Who’re you calling a nullifidian?

The noted lexicographer Laurence Urdang has passed away, as noted in The New York Times. His major work was the first Random House Dictionary, published in 1966, which was the first to benefit from the use of a computer in its compilation. He also compiled many other dictionaries and lexicons, some of which my employer was fortunate to publish, which is how I know anything about him. But I don’t mention this because of my tenuous, six-degrees-of-separation sort of connection, but because of this paragraph, which was quoted at the end of the Times’ article, taken from the introduction of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words (1972):

“This is not a succedaneum for satisfying the nympholepsy of nullifidians. Rather it is hoped that the haecceity of this enchiridion of arcane and recondite sesquipedalian items will appeal to the oniomania of an eximious Gemeinschaft whose legerity and sophrosyne, whose Sprachgefühl and orexis will find more than fugacious fulfillment among its felicific pages.”

I think I understand about 20% of the words there, mostly the articles and pronouns. No, I do know “sesquipedalian”; that one is a long-time favorite.

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About songdogmi

I'm a longhaired almost-hippie stuck in the inner suburbs of a major rust-belt metropolis who's thoughtful, creative, and kind of geeky. In exchange for a paycheck I run around in a cubicle maze most days. When I escape, I play music, hang out in coffee houses, dink around on the computer, take naps, and think I should be off in the woods somewhere. Every once in a while I get in my car and drive far, far away, though I've always come back so far.
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10 Responses to Who’re you calling a nullifidian?

  1. I google’d sesquipedalian and discovered what it meant. I had no idea.

    Then I google’d sesquipedalian and Sprachgefühl and this post came up third.

    • songdogmi says:

      Third?? Good grief! And I don’t see the NYT article anywhere in the top 20 results on Google. But mostly, I’m impressed that Google picked up my post that quickly.

  2. hellmutt says:

    Using German is cheating, Mr or Ms Article Writer Dude. 😉

    Germans are good at making up words for things it takes several words to say in English. I’m sure they have a word for that…

    • songdogmi says:

      All’s fair in love and lexicography.

      German would have a word for it, made up up several smaller words of course. If I knew any amount of German at all, I’d try to make one up, just to attempt cleverness. Alas, what little language I did attempt in school was French (by little, I mean about one semester in college and a year in secondary school before that).

      • hellmutt says:

        Um… Wörterverbauen, maybe? 😀 I’ve no idea.

        French would say it in more words, but more prettily. “Mettre ses mots à la casserole” or something.

        (N.B. All non-English examples above are made up and undoubtedly wrong.)

      • songdogmi says:

        However the French would do it, it would not exist officially until approved by l’Académie.

        “Mettre ses mots à la casserole” is appropriately funny, actually. 🙂

  3. ferndalealex says:

    huh? [insert dumbfounded look]

    • songdogmi says:

      That was my reaction for the most part. I suppose most if not all of the long words are in the Random House dictionary. “Nullifidian” was not in my Webster’s 10th Collegiate.

      • hellmutt says:

        Dictionary.com lists all of them. 😉

      • songdogmi says:

        Y’know, I had never resorted to dictionary.com before, being somewhat of a skeptic. But my eyes have been opened.

        It’s not surprising that dictionary.com has all of them, as it’s based on the Random House dictionary.

        My next album might be titled “The Nympholepsy of the Nullifidians”.

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