I came across the Princes in the Tower on my way to a rendezvous with prerogative. While proofing a story, I came across the word “prerogative, “which had been spelled “perogative”.
Based on previous encounters with this oddly spelled word, I knew I had to check to ensure it did indeed have that funny silent “R” at the beginning. So, I turned to my trusty, thick, hardcover Canadian Oxford Dictionary, which sits like a language sentry on a side table in my office, a quick step-and-a-half from my desk. The option to remain seated and use my fingers to visit any number of dictionary websites was there. It’s always there.
However, rising from my chair, taking that step-and-a-half and picking up the hefty Oxford is very comforting.
Turning the firm cover and running my finger down the side until finding the letter I need, and feeling the weight of the pages bypassed crash down with a thud is reassuring, a habit that remains even as books continue to be endangered in this Internet/iPod/iPad/bit torrent/ebook world.
On this day, I was on my way to “prerogative” when I flipped those familiar pages and they flopped with that familiar thud — and I came eye-to-text with the Princes in the Tower.
I had flipped just past my destination and the five words — Princes in the Tower — jumped out at me.
I read the definition and was intrigued enough to find out more about this fascinating case that may or may not have been a Royal Family-inspired double child murder in 1483. In a nutshell: Princes Edward and Richard may have been slain in the Tower of London by their uncle, Richard III, who wanted them dead to ensure he held onto the throne.
The point here is I would never have come across this intriguing story had I remained seated and simply clicked on a dictionary website.
As the world changes at a dizzying pace, all staid old Oxford can do is take note — and it has with the addition of words that, a decade ago, were gibberish. Oxford has added “retweet,” “sexting,” “jeggings” and “woot,” among others, as the English language continues to evolve (or regress, as some would lament).
Whether words can be considered words is left to the folks at Oxford and Merriam-Webster. A decade or so ago, I began compiling a notebook with words for which I wanted to know the origin. I also began a collection of words that are not words, yet should be, in my humble opinion. If the 26 letters of our alphabet can be rearranged by someone to make a word deemed acceptable by someone else, why can’t I declare a word official, regardless of whether Oxford or Webster agree?
So was born “dilemmascent,” a word I felt perfectly described a person prone to misfortune. I liked it so much I used it once, in an editorial, with nary a grammarian raising an objection.
As my dear old dad would say, with conviction: “Irregardless, it’s your perogative and I know what the hell you’re trying to say.”
-Chris Foulds is the editor of Kamloops This Week.