WNW: Words, Words, Words
I came across two different pieces of fun online this week. (The first I stumbled on via Maya Reynold's blog, and the other one, Melanie J sent my way, knowing I'd love it.)
I couldn't pick between the two, and since they both deal with vocabulary and words in general, I'm using both today.
I learned a new word this week: Mountweazel.
A Mountweazel is a word or entry in a book (like a dictionary or encyclopedia) that is deliberately fake, allowing the creators to track copyright violators who copy their work. If someone uses their book and the fake entry shows up, it's pretty obvious that it's a) not original and 2) they got their information from a specific source.
The term came from one such entry, in the 1975 New Columbia Encyclopedia (NCE), an entry about a non-existent woman named Lillian Virginia Mountweazel.
Her supposed bio read:
Lillian Virginia Mountweazel (1942-1973). Her biography claims she was a fountain designer and photographer, best known for her collection of photos of rural American mailboxes, "Flags Up!" She was born in Bangs, Ohio, and died in an explosion while on assignment for "Combustibles" magazine.
In 2005, The New Yorker took the name and used it to describe the concept. You can find that article HERE.
That article is fascinating in its own right. An unnamed investigator took the job on himself to figure out where the Mountweazel was in the New Oxford Dictionary. A leak claimed that the made-up word began with E. He went through all the Es and whittled them down to six viable candidates then took those words to a group of pros.
While the lexicographers weren't in agreement, the majority did pick the fake:
esquivalience—n. the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities . . . late 19th cent.: perhaps from rom French esquiver, “dodge, slink away.”
Read the full article to see how they figured it out.
The second fun bit is a long poem with a bunch of crazy vocabulary words.
"The Chaos," a poem by G. Nolst Trenite (Charivarius) has homophones as well as the opposite: words next to one another that are spelled similarly but pronounced totally different.
From the fourth line: "corpse, corps, horse, and worse"
It gets really crazy. Read it aloud and see if you can do it 100% correctly. I've got pretty decent-sized vocabulary, but I didn't quite make it. Two words I didn't know at all, and a couple I looked up quickly to see if I was pronouncing them right.
One word I can thank Dr. Oaks for teaching me:
VICTUALS is not, like many (and I used to) think pronounced like "VIC-TOO-ALLS."
Check out the whole poem HERE. It's a riot.
Reading it reminded me of those spelling protesters. They'd have a field day.