F is for Floccinaucinihilipilification

“Can you use that in a sentence please?”

“Sure. I’ve pretty certain that the country’s floccinaucinihilipilification feelings about the President’s job are very true.”

For the letter F today I’m choosing a word in the English language that is quite absurd and ridiculed. It’s origins are a laughing matter for it was a matter of Latin fusion: throwing four ingredients into a stew kettle and stirring them with constant care, and out came this new word, that was made with a pilus of hair. If you say it to a person who is unaware of its meaning, they’ll likely not know that you’re basically calling their life insignificant.

This is the second longest legitimate word, other than that ridiculous long one that contains about 500 instances of meth, in the English language. I just had to choose this word today for F since it is obviously an interesting set of syllables that can be broken down like this:

floc – ce – nah – ce – knee – hil – lip – ill – lif – fah – kay – shun

This absurd word is defined as the habit of estimating that something is worthless, explaining my example of the President’s job up there. It’s origins can be traced back to the eighteenth century, a time when the most fun you could have without killing someone was creating new and interesting words for the dictionary.

The legend goes like this: In eighteenth century Berkshire there were four little Latin words named Flocci, Nauci, Nihili, and Pili and they all lived happily together in a log cabin (in separate beds, of course). But then one night, a big bad guy with a lasso, on orders from some secret cult I suppose, broke into their cabin (it wasn’t locked) while they were sleeping and wrangled up all of the words and added a -fication tag across their heads in red paint. And apparently it was some magic paint, for the four words eventually morphed into a fearsome monster with big tentacles and slimy skin. The first thing this monster did was eat its creator and then stormed and terrorized the village, spreading something around that made many people and places worthless, hence the definition created later on. The legend of the Floccinaucinihilipilification monster was not spoken openly for years after that, just in hushed tones, and it was hard to pronounce anyway. But in 1741, an author with the brilliant name of William Shenstone boldly used it in a letter about a deceased lover: “I loved him for nothing so much as his flocci-nauci-nihili-pili-fication of money” or “I loved him for nothing so much as his judgment that money was a worthless commodity.” Well apparently Shenstone’s life was now meaningless without his lover and so the “F” monster showed up later on and finished him off, but not without a fight put up by brave Sir William who managed to cripple the beast before he died, making it weak. The beast retreated then to a safe place and was never seen again. Some say it died. Or so the story goes. The legend of the monster who made people and things insignificant lives on today, being told in circles to frightened children (and adults).

Okay, so that’s not exactly how the origins of the word went (it came from a grammar book at Eton College) but there are four Latin words contained within this grand “F” word that can be analyzed more closely:

  • Flocci, derived from floccus, literally a tuft of wool, and I’m not sure where it’s meaning of “worthless” comes in the Eton College grammar book
  • Pili, the plural of pilus, a hair, which in Latin could mean a whit, jot, trifle or generally a thing that is insignificant
  • Nihili comes from nihil, nothing, as in words like nihilism and annihilate
  • Nauci just means worthless

So it was a matter of creating a word that did not yet exist, filling in the vague gap to describe the act of naming something or someone worthless. It’s not like a person had anything better to do in 1700s England. I should dare myself to use this word in a sentence when speaking with someone, just to see their reaction, their look of bewilderment.


April A to Z Challenge

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Poetic Alphabet

Prompt: Write down the letters of the alphabet. For each one, choose a word that begins with that letter. Now, write a post about anything — using all the words you’ve selected.


All birds called

Dreadfully, endlessly

For golden hearts induced

Joyful kaleidoscopes

Loved momentarily

Now organizing

Poetic questioning

Remembering stars

Traveling under violet

Westward x’s, yearning zenith

4


DP #73 : “Alphabet Soup”

My Toughest Critic

Treat me with kid gloves? No way. I prefer the cold hard truth. Come at me bro. Spit in my face. I’m not afraid of your criticism.

Good honest criticism helps me become better at what I do. Break me down, build me back up, you might say. It challenges me to reach my full earned potential.

A time I faced harsh criticism was back in my first year of college. I had just turned 19 years old and was a few months fresh out of high school. I had an introductory English class with a teacher who was probably the toughest critic I had faced in my academic career at that time. Of course I was a little intimidated when he said to the class that he had a Master’s Degree in Language and Literature and here I am thinking, “Oh, this guy sure thinks he’s hot stuff. I’m totally screwed in this class”. Which I wasn’t completely – it just felt like an uphill climb for me because I wasn’t sure how tough the English class would be.

