Neil Hester

All poems © Neil Hester unless otherwritten

Location: North Carolina, United States

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Are You Unbepissed?

A couple weeks ago, I finish reading a book called Reading the OED: One man, one year, 21,730 pages. The book was a really entertaining light read, in part because the author (and reading superstar), Ammon Shea, has a pretty good sense of humor, but mostly because it contains a great variety of interesting words. The qualities that make these words interesting are diverse: some words are surprisingly pragmatic, some are surprisingly unpragmatic, some are hilariously defined, and a few are beautiful words, plain and simple.

I discovered this book after Dan Schneider, a friendly acquaintance of mine, suggested the word “Apricity” as the title for a poem I had written. I searched the word on Google, and this book is the first thing that popped up, in a book review that highlighted some of the words in the book, including “apricity.” Here’s the meaning:

Apricity (n.) The warmth of the sun in winter.

The book is organized like a dictionary: from A to Z. Before highlighting words from every letter, Shea writes a few pages about this or that, ranging from a description of how monstrous the OED really is (according to him, reading it is akin to reading the entire King James Bible every day for two and a half months, God forbid!) to a recounting of a conference for lexicographers, which didn’t seem particularly exciting to me. But, for Shea, it was exciting, and his enthusiasm for as strange a task as reading the OED is fortunate, since he gleans some really entertaining material from its tomes. Here are some highlights from the book (with the occasional inclusion of his comments, which accompany each word highlighted in the book):


Airling (n.) A person who is both young and thoughtless.

All-overish (adj.) Feeling an undefined sense of unwell that extends to the whole body.

It is rare that we are presented with a word simultaneously so vague and so useful. The next time you call in sick to work because you simply do not feel like going, all-overish presents the perfect description for what is ailing you.

Bemissionary (v.) To annoy with missionaries.

Debag (v.) To strip the pants from a person, either as a punishment or as a joke.

Disasinate (v.) To deprive of stupidity.

Gastrophilanthropist (n.) “A benevolent purveyor for the appetites of others.”

Happify (v.) To make happy.

Jive-ass (n.) “A person who loves fun or excitement.”

Upon first glance I was skeptical of this sense listed for jive-ass, never having known of it being used to refer to a fun person. But then I read on and discovered that the OED also states that this is “a word of fluid meaning and application,” which sounds to me like a very elegant way of covering one’s lexicographic tracks. Perhaps it is a way of saying “Don’t come crying to us if this turns out to be wrong—we told you the word had fluid application.”

Minionette (adj.) Small and attractive.

Onomatomania (n.) Vexation at having difficulty in finding the right word.

Peristeronic (adj.) “Suggestive of pigeons.” (note: perhaps my favorite of the whole bunch! Next time I see a bunch of bird crap on the ground, this is how I’m describing it)

Unbepissed (adj.) “Not having been urinated on; unwet with urine.”


With that, I’d best leave off, as the words *are* the primary highlight of the book (though I’ve still only covered a fraction of the words noted in the book). This book is well-worth reading to anyone who particularly enjoys words: as a writer, I’ve definitely gleaned a handful of exciting and usable words from the bunch.

(I wonder if there’s a good way to use the word “peristeronic” in a poem?)

Take care,