Ink Soup: THE PLAGUE OF PEDANTORRHEA
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- A touch of that old patrician disease, gout, this morning led me rashly to take an indocin tablet without, as the label clearly recommends, cushioning its fall into my person by first ingesting food or milk. This resulted in a spell of mental confusion, which I exploited for the usual purpose of composing an INK SOUP.
What I've been up to, lying on the sofa with Latin dictionaries, books of catchphrases, dictionaries of euphemisms, &c., might make one wonder whether the old mind has not been affected by more than inept self-medication.
It began with a friend's telling me the French phrase meaning "dragged by the hair" - capillotracté. (This is not of course from that brand of French endorsed by the Academy; don't bother trying to look it up.)
I thought of converting this, with no great effort, into a faux Latinate phrase: capillotractate. As for instance in the sentence: "The more capillotractate of Torricelli's contributors naturally demanded greater quid pro quo."
And that led to ... well, you are about to suffer the penalty of being one of my readers by seeing to what it led. A spate of outrageously illegitimate coinages (spurimoneti) based upon nothing more than an old Greek major's recollection of all the classical learning he shed along the way. He may be a cruentostult, bloody fool, but he expects that you will, as usual, judge him less harshly than he judges himself.
Examples of usage save a ton of explanation:
"The reporter, while faithfully recording the President's answer to the effect that no loyal American need fear the establishment of a Homeland Security Force, looked at the chief executive with an insolently nolimedonate expression on her face."
The word nolimedonate means exactly what it says: "Don't give me that!"
"Vice-President Cheney, asked by reporters to explain why he had accepted a suite overlooking the former Enron Field in Huston, replied with his usual inoculoporcine expression that he never went to baseball games. Seasoned White House correspondents understood this to mean that he would answer the awkward question in a pig's eye."
Those who had been educated after the 1940s, when Latin had more or less vanished from the curriculum, excuse me, the course of study, were naturally puzzled (naturoconfundate).
Dr. Soup, from whose notice I was hoping to conceal the topic of this column, just came in to ask whether I thought it a good idea for him to accept the invitation to address the Gay Pride gathering next week. "Of course," I told him. "Hilarosuperbia is one of the worthiest causes of our time."
"Hilaro..." he began, and then, his face red with pleasure, bounded out, sliding down the bannister as he trilled the word: "HilaroSUPERBia! I'll do it!!!"
To readers who think, not without reason, or better, nonsinerationally, that I am an asinusequi (translation bleeped), it can only be objected that I have been a long time revenging myself on those monsters who compelled me to work through the sinuous periods of Cicero to the explosive final word.
All of this and much much more (multusmultusplus) will eventually find its way into the column, I am very much afraid.
But there now. We have come to the bottom of the page and I am, in the nick of time, clangosalvate, saved by the bell.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.