[The subsidized apartment building I live in is called The Union Hotel. It's run by DESC, Seattle's Downtown Emergency Service Center. All the residents have been homeless. I write a column for the monthly building newsletter. The column is called Out of My Mind. I'm posting them here, properly dated, because I can. -- wes]
Joe Martin is a cool guy. He embodies the Pike Market Medical Clinic, he’s a real live Leprechaun, he’s in fact so Irish he should be kissed continually all year round, he’s the nicest conspiracy theorist you ever met, and he frequently writes for and to Real Change. When he writes he likes to use arcane words that I would never use, but that’s always been OK, it’s part of his charm.
Until last week. That was when Joe used the word “ugsome” in a letter to the editor. That drove me over the edge.
Of course I thought I knew what it meant. “Ug-some” as in “ugly - (and then) some.” But I didn’t trust my guess so I looked it up. It doesn’t quite mean ugly-ish, it means “disgusting, loathsome.” But what really got me is that it’s not a word he made up, it’s Medieval.
He’s gotten so arcane he’s gone Medieval on us!
It’s time for an intervention. The whole thing has gotten out of control. I should have stepped in back when he used the word “parlous” to mean “perilous.” I should have realized the man was troubled then, because “parlous” is exactly synonymous with “perilous” -- it’s just a variation dating from (you guessed it) the Middle Ages! The only reason to use it is get all arcane up in people!
I should also have known Joe needed help when he wrote about a “tocsin call to awareness and action.” A tocsin is a warning bell. Of course it calls to awareness and action! That’s what warnings do! But besides that, show me more than twenty people in all of Seattle who will say they know the difference between a toxin and a tocsin, and I’ll see if I can’t pick out the 17 or 18 liars from among them.
Perhaps it’s pervicacious -- oh no -- of me to ask that Joe be quotidian, to drop the farrago -- what’s happening to me -- of medieval vocabulary; my tendentiousness is my turpitudinosity, of Sodom, of --
-- oh no, it’s CATCHING!
-- now I’M doing it! I’M MAKING MYSELF VERTIGINOUS -- SAVE ME, I’VE FALLEN INTO A GALLIMAUFRY OF LANGUAGE AND I CAN”T GET OUT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!