There were about five papers we had to do during the course and they all required a lot of peer editing and blotches of red ink. I believe they were a literal analysis, descriptive essay, informative essay, narrative essay, and one other I can’t remember the type of. My first few papers did not receive very good grades, sub par at best and I instantly became worried that I would have a tough time passing the class. The first ever college essay I wrote was, now in my mind, an embarrassing piece about my first girlfriend in high school. I cannot believe the chummy stuff I put in there, some of it so silly I felt like it was better suited being read by children than a college professor. This was my narrative essay. Soon after that paper, which received an okay but not superb grade, I got more serious with my essays, especially the research papers. There arose a nagging thought in my head that I would have to submit an exceptionally well-crafted paper if I ever wanted to receive top marks because, according to the professor, that first paper was rubbish. A lot of other students had a tough time ‘cracking the code’ as well.

This was the first class that my writing really got critiqued and scrutinized. The teacher, Greenman his name, covered and crossed out my papers with lots of markups and red ink the few first times I turned a paper in, while also adding short notes on the back page critiquing my work. At first I was getting frustrated each time my papers came back with grades that I was not satisfied with and I could not figure out what I was doing wrong (fixing those occasional fallacies in my papers took some trial and error). But through a little bit of hard work and effort I did manage to receive a decent, but not perfect, grade. The discussions and group editing also helped with my essay writing and getting them up to the teacher’s tough standards. I’m glad I got a chance to take this class because soon after my writing greatly improved and I learned that accepting harsh criticism would only make me better. I did not break down at all but kept on taking the prof’s advice and learning from my mishaps. And look where I am now, blogging like a champ on WordPress!


In Response to the Daily Prompt: Handle With Care

Swinging With The Spainards

Hola, amigos. It has been quite a while since I have blogged and I am excited to get going again. Since I last left there have been quite a lot of adventures that I have partaken, some in particular were me posing with a jay-hawk and slipping on the ice and landing on my tush, rather comically. Going off on a tangent…

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Learning another language is a major challenge. Just ask me, who still can’t manage to get that fantastic “rolled r” sound down. I just sound ridiculous when I try. In particular, I have been trying to learn Spanish which I seem to be more comfortable with learning than other foreign tongues. It’s not just about memorizing a long list of words translated from English. You have to speak the words in complete sentences and try to have a fluent conversation. In real life you aren’t going to have the luxury of having the conversation slowed down so you can understand what is being said. No, in reality, those frigging Mexicans and what nots seem to speak a mile a minute that you wonder if the people native to that language can even understand. Like speeding up a song so that it is barely comprehensible. And unlike English, if you say a word a particular way, for instance, it could mean something else and possibly offend someone. And in some of the most ruthless countries that most likely means getting stabbed and left to die alone. Oh, the horror.

Anyways…it is a work in progress and by no means will I succeed at having the trusty weapon of a second language tucked under my belt in a matter of weeks. It might take months or even years to finally watch a movie in Spanish without the English subtitles on. Spanish is a beautiful and artful language that is more flexible than standard American-speak. Words can be rearranged to convey different meanings, unlike English which follows strict guidelines unless you are Shakespeare or Yoda (Different ways, arranged these words they be). I’m getting into the meat and potatoes of an independent at home Spanish course online. It seems to be helping me and I have managed to string a couple of sentences together without the help of Google Translate. Hooray for me. I’m off to a nice start but doubt I will get to the point of speaking effortlessly without paying top dollar for the whole deal, the whole lesson package. If I bought that then I could learn the lessons on the go or when I’m out for walks, instead of being tied down to my computer. One night while my dad was snoozing I was repeating words from the Spanish course in a normal speaking voice. He overheard me and said, between chainsaw snores, “Be quiet”.

Another fantasy of mine has been to visit another country such as China and immerse my self in the language of the land. I’ve heard that’s the most effective way to start building up your confidence because I would be among people of different culture and background. As soon as I got used to their ways the language portion would not seem like such a challenge to me anymore. It would become an extension of myself in a sort of way, another part of me that I can switch on and off whenever the situation calls for it.

Then again, getting dumped into a country I have no experience with would feel like a nightmare for a while. I wouldn’t know what was being said or if people were saying things about me that weren’t very nice. I guess it would be helpful to have a translator on my side. I could be like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, learning Chinese rather quickly and fluently and then fighting a huge hoard of angry Chinamen and living to tell the tale. Nothing like a fish out of water, eh?

Well, next time I talk I should be able to go a restaurant and order my meal in Spanish – to the annoyance of the waitress who I might impress and score a date with. Or not.

See you later. ¡Hasta la vista, lectores y seguidores!