Poetry Corner SpecGram Vol CLXVI, No 3 Contents Reawakened Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t Know—Madalena Cruz-Ferreira

The Definition of Progress

by Sam Crusemire
University of Richmond

The average member of Richmond’s jeunesse dorée will be delighted to discover that our university plans to release its own Dictionary of the English Language. Over the course of a few decades, the Departments of English, Classics, and Modern Literatures and Cultures developed the dictionary, considering Webster pedantic and the OED too wordy. Other departments joined in occasionally, including the Philosophy Department, which was given the task of submitting a definition for the entry “why” (the UR Dictionary’s first edition will feature a blank space next to this word, however, as progress has slowed due to widespread disagreement), and the Robins School of Business, which defined the entries “plutocracy” and “winning.”

Walt Spiel, Professor of German, spoke with me about parts of the opus that he was involved with. Dr. Spiel’s work in lexicography shows, as all of his utterances are constructed in alphabetical order. I also met with Woody Fondla, Professor of Biology, who is another of Richmond’s lexicographers that has caught alphabetagammica. He provided definitions for the verbs “to dream,” “to allure,” “to wait,” and suggests an origin for the phrase “Oh, come on already.” Each contributor’s name will be listed in the dictionary, along with their astrological assignment, sections on which they worked, and preference whether or not to receive ad hominem criticism by phone after sunset on weekdays.

The UR Dictionary will be the first to include several neologisms that have entered the language as recently as not so long ago; for example, the word “toötelibiongt,”meaning “much higher than average in amount, extent or quality”will be featured. To celebrate the occasion of the word’s inclusion in the dictionary, all t-shirts with “It’s a great time to be a Spider” printed on them will be recalled and new shirts that read “It’s a toötelibiongt time to be a Spider” will be made available. Also to be found in the UR Dictionary are a few terms that were birthed right here in Richmond’s science labs. The words “pulchrameter” (a device that can mathematically measure how beautiful the moon is on any given night) and “itsbubblin” (a method for gauging the temperature of any boiling liquid, whereby one sticks her or his hand into the liquid, multiplies the number of seconds it takes the fingers to turn a fatal rouge by the number of profane adjectives exclaimed and divides the product by the number of witnesses present) are two entries that the compilers are especially enthused about.

Not all news surrounding the dictionary is good news, however. President Edward Ayers, who lent his full support to the making of the dictionary, has been removed from his position. Unfortunately, the task of writing the dictionary’s ‘Acknowledgements’ section was given to an apprentice, who had only ever heard the President’s name, and wrote of “our indebtedness to heirs.” Through a perplexing, though probably imaginable, series of events, Dr. Ayers was forced to abdicate by his younger siblings and cousins, who now rule over the University as an oligarchy. Support is being lent to both the old and new regime and a Civil War is soon expected to break out. Further, a case of plagiarism is blackening the reputation of the dictionary. While the first volume of the work was going through editing, the compilers of the New American Collegiate Dictionary for Americans in America filed a suit, claiming that the UR Dictionary’s definition for “coincidence” was suspiciously similar to their own. In fact, the New American editors have filed almost one-hundred seventy thousand other suits just like this one.

To end on a good note, when word was caught of Richmond’s plans to publish a dictionary, UVA set about compiling a thesaurus and ODU got down to work on an elementary speller. And that is the definition of progress.

Poetry Corner
Reawakened Things You Didn’t Know You Didn’t KnowMadalena Cruz-Ferreira
SpecGram Vol CLXVI, No 3 Contents