It’s thought that we acquire pretty much the whole of our working vocabularies by the time we’re 18. We can and do, of course, learn new words after that but the knowledge of them, our comfort with them, does not flow as deep. It is hard to identify them from a standing start – naturally enough, precisely because they are not amongst those fully accessible to your consciousness. We have to stumble across them and be reminded. “Oh, yes!” chimes your internal voice. “That’s…that word I keep reading but have never said aloud, whose meaning I roughly know, generally get the gist of from the context and sail on from hoping for the best but I’m buggered if I’m going to risk deploying it myself in conversation any time soon.” Or something.
I came across two of my own in this week’s submissions. The first is “chronotype”, from RobertG, which refers to the time of day at which you are predisposed to be most active mentally, physically and – if the farther reaches of science, neuroscience and psychological research are to be believed – morally and ethically too. I knew this. But I didn’t know it, you know? But I’m hoping that having been re-introduced in this manner, it will be promoted to a higher rank in my word army. It will come in very handy when I have to explain to my child’s nursery school teacher why I have forgotten to bring his hat/reading book/fancy dress costume again. “I’m sorry – I’m a natural night owl. Entirely the wrong chronotype for childrearing. My bad.” That should confuse her for long enough to make my escape.
The second is “cynosure”, a person or thing that is the centre of attention or admiration. So, perhaps, “Elizabeth Taylor – cynosure of the 1950s”. Yeah, I think I’m getting it! “Jon Hamm, cynosure of everyone with eyes.” “Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers, the cynosure of my life.” I reckon it’s in there for good now. This is a happy day.
Tgipaul submitted “snet”, meaning the fat of a deer. Thanks to a great early love of The Children of the New Forest and Captain Marryat’s cleavage to the principle later summarised by director George Roy Hill as “audiences love ‘how-to’”, I’m actually quite good on deer. A stag is a brocket until it’s three years old, a staggart at four, a warrantable stag at five and a hart royal – has a more splendidly evocative phrase ever been coined? – after that. Oh, and its edible organs are “umble” – an inferior meat to the venison also yielded and eventually the begetter of “humble pie” and the need to eat it when you have been shown to be wrong and/or humiliated. AREN’T we all learning a goodly amount today, forsooth, good sirs, hey nonny?! But – I arrive panting at my destination via a route as circuitous as any forest poacher’s path – I didn’t know “snet”. But at least I have the perfect place to file it. Thank you, tgipaul, and thank you Captain Marryat.
As I sit here sweating and drooping in this disgusting weather, I leave you with a word that should serve you well in what the meteorologists are vilely promising will be nearly six weeks more of the heatwave; Prabodhgupta’s “hotmid” – a melting together, like two scoops of ice cream under the baking sun – of “hot” and “humid”. Even a syllable of saved effort is worth it in these enervating times.
Oo, “enervating” is another one I sorta do, sorta don’t know – did I get it right? Let me check. I did! The day ends in triumph. I’m off for a cold shower. See you again soon.