Merlyn Ember and David Garelick will like this wordplay!


You do well to be cagey when unlacing a language’s insouciant linguistic genius, for you may find its dark underside, its cabinet of Doctor Caligari, its closet of Caligula. But sometimes these dark undersides are callipygian: light and lithe on the tongue, prettily curved for the eyes, exquisite for lexical carousing. So fine, in fact, that they may slip into a party purely by pulchritude and do a star turn on a stage not their own.

Consider this line from The Wizard of Oz: “You clinking, clanking, clattering collection of caliginous junk!” So expressive, so sound-symbolic. But therein is an obscurity: caliginous. What is this abecedarian coelacanth or architeuthis dux doing scaling de profundis into the mechanical racket as a sesquipedalian expletive? What, in fact, would caliginous junk be?

I’m rather inclined to think it’s what one finds in a Jawa sandcrawler or perhaps the corners…

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  1. Thoroughly enjoyed these mind benders. As a pup I studied Latin not knowing at the time the value of that ancient language in understanding our own. Actually, I flunked it my first year and went to Summer School. Then I got a second year that was even more difficult, but I passed by the hair of my chinny, chin chin. Thanks for reminding me of those days in my caliginous past.


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