Thursday, August 11, 2011

Defination* (for Definition*)

Once, when my lovely and literate grandmother was still alive, we were playing a game (now commercially produced and known as Balderdash, but back then a strictly DIY affair) at our great-aunt's cabin on a place called "Lake Desolation." You find some obscure word in the dictionary, everyone guesses at the meaning or makes up a fake definition for it, then you mix them all together with the real definition and the players vote on which one they think is correct. My word was furfuraceous, which my grandmother cutely, if a tad predictably, defined as "like a beautiful long fur coat." (In an excess of sentimentality, perhaps, I tucked away and still have the little slip of paper she wrote it on.) The actual definition, though, continues to strike me as both hilarious and absurd: resembling bran; branlike. My grandmother was an early adopter of "health food" and probably had numerous bags and jars of bran in her cupboard at any given time, whereas she most likely had never owned a fur coat in her entire life. (Although she was a bit of a flapper back in the day, so who knows, maybe she did.) I can't say that you will definitely find this one in your own database, but there were eight cases of Defination* in OhioLINK this morning and 168 in WorldCat.

(Photograph of wheat bran, 2006, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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