Monday, July 21, 2008

After Dark

There are books you visit once every blue moon, like old and dear friends who have moved to inconvenient corners of the globe. I'm catching up with The Insomniac's Dictionary by Paul Hellweg, a 1986 paperback the author dedicated, in an inspired mix of banality and Freudian angst, to his parents. The book lives in a small, high room with a skylight and a crooked chimney in a house in a remote location in Maine. I have enjoyed spending time with it since I was very small, despite the fact that I really cannot claim to be an insomniac, and am generally asleep within 60-90 seconds of turning out the light.

I partake, then, guiltily.

Still, the words! I peruse the collective nouns: a clowder of cats, a charm of finches, a skulk of foxes, a siege of herons, a smack of jellyfish, a kindle of kittens, a leap of leopards, an exaltation of larks, a richness of martens, a barren of moles, an unkindness of ravens, a knot of toads, a bale of turtles, a fall of woodcocks.

I reacquaint myself with somnocyclism (the act of riding a bicycle while asleep) and erotodromomania (abnormal impulse to travel to escape a painful sexual situation). Also floccinaucinihilipilification, meaning, according to Hellweg, "the action or habit of estimating as worthless." Come to think of it, quite a lot of this goes on in early music.

In sum, I am, if not underslept, at least renewed in the faith. Words are cool! This despite my floccinaucinihilipilificatory tendencies.

1 comment:

Ellie said...

Beautiful, Timberlake! What wonderful words. And I do love collective nouns.