This post is part of an ongoing project dedicated to sharing new words and ideas. This is not meant to be a “word of the day” where a new, unusual word is defined every day. First of all, each post will probably include multiple words. Second of all, there will be some discussion about each word, with a goal of creating interest and showing how a word can actually be used. Thirdly, none of these are words which I knew before I looked them up. My sources include books, television, conversations with friends, webcomics, overheard conversations, and the titles of weird pornographies.
Autochthonous – pronounced “aw-tok-thon-us”
The word “autochthonous” means “from the soil,” and it’s got deep Greek roots. In Greek mythology, an Autochthon was a person who was born directly from the soil, rather than from a mother and father. For example, the Spartans were supposed to have been born out of a field sewn with dragon’s teeth. Which would explain to everyone alive why they were such badasses, and also why they had the right, as it were, to hold on to their land and conquer that of others.
Even then, though, it had some real-life meanings, and now basically means indigenous or native.
n. 1. Indigenous, native. The process of gentrification, though positive in a lot of ways, is a process of the continual relocation of poor, autochthonous citizens to other, equally crappy neighborhoods.
2. (Geology) Buried in place, especially of a fossil found in its life position. The coolest fossils are the autochthonous ones where the dinosaurs are found in medias res, fighting, or eating, or spooning.
I find this word exciting, in part, on account of its regal bearing: “Autochthon.” It’s hard to pronounce – to put that /k/ sound right before the /th/. You have to pause before you even complete the word. You almost have to straighten your back and face forward. It adds regality to the position of having been somewhere first. Virgil would have loved it – in fact, he probably did.
What’s more, autochthany, its validity as a legal or rightful stance, and the implications of violating it are a hot topic in our decrescent world, whether you’re debating the fates of Syrian or Congolese refugees, or bans against gypsies, or the destruction of autochthonous habitats and species by the “artificial” introductions of alien species, something which seems to happen too often.
Purlieu – pronounced “pur-loo,” “purl-yoo”
n. 1. The area near or surrounding a place – this one basically means vicinity or neighborhood. I live in the purlieu of the Sardine Bar; therefore, I know the bartenders there; therefore, when I don’t want to look like an alcoholic, I drink there, because I know the bartenders there and can pretend I am visiting them.
2. A person’s usual haunts. We were so taken with Benedict Cumberbatch’s curly hair and sullen, malicious intellectualism that we moved to London, dogged his steps, learned his purlieus, and began to frequent them.
3. A place where one may range at large; confines or bounds. A thousand years of progress have increased the average person’s purlieu; where once the majority of people might never leave their hometown, and ten miles’ travel was a day’s work, today, half the circumference of the globe is a trivial matter of a fraction of a day. This is accompanied by an equally great decrease in the purlieu of many other animals, like deer, wolves, giraffes and polar bears.
Purlieu is great for a few reasons. I like the purring noise it makes – purr-lyoo. And anything in French just sounds luscious and drowsy, like it should be said with half-lidded eyes and a limply outstretched arm, from a position of be-pillowed repose.
So you might say that The proposed sale of PA Wine and Spirits shops to private owners, under the burden of a number of restrictions and of course the liquor tax, will make these new businesses purlieus to thestate. (I’m not voicing a negative opinion here. I like privatization – Convenience and Choice in 2013!)
Meretricious. Meretricious means, literally, “apparently attractive but having in reality no value or integrity.” So cubic zirconium is meretricious diamond, the The Phantom of The Opera sequel Love Never Dies is a meretricious play, the toilet upstairs is a meretricious toilet (the plumbers came and turned off the water; they’ve since left and have not yet returned, and I have to take a pee, and cannot) and Tom Cruise is just meretricious.
Because meretricious has also taken on another meaning, one which is borrowed by association: “of, or relating to, a prostitute.” Therefore, Tom Cruise is meretricious because he sells his belief to a religion that’s considered a “dangerous cult” in more than one reputable country and because he’ll be in pretty much any movie that comes along and pays. By this definition, short skirts are also meretricious, and canker sores, and the play Pretty Woman: because it’s about a prostitute.
See how words, over time, can creep and crawl across meanings? Prostitutes are so commonly considered meretricious that the meaning of “meretricious” becomes “prostitutular.”
Which of course reminds me of the terrible rap that prostitutes get, kind of all of the time. They are “apparently attractive” but likely with no value, and no integrity. Having no values, these women are usually called to prostitution because of the job security and the benefits, and how much fun the work is.
That said, sex with a prostitute must be very much meretricious: looking good on that late, drunken night that you’re stumbling back to the hotel in the airport district; but in most honest retrospect, all fizzle with little sizzle.
If women had gotten to write the dictionaries and the newspapers of the last half a millennia, while still in their oppressed state, “meretricious” would more likely now mean something like: “Of, or relating to, politicians.” Or, “Of guys with popped collars.” I propose new meanings, in relation to the current climate: “Of, or relating to, my college degree,” or “regarding the Presidential debates.”
Update on my own situation: the plumbers were gone for quite a while. Eventually, experiencing pain but not being able to leave (the plumbers could not get back in if I did) or use the toilet, I took the age-old route of empty beer bottles. It looks like, with little effort, I can pee more than 24 ounces!