Bisesquiquinquenniums and People’s 10 Favorite Words
March 30, 2011 12 Comments
Julia and I were raised in a household in which our dad would gleefully use words like “Bisesquiquinquenniums” (see if you can parse it, answer is beneath the fold). One iconic memory we have is of Dad running down the stairs excitedly saying, “Kids! The Occultation of Regulus is at hand!” (Yes, it’s a real astronomical occurrence.)
So it was with particular appreciation that I came across the Merriam Webster list of People’s Top 10 Favorite Words:
1 ) Defenestration: a throwing of a person or a thing out of a window; or a usually swift expulsion or dismissal
2 ) Flibbertigibbet: a silly flighty person
3 ) Kerfuffle: disturbance; fuss
4 ) Persnickety: fussy about small details; fastidious
5 ) Callipygian: having shapely buttocks
6 ) Serendipity: luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for
7 ) Mellifluous: having a smooth rich flow
8 ) Discombobulated: upset; confused
9 ) Palimpsest: writing material used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased; or, something with diverse layers or aspects apparent beneath the surface
10 ) Sesquipedalian: long; characterized by the use of long words
All of these words are excellent. The last one would be a clue about “Bisesquiquinquennium”, except that the short definition doesn’t include the literal meaning.
‘Sesqui’ is the prefix for ‘one and a half’ so the literal use/translation of sesquipedalian is just “foot and a half long”. Thus, piecing together the parts of ‘Bisesquiquinquennium’, we get “bi” meaning ‘two’, ‘sesqui’ or ‘one and a half’, and ‘quinquennium‘ for ‘a period of five years’. Thus, 2 x 1.5 x 5 is 15 years! The Bisesquiquinquennium is a period of 15 years.
Now are you getting insight into why Julia and I are the way we are?