Lost in Lexicon

I was in a conversation Sunday morning with a very hip forty something entrepreneur. He used the word curated seven times. I’ve been hearing the c word bandied about for a few years now. Everything is curated! Once upon a time there was the curator and the collection. As in art with a capital A. Now Whole Foods is curated. And one curates one’s clothing. I told my friend Laraine the echt dog walker, she should say her pack is carefully curated. It is!

Urban English, while wily, entertaining and certainly hip, is a language remarkably imprecise. Also, I never get it. I don’t know if this is because I don’t spend enough time online (it seems to me, I spend my entire life online). Or because I’m just plain dense.

Also, I’ve never understood no matter how many times someone explains to me or I look up, the word inchoate. I know what it means. I just don’t understand it. I could never, for instance, use it in a sentence. If you use a word, you have to understand it.

How about that schadenfreude? The inimitable German one-word marvel that says it so much better than envy, jealousy, or hostility. Shadenfreude, the joy we feel in another’s misfortune, is in itself a little work of art.

My cousin Melissa Marcus, a French scholar and translator of Isabelle Ebherhardt, sent me a poem the other day—Boketto—in the Japanese language, to stare out of windows without purpose. Now that’s a beauty.

Uxorious is not an especially pretty word or one heard all that often out there in our carefully curated world. I once told a childhood friend of mine he was the most uxorious man I know and I meant it as a compliment. It was. He looked it up when we were talking on the phone and he roundly disagreed. He felt insulted. He wasn’t uxorious.

On the same subject… how come there is no female equivalent of uxorious? Is there no such thing as being excessively fond of one’s husband? Or is it just assumed one always is? It’s hard to say.

On that same afternoon I was driving down Three Mile Harbor Road in East Hampton. The sun was shining in the deep green trees. The road curved. Henry was beside me with his little head looking out the window, ears up.


A flock of wild turkeys crowded the road. I slowed down. Sometimes you can go for months without seeing them. Then you start seeing them every time you leave the house. Or even in your own yard. Wild turkeys: Amazing looking creatures. The first time I saw them, I knew exactly what they were because I once worked on the Wild Turkey account. Wild turkeys are odd, majestic birds. And you never saw them until you did.

This group of wild turkeys hit the sun at exactly the right angle. On one side were the little shingle houses on Three Mile Harbor. No mcmansions. Not yet, anyway. On the other side, the sweet little harbor with the boats and the docks, the water was the new very late spring blue. The trees still had the green of newness. And the wild turkeys with their tiny tiny heads and their great big bodies were in the middle of all this, their feathers shining.

In the best of all possible lexicons, there ought to be one word to describe the joy of encountering that flock of wild birds in the afternoon sun.

There probably is in some lovely language I don’t speak.

That evening, when I was talking to my husband, I told him this. He paused on the other end of the line. Perhaps I should mention, my husband was at work at Sony in Culver City. Sunday afternoon in June, and still at work. There is a pretty precise word for that: workaholic.

My husband declared: “I wish there was a word for the ongoing strain of having one’s wife and dog on another coast.” I laughed. He laughed. Then we both starting talking about words we wished existed.

Here’s the Boketto poem my cousin sent me. How comes this wonderful poet has not had her place in my carefully curated poetry collection?

She will now…

Boketto, by Susan Rich

Outside my window it’s never the same—
some mornings jasmine slaps the house, some mornings sorrