Neologism. Sounds dirty, doesn't it? Maybe because the word "gism" is in it. Call it what you want, but it means "inventing new words." At least that's my definition. And one of my word inventions, "eburline," was brought to my attention by a woman friend of mine who I had said had eburline skin. She said she Googled the word and got The Daily Growler past posts that used the word, again mainly to describe a woman's skin.
The word, of course, I stole. Surely I did. From a past reading. Otherwise there's no way I could have ever realized the true source of the word. Yes, I invented it, but it comes from the word "eburnean."
|Made of or relating to ivory.
But I swear I'm not a true neologist. I know I saw the word eburline used somewhere in my past reading. It sounds like a word a writer like Larry Durrell would use. I am a great admirer of Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, a quartet of books that are a magnificent look at colonized Egypt and characters surviving in the vicinity of Alexandria--a place I've always wanted to visit and had a chance to back in the early 2000s when my favorite men's clothing purveyor it turned out was from Alexandria and owned an apartment building on the main thoroughfare that runs between the city and the Mediterranean--just down from where the great lighthouse used to stand. When I told him I'd always wanted to experience Alexandria, he said I could use his apartment any time. Of course, unless you strike while the iron is hot, you lose. He who hesitates is lost. And that's what happened to my chance opportunity to live in style for a couple of months in Alexandria, it poofed away into a could-have-been tale. My friend closed his New York store and disappeared. I figured he probably moved back to Alexandria...or maybe Milan. All of his clothes came from Milan. And what nice duds they were, too. Even his shoes were cool. I bought my one and only suit from this guy.
My mother's invented word was "shipittle." My mother left the world of sin--that including jitterbug and Charleston dancing; playing a hell of a stride piano; or singing in a little Betty Boop voice--for the world of Jesus. In the world of Jesus, saying anything profane was a big sin--like saying the word SHIT in anger. Now shit's a common everyday word. I may say it a hundred or so times a day--especially if I'm pissed--or even in everyday conversation, "What the shit's goin' on?" It slips off my tongue with almost the same ease as fuck does among my closest friends. I do curb my tongue with fuck in polite company, though I am prone to continue to let SHIT slip no matter the occasion. "That's a crock of shit" is one of my favorite rebuffs. Or as George Carlin and Socrates would have put it, "What the shit does that mean?" Though in that case, Carlin and I and probably Socrates, too, would have substituted fuck for shit for more gleeful rebuke. Socrates maybe: "Why the fuck do thou want me to rebuke thee?"
And, yes, my mother's invented word was a substitute for SHIT. SHIPITTLE. Not pronounced like "spital"; nope, "ittle" as in little. Shee-pit-tle. The S.H.I.T. is in there but I suppose mom figured God or Jesus didn't know English that well to figure out she was really simply saying SHIT the righteous way.
The first time I heard mother use her word...I was 16. I was a smartass. I usually stayed in my room and listened to my records and read and wrote my stupid little juvenile tales in my schoolboy notebook that I kept hidden in my closet in a chest where I kept my taboos--my pipe tobacco and my Custombilt pipe I'd "borrowed" from my brother's tobacco shop pipe display--my girly magazines--my playing cards and my dice. But then I met this girl. I called her Wanderer...her name was Wanda. At first it was phone acquaintance...talking long hours about teenage nonsense, whatever, "Well, what do you like to do? I mean, like, you know, do you like movies?" And one day after school I got Wanda to ride the city bus home with me and I talked her in to riding it all the way out to the end of the line in the north part of town--and then we'd ride it back home. Full circle on that bus took about an hour and that gave me plenty of time to start moving on the Wanderer, you know taking her hand, maybe telling her she's pretty, then maybe a quick kiss, collected fast while the rest of the riders weren't paying attention to us. And then near the end of the line we had the bus all to ourselves and finally I got serious and tongue kissed her and she responded with her tongue and next thing you know I'm inviting her out on a date and she's saying she'd love to go on a date with me. I'm excited. One time kissing her I pulled her to me and her dress slid up and exposed one very well-sculpted young leg, up to the thigh, enough to drive me batty as hell. And I got batty as hell when I asked mother if I could borrow her Nash for the date