When I visited Oxford, a couple of weeks ago, I made the acquaintance of Ammon Shea, the author of Reading the OED. For his book, Ammon (whose name rhymes with "backgammon," he tells me -- funny how even in print it's hard to get past words and names that one doesn't know how to pronounce) plumbed the dictionary's depths and brought back an assortment of obscure but interesting words.

Ammon would like to see some of these antiques restored and put to use again -- an idea that has a lot of appeal in this recycling-conscious era. Word Fugitives, of course, specializes in shiny new words custom-made to meet current needs; Ammon's is a different approach to the same problems. I challenged Ammon to find old words that would fulfill some recent Word Fugitives requests. Here's one, with more to come in the days ahead:

Sarah Selzer, of Phoenix, writes: "If you hibernate to stay warm during the winter, what do you call it when you stay inside during the summer to stay cool?"


Ammon Shea replies: "Speaking for myself, I call it common sense, never having understood the urge that overtakes so much of humanity and causes them to suffer the afflictions of crowds, beaches, picnics, and the like in the summer.  The OED, however, would likely call it æstivation, which they define as 'The act of remaining dormant or torpid during the dry season, or extreme heat of summer; summer-sleep.  Opposed to hibernation.'"