The first entry in The Superior Person’s Book of Words, by Peter Bowler, is ABECEDARIAN. It has two meanings:
i. Arranged in alphabetical order
ii. Elementary, devoid of sophistication.
Superior persons, it seems, do not ‘fuss-about’ with mundane entries like Aardvarks or other double-voweled list-leap-frogging words, they favour the obscure and archaic. It’s not a word designed to trip easily off my tongue. What trick will lodge it on the easily-to-hand shelves of my memory?
Oh those dusty shelves. Forget the endless virtual library in my head, I can’t remember how this book came to rest amongst my physical books. Maybe I bought it. I usually remember which books I’ve been given.
But enough digression, it’s time to be purposeful. Why am I rabbiting on about superior persons when I’m so clearly failing to meet the bar? Because the second entry in this book is: ABECEDARIAN INSULT. It means exactly what it sounds like, an insult arranged in alphabetical order. Peter Bowler provides one:
‘Sir, you are an apogenous, bovaristic, coprolalial, dasypygal, excerebrose, facinorous, gnathonic, hircine, ithyphallic, jumentous, kyphotic, labrose, mephitic, napiform, oligophrenial, papuliferous, quisquilian, rebarbative, saponaceous, thersitical, unguinous, ventripotent, wlatsome, xylocephalous, yarning zoophyte.’
Try reading that aloud, it’s a tricky flow. Only seven words are not underlined by the spell-checker. I’m not sure how to pronounce most of it. However, I did like the translation:
‘Sir, you are an impotent, conceited, obscene, hairy-buttocked, brainless, wicked, toadying, goatish, indecent, stable-smelling, hunchbacked, thick-lipped, stinking, turnip-shaped, feeble-minded, pimply, trashy, repellent, smarmy, foul-mouthed, greasy, gluttonous, loathsome, wooden-headed, whining, extremely low form of animal life.’
The spellchecker doesn’t like buttocked, but accepts the rest. I’m sorry the ABECEDARIAN aspect has been lost.
The language is a little antiquated, I wonder if I can be offensively eloquent without using swear-words or obscenities? Don’t take the following personally:
‘Addled basket case! Digest effluent, foul gibbering halibut. I judge knowing liars malignant numbskulls of putrid qualities: retract scandalous talk, undo verminous words. Xenophobe, you’re zero.’
Hmm, maybe I’m a ‘rasorial searcher after words’:
RASORIAL: Constantly scratching around in search of food, like a fowl (or a sister’s boyfriend). Pronounced more or less in the same way as risorial (laughter provoking) and rosorial (rodentlike; gnawing). ‘I’m sorry if I sometimes seem ambivalent in my attitude to your mother, Natalie; it’s just that I find it very hard to make up my mind whether I see her as essentially rasorial, rosorial, or risorial.’
I wonder how ‘elementary and devoid of sophistication’ it’s possible to be when creating an ABECEDARIAN INSULT?
I think I could develop this. Apply some of the ‘5 Ws & H’ to it, and character might grow. After that, who knows…
I’m beginning to see ABECEDARIAN INSULT as an oxymoron… a word to shelve in the reference section of my virtual library, and dust off occasionally.
As for the book, who knows what other potential ‘warm-up’ exercises are lurking amongst it’s pages?
*Painting: William Baptiste Baird, 1847 – 1917