It's true: some words have their uses

HUNGOVER? I'm feeling a bit crapulous, actually.
HUNGOVER? I'm feeling a bit crapulous, actually.

A mixed bag - it's a broad concept, with connotations sporting and otherwise.

But while I'm largely avoiding sport today, it's also what this column is.

At least I say that as I start. I'm not sure how many disparate thoughts will eventually be chucked in the bag. They're a collection of individual items that grabbed my attention this week.

Sadly, the printed page doesn't allow items to be shaken up before reading. Feel free, though, to read them in any order you choose. They'll start bold for easy reference.

I love words. I learn new ones all the time, but am always keenly aware there are so many more I don't know. One of the reasons I love them, really.

And I came across a new one this week. New to me, at least, as it's largely fallen out of regular use.

A tweet from a Christchurch journalist introduced me to it:

"We should definitely bring the word 'Crapulous' back into common use (relating to drunkenness or drinking of alcohol)," it read. OK, there's an obvious tie to a shorter, somewhat crasser word in widespread and varied use today, but I was trying to think at a slightly higher-brow level when I read it. That was after I initially laughed out loud, having reverted momentarily to my 12-year-old self. I think the post was intended to be interpreted a little more cerebrally.

My first response was to ask her if the derivative "crapulously" was a synonym for "drunkenly". It had immediately struck me what an interesting addition this could make to the Herald's award- winning Police Notebook. Anecdotal evidence suggests it's already one of our most widely read daily features, and my imagination ran away with me a little.

"Police arrested a driver who was spotted weaving crapulously down North St at 2am on Saturday. He was kept in custody overnight, and reported feeling crapulent the following morning."

Actually, the notebook never goes into that level of detail. It was a cheap way of throwing in the alternative form of the word, which also helps me to explain that the meaning seems to include the hangover.

Here's the summary from the Collins English Dictionary and Thesaurus: It lists crapulent or crapulous as alternative forms of an adjective meaning: "1 given to or resulting from intemperance. 2 suffering from intemperance; drunken."

The language note that follows indicates it has various origins: "from LL (late Latin) crapulentus drunk, from L (Latin) crapula, from Gk (Greek) kraipale drunkenness, headache resulting therefrom".

All in all, a most useful word, it seems. Whether or not the "crass" form widely in use now is a simple shortening of this word or a derivation of the urban legend - yes folks, Wikipedia says it's not actually true - that says the modern toilet was invented by a man called Thomas Crapper requires more research.

But I must press on, lest my example of a "mixed bag" begins to suggest crapulence on my own part.

Graffiti, tagging, call it what you will, it's a societal problem. We battle with it in the newspaper industry too. Is showing a picture of a tag simply encouraging the perpetrator? Some think so. At a previous paper, I got a call from the local mayor asking me to take a picture off our website, because, in his words, when youngsters see their tags in the media, "they get a horn on".

I'm not quite sure about that, exactly, but I accept it's a widely held view that it leads to further offending.

But not for one such individual, I suspect, if he/she ever got to see the response to their work in a New England public toilet in 2011.

Again, I saw this on Twitter, which is further proof of just how interesting some stuff on there is.

In response to the tag, one dry-witted respondent came up with a superb description, not unlike those in our Treasures of Aigantighe column, and pasted it below the felt-tipped scribble, complete with a speculative year of birth.

Lincoln, NE 1996
I Lack Creativity, 2011
sharpie on drywall, 35 x 48 cm

In an attempt to abandon aesthetics, I Lack Creativity by Anonymous showcases an antiquated hieroglyph that has remained unchanged since the late 70s. Here, Anon makes a fascinating plea to retard human evolution and remind us what it may have been like to use a public restroom in 1983.

That's about as direct and cutting a review as I can remember. I'd have loved to see the reaction of the "artist".

Finally, space permits a short third item. Time for me to bring out my language pedant hat.

I made an issue of this when Justin Marshall used the phrase "brilliantly well" during a recent rugby commentary, but was moved to repeat it early in the Open Championship on Thursday night, when a commentator twice said people had done "magnificently well".

Here's the thing.

Those are both tautologies, which means that the 'well' is redundant. If you've done something brilliantly or magnificently, by definition you've done it well. You can't do something "magnificently badly".

The Timaru Herald