Saturday, April 8, 2017

The return of the ten-dollar word

I've been coming across quite a few odd words lately, especially in Freud's write-up of Dora.  In his case, he often used medical terminology in a way that is no longer current, so I am hesitant to include any of his words in this follow-up to this post.  However, two words from Dora's case history did stand out, and I will add them to my ten-dollar list.

Ratiocination is a noun referring to the process of logical reasoning, which builds off the verb ratiocinate - to reason methodically and logically.  I have to admit, even after knowing the definition, I don't like these words, which seem unnecessary, since we already have the verbs to think and to reason; it would make more sense to modify those to indicate situations where someone is using faulty reasoning or thinking emotionally rather than rationally.
Another word that keeps coming up in Dora is reticule, which means a small purse or handbag. Given Freud's constant conflation of reticule and (external) female sex organs, I thought he was referring to a change purse, but it larger than that. I don't think anyone today still uses the term reticule to mean purse, just as most people don't believe in the old wives' tales that underpin Freud's analysis of Dora, including that bed-wedding is a sure sign that someone has been masturbating.  (The wheat to chaff ratio with Freud is surprisingly low, I must say.)

Pressing on, it is quite odd is that one dictionary says that reticule is just a variant spelling of reticle, which is a network of tiny lines that make up a sighting scope for a telescope or microscope. More generally, we would use the phrase lining up something in the crosshairs. Even stranger is that in the U.K., graticule is used in place of reticle.

Rick Moody's Hotels of North America offers up the word haphephobia, which is the fear of being touched.  Some information about this phobia here.  I suspect as with most phobias, there is a wide gradation in how impacted people are by haphephobia.  I wouldn't say I fear being touched by others, but I certainly don't like being touched by others, particularly people outside my immediate family.  Moody's use of the term falls into this broader sense of the word.

Superannuated appears periodically in books I read, most recently in Durrenmatt's A Dangerous Game.  I find this an interesting case, since it originally referred to someone who was allowed (or forced) to retire due to old age and then was on a pension, i.e. an annuity.  However, over time the annuity aspect has faded away (as have pensions in the real world) and the meaning of the word has broadened a bit to refer to a person or thing (or even an idea) that has become obsolete, outmoded or old-fashioned.  In some rare cases, it seems to refer to something being old, but it is probably better to try to keep some precision in the term and to retain that aspect of obsolescence.

I'll end with enervating, which can either mean a kind of wasting away associated with a disease (i.e. literally debilitating) or more colloquially to be tiring or exhausting.  In context: even reading about the long party at Trimalchio's house in The Satyricon was enervating and I had to take a nap after finishing that chapter.

One final note is that this blog has surpassed 150,000 views (technically not Likes).  It took something on the order of 4 years to reach 100,000 views, but then only four more months to reach 150,000!  So thanks for stopping by and feel free to leave a comment now and again.

No comments:

Post a Comment