Never Done Before challenge: Day Eight

Day Eight (or Day Nem as we say in phonetically-spelled Mongolian) of the never-done-before challenge started out easy.

The challenge: select three words you’ve never heard of before and use each of them in ordinary conversation with a straight face, as if you assume the other person is familiar with the word.

This challenge, which sounds so easy, doesn’t it, took a sharp turn toward difficult right out of the box. That’s what happens if you’re a person who loves words and thinks you know a fair number of them. If you are such a person, I suggest that you turn to this site and see how you feel after a minute or so.

Choosing the words alone took me close to an hour, given the giant blow to my vocabulary ego and the fact that there are So Many Fascinating Words in the world.

It was obvious that I was going to have to narrow the search down immediately, so I randomly chose one word each from the B, N and M sections.

(That right there is a lie. I already knew the B word that I chose, but because it makes me laugh every single time I think of it, and also because my friend Absalom is at least as fond of it as me, I cheated and used it; sue me.)

The next challenge, using each word thrice in ordinary conversation with a straight face, was also difficult because I was on a 400-mile drive, with the only two other people in earshot being my two elder companions. This added a certain je ne sais quoi to our car conversations.

Conversation #1

Me to elder female companion: Have you ever had a bezoar?

EFC: A what?

Me: A bezoar.

EFC (adjusting hearing aid): A boudoir?

Me: Bezoar. B. E. Z. O. A. R.

EFC: What in God’s name is a bezoar?

Me: An indigestible intestinal obstruction.

EFC: Oh. (Pause.) No. (Pause.) So a bezoar is like a bolus then?

Me (impressed): Um. Yeah.

Conversation #2

Elder male companion (squinting at car loitering in the left lane of I-90): Look at that fool. Yapping on his phone.

Me: Yup. He’s a ninnyhammer.

EMC grunts in assent, accepting ninnyhammer without question; jury’s out on whether he actually heard the word or not.

EFC, on the other hand, pipes up from the backseat: What did you just call that driver?

Me: A ninnyhammer.

EFC: Is this another of those words, like bolus?

Me: You mean like bezoar? Yes.

EFC: Oh right. Bezoar. Bolus is stuck in my head now.

Me: At least it’s not stuck in your intestines.

Conversation #3

Conversation #3 never happened, because I completely forgot what my third new word was. All 400 miles I racked my brain as to what it could be, but all I could remember was that it begins with M and means “emaciation.”

But this was no problem, right? My plan was to return to the Dictionary of Difficult Words and look up my M word as soon as I reached the Sleep Inn in Sioux Falls, SD and then race downstairs to the elder companions’ room to spring it on them in an ordinary sentence.

I got as far as the Dictionary of Difficult Words. But guess what? There are so many Difficult Words that begin with M, and so many of them are so fascinating, that I literally cannot locate the M word that means “emaciation.”

One hour, one Sleep Inn plastic cup of Bailey’s Irish cream over ice and a dozen times through my favorite songs on one of my favorite albums later, though, I do know the meaning of macradenous, musaceous, manustupration and melichrous.

7 comments

  1. oreo · July 17, 2012

    you think i don’t spend enough time on the internet, that you must give me a link to such an addictive thing as the dictionary of difficult words? i could almost call you a ninnyhammer for that.

    the straight face clause makes this challenge too hard for me. i’ll stick with my own new things. for day eight can you believe that i went to a lake in the twin cities that i had yet to swim in? i would have said i swam in every body of water there is around here since childhood, some nasty ditches included, but i guess i missed one. went to a birthday party at said lake for a little girl who lost her mother when she was too young to remember, and all i could think of was that in a way her mother’s absence shaped the presence of all the people there. look at the dead woman’s mother, brothers, sister, best friend, lover. see how they all gather around her daughter, now five. see how the places where they touch limn the shape of a mother, the shadow of a loving life ended before it should have been.

    rejoice with me over the entirely new experience of day nine: i went to a thrift store, bought an adorable new skirt, and upon returning home found that it actually matches a couple of tops in my closet. i *always* buy cute skirts and then realize i have nothing to go with them and take, i am not kidding, a couple of years to get around to dragging them with on a shopping trip to find something that matches.

    p.s. you laugh every time you think of bezoar? and that would be how often?

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  2. Alan Wagman · July 17, 2012

    Rather ironic that you used ‘crois’ instead of ‘quoi’ in your French expression. I am assuming that was unintentional as ‘crois’ means cross. While I am no French expert, it did jump off the page as a bit out of place.

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  3. alison · July 17, 2012

    Al, I knew something was wrong when I wrote that down, but I was too lazy/fuzzy/tired/rebellious to try to figure it out. My high school French teacher is rolling her eyes as I type this.

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  4. alison · July 17, 2012

    Aria, what lake had you, of all people, not swum in yet? I find that hard to believe. . .

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  5. Karen · July 17, 2012

    The conversations are as good as the words!

    I picked up “Mrs. Byrne’s Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words” at a library book sale a while back, and have had a lot of fun with it. There are so many good words to choose from, and I find myself settling for such a bland diet. And now I’m reminded of the boardgame Balderdash, which I haven’t played for years, but was a favorite in our family…

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  6. oreo · July 17, 2012

    believe it, my friend. and believe it was a centrally located, popular lake with lots of parking right off a major road. the one in theo wirth right off glenwood, not even sure what the name is. i’ve been to lakes where i had to sneak through darkened private property to access them, lakes where i had to hike fifteen minutes through the woods to get there, lakes that i had to drive almost an hour to get to. and skipped the one right in the middle of minneapolis. with good reason, i must say. it was so lame! a floating dock surrounded the entire “swimming area,” which was not actually deep enough for an adult to swim in. i much prefer lakes where you can strike out and stroke across. although i found out the hard way that’s not always allowed. did i tell you about the time at cedar lake when i reached the far shore and the lifeguard called the cops on me? my swim turned into a biathlon as i booked it back across the lake, jumped out of the water, and ran through the woods to my car. much to the credit of my husband, who was napping on the beach, he asked no questions when i yelled, “wake up and run–the cops are coming!” how satisfying it was to be starting up our car and driving away as the police cars showed up and tore down the path to the beach. best use of city resources i can imagine–get that renegade swimmer!

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  7. alison · July 17, 2012

    Oreo, I love the cops are coming story. And I’m not sure I’d dip much more than a toe in Wirth Lake either.

    Al, upon re-reading this post, I can’t stand it and have to go in and edit out the crois. I tried to force myself to leave it in there, but no can do.

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