Sometimes I feel as though I have spent my entire adult life preparing for a Trivial Pursuit Olympics – and then slept in when I was supposed to show up for the qualifying heats. All sorts of shards of useless information rattle around in my head: what was Charles Dodgson’s pen name, who was John Quincy Adams’s Secretary of State, what were the dates of the Paraguayan War of the Triple Alliance, who is buried in Grant’s Tomb, and so on.
An opportunity to add a few more fragments is always welcome, which is why I find the weekly email newsletter from World Wide Words so satisfying. Mind you, I am not receiving any gratuities for this advertisement, but it really is a splendid display of linguistic erudition. The editor, Michael Quinion, a British word enthusiast, is to be congratulated.
Just in the last month I have added the words abecedarian, magnoperate, aliment, gamp, and mastigophorous to my vocabulary. Not that my ignorance had in any way handicapped me, as most of them are obscure, dialect, or academic drollery. Mastigophorous seems to have been created in about 1800 and was last used in print in about 1842. But you never know: someday a jocular word meaning a “a pedagogue who is over-fond of corporal punishment” may be just the ticket in a game of Scrabble.
This is very useful stuff. If I happen to be at a loss for an icebreaker at my next cocktail party, I am going to test whether my companion likes or floccinaucinihilipilificates how Mr Quinion has improved my vocabulary.
On to more important matters. So far this week, we have added four articles to the website. Dale O’Leary questions whether children are as accepting of same-sex parents as gay activists claim. Robert Reilly applauds the recent decision of the Boy Scouts of America to ban open homosexuals. Emma-Kate Symons asks how the French political elite have time to run the country and also to star in soap operas about their own lives. And finally, I have a few comments on the tragedy in Colorado last Friday.
Finally, we are about to launch a blog about movies called Popcorn. It will be edited by Ronan Wright from Belfast. For a sneak preview, click here.
PS – floccinaucinihilipilification is “the act of deciding that something is totally and utterly valueless”. There IS a useful word.