Friday, September 27, 2013

Ennui (WOK Blog Entry #5: Words that are and should be)

Some words are like caviar, or what I imagine caviar to be.  A little too rich for the blood, a little salty and, with every bite, that soft whisper reminder, “You’re eating fish-eggs!”  I’ve never had caviar.  I’m a little horrified at the idea of caviar, to be honest.  In like mind, I’ve never used the term “ennui” without that wink-wink acknowledgment that it’s a little too refined for me, without the half-shrug, the exaggerated facial expression mocking the word, mocking myself, the situation.

But, at the same time, I love the word.  It’s luxurious, it’s rich…it’s caviar!  Yes, yes, I know.  I’m going to break down and try some caviar one day…and I’m going to hate it.  It’s fish eggs.  I can guarantee I will hate it.  But the word is everything I imagine caviar should be.  

And it’s not just the sound of it, the feel of it…its French beginnings evident in the blur of its vowels…its definition feels equally rich, luxuriant.  The word belongs to the rich.

Ennui:  A feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom.

Doesn’t it conjure visions?  Images of wealth, excess; the privileged few who have never known anything other than utter contentment?  Who are, in turn, anything but?

I imagine a room in white, bamboo floors, carpets embroidered with silver thread, a winter-white sun glittering through flimsy gauze curtains.  I imagine a woman, a pale coral flush of skin, the casual slip of a white-shift cotton.  Her ears, neck, wrists are bare, diamonds forgotten on a cluttered end-table.  
There are books on that end-table, titles rubbed to nothing on the worn cloth covers, progress stalled with bookmarks at beginning, middle, end; there are unused tickets clustered together with torn ticket-stubs, nattered edges and accompanying playbills unfurling from the memory of a once tight-fisted hold; a casual collection of dust and disinterest.  

Sometimes there is a man, legs crossed in an egg-shell recliner, an olive-oil sheen of skin, dark hair.  But his eyes are just as distant, his hands loose around a set of keys he will not use, equally content to stay as he is to go and equally unhappy.

Their eyes drift but never seem to see each other; nevertheless perfectly aware, drifting around each other in graceful arcs in the light of a never-ending afternoon.

It is a beautiful scene (not beatific), pale and cold and perfect.  I think it little wonder I struggle with the word.  

It feels the opposite of myself, I with the peeling red skin, frizz-away hair, thick frame.  My books are scattered on end-tables, yes, but also on the floors, on the counter-tops, tucked into my bed, in the crease of my chairs, my bookmarks shifting with the day, the month, the year.  My ticket-stubs are all torn, tattered, playbills thumbed through, smoothed flat, kept carefully lest the memories themselves find creases.

It feels disingenuous to claim the word “ennui” for myself.  Perhaps that’s why I resort to the wink-wink half-shrug methodology.  It feels as foreign to my lips as those diamonds would feel on my fingers, in my hair.  

Still, I like diamonds…as much as I’m sure I’d hate caviar.  I’m not giving up on ennui quite yet.

Maybe someday, after I become a rich and famous author (when dreaming, dream big), I’ll actually know what ennui feels like.  And maybe then I’ll be able to use it, mean it, own it.


Blogger’s Note:  I love the word “ennui” but I really do feel like a poser when I try to use it.  So I don’t use it much, save for those moments where sarcasm seems appropriate.  Still, it’s an elegant word and, as stupid as it sounds, just like a little girl dreams of diamonds or a young woman silk…I want this word.  I want to own it, feel it, let it drop from my lips as easily as I might say “fox” or “rabbit” or “mediocrity.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

Delumination (WOK Blog Entry #4: Words that are or should be)

The English Language is a funny thing.  It grows.  It changes.  Grammar shifts.  Words are created, made obsolete, made new.  Members of my critique group have called me out on archaic terms more than once.  They're always right, even when they're wrong.  After all, an archaic term in an archaic world?  Totally okay.  (Even if the words totally and okay are not).  Take that archaic term and push it out to the year 3095?  Unless you're going for a post-apocalyptic Victorian cross-breed...then maybe you need to update the vocab.  (And, yes, I anticipate "vocab" will be all the rage in 3095).

I have been on both ends of that spectrum.  What can I say?  I like old words.

This one is new.  It's not a real word, not yet.  But it has made its way into the Urban Dictionary (, edging one step closer toward the ultimate goal of making the Oxford or Webster.  After all, if muggle can make it...why not delumination?

