Monthly Archives: March 2014

Rigmarole and all that Jazz

Not long ago I was discussing the college process with a freshman attending the U.of I. I mentioned that I was glad I was finished with all that rigmarole, and she just looked at me as if I spoke Klion. She had never heard the word, rigmarole — or, rather, how some people like to pronounce the word, rigamarole. — adding an extra syllable to feel the word move around and from the tongue. I explained that the word meant the annoying process of waiting in line, in this case, to register for a class, etc.only to be told to go to another line to wait there. Sounds like our motor registration office! Hurry up and wait. 

Actually, rigmarole is more than waiting in line, it is the long, complicated process of anything — from filling out applications for college, or a job or filing for disability or preparing your tax returns. If there is one thing you can count on it will be that you will feel frustrated and annoyed by the process. That is a guarantee.

Then, the conversation started me thinking. So many of our words are changing. Take the word “brood”. The first definition that comes to mind is a brood of kids, lots of kids. But, how many times have we heard or seen the word meaning “to think alone”. Yet, it is a definition, actually a verb for all those English majors out there. Personally, I brood on many subjects. An ingénue is that näive young girl who we simply refer to as a teen in today’s standard of language. By using the word ingénue, though, we are defining the young girl. I have never heard a teen girl being described as an ingénue, yet I know many who are näive. 

Sure, we do not use words like erstwhile (at one time) or wherewhital (the means), but they are a part of our language. For the time being. I am sure they will soon go to the obsolete pile.

An obsolete word includes chirography. This word, meaning the art of handwriting, is gone, and I can bet the actual art of handwriting is nearly obsolete. I wonder how often the elementary teachers teach cursive. Cursive is being replaced with the typing of words on a computer. But that is another story altogether. Going back to words — another word that is obsolete is “battologist” meaning someone who repeats the same thing needlessly. Today, the word is perseverate, repeating a word or phrase over and over. Different words, similar meanings. Either word, you will feel irrirtated when you have to listen to the speaker battologizing, perseverating for hours on end, battologizing, perseverating for hours on end, battologizing, perseverating for hours on end…

The point is that times are changing. Words are being added and deleted from the dictionary on a yearly basis. Today’s youths have never seen or heard some words, and since words are a source of communication, a receptor for intelligence, an inroad to higher education, they are important and should be weighed. At the very least, youth should be exposed to words, lots of words. And, maybe, just maybe, the next time the young college freshman hears rigmarole, she will know what it means. Exposure. Then, there is the New York Times. Exposure. 

Until next time…


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