Saturday, February 09, 2008

Word of the Week: callipygian

For those of you who don’t know the definition of this week’s word, according to Merriam-Webster OnLine it means “having shapely buttocks”.

Believe it or not, this word came up in a conversation I had recently with -- of all people -- my dentist. (No, he doesn’t moonlight as a plastic surgeon, at least not as far as I know!)

Because my dentist knows I make my living as a writer, as he walked into the room he quizzed me on whether I knew what the word meant. I didn’t. Then he launched into a funny story about an upcoming dental symposium he was going to. Apparently, one of the participants would be discussing something to do with asymmetry (presumably facial asymmetries) – but in the e-mail describing the session, asymmetry was misspelled. Yup, an extra “s” was used, making it: assymmetry. My dentist -- a lover of words and etymology -- apparently couldn’t resist replying to the e-mail. Though I’m paraphrasing, his response was something like he was looking forward to his first discussion of callipygian features at a dental conference.

Anyway, my dentist’s unbridled enthusiasm about the word (he didn’t just tell me the definition, he also told me the two Greek words it comes from) was a sweet reminder that sometimes words just tickle us. So, for Dr. Gardner’s reminder of the richness of words and language, I decided it deserves mention as word of the week.


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