Delumination.  The act of making dark.  To dim.  To diminish.  To obscure. 

Perhaps you wonder why we need a word such as "delumination."  After all, we do have those other words, wonderful words...dim, diminish, darken.  I like them all.  And they even start with the letter "d."

I suppose it's connotation for me.  I think of lights dimming.  I think of life diminishing.  I think of the night darkening into the delicious deeps of Winter.  I think of those words as somehow gentler than I intend delumination, a moderate action, a graduated incline. 

Delumination, for me, is the overt act; it is the sudden dark, the idea made moot, the heart stopped mid-beat on a Tuesday. 

This is, perhaps, an arbitrary distinction.  Can you really assign connotation to a made-up word?  I can, have, do.  It is, after all, my blog.  I'm allowed to be arbitrary.  That's half the fun, right? 

Blogger's Note:  

A short post tonight, and a confession.  I debated delumination.  I wondered if there was a better word for "d," a word that didn't have such wonderful (and dictionary-proven) synonyms.  But it was, again, the first word (non-word?) that came to mind when I thought about "d"...accompanied by thoughts of the Phantom of the Opera (the musical)...that opening line:  "Maybe we can frighten away the ghosts of so many years ago with a little...ILLUMINATION!"  

A burst of light and then...darkness!  

And I thought, wow, how awesome is that?  The contrast between the words spoken and the true intent of the actors instead invite those old ghosts (or their stories) with the delumination of the house-lights, stage-lights, a sudden dark like that last breath before hitting the water.

Yes, I like musicals.  And I just went on vacation to New York.  Can we say Broadway?  Hmm?

So...delumination.  Not real...not yet.  But maybe someday?  

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Cantilever (Wok Blog Entry #3: Words that are and should be)

And then there are those words that hang about in one's brain...undefined but unforgotten.  Words are like that.  Haphazard.  Random.  You pick them up like playing cards in a game of 52 Card Pick-Up, fumbling to shove them into some semblance of a deck as you replay the precipitating conversation in your head and try to figure out how you were so easily duped.  Order doesn't matter; just the rough shape of the thing as you thrust it back at your snickering companion/parent/aunt

But always there's a card, one thin slip of cardboard that gets missed, caught between floorboard and trim, in the shadow of a coffee table, under your own foot as you turn to scan for strays.

That's the one you put in your pocket later that day after everyone has gone home or gone to bed, the one you slip into a book as a bookmark or the bottom drawer of a jewelry box.  That's the one you remember.

I have a few words like that. 

Cantilever is one.  I picked it up off of a TV show years ago.  Some cheesy kids' show that is otherwise forgettable.  The protagonist of the story had a poetry assignment for school and decided to cheat, allowing a computer to do the work for her.  The end product was a seemingly random string of words and phrases that nonetheless shoved her into the spotlight as a genius kid poet thereby creating the ethical dilemma that was the basis of that particular episode.

I don't remember the outcome of the particular plot but, given the genre of "cheesy kids' show," I imagine it involved a confession and some semi-parental warning regarding honesty.

I took from it Cantilever.

And it has been in my head ever since. 

As a kid, I didn't take my words to the dictionary.  That was sort of like cheating and it was a pain.  The family dictionary was old, utilized mostly for Scrabble games with my father (the one board-game he actually seemed to enjoy) and, at least according to him, was missing words.  And I had given up asking the family to define my words for me. 

I have a clear memory of being maybe 8 years old and reading one of the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary.  They were early favorites but I was still young and struggling with what today would seem very simple vocabulary.  I found myself pausing every few words to ask someone what this word meant, that word.  After a few indulgent (read longsuffering) replies, I was eventually told to read around the words I didn't know or get the dictionary, and figure it out myself.   I was assured I would enjoy the book much more that way. 

For the most part, I did.

But I developed the habit, not necessarily a good one, of creating my own definitions for things and/or leaving some words rattling about my head undefined.  Cantilever was one.  I had always suspected, given the context of its usage in the show, that it referenced curvature or possibly refraction of some sort.  After all, its usage in the show was a bit of computer-spawned poetry:  cantilevered rainbow.

When I realized I was at "C" of the blog challenge, Cantilever is the first word that came to mind.  It had been rattling around in my head for years.  I like the sound of it, the feel of it in my mouth.  Yes, words have a feel to them, the way your throat closes at the back to form the hard "C", the subtle shift of tongue between the "n" and "l" sounds, the puff of air required to make the "t" in between. 

