Jean Croker Petke

A Query for Mr. Webster

We’re an irregular pair, Charlie and I.  She’s younger, I’m older. She’s an artist, I’m an accountant (not exactly, but I could be). She loves improv, I create spreadsheets.  She pursues convoluted paths; I search for the most efficient route between Point A and Point B.  She’s a painstakingly meticulous writer, studying her craft before putting words on paper. I write first, then study, and finally edit my learnings into my work.

Charlie and I met by accident when we each made our maiden appearance at a writers’ group and she sat next to me. Unbeknownst to us, this was a group of romance and science fiction authors. They admittedly didn’t know what to do with creative nonfiction writers. Throughout the evening we muttered to each other since most of the discussion didn’t apply to our work. We discovered we are quick-witted, dry-humored, and incredibly funny.

After a few months of writing together Charlie and I formed our own group. We work hard and laugh outrageously. Others drift in and out of our group, coming, we suspect, for our entertainment value. As Charlie and I throw irreverent barbs across the table they seem reticent to jump into the conversation. Our deep respect for each other is not always obvious.

Enter Marcia, a professional critic I hired to provide critique on my “work in progress,” which she does ably and constructively.  “I believe that a more lyrical style is called for,” she wrote. I begin to laugh even before I finish the sentence. Actually I guffaw.

I call Charlie. “That’s hilarious, absolutely hilarious!” she chortles.

Neither of us is surprised at Marcia’s assessment. Charlie stresses that her own writing is too lyrical. I struggle to get beyond the bare, bottom-line, cut-to-the-chase facts. Our writing styles are an on-going source of late-night conversations. I envy her style.

“Being lyrical is genetic,” I spoof to Charlie.  “It must be. You have it and I don’t. If I had that gene my writing would be better.”

She thinks I am serious about this genetic stuff. It’s just wishful thinking on my part.

“My writing needs more lyricality,” I continue.

“Lyricality?  You just made that word up, didn’t you,” she retorts.

“Of course I did!” I reply, pleased with my originality. “Lyricality – yes that’s what I need.”

We spatter the word throughout our remaining conversation, testing our verbal acuity.  We like the way it resonates through our phones and wraps around our tongues.

As soon as we hang up I pull Webster from my shelf of reference books. How many variations of lyric are in his book of words? Exactly eight: lyric n, lyrical adj, lyrically adv, lyricalness n, lyricism n, lyricist n, lyrism n, and lyrist n.

Lyricality is not there, nor are any of the other words arriving in my brain, breaking through like the sun on the first day of creation. Because I am a genetic list maker, I gather my new words into an email for Charlie.

  • Lyricity n: the state, condition, or instance of drama or exuberance
  • Lyricality n: lyricity
  • Lyricatiousness n: over-the-top emotional expression
  • Lyritome n: a large, scholarly work highly regarded for its lyric content
  • Lyrismatic adj: having the characteristic of lyrics
  • Lyricotometer n: an instrument for measuring the lyrical quality of prose or verse; the unit of measure is a Charlie, with “one” designating the lowest possible lyric content and “five” the highest level of lyricism
  • Lyricient n: (a) one who is skillful in creating a lyrical response, (b) one who is genetically lyrical, a lyricist by birth
  • Lyricate vb: to be lyrical, expressive, emotional in art form, (b) to make lyrical
  • Lyrication n: the process of being lyrical in song, prose, or verse
  • Lyricable adj: in a lyric manner
  • Lyricability n: lyricism, containing intense personal expressions, feelings, or emotions
  • Lyricy n: the condition of being a lyricist, not to be confused with lunacy
  • Lyricious adj: highly expressive, exuberant, emotional
  • Lyricite n: one who plagiarizes the lyric creations of others
  • Lyritard n: an article of clothing, patented by The Tony Company, guaranteed to intensify your lyrismatic state

Now that I have identified and defined these words, I feel certain they will appear in Webster’s next edition.  Just in case, I am sending this list to him today, noting their first day of usage was October 13, 2009.

Until next Tuesday . . .



One Comment - Leave a Comment
  • Linda Dingus -

    Yes, You and Charleigh are very entertaining together and I enjoyed every meeting we had. On the other hand I was there to learn and learn I did, so I thank both of you for expanding my knowledge of writing.

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