Yep, I’m ripping on the language again. I can’t help it, it is what I use to THINK, so when I find myself without the means to properly wrap my head around something, I blame the tools. Lately I’ve been running into a lot of situations that seem like I should have been able to enunciate them with a single word, but either I didn’t know it, or it didn’t exist. I can’t just let that go undocumented.
The thing that first brought this to mind was when a member of The Brain Trust announced the birth of his son. After congratulations were dispensed, I remarked to yet another member of The Trust that we were now pseudo-uncles. You know, non-uncles likely to be referred to as uncles. This is a concept that seems like it should have an official term, but if there is, I don’t know it. Pseudo-uncle just doesn’t do it for me. I don’t like hyphens. Nothing personal, it is just that I prefer my words to be 100% pure letter. I’d suggested fruncle, but fruncle sounds like one of those parts of your body that doesn’t need a name but has one anyway. The little flap in front of the ear canal would be a fruncle.* At first I though this is what a dutch uncle was, but it turns out that’s just a person who gives really harsh constructive criticism. Which means that while I now know that Dutch family reunions are really irritating for nieces and nephews, I am no closer to finding a decent term for my relationship to my buddy’s son.
Another concept that needs a word is a derivative of a concept lucky enough to get one. You know that sensation of having done something before? It has been given the handy name deja vu.** The only trouble is, increasingly these days I will have a deja vu in which the sensation of deja vu is PART of the deja vu. That is too complicated a concept not to have its own word. The engineer in me wants me to call it a deja vu squared, or a recursive deja vu, or a meta-deja vu. They all work… except that last one which has the accursed hyphen… but they are all fairly long. The most artful suggestion I’ve heard was deja deux. As a matter of fact, I’m going to go ahead and proclaim that to be the official term.***
The final unnamed situation is a the most complex of them all. Let’s say you are drinking milk. Someone else is drinking Sprite. You, not paying attention, grab the Sprite and take a swig, expecting milk. You figure out you are drinking Sprite pretty quick, but for a brief instant you get the intense feeling that something has gone horribly wrong with your milk. It is profoundly unsettling. Along the same lines, and potentially properly referred to by the same as yet undecided term is the sense of betrayal you feel when you have ordered food and are eagerly anticipating it, hear the doorbell ring, and rush to the door only to find it is a salesman or a census taker or someone with a subpoena. That needs a name. Again, my brother suggested “Taste Tease” or “Tongue Tease” or things of that nature, but I’m not sure I support those suggestions. I don’t know, they just don’t quite cover it.
We all think in a language, and limiting the language limits, or at least slows down, our thinking. As a guy who has barely enough time to ponder the important things, like how on earth my belly button gets so stinky so quickly, I can’t afford to string together two or three sentences to describe a common occurrence. I realize it is generally my perogative to provide the answers to the questions I pose in these articles, but like I just said, I’ve got this belly button conundrum to work on. Besides, you can’t come to me for ALL of your answers. Toss some terms around, try to come up with a catchy one, then drop a line in the comments and we’ll vote on the best. It is either that or I’m going to have to deal with these stupid hyphens… How I hate them…
*It is actually called the antitragus.
**I’m not putting the flapper-doobers over the e and the a. If you French people out there want me to start typing your fancy letters correctly, you can send me the special French keyboard. Stupid flapper-doobers… worse than hyphens.
***And as long as I’m acting unilaterally, I’m going to proclaim that it is correctly spelled without the flapper-doobers. Take that, L’Académie française!