And I was curious to know, once and for all, what the word meant. 

Cantilever.  A long piece of wood, metal, etc. that sticks out from a wall or other structure to support something above it like a balcony or a bridge.  ( 

No curves.  No refraction.  A support.  The beam beneath the bridge; the arms of a cheerleader locked against the gravity-weight of her teammate; the dictionary definition rising up against a failing vocabulary.

I can live with this.

I can love it.


Blogger's Note:  I struggled with this one.  Cantilever is the word that came immediately to mind for "C".  It has been bumping around in my brain for years.  But what was it about 'Cantilever?'  In the end, I decided it was the sheer number of years I've gone without really knowing what it means.  I think I got a bit rambly, but I figure that a blog - if a blog indeed has a purpose other than the obvious shout-out to the world at large - is an opportunity for a bit of self-exploration and maybe a bit of self-education while I'm at it.  Why not, right?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Beatific (Wok Blog Entry #2:  Words that are or should be) 

For the longest time, I thought 'beatific' was a mis-spelling of the word beautific.  The latter is not actually a word.  I'm sure people use it.  I know I've heard it.  It's not, however, an interesting word.  After all, beautific would equate to beautiful.  And beautiful, as a word, isn't interesting.  Over-used, it's a throw-away descriptor.  Any writing teacher worth their salt is going to tell you to avoid it like the plague, unless you're describing the plague.    Pustules, pretty pustules, are interesting.

Beatific, on the other hand, is a fascinating word.  It has action associated with it.  Giving bliss.  That's how my absolutely massive dictionary describes it.  Saintly.  It’s a reflective word…one that keys into the speaker rather than the one so observed.  I have spent some time trying to define beatific for myself.  I have used it rarely, only once per recent recall and that in mocking reflection of a one-time friend.  Not my finest moment, as a writer or as a person.  

There are reasons I don’t share all of my work.

But ‘beatific,’ that which gives bliss…what is that?  The preacher at the pulpit?  That first glimmer of pink before the sunrise?  Is that bliss?  Or merely something beautiful?  The preacher is certainly neither.

That first breath of a new bookstore, perhaps, paper and ink and a million undiscovered adventures.  A theatre in the dark, that moment after the curtains go up and the first note rises up from the pit, full of possibility and hope and an evening of forgetting.  Maybe it’s the moment you hit send on a submission, in one instant both published and not, either outcome equally possible.

Maybe none of these things.

Beatific.  Giving bliss.  I think I’m still looking for something that fits.

Beatific.  A real word.  Huh.  

Blogger’s Note:  I discovered my beatific/beautific error a few years ago and have been half in love with the word ‘beatific’ ever since.  Oddly enough, I have used it rarely and only in negative connotations as outlined above regarding my one-time friend.  But the word itself is a positive one and I do keep searching for that space where it fits…positive and affirming…in my writing.  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Antemath (WOK Blog Entry #1: Words that are or should be.)

Antemath.  The state of being before an event, especially one of significance.  That which comes before the mowing.  A first-growth crop.

Late June, early July, a field of sunflowers.  The darkening glow of a summer afternoon.  A thousand golden faces tipped toward a retreating sun.  This was Sacramento.  A summer day.  A handful of moments rescued from a day otherwise filled with obligations and polite work-conscious chatter.  

I think of this field when I think of the word 'antemath.'

I think of grasses grown thick, the spongy feel of the morning beneath bare feet.  I think of split ends and the wild electricity of hair on a humid day.  I think of first dates, all that hope and expectation; fear.  I think of first-born sons, daughters, marriages, all the promises the world has to offer.  I think of a classroom, glue sticks and glitter, the day before the gunman enters.

I was in Sacramento today, attending yet another work meeting, traveling this time with a coworker, a friend.  I tried to articulate the wonder of that stolen moment, a field of sunflowers on an afternoon otherwise insignificant.  There were no words sufficient.  And the field long since culled for harvest.   

Blogger's Note:  Antemath is not a real word.  I wish it were.  It fits in my mouth and in my mind as if it were, folding itself around a concept I do not otherwise have a name for.  This is perhaps evidence that my vocabulary is lacking in some part.

Still, for the sake of the blog challenge, I have decided to focus my attention on words...words that are and words that should be.  'Antemath' is a should be word.

I was actually a little bit surprised to find out it wasn't a real word; less surprised to find I was not alone in using it.  Good words are good words, no matter what Webster says.