AMF, Part III

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"AMF" being "

Antique Mental Furnishings," and this entry being more from guest blogger Ammon Shea. I've been challenging him with Word Fugitives that I imagine might already have been captured somewhere in a 20-volume dictionary "on historical principles," as the OED explains its MO, and Ammon has been gamely trying to turn up applicable words. Now come to find out he's not necessarily in favor of bringing these words back into the living language. He tells me:

 

"I wouldn't say that I am opposed to these words being resurrected, but I don't know that they are terribly useful for conversational purposes.  That being said, I don't think that a word has to be used out loud in order to be enjoyed.  I find the greatest pleasure in words come from having them bounce about my head, as opposed to trying to shoehorn them into conversation.  But I also feel that one of the purposes of words is that they be enjoyed and savored, and so I'm happy if someone wants to do that through using them in speech."

   

Ammon? I get the same kind of thrill you're talking about from learning Italian. But my method has more potential, seems to me. And it doesn't require quite so much homework.

In any case, John R. Cort, of Richland, Wash., writes: 

"I'm looking for a word to describe the activity -- sometimes accidental, sometimes intentional -- of reading others' output from a shared office printer."

 

And Ammon replies: 

"I think it depends on whether the reading you're doing is intentional or not.  If it is an honest mistake, I would say that ignotism (a mistake made from ignorance) fits the bill.  But if your perusals of the shared copier are done with intent then I would recommend a word more along the lines of vetanda (things that should not be done) to describe the activity.

"I don't know if it is still kept current, but several hundred years ago the Church of Rome had a thing called the Expurgatory Index, a list of writings that were forbidden to be read unless they had been expurgated.  Perhaps you could institute a secular expurgatory index at your office." 

I like "vetanda" -- particularly if the people doing them do them on the veranda. 
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Visit Barbara Wallraff’s blog, at barbarawallraff .theatlantic.com, to see more commentary on language and to submit Word Fugitive queries and words that meet David K. Prince’s need. Readers whose queries are published and those who take top honors will receive an autographed copy of Wallraff’s most recent book, Word Fugitives. More

Barbara WallraffBarbara Wallraff, a contributing editor and columnist for The Atlantic, has worked for the magazine for 25 years. She is also a weekly syndicated newspaper columnist for King Features and the author of Word Fugitives (2006), Your Own Words (2004), and the national best-seller Word Court (2000). Her writing about language has appeared in The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wilson Quarterly, The American Scholar, and The New York Times Magazine.

Wallraff has been an invited speaker at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the National Writers Workshop, the Nieman Foundation, Columbia Journalism School, the British Institute Library of Florence, and national or international conventions of the American Copy Editors Society, the Council of Science Editors, the International Education of Students organization, and the Journalism Education Association. She has been interviewed about language on the Nightly News With Tom Brokaw and dozens of radio programs including Fresh Air, The Diane Rehm Show, and All Things Considered. National Public Radio's Morning Edition once commissioned her to copy edit the U.S. Constitution. She is a member of the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel. The Genus V edition of the game Trivial Pursuit contains a question about Wallraff and her Word Court column.

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