BECOMING BETTER

Jean Croker Petke


Strange Writers

We writers carry things around in our heads, in the midst of other seemingly  normal activities. We notice tiny things like how the wind turns a leaf on a fall day. We make up stories about café strangers. We ponder plots and techniques for moving our story along. When we’re together we talk about how to get our words on paper and the routine and discipline of writing.

In the midst of those lunch discussions, words sometimes fall onto the table — words we’ve run across in our reading, words we want to incorporate into our usage, words that are used incorrectly in newspapers and on signs.

And so it was last week when Charlie and I met for our regular writing session.  “Anonomical,” she said, in the midst of a subject I can no longer recall. Her look changed from regular to quizzical.

“Anonomical?” I asked, trying to figure out what she meant. “I don’t think that’s a word.”

“Anonomical,” she said again. Her tongue was somehow betraying her brain, but she was powerless to get the two in sync.

“Do you mean anatomical?” I suggested, trying to solve the word riddle.

“That’s it!” she said. Her faced relaxed. We shared a good laugh.

“You’re not supposed to do this,” I reminded her. “I’m the queen of made-up words. You told me so yourself. Remember?”

When I got home I pulled Webster off my shelf. A-n-o-. . .

Anode, anodize, anodyne, anoint, anole, anomalous, anomaly, anomi, anon, anonym, anonymity, anonymous, anopheles, anorak, anorectic, anorexia, anorexigenic, anorthite, anorthosite, anosmia, another, anovulatory, anoxemia, anoxia.

Perhaps I wasn’t spelling it right. I look under a-n-a-n-. . .

anandamide, anapest, anaphase, anaphor, anaphora, anaphoric, anaphrodisiac, anaphylactic, anaphylaxis, anaplasia, anaplasmosis, anarch, anarchic, anarchism, anarchist, anarchy, anasarca, anastigmat, anastomose, anastrophe, anat, anatase, anathema, antomise, anatomize, anatomy, anatropous.

Sure enough, anonomical is not a word. But it should be. It rolled off Charlie’s tongue without so much as a slipped vowel.

So what might ananomical mean, now that we have it?cropped-DSC00341.jpg

  • the physical state of unidentity
  • having no distinguishing, structural characteristics
  • without characteristics
  • unable to be sorted, categorized or classified by structure, genetics, or function

In my world, new words appear by accident — never with planning or forethought. A slip of a tongue, a mixed metaphor, scrambled syllables, misconnected brain neurons — who knows what happens in the split of a second.

But now that we have a new word, it will continue to creep into our conversations.

Someday, Webster will catch up with us.

Until next Tuesday . . .

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