Friday, June 12, 2009


In elementary school and junior high and even into high school, I was known as "The Walking Dictionary." It was humiliating, in an intellectually superior sort of way. Luckily, I was able to recognize the jealousy underlying the title. I figured that I knew and they didn't so they got to make fun of me even while asking me what the word meant. It never really bothered me.

I came by the talent naturally. Daddooooooooooo and G'ma were college educated and not ashamed to talk like it. Just like President Obama, they never talked down to their audience. Instead, they assumed that we would make the effort to follow the conversation, and that we would ask if we didn't understand something. I still have the Merriam Webster Collegiate (!) Dictionary I received as I started 6th grade. Did I ever like that title. No extra-large print, no concessions to childhood, this book was Collegiate.

And this book was used. The colored tabs on the N and the A and the P fell off before the book ever made it to Cornell. We'd be sitting around the table and Daddooooooo would start in on a long, pointless story. Peppered throughout his peroration* were words no other living being had ever used in normal conversation. Sometimes he'd explain, and sometimes he'd just look at me. One of those times, I must've looked back with a pout because he said, for the 1000th time, "Oh, don't be so lugubrious." I stormed away from the table, got the Collegiate Dictionary from the shelf and read "Lugubrious: Mournful, often ridiculous or feigned". From then on, whether it was the 1001st or the 20,010th time he accused us of being lugubrious, one or the other would chime in "Mournful, often ridiculous or feigned". Kinda took the sting out of the jab. We always smiled.

So, today, TBG and I were out to lunch at our favorite out to lunch place. We waited for longer than my thirsty self was happy about and then the server showed up. He needed a haircut, though I'm sure he thought he was fine. Other than that, he was perky..... smiley ...... happy to help .... glad we were there ...... OK already, I yelled to myself, let's move on. You couldn't possibly be that thrilled to be taking our order. And if you are that over the top about it, then you'd better learn to curb your enthusiasm. I can only imagine what you'll do if we leave a nice tip.

And then it hit me. I knew exactly what he was. I was hungry and at the table and he was irritating me with his goofy fake grin. He was the opposite of lugubrious. He was salgubrious. It wasn't from the Latin lugere (to mourn). His behavior was "Cheerful, often ridiculous or feigned". Not salubrious**, from the Latin salu (health). That annoying, over-friendly, cloying, leave-me-alone-inducing behavior is certainly not salubrious. It's salgubrious. You know it when you see it, and now it has a name all its own.

Feel free to join me in introducing this word into the English language.

It's the least you can do for The Walking Dictionary............
(That would be deemed a lugubrious statement by Daddoooooooo. Welcome to my world.)

* to speak at great length, often in a grandiloquent manner; to declaim
**conducive or favorable to health or well-being


  1. Ok, just to be clear, "salgubrious" is an exercise in pseudolinguistics? 'Cause neither nor mirriam-webster recognize it.

    Otherwise, cool post!

  2. Feel free to join me in introducing this word into the English language.


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