and she turned me down. She was washing dishes. She was feeling her oats. She'd just come back that afternoon from her first trip ever to a professional beauty salon where she'd had her hair coiffed. That's why she needed her car, she said, she was going to a big food-tasting affair--my mother was a nutritionist and supervisor of the school lunchrooms of a large air force base just outside my hometown. This food-fair-tasting thing was a big occasion where her types got together and sampled new types of foods presented to them by various food suppliers and then they chose the nutritionist of the year and my mother was the master of ceremonies so that's why I couldn't use her car. "But, mother, this is big for me...this chick...I mean I've wanted to date her for so long now...come on, mother, get one of your nutritionist sisters to pick you up." "No and that's final," she suddenly blurted, tired of my pestering her. She stomped her foot when she said that NO. I don't know what it was. Something inside me. The devil maybe making me do evil against my mother. Breaking one of the Ten Commandments God gave Charlton Heston on that papier-mache Mount Sinai--"Honor thy father and thy mother..." and your days shall be long or something like that. I didn't really think about what I did. It wasn't premeditated. Oh, no, I was an improviser even way back then, so, yes, it was spontaneous. I grabbed the dishpan full of soapy dishwater out of the sink and before either of us knew what was happening, I dumped that dishpan of soapy dishwater straight up, over, and down over my mother's pro-done hairdo-ified head. The first word out of her mouth was SHIPITTLE. Then she stomped off to the bathroom, locked herself in, and started bawling like a maddened baby.
My dad's invented word was "hooded." "That son of a bitch tried to hood me this morning." What he meant was a combination of "hoodwink" and "pulled the wool over my eyes." I once joked with him when he drove up with a big dent in his Cadillac's hood. I said, "Hey, dad, did somebody hood you there?" "Please, son, don't be a smartass like your brother and Uncle Grady."
Other words I've invented. Let's see. I had a friend who used the word "finoogle" all the time though I don't remember how he used it. Duffy was his name. Taught himself to dance by dancing with a broom to Arthur Murray tapes.
I remember reading a mystery novel by the Swiss writer Friedrich Durrenmatt. I don't remember the story but I remember this one line..."It was a dundrearied morning...." That word dundrearied has fascinated me ever since. Looking it up I found the word "dundrearies" means "side whiskers."
Of course thousands of new words are invented every day. Bowl yourself into a gaggle of modern teenagers--you'll hear words you have no idea what the hell they mean.
Speaking of babies reading books...I love that commercial on teevee where the straight dude is selling his babies-can-read DVDs and software. He shows a bunch of 2-year-olds who can't remember their full names yet reading books. "What's that word, sugar?" "Shit." "No, no, no, Ship not Shit, you little creep." I'd love to have a bunch of 2-year-olds read my poems on stage. You know, while I sipped some Fundador off in a corner directing them by using a special spoiled-child control rod..., "Little Billy, read or I'll whack your behind to the tune of twenty licks...." And in that quaint little bubble-mumbly two-year-old voice, Little Billy reads--with a slurp and a spital-drooling gurgle:
"Ugly tombs bleed
in tombstone tumblers.
The smell of dead breath."
"Very good, Little Billy, for that you get to go on an all-day retreat into the woods with Father Flotsky and the Saint Suspicious Novitiates Choir."
I don't know...I rather liked my Uncle Herman tale of true events that ran over the past weak end...anyway, now that I've put my word-inventing machine away, I'm gonna listen to some Wardell Gray (Who?).
Wardell Gray. One of Prez's bop-childs. Listen to "Blue Lou" from 1947 with Errol Garner on the piano. Died in a car crash near Vegas way back in the fifties--he and Dexter Gordon were a team--just gettin' famous when Wardell left us.
Plus, an old ML ballplayer from my baseball days, Cal McLish, has been given a free pass on into baseball heaven. Check out Cal's real name from his Wikipedia entry:
Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish (December 1, 1925, Anadarko, Oklahoma – August 26, 2010) was a starting pitcher in Major League Baseball who played for the Brooklyn Dodgers (1944, 1946), Pittsburgh Pirates (1947–1948), Chicago Cubs (1949, 1951), Cleveland Indians (1956–1959), Cincinnati Reds (1960), Chicago White Sox (1961) and Philadelphia Phillies (1962–1964). He was a switch-hitter and threw right-handed.
Cal's father was 3/4 Choctaw. My second wife was 1/4 Choctaw and she, too, had a long-flowing name like Cal's.
for The Daily Growler