What’s dis?

Lou Maze, RMG humour writer

by LOU MAZE
RMG Humour Writer

When the makers of dictionaries, or lexicographers, decided to describe the language as it was, rather than as it ‘should’ be, some folks were upset. You could no longer say “Ain’t ain’t a word cause ain’t ain’t in the dictionary.” Ain’t suddenly is, and some of us had been waiting years to plague our own children with this tiresome phrase felt robbed.

The argument went that English needed rules because, well, the French had them, so we should too. The counter argument was that language is not stagnant but a living fluid thing.

The freedom to make up a new word, when the right one just won’t come to mind, is a welcome convenience and sounds so much more articulate than “Uhhh” or “Errr”. You may even get to impress your listener with your vast vocabulary, while they are unaware that it is your creativity they should be admiring. On the other hand, without the discipline of rules, creativity can quickly turn to chaos.

The word that got me thinking about all this was ‘disgruntled’. In a traditional world, gruntle would have to have meaning and should derive it, from grunt. In theory, to be disgruntled means you are no longer gruntled – Lou Maze, RMG Humour Writer

In true Canadian style, I took my position in the middle.

Reading the preface to the newest edition of the Oxford Canadian dictionary, I realized that the change wasn’t so much about freedom of expression as it was a make work project. It took five lexicographers, five years to go through 50,000 pages of material, to create a newer version.

Side note, what’s with lexicographers and five? I thought three and seven were mystical numbers but apparently five is lucky for them.

I suspect that five years of work, for five lexicographers would represent a distinct improvement in their employment situation. Indeed, what else would lexicographers do, but write dictionaries, Thesauruses perhaps.

The word that got me thinking about all this was ‘disgruntled’. In a traditional world, gruntle would have to have meaning and should derive it, from grunt. In theory, to be disgruntled means you are no longer gruntled. This should be a good thing. For example it could indicate a progression in language skills.

If gruntle is unrelated to grunting, then what is it? Perhaps a small ferret like animal that seizes upon your leg and won’t let go and to be disgruntled is to shake yourself free of its passionate and sticky grip. This would also be a good thing.

Instead this word is used to describe folks who show up at work with weapons and a really bad attitude. Not a good thing.

Then I remembered discombobulated and the denial was lifted. Nowhere in prior or present dictionaries does the term combobulate exist. The genius of it is, that it sounds like it should. And if you say the word discombobulated a few times, you will become it.

I think the lexicographers are making up new words, just so they can write new dictionaries and pay down their mortgage.

I don’t think it’s a conspiracy, I think it’s a “co-wink-y-dink”. This is one of my father’s words, and after 85 years of talking, he should be allowed to add a word to the language. A co-winky-dink is like a coincidence, but funnier and probably a lie, hence the wink. I have no explanation for the last part, that’s all Dad.

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