I didn’t realize it till Saturday, but I have spent a little over three months in self-isolation.
I’m lucky that I can work remotely, unlike many such as my hair stylist who, had she consented to cut people’s hair in her home or theirs before salons were allowed to open, could have lost her license. Good thing she didn’t, because my head is weird and she understands it. I’m not sure when we’ll be called back to the newsroom; some have returned, but many of us are still working from home, and we’re not the only newspaper doing this. MediaPost reported Tuesday that The New York Times won’t require staff to return to the office till at least January; other companies such as Twitter and Facebook are telling staff that some will have the option to work from home permanently.
But none of us work all the time. Some during quarantine have created parody videos, while others have busied themselves taking virtual tours or watching livestreamed concerts (the best kind of concert for introverts, by the way, though the one I tried watching Saturday night was beset by glitches early on, and remains in my queue for watching later). Still others have decided to learn something new, whether it’s a new language, how to cook gourmet dishes, or finding obscure words.
Hey, the Word Nerd does what she likes, and she likes words, OK?
As usual, I turn to Merriam-Webster, which at the top of its Twitter page says, “As a gift to our friends (you) in a time of crisis, we’ll be keeping a thread here of beautiful, obscure, and often quite useless words.” The pinned tweet was published March 19, and was compiled, it says, “by our in-house expert in pointless vocab @ammonshea” (who refers to himself as a “professional annoyance” and researcher … I want that job title!).
The first word mentioned of the more than 100, “solivagant,” seems tailor-made for introverts and anyone social-distancing. It means a solitary wanderer, or rambling alone. Fear not the solitary wanderer, though … unless he is unmasked, having entire conversations with himself and heading your way. And if he happens to have a trebuchet, he might make you a “flingee” (one who has anything flung at them) … of what, you probably don’t want to know.
“Cacography” is something that’s probably familiar to a lot of people; while it can mean bad handwriting, it more often (and originally) means bad spelling. My handwriting isn’t that great, but it’s more legible than my brothers’ and my dad’s handwriting, and my spelling is better (most of the time). I guess that’s why I do the thing with the words now.
I’m certainly no “deipnosophist,” one skilled at table talk. While I used to give speeches all the time when I was in high school and college, spending years behind the scenes fed my introvert tendencies to the point that I don’t talk much in group settings with strangers (that stroke five years ago didn’t help either). Once I get to know you, though, you’ll have a hard time shutting me up. Most of the time I am, instead, “scripturient,” having a strong urge to write. I much prefer written conversation because I can edit my words as needed. Good luck doing that in an in-person discussion.
I also have the tendency to “cachinnate,” or laugh loudly and immoderately—the only thing I’m really immoderate about—and that can cause a lot of glares in my direction (unless you’re my former managing editor; he was especially fond of my cackle), so it’s best for me to avoid situations that would make me do that. If I did that at the salon, I might well be a “acersecomicke,” one whose hair is never cut.
Though I try, sometimes I can’t avoid a “bêtise,” an act of foolishness or stupidity, or a lack of good sense, similar to “jackassery” (is so a word; ask Merriam-Webster). We all do this (ahem, some more than others), sometimes because we believe someone without question or because we harbor the hope that this time will be different (it won’t, more than likely).
But commit the bêtise of ignoring good words? Not likely!
I can’t go today without making another plea for people to wear masks (if they’re able), especially considering the recent increase in covid-19 cases and deaths. To that point, here’s something from my life, especially if the urine/pants analogy last month and repeated above didn’t drive it home for you.
I’m allergic to cigarette smoke. If I’m somewhere that it’s concentrated, rest assured I’ll have a major sinusitis attack within a day, complete with fever and not making much sense at all; even friends and people who work with me every day will back away from the crazy lady.
When I’m out and about in normal conditions, I have to be wary of people hanging out on corners smoking, or those puffing like a chimney walking near me. I try not breathing till I get into the building, but that doesn’t help if I’m parked far away, so I try breathing shallowly. But no matter what I do, cigarette smoke will follow me; it’s sort of like cats, who know which people are allergic so they lavish their attention on them.
If I go out in a mask, I’m somewhat protected, though not as much as I would be if smokers were behind some sort of enclosed shield in addition. Of course, then the smokers would be trapped in that concentrated mass of smoke and pollutants and perhaps hurry their demise a little bit.
Sort of like people who’d go to an indoor event with thousands of other people not socially distancing, most unmasked, shouting, and spewing their germs into an enclosed space during a pandemic just to see a “tongue-hero” (a self-professed hero/braggart; like I’d let go of the who obscure words thing).
I’m not saying that smokers should be stuck in bubbles every time they light up (though that’s an idea … at least for the ones who constantly defy notices not to smoke within 25 feet of building entrances), but it would be nice if more of them took other people’s health into consideration. It’s the same with masks. Your rights are not being infringed by being asked to do something to limit the spread of germs and shorten the amount of time spent in quarantine for everyone. No one is telling you that you have to wear the mask all the time, just in public when social distancing isn’t necessarily possible, especially indoors (for the whatabouters, please note that those unmasked reporters you’re calling hypocrites aren’t near anyone else and are usually outdoors when doing standups).
When I saw my stylist Saturday at the salon, she told me the receptionist recently had to ask a man to leave because he refused to wear a mask despite it being posted just about everywhere in sight that masks must be worn. Had he been seen and reported, the salon would have to close for several weeks for cleaning … just because one guy refused to follow the rules everyone else must follow. That would mean all the salon’s employees would miss out on their paychecks, again, making it pretty hard to square that stand with the logic of the protests weeks back about needing a haircut now and letting people get back to work.
Seriously, if not wearing a mask is the hill you want to die on, well …
I wear a mask when I go out because I care about others. Plus, I look cute in the one with cats on it.