English is a wondrous language. I’ve been fascinated by words all my life, maybe because my mother was a schoolteacher, maybe because I’m hooked on crossword puzzles, maybe because I’ve spent much of my adult life hunched over a typewriter or computer keyboard, punching out not-very-deathless prose. Or maybe, I’m just a word nerd.
There’s plenty to love about English. More than 500 million of us around the world speak English. That’s a far cry from the one billion that speak Mandarin Chinese, but it’s still pretty impressive.
There are plenty of opportunities to express yourself in English. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, there is more than 171,000 words in current use, plus 47,000 obsolete words. The Global Language Monitor kicks it up a bit and apparently uses a different calculator than the Oxford dictionary: “The number of words in the English language is: 1,025,109.8. This is the estimate by the Global Language Monitor, January 1, 2014.” The fascinating thing is not how the Monitor came up with that number, but how on earth anyone can call 1,025.109.8 an “estimate?” What constitutes an exact number in that world?
Admittedly, as anyone learning English can tell you, our language has a few eccentricities. What other language gives you “would” and “wood” and “night” and “knight?” If the plural of mouse is mice, why isn’t the plural of house “hice?” However, we love English, so we overlook those idiosyncrasies the same way we ignore what crazy Uncle Barney does every year at Thanksgiving dinner.
One of the best things about the English languages is its amazing acceptance of new words. New words come about all the time. They can result from adding to an old word, subtracting from one, or making up a new word altogether. Four times a year, the Oxford University Press announces updates to OxfordDictionaries.com, its online dictionary.
Several of these new words seem to be created specifically with The Villages in mind. For example, the time that it’s acceptable to start drinking is now referred to as “beer o’clock” or “wine o’clock.” This is a particularly handy expression in a place where 2-for-1 happy hour prices prevail all day long at many watering holes. The old sailing ship expression “when the sun is past the yardarm” meant you could have your grog after the sun passed over the top of the sails. I always thought that meant around 5 p.m. I have now learned it actually meant 11 a.m., and I am moaning about all the drinking time I missed.
If you don’t eat something soon after beer o’clock or wine o’clock you can get “hangry,” which means you get grumpy and irritable. If you eat too much during happy hour, you can get really, really chubby and your friends (soon-to-be former friends) will “fat-shame” you.
“Pocket-dial” and “butt-dial” are now official parts of the language and they’ve happened to all of us. The big danger is butt-dialing someone is saying nasty things about them without realizing you’re recording on their answering machine.
“Fur-baby” is the ideal name for the four-legged critters that actually rule The Villages and sniff the neighborhood for happy smells, while leading their people pets around on leashes.
The guy sitting next to you at the theater or the bar that spreads his fat legs and takes up all of his space and 80 percent of yours is guilty of “manspreading.”
The final word is one that was surely invented for The Villages is “brain-fart.” The Oxford people call it “a temporary mental lapse or failure to reason correctly.”
Brain-farts strike us all the time and with frighteningly frequent recurrences. It’s happened to you today, hasn’t it? You forgot why you went into the garage. You aren’t sure how your keys ended up in the refrigerator. You started to steer your two-ton automobile onto a golf cart path and saw abject terror in the eyes of the little fellow as you zeroed in on his Club Car.
There was one other important thing about brain-farts. Stand by. I’ll remember it in a minute.