Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No ifs, ands or butts

I love words, which is why I like to listen to NPR, where the hosts feel comfortable, properly using words such as 'penultimate' without feeling the need to define them. And I don't think it makes one a snob to know how to use words such as that.  After all, no one was born knowing that word, so everyone who uses it had to either look it up or have it defined for them. 

That latter aspect of vocabulary building came easy for me.  All I had to do was run to the dictionary and look up the words my father used as he urged me to be less contumacious and obstreperous.

All this comes to mind because of The New Yorker, a magazine that goes with NPR like brie goes with baguettes.  In the past several years, most recently two weeks ago, articles in that storied weekly have used the word "callipygian" to refer to Kim Kardashian. 

The very fact that The New Yorker mentioned KK in an article about how America seems to be mesmerized by trivial TV reality shows about marriages that were not based in reality whatsoever says a lot.   
But they had also used the word about the same woman, saying that she liked to order a certain sort of underwear that makes one look more callipygian. 

So now it was time to do the research and find out what the darned word means, so I don't make an ass of myself by butting in and having to wag my tail.  So here is what the good people at Merriam-Webster say:

cal·li·pyg·ian : having shapely buttocks

Origin of the word: from the Greek kallipygos : kalli- (beautiful) + pygē (buttocks.) First Known Use: circa 1800.

And you didn't think people talked like that in 1800, did you?

I understand that Ms Kardashian herself looked up the definition while working at a milking barn. She really loves her dairy air.

And was she proud to have learned a new word?
You should have seen her beam!

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