My friend and colleague Christine Lindberg is a senior editor of dictionaries and reference books at Oxford University Press—my nickname for her is “Wise One.” She also writes a bi-weekly language column called Let’s Look at the Language for a local newspaper near her home in upstate New York. One of her New Year’s resolutions was to choose twelve unusual words and use one in a column each month.
The words are:digitabulist—n. a person who collects thimbles ensorcell—v. to enchant or fascinate fricative—n. or adj. the sound of consonants such as f and th gaberlunzie—n. a strolling beggar of medieval Scots origin haruspex—n. a religious official in ancient Rome who interpreted omens by inspecting the entrails of sacrificed animals longanimous—adj. long-suffering, patient noisome—adj. smelly (a word frequently mistaken to mean noisy) salvific—adj. leading to salvation scop—n. an Old English poet or minstrel treen—n. articles, usually antique, made of wood ugsome—adj. a Scottish expression for horrible or loathsome Usonian—adj. relating to the United States
What word nerd could resist writing a bit of flash fiction using all of these delicious words? Not I.
Trust me, as a longanimous Usonian digitabulist, I know what hard times are. I have little choice but to embark upon a salvific journey, hoping for enlightenment. First stop, town haruspex, of course, who predicts an ugsome odyssey and hands me some sticky, noisome treen he claims has the power to ensorcell—which I don’t believe for a minute, but I thank him politely as it’s expected.
Weary and disoriented after a month’s peregrination, I seek guidance from a group of scops. Entertaining, yes—but by their refusal to communicate in anything but iambic pentameter, they simply confuse me further. I toss them the treen. “Fricative!” I cry. Am I doomed to the life of a gaberlunzie for eternity?