I have been pacing up and down my modest library. It is an activity which approaches near-ritual status. My collection draws largely from two sources. I follow what others in my circle are reading. I also study various book reviews to keep a tab on latest reading trends.
As I enjoy this solitary dance, I am reminded of an essay by Oliver Teale, author of The Secret Library: A Book Lover’s Journey through Curiosities of History and Lecturer in English. It is always amazing to see what a few hours of dedicated reading can yield. My late beloved father used to summarize it thus: “reading maketh a man!”
I am content with calling myself a logophile, which translates to one who loves words. However, Teale’s blog, entitled “10 Words Every Book Lover Should Know” leaves me convinced that I desperately need additional books for my collection. I have never quite decided whether to call myself a voracious or reckless reader. This small conflict arises from my desire to spread my reading across as many fields of knowledge as I can muster. It is, therefore, not surprising to find me trying to plough through three or four books at a time. Teale’s post leaves me with the amplified question of how to derive the most from my reading. Oh, and I certainly recommend the post for those scholars who, like me, believe that there is no end to learning.
In the blog, which appeared in HUFFPOST on July 9 2014, Teale transports me from a mere word-lover to a book-lover. And so from logophile, I learn that the book-lover is called a ‘bibliophile.’ That is understood. It is not too much of a shock and I am still standing!
After that he posts a few more of his favorite words, including, EPEOLATRY (yes, spelt in capital letters!) Teale says this refers to the ‘worship of words.’ I keep assuring myself that this cannot be idolatry. Or, could it be? He is just beginning by the way. “LITERARIAN,” which describes one who considers himself or herself as ‘an educated or lettered person’ follows.
I have often argued that a message stands better chances of achieving its aims if delivered in simple language. I guess this is a part of me that remains from my early jobs. I worked first as a radio and television reporter. The biggest lesson I left with was KISS – “keep it short and simple.” Years down the line, I found myself immersed in writing speeches to be delivered by politicians to rural audiences. One of the mysteries I carry up to this day is the refusal by all those I drafted speeches for, to have the drafts in local languages. It, therefore, became necessary to ensure that speeches were in the kind of easy-to-grasp language which could be easily translated in situations where English simply could not work.
After the lettered or educated person, Teale presents a completely new word for me: ULTRACREPIDARIAN! From his research, this is a reference to one who pretends to be lettered or educated but the truth is that the person gives opinions on things s/he does not know anything about. The word was apparently recorded in 1819, in a letter written by the “influential critic” (not surprising), William Hazlitt, when he applied the word ultracrepidarian to a critic. I encourage readers to follow up on Teale’s explanation of the origins of the word. I found it thoroughly engaging.
Another interesting word thrown by Teale at book-lovers is MOROSOPH. As I read this one, I am tempted to say it reminds me so much of moron. Perhaps, I am not that misdirected after all because the word refers to “one who is overheard mouthing about books, films, politics, or indeed anything, at the next table in the pub or coffee house. A morosoph is a would-be philosopher; a fool who thinks he is cleverer than s/he is.” I must say that I found the genesis of the word truly informative. In brief, “it borrows from the French writer, Rabelais, where the moro is from the Greek meaning dull or stupid and the sophistication from the Greek for wise. Morosophs are foolish for thinking themselves wise.”
I will not reproduce Teale‘s blog. Readers will find it under the title which I have already indicated. I will, however, throw in BIBLIOBIBULI. This is a word attributed to the American humorist, H.L. Mencken, who used it for people who read too much. Not surprisingly, Teale asks the valid question: “is there such a thing as reading too much?” He leaves the last word for Mencken who argued that “I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion.” It is a rather difficult one to call, especially when I try to pronounce the Mencken’s term.
My last borrowings from Teale are BIBLIOPHAGIST (to describe a devourer of books). I am unsure as to how this book-lover would relate to the BIBLIOBIBULI. I would love to hear what your thoughts are. The last word, which I must say inspired the title of this piece, is BIBLIOSMIA. This refers to “the act of smelling books, especially as a way of getting a ‘fix’ from the aroma of old tomes.”
I am reminded of some of the huge volumes we studied as part of our Literature in English course. I still vividly remember the false promises we made with my classmates that we would try and “spot” which pages were unavoidable and neglect those we believed could never form part of an examination. It did not take long for us to realize that we were treading on dangerous ground.
But, why “save the book?” In true, old-school fashion, I am worried that our children are missing out on the joys and benefits of reading, flipping through pages, making notes on the margins and underlining some grammatical constructions that just left you in awe. The power of words, the beauty of books. I am certainly not the only one who fears what may happen to the book. I was laughing at cartoon representations of how technology is affecting our lives.
In one illustration, a father lovingly asks his son about his day at school. The son’s answer is an almost mechanical and impersonal “you can read all about it on my blog, Dad!” Yet another classic from “digital synopsis.com,” is the answer given by a child when asked for his or her permanent address. This is given as http://www.facebook.com/username