Archive for October, 2009


Words That Should Exist

Let this be a discussion of:
(1) concepts or physical things for which there really, really ought to be words, (2) triumphantly identifying elusive words for such concepts and things or (3) coinages that are not yet legitimate but that ought to be so because of their aptness, utility and elegance. Here is my first contribution to get you started:

My wife and I returned home from a round of errands with a new coffeemaker that was selected after much gnashing of teeth about its features and whether suitably presentable. Our old coffeemaker had died due to years of sedimentary deposits and we were in crisis mode to effect a replacement. I unpacked the damn thing, dropping the ‘decanter’ in the process – only through heroic effort was I able to break its fall with my extended foot, nearly pulling a hamstring in the process — and set it down, side-by-side, with its predecessor. I pronounced it ok “aesthetics wise.” Hmm…aesthetics wise. This clumsy phrase evoked peals of laughter from my wife (and me too) and instantly triggered musings as to whether there was a word for such a self-canceling phrase. To be clear, we are talking about a word or phrase that has properties that contradict its meaning. Now, of course, this would not be an oxymoron since it is not the coffeemaker but rather the phrase that lacks grace. It also smacks of onomatopoeia, though is really its opposite, since the phrase has a quality directly at odds with its subject matter. So, there it is. Any suggestions?