The Words of July 2012

Fourteen “Words of the Day” from the last month.

Part 1 — (Definitions and Origins. Date of First Known Use in English Taken from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, except where noted)

7/2: Sumpsimus [SUHMP-suh-muhs] (noun) adherence to or persistence in using a strictly correct term, holding to a precise practice, etc., as a rejection of an erroneous but more common form (opposed to mumpsimus). Origin: Like its counterpart mumpsimus, sumpsimus comes from a story about an illiterate priest. In this case, sumpsimus refers to the opposite practice as mumpsimus. First Known Use: 1540-50 (

7/3: Surfeit [SUR-fit] (noun) excess; an excessive amount: a surfeit of speechmaking. Origin: Surfeit is a very old English word. It is recorded as early as 1393. It comes from the Latin roots sur- meaning “over” and facere meaning “to do.” First Known Use: 14th century

7/9: Scherzando [skert-SAHN-doh] (adjective) playful; sportive. Origin: Scherzando comes from the Italian word scherzare meaning “to joke.” It entered English in the early 1800s. First Known Use: c. 1811

7/18: Beguile [bih-GAHYL] (verb) to influence by trickery, flattery, etc.; mislead; delude. Origin: Beguile is derived from the Middle English word bigilen, from the root guile meaning “insidious cunning.” First Known Use: 13th century

7/22: Integument [in-TEG-yuh-muhnt] (noun) a natural covering, as a skin, shell, or rind. Origin: Integument stems from the Latin root tegumentum meaning “a covering.” It is also the root of the dinosaur name stegosaurus. First Known Use: c. 1611

7/27: Intrapreneur [in-truh-pruh-NUR] (noun) an employee of a large corporation who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services, systems, etc., and does not have to follow the corporation’s usual routines or protocols. Origin: Intrapreneur was coined in the 1970s as a variation of the more common word entrepreneur. The prefix intra- means “within.” First Known Use: 1978

7/30: Usageaster [YOO-sij-as-ter] (noun) a self-styled authority on language usage. Origin: Usageaster is derived from the word usage and the suffix -aster which refers to something that imperfectly resembles or mimics the true thing. First Known Use: Not found

The story goes that a monk, habituated by years of repetition, persisted in using the nonsensical word mumpsimus during the Eucharist rather than sumpsimus (Latin for “we have taken”). Thus, mumpsimus came to be used for incorrect beliefs, practices and especially word usages that remain common despite all attempts at correction. The irony of the word sumpsimus is that using the definition mentioned above is etymologically incorrect. The word has been directly transposed from Latin but has been given a completely different English definition. I find this amusing, but certainly not damning to the word. We got the word shibboleth in a very similar way. Now, for the meaning of the word itself, anyone who enjoys the study of writing or grammar should be familiar with this. Personally, I’m beginning to loosen up, recognizing the malleability of language. When an incorrect term or phrase becomes universal, something is lost, to be sure, but it’s also possible that something will be gained. If there’s anything I’ve learned from these word studies, it’s that language is constantly being reinvented and expanded. For those of you who love engaging in sumpsimus, it may be profitable to examine why you do.

Surfeit is both very old and magnificently durable. It’s still fairly well understood today. The etymological sense “to overdo” explains a more specific definition of the word: the uncomfortable feeling that comes after overeating. Surfeit can also be used as a verb, of course. One may come across as slightly pretentious by using it today — depending, as always, on the context and the user’s overall breadth of vocabulary. But it appears in a great deal of classic literature, so it’s a great word to know.

Scherzando is related to scherzo, a musical term denoting a light, fast, playful piece or movement within a larger work. Scherzo is quick and to the point, whereas scherzando feels incongruously unwieldy. There is no shortage of alternatives to convey the idea, making scherzando, in my mind, really more of a curiosity.

Beguile, the other old word on this list, has aged just as beautifully as surfeit, and perhaps even more so. Beguile is pretty commonly used as well as known. “Guile” itself has a fantastic look and sound to it. The definition uses the word “influence,” and others use words like “enchant” and “lead.” To beguile is not simply to lie to someone, but to cause that person to act in a certain way. It is to manipulate, to hypnotize. The word itself is beguiling me at this very moment; I love it, even though it describes an evil act.

Integument is extremely Latin. Scientifically, it serves the purpose of covering (sorry for the pun) any kind of outer coating. The integumentary system for a person consists of skin, hair and nails. So the word is best used when describing all of those things as a group.

Entrepreneurs take risks for themselves as they try to innovate, whereas intrapreneurs do the same things but under the aegis of the companies they work for. First used about twenty years before the inception of Urban Dictionary, this word is a precursor to how many Urban Dictionary words are formed. We see the modern tendency to take a common word and tweak it every so slightly to make a different word which requires no effort to define. This is a decent example, though.

I’ve been unable to find any further information on the word usageaster. My guess is that it’s one of the newer words on this list, second only to intrapreneur, perhaps. At any rate, it’s a remarkably appropriate word for these blog posts. I may be something of a usageaster, but I’ve tried to make it clear that I’m sharing my opinion more than authoritative fact. Smart readers can take these thoughts or leave them. But I love the idea of this word. It takes me down a peg.

Part 2 — Urban Dictionary

7/2: (noun) something considered antiquated or eliciting nostalgia, but that in relative terms is a quite recent phenomenon; typically dating back no earlier than the year 2000. A variation on the term “old school.” Definition contributed in 2012

7/3: Fronting (participle) acting like you are more, or you have more than what really exists. Definition contributed in 2002

7/9: Dreamathon (noun) the act of hitting the snooze button over and over again and having a different dream every time you fall asleep. Definition contributed in 2012

7/18: No Collar (noun) the new, exponentially emerging class rising up in America consisting of often over-qualified but unemployed persons. Definition contributed in 2009

7/22: Troubabore (noun) a bad street musician. Definition contributed in 2009

7/27: Olympic adoption (noun) the act of changing which country you root for in the Olympics. Usually done when your home country’s team is terrible. Definition contributed in 2010

7/30: Prosopobibliophobia (noun) Facebook phobia, or having an aversion to all things Facebook. Definition contributed in 2012

The evolution of technology has accelerated to nearly blinding speeds now. Not so long ago, something had to be from the previous generation to be considered “old.” With the Internet and personal communication devices changing all the time, now something from a mere ten years ago can be seen as antiquated. I like the term, playing as it does off “old school” while reminding us of the already somewhat old-fashioned practice of typing web addresses — partially replaced today by search engines and links on social media. If the acceleration of technology continues, itself will be antiquated and obsolete shortly, but it provides a good joke for right now.

Many Urban Dictionary words seem to exist only within the confines of that website, but fronting is common slang out in the real world. It refers to a misrepresentation of oneself; namely, putting on a front or disguise. The definition listed above includes the idea of puffing oneself up, or bluffing one’s way out of a situation. Incidentally, a person who uses the word fronting probably wouldn’t use the word “one” like I just did, at least not in the same paragraph.

I can’t say I remember experiencing a dreamathon as it’s defined above, although I have hit the snooze button, fallen back asleep and dreamed. It’s just the doing it multiple times that sounds like an amazing experience but hasn’t happened for me. Dreams, and by extension the mind, are really interesting this way. Five minutes is not insufficient time for a fully-formed dream. As for the word itself, it’s a pretty good blending of two other words.

The recession, obviously, is responsible for the coining of no collar. Equally obvious is the fact that no collar plays off “white collar/blue collar.” Sometimes I think these paragraphs are pretty superfluous. Anyway, no collar makes for an effectively despondent joke.

What I love about troubabore is how it plays off such an old idea. The word “troubadour” originated in the eighteenth century, but it’s used in reference to medieval poet-musicians. On Urban Dictionary, which sometimes seems obsessively contemporary, this is a pleasing addition. It’s still a bad pun, though.

Nationalism is king during the Olympics, for all the talk of world peace and unity. But Olympic adoption certainly does occur. Choosing a new team to root for happens all the time when a person’s own favorite team doesn’t make it to the championship. For me, I enjoy olympically adopting even when Team USA isn’t “terrible.” (You can cheer for three different athletes/teams to win medals, you know.) One great thing about the Olympics is how it calls other cultures to our attention. Besides, one of the joys of sports is rooting for the underdog, and smaller countries tend to be underdogs.

Prosopobibliophobia afforded me the opportunity to play amateur etymologist. “Biblio,” of course, is Greek for “book,” and “phobia” for “fear.” “Prosopo” can mean “face,” as you’d expect, but in other forms it’s more likely to mean “person.” This is magnificent, because if we know anything about Facebook, it’s that users extend their personalities onto it. It truly is Personbook, or at least ThePersonIPretendToBebook. While prosopobibliophobia can refer to someone with a Facebook account who fears logging on for whatever reason, I find it more appropriate for the group of people, still large but seeming to shrink all the time, who don’t have an account. Their fears of loss of privacy, the time commitment required, the overexposure of memes — these are all rational in themselves, but compounding them all into intense anxiety would make it a phobia. The term appears biased against anti-Facebook types. Time will tell if they were actually right all along.

During a recent dreamathon, I was beguiled by a fronting usageaster, spewing a surfeit of sumpsimuses in the style of a troubabore.

The time has come, I feel, to discontinue this feature. I’ve grown tired of it. For the most part, it’s felt like I’ve been closely examining individual grains of salt for hours on end, rather than sprinkling that salt on a meal and then eating the meal. There are enough words in the language to keep me doing this forever, but I’d rather free some time to do other things. I hope these posts have been at least a little enjoyable and educational for some. They’ve been fitfully fun for me, make no mistake. I may continue to write posts similar to these every once in awhile, just not every month. Thank you so much, as always, for reading.

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