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In Search of Wordsmiths

Not many of us — probably no one, actually — sits around reading a dictionary for entertainment. Well, neither do I. But I read a lot though; newspapers, magazines, books, of course, and on the occasional dull morning even the back of my favorite Frosted Flakes box. And when I run across an unusual or strange word (no, not on the Frosted Flakes box) I jot it down. And then I go to the dictionary.

It fascinates me how carefully selected words, placed in proper sequence, form meaningful sentences. So, here we go folks.

The peripatetic worker, an anomaly due to his visage, which was really outré, or maybe sui generis left town due to lack of joie de vivre. Before you start yelling “O’mgosh, Ken must have overdosed on his morning Frosted Flakes and is now speaking in tongues,” let me assure you that all of the words in that paragraph are real, found in a dictionary, and not one written in some foreign language, but in a good ‘ol U.S. of A. edition.

So… follow me here, word by word.

Peripatetic: itinerant. Picked this one out of an article tracing the story of migrant workers over the last 50 years.

Anomaly: inconsistent or odd. This is a fairly common word likely to be found in newspaper or magazine editorials or opinion columns.

Visage: appearance. This came from an article on former Pope Benedict, commenting on his affection of 18th century type hats and his red Prada shoes.

Outre: outrageous decorum; eccentric; unconventional; extravagant. This comes from a story about a prominent architect and his latest mega mansion creation.

Sui generis: unique – no explanation required.

Joie de vivre: great enjoyment of life. This word was in a touching human interest story on the less fortunate in life — whether physically, mentally, financially or socially, who treasure what they have.

While wordsmiths are thrilled when the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary gets a cover-to-cover overhaul every decade or so, they also anxiously await the annual updates which usually include the addition of 100 or so new words. These words are already used in everyday language and are understood without need of a translation. But doesn’t “man cave, sexting, game changer, bucket list, cloud computing, tipping point, or even F-bomb” now found in the dictionary, pale in comparison, to one of my favorites: bon mot – a witty saying.

So here’s a suggestion: flummox your friends and neighbors with your casually tossed out “raison d’etre.” Grab your dictionaries folks, you’re on your own here…