exists. I love stuff like this.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dude, I stole prezactly from the Jim Thompson Pop. 1280 book...I forget the context but the fellow talking was one of them thare know it all country fellers who doesn't take kindly to city folk...so in my head it is drawn out like preeezactly.

I was well into my 20s before I figured out my mom had made a hybrid of flustered and frustrated and that flustrated was in fact NOT an actual word. I just hope she wasn't wrong about vajayjay being the clinical term for hoo-hah.

QL

CrankyOtter said...

Dude, I love you.

Noemi said...

My father made up "polydiot" for someone who can be an ass in several different languages. A family fave.

Wade said...

When Texas had its sesquicentennial in 1985, I kept thinking that celebrating it was just silly. It was hard to say, and didn't quite have the punch of a centennial or a bicentennial.

Anonymous said...

Polydiot made me think of 2 insults that are near and dear to my tiny blackened heart...my husband was meeting a real estate agent who was late for their appt. *because of an appt that ran long*, what didn't lead credence to this story was the powdered sugar ringing her mouth, hence the term ~donut eaters~ was born for liars or slackers.

~ya mon~ was our code phrase in Jamaica for those unfortunate white women who got their hair braided into corn rows (no one looked like Bo Derek) or men in crazy get ups, it was more subtle than pointing at the fellow in speedos, a scarf tied on his head ala a pirate with a shirt tied in a knot just below his nipples.

QL

Lemon Stand said...

I was wondering just today if english speaking foreigners could understand our teenagers.

The use of 'shut up' to express disbelief instead of to stop talking.

The use of the word 'sweet' as an exclamation of approval instead of an adjective to describe either taste or kindness.

The use of the phrase 'the bomb' as a means to describe great appreciation instead of an explosive device.

With four kids, I could make quite a list of these.

Anonymous said...

LemonStand ~ in Southern California anything good is *bomb* to teenagers....never *the bomb*, I find it very awkward and dorky myself.

QL

lee said...

somehow absotively posilutely has come to mean truly true around here. daughter #1 is very fond of puns and the whole family spoonerizes things more or less on purpose, so a good deal gets mangled as we beat through life

CrankyOtter said...

Whee! So much fun to play with words. I also want to toss in calling avocados "avagadros". An Avagadro being the number of atoms in a mole of some element, this is sometimes entertaining to math and science geeks.

But I think I'll go off and do a new blog and try not to be polydiot.

lee said...

heh - my dad always called avocados alligator pears.