“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Argentine Nights: What You Will


Clown: “A sentence is but a chev’ril glove to a good wit. How quickly the wrong side may be turned outward!”

Viola (disguised): “Nay, that’s certain. They that dally nicely with words may quickly make them wanton.

Twelfth Night, 3.1.11-115

A segment of the movie version of Twelfth Night

Wanton Words

Aren’t words great? You can do so much with them. You can find out so much about other people through them. You don’t have as many as you might think, so when all else fails, you can just make them up.

Words are a lot like the large and small rocks, stones, and pebbles you find along hilly paths or mountain trails, around lakes, on beaches. I picked up some beautiful rocks from the Homer Spit in Alaska. I put some in my suitcase to bring home and then had to get a porter to help me with my luggage.

clip_image001Words can make you feel dressed for the Ball or bare you down to your birthday suit. Like they did recently to South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Words ultimately will out you along with the truth. 


Naked Words

The reason for the dominance of English in the world is the size of its vocabulary. Most estimates, including those in The Story of English, say that German contains 185,000 words and French a mere 100,000 . On June 10, the English language embraced its one-millionth “word.” A controversy ensued, which tells me that you can create a controversy out of anything. Whether it was the 500,000th or the millionth, English still does the best job at revealing our minds.

The problem I have with this one-millionth word is that first, it’s not a word, and second, you can’t use it in Scrabble. It’s “Web 2.0.” Isn’t it a word plus some numbers? Or am I just out of the loop?

English has so many words because speakers have been not just willing, but eager, to take them in from everywhere and make them our own. And then make them up as needed.


A couple of words I made up a good while ago came to mind recently: refuctious and orificious.

Refuctious seemed just right to define my granddaughter’s “MINE” behavior I talked about in All Mine, All the Time MINE Parts I (June 10) and II (July 9). You can read those by clicking on Grandparents in the right column.

And orificious seemed just right when the Sanford scandal broke. “Officious” means overzealous, especially about petty stuff; self-important, intrusive, meddling. Mostly we know what “orifice” means.

Naked Truth

Those now-public love e-mails sent to Sanford’s Argentine squeeze are gagified (not a certified word yet but should be made the opposite of “beautified”):

You have a particular grace and calm that I adore. You have a level of sophistication that is so fitting with your beauty. I could digress and say that you have the ability to give magnificently gentle kisses, or that I love your tan lines or that I love the curves of your hips, the erotic beauty of you holding yourself (or two magnificent parts of yourself) in the faded glow of night’s light — but hey, that would be going into the sexual details we spoke of at the steakhouse at dinner — and unlike you I would never do that!

Sanford tries to say he loves her “being,” what he calls her rare attribute. “Above all else I love that inner beauty about you.” Bunk. I think “orificious” best suits what suits him.

As for outing himself, he is quoted as saying something like “I’m trying to fall in love with my wife again.” He’s outed as wanton as far as I’m concerned.

Languinerds in Love

Most languinerds agree that Shakespeare made up or re-introduced some 3,000 words into English. They also agree that his vocabulary totals between 25,000 and 29,000 words, depending on how you count different forms of the same word. Amazingly, this number is almost twice what the average college graduate has (12,000-15,000) and four or five times what the average high school graduate has (5,000-7,000).

In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night alone (from which the introductory quote is taken), according to Book Scraper, the Bard used ten words he didn’t use in any of his other works. He used 19,710 words to tell this story.

So, here’s the score:

English language 1,000,000

Mark Sanford 0


The Story of English, third edition, is available at on-line book sellers.






12thNightDVD Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was made into a movie and is available on DVD. It is also on YouTube in segments. See the first segment by clicking on the video above which opens the post.





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