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Observing Editor

One adventuresome atom

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I am pleased to learn that our recent experiments in promoting vocabulary are starting to yield results. One of our loyal readers reports that no less a writer than Samuel Beckett, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, has availed himself of one of our recommended words in his radio play All That Fall. To quote from the work:

MRS ROONEY: Come down here, Miss Fitt, and give me your arm, before I scream down the parish!

MISS FITT: Well, I suppose it is the Protestant thing to do.

MRS ROONEY: Pismires do it for one another. I have seen slugs do it…

That a writer of such stature had the insight to sieze upon the word pismire in 1956, when he yet walked the earth, is a testament to the prodigious ability of our RetroSocket (tm) publication strategy to shine a light of knowledge into the past as forcefully as we shadow forth the future. I have petitioned my virtual correspondent 4rch33 to contact Mr. Beckett’s shade for comment, which I hope to report in due time.

The word for this week is the subtle adjective glaucous. The word names the color of the sea: a bluish, grayish green. It has also taken on a technical sense in botany, referring to the state of being covered with a pale waxy bloom. What brings it to our attention is its sound, reminiscent of raucous and mucous. To pronounce it distinctly is to first scrape invisible peanut butter off of the roof of your mouth, then gargle invisible water, choke slightly, and finish with a hiss.

I admit to a fondness for the sea, and I find its subtle colors appealing. I am therefore somewhat disappointed that these qualities are labeled with a word sounding like glaucous. If pronounced with appropriate force, it would make a passable term for some theoretically edible Klingon delicacy:

Captain KorD’ump: More glauQuss?

Ambassador Buffer: No, thank you, captain.

Captain KorD’ump: Bah! The old proverb is true: food is wasted on the weak, human!

However, this line of speculation is taking us from the matter at hand. The word glaucous can be effectively employed as a conversation-stopper, even when the meaning of the utterance is completely innocent.

The Genilman: I wanna get you a present. What’s your favorite color, baby?

The Lady: Glaucous.

Likewise, simply describing something as glaucous, however accurately, will tend to call the whole context of discourse into question. Suppose that you are dining out, and due to poor planning you are dining alone. The waitstaff of the fine restaurant you selected is ruthlessly efficient and opinionated, and so you have been forced to accept the recommendations of your waiter in all things in order to avoid argument. You can serve as you are served by lodging complaints like the following:

Waiter: For the final course, the cheese and fruit selection de luxe.

Diner: These fruits are unacceptable.

Waiter: In what manner do they fail to please, sir?

Diner: Isn’t it apparent? The grapes are patently glaucous!

Waiter: …I see. I do apologize.

It is vitally important to utilize this technique only under extreme provocation, and well after having eaten your fill. Waitstaff can be perilously vindictive.

Finally, when wishing to discuss a bluish-green color, the word glaucous simply has a greater expressivity than bluish-green. It evokes the great melancholy that afflicts all sea-going peoples from time to time when facing the vast, unsympathetic depths of the oceans.

Mrs. Bizzy: Oh, you should have seen the bridesmaids! The little dears, all in pink ruffles.

Mrs. Boddy: Pink dresses? I hope the girls were pretty.

Mrs. Bizzy: Oh, such bright faces, and all blondes, the dears.

Mrs. Boddy: Nothing sadder than a plain bridesmaid in pink. Unfair, especially with ruffles.

Mrs. Bizzy: They were just darling! I took so many pictures.

Mrs. Boddy: Like a great big gold ring set with an agate. A common stone.

Mrs. Bizzy: Oh, to be a young girl and a bridesmaid again!

Mrs. Boddy: They’ll never get me to do that again, oh no! (Pause.) What about the bride?

Mrs. Bizzy: The bride?

Mrs. Boddy: Yes, there was one, wasn’t there?

Mrs. Bizzy: Oh, the bride! It was so sad!

Mrs. Boddy: She died?

Mrs. Bizzy: No! The bridesmaids were such darlings, and then the bride enters in a full gown, with a bouquet of pink roses. The gown must have cost a fortune- silk, antique lace… oh, what a tragedy!

Mrs. Boddy: Yes? Go on.

Mrs. Bizzy: It… the gown, was… glaucous.

Mrs. Boddy: Glaucous! And pink bridesmaids!

Mrs. Bizzy: It was horrible, hor-rible!

Mrs. Boddy: There, there, take my handkerchief, love.