Dictionaries ain't what they used to be: You must renember this ...
So, it’s 1995 and those lovable “Friends” are packing the belongings of their adversarial downstairs neighbor, Mr. Heckles, when Chandler has an epiphany.
His life is stuck in second gear, and feels he’s doomed to wind up like Mr. Heckles — his love life DOA since he keeps ending relationships for the tiniest of faults he finds with women ... such as The One With The Woman Who Says “Supposably.”
Chandler exits, leaving Joey alone with what passes for his thoughts.
“Supposably?” the dim-bulb wannabe actor asks himself.
“Supposably,” he answers reassuringly.
“Did they go to the zoo?”
Welp, it’s a quarter-century later and there’s no need to cue the laugh track. Joey won’t have to worry about Chandler dumping him — at least not over his vocabulary.
Dictionary.com (the go-to lexicographical source for those who believe everything they read on the internet) announced last week that “supposably” was among the hundreds of “new words” added to its database.
Unlike, however, other first-time entries — for instance, “embiggen” and “cromulent,” both of which spawned from another sitcom mainstay, “The Simpsons” — “supposably” earned its place simply by being the fallback of those who stumbled over proper pronunciation.
We’ve all been there. Seemingly simple words tongue-tie us due to nature, nurture, geography or brain clouds.
To this day, I hesitate in the middle of “parenfa parentfa these things ( )” because I am unable to resist the urge to slide a couple of f’s in the middle there somewhere.
When we were young (and sometimes even now), my brother and I were prone to saying re-n-ember instead of re-m-ember to the point where we were convinced that we were correct.
It wasn’t until we went to the big-word book (being there anyway to prove our father wrong about his claim over “gullible”), that our self-confidence was shattered by the truth that wasn’t there in black and white for all the world to see.
Now, though, even the vaunted OED is AOK with letting the riff-raff mingle with the upper crust.
It seems that supposably (along with, parenffectically speaking, cromulent and embiggen) has been in the grande dame of dictionaries for some a few years now.
Just this week, “cancel culture,” “virtue signal,” and “allyship” — along with several variants — have gained entry to Oxford.
Language evolves, of course, so it does no good to be a “keyboard warrior” and rail against a tide that seems to move in only one direction.
In days of yore, using “ain’t” was akin to spewing a slew of other four-letter words — worthy of disparaging glances from teachers and threats of Lava soap from parents.
Yet, ain’t is pretty much royalty (with roots going back centuries) compared to the willy-nilly nature of acceptance of nonsense words and phrases these days.
Soon, games of Scrabble or Words With Friends will descend into chaos over whether to allow both “regardless” and “irregardless,” or whether you can actually stretch “put” to “putdown” to (indeed) “unputdownable.”
The urge to combine disparate elements together and create something new is intrinsic in our DNA, and our language isn’t any different.
Back in those fondly renembered days, I decided to create my own word ... “kehneyeziate”
It’s pernounced just the way it’s spelled — although, for a brief time after the bursting onto the scene of Prince, I replaced the “-ate” suffix with the numeral 8.
As is the case with middle schoolers, once it became part of my burgeoning vocabulary, I said kehneyeziate at every opportunity. Since I hadn’t gotten around to defining it, it could mean just about anything.
For some odd reason, my parents were not fond of my creative genius and soon banned it from conversation — a decision that took a turn for the worse when, one day, I absent-minded decided kehneyeziate was a verb and started conjugating it in the back seat of the station wagon.
I was somewhere in the past tenses (“we kehneyeziated they kehneyeziated”) when my mother’s voice broke the rhythm I’d established.
“Say that word one more time,” she warned, “and we get home I’m getting out the Lava soap.”
That incident came to mind the other day while I was “doomscrolling” — another new dictionary.com entry that essentially means surfing the internet for bad news (such as dictionary.com doing its part to end civilization as we know it) — and came across the account of how a non-fungible token Beeple (excuse me, BEEPLE) supposably made using blockchain was auctioned off for something in the neighborhood of $69 million.
“It’s so crazy,” BEEPLE said of the sale price for his NFT, which is a one-of-a-kind .jpeg file called “Everydays — The First 5000 Days,” a collage-style piece of 5,000 separate digital images.
The artist formerly known as Mike Winkelmann added that this form of digital art was so new, some pieces might grow in value while others become worthless.
“Participants in NFT markets,” opined a cryptocurrency lawyer, “are not thinking it through carefully.”
Phenomenologically (it’s pernounced just the way it’s spelled) speaking, the monetary value (even in cryptocurrency) of art is equal to how much someone is willing to pay for it.
Words, however, have become devalued to the stage where the malaprop coined yesterday is a dictionary entry tomorrow.
Which gives me an idear ...
Mail Tribune keyboard warrior Robert Galvin can be reached at email@example.com