HUGH MCCLINTOCK, of Conneautville, Pennsylvania, made up two
words—and a Native American language. He wrote,
"Mondstrahlbleichfolgenimmerwandererufer leaps to mind as a
wonderfully apt, self-defining German neologism for friendly waterborne moon
rays. True, it's a tad long, but the charm of Teutonic eloquence easily makes
up for the length.
"And the Senecas have a flashy word meaning 'moon ray on water
that tracks brave,' but it's in an untranslatable sign language. Alas, if only
I could pass it along."
Moonglade or moonwake is surely the word to use for real. But in
recognition of his droll sense of humor, let's award McClintock top honors
In October another reader wanted a term "to describe the burned
bit of skin on the roof of your mouth" that you get when you bite into a
too-hot pizza. Once again experts weighed in. Barbara Ravage, of Orleans, Massachusetts,
wrote, "In my book Burn Unit: Saving Lives After the Flames, I call this burn a
pizza peel (pun intended)." HALLEY S. FAUST, M.D., of West Hartford,
Connecticut, wrote, "Mark Dembert, M.D., and I published a letter to the editor
of the Journal of the American Dental Association in 1984 that described pizza
palate." Other readers submitted pizza palate as well, some of whom said they'd
been using the term for years. Whether they learned it from their dentists, and
the dentists learned it from Faust and Dembert, will never be known.
KATE DREHER, of Davis, California, extrapolated from pizza to
other too-hot foods. She wrote, "The chances are much higher than one in six
that I'll end up with a rushing ruelette on the roof of my mouth when I can't
overcome the urge to sample a freshly baked batch of cookies!" Gary Eschman, of
Santa Fe, came up with another word that would work for the result of biting
into anything too hot: palatite, derived from palate and stalactite.
BILL KAPP, of Houston, reported, "I've always called this a pizza
hangover." Top honors, however, go to CHARLES HARRINGTON ELSTER, of San Diego,
for his coinage pizzaster.
Now STEVE MIDGLEY, of San Rafael, California, writes, "I am looking for a word to describe a kind of typographical error: hitting a function key by mistake while typing on a computer. All the typing after that point causes the computer to start taking insane actions that I don't want."
And TOM GAMMARINO, of Forest Hills, New York, writes, "I keep finding myself looking for a word that means nostalgia for a time when I wasn't alive—a kind of wistful projection."
Send words that meet Steve Midgley's or Tom Gammarino's needs to Word Fugitives, The Atlantic Monthly, P.O. Box 67375, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467, or visit the Word Fugitives page on our Web site, at www.theatlantic.com/fugitives. Submissions must be received by March 31. Use the same addresses to submit word fugitives that you'd like The Atlantic's help in finding. Letters become the property of Word Fugitives and may be edited.
Readers whose queries are published and those whose words are singled out for top honors will each receive, with our thanks, a selection of recent autographed books by Atlantic authors. The next installment's correspondents will be sent Mission to America: A Novel, by Walter Kirn; 1491, by Charles C. Mann; and my own Word Fugitives.