Monday, July 30, 2007

flother downstream


It has been quite a hectic but fun few weeks. Just 11 days ago I was paddling through Coffee Pot, a class III rapid in a gorgeous narrow canyon of Oregon's Rogue River. Since then I have undergone an fMRI brain scan at a research center in Boston; gone for a swim in New Hampshire's Squam Lake, setting of "On Golden Pond"; enjoyed a farmer's market and a 30-mile bike ride on the Vermont side of the Connecticut River, and, just now, kicked off my shoes inside the Amherst College Archives & Special Collections room in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Last week I was happy to see A Left-Hand Turn on the recommended reading table at the Brookline Booksmith, a cool independent bookstore not far from where I grew up. I also ran into an interesting wordsmithy blog the other day, when looking up the term hapex legomenon. It means a word that has appeared only once in the written record of a language. Apparently there are some 50,000 of them in English, although cyberspace, in my humble opinion, makes the whole notion rather unclear. According to Wikipedia, flother, "a synonym for snowflake, is a hapax legomenon of written English pre-1900, found in a manuscript from around 1275." Sounds good to me, but now that I've included flother in my blog, does that qualify as written usage? Says who? Counting its mention in the previous sentence, the title of this blog, the original usage, and the Wikipedia entry, one could argue that all I have to do is type flother once more (there) to propel it past tetrakis legomenon (four occurrences) status and into common usage, or at least common enough so as not to warrant special classification.

2 comments:

gayle said...

I'd say there may be a distinction worth drawing between the use of a word and its meta-use; e.g. "I hear 'flother' is a hapax legomenon" is a meta-linguistic commentary on the word flother, as opposed to appropriating the word flother in conversation/narrative that is less self-conscious, e.g. "Wow, what a pretty flother on your hat right there," except of course, not as contrived.

David said...

Well said, Gayle.
DW