YfL1: Gaudiloquence

Here is some news.

I have a new column. Every Monday (starting with the Monday just passed, the 22nd) I will be in the New Indian Express’ educational supplement, EdEx, talking about things related to the English language – such as dictionaries and swearing and the like. I’m (clearly) not an expert on any of this, but I love it anyway. The column will be called Yell for Language (see what I did there?) The Practically Marzipan column will hopefully continue uninterrupted.

(An edited version of the piece below appeared in EdEx on the 22nd of February)


Gaudiloquent: Speaking joyfully or on joyful matters

A few years ago I was wandering around a natural history museum and was accosted in front of a display about bees by a man who was clearly a bee expert of some kind. I know nothing about bees, and don’t particularly care to learn, but it was the best thing that had happened to me all week. This man was utterly convinced as he spoke that bees were the most fascinating, joyful topic he could imagine, and I was convinced that other people’s enthusiasm was one of the nicest things in the world. We could all do with a little more gaudiloquence in our lives.

The subject upon which I am inclined to be gaudiloquent is the English language. There is such capacity for happiness in English – a language which contains words like “gaudiloquent” clearly expects the people who speak it to feel joy, or they’d have no occasion to use it.

Just leafing through dictionaries or coming across English words that have fallen into disuse can make me happy. A few months ago I “adopted” a few words of my own, vowing to use them in my day to day speech and bring them back into use. I’m particularly fond of “sinapistic”, an adjective that is used for something that consists of mustard, and that is just nasal enough to remind you of that feeling you get, when eating strong mustard, that something has shot up your nose. Then there’s “redamancy”, meaning an act of loving in return. It’s a gentle word, and one that could not simply be replaced with “love”; that the love is reciprocated is what gives redamancy its air of quiet confidence.

Then there are words that are easy to slip into conversation, like “roomthily” (pertaining to space), or “woundikins” (mild profanity), or “murklins” (in the dark). We don’t use these words much, and we could quite well get along without them, but why would we want to? I can well imagine myself describing someone as “vultuous” (having a sad or solemn expression), partaking of a “prandicle” (small meal) before bed, or complaining of the “austerulous” (somewhat or slightly brutal) nature of my gym instructor, all these commonplace statements somehow elevated by these wonderful words.

But perhaps the best of all the the words you can never imagine having reason to use. Like “ficulnean” (worthless information regarding fig-tree wood). Or “frutescent”, whose definition (having or approaching the appearance of a shrub) is singularly pointless, since surely if something looks like a shrub it probably is one. Then is there any real reason to fight to keep these words in the language? None, except perhaps that they contribute to the sum total of joy in the world. Which is really the best reason that there could possibly be.


7 Comments to “YfL1: Gaudiloquence”

  1. i read your saturday article a couple of week back.nice.usually columns about the language tend to be a bit superlative.i like that you write in simple english.so let me see.free

  2. thats one of the beauties of english

  3. Wonderful! I hope you enjoyed writing it as much as I enjoyed reading it (which was immensely)

  4. Soin, Buddy – Thanks.

    Celine – I got to look up silly words for "research"!

  5. That's the beauty of research :-)

  6. Just discovered your blog and I am in love. Thank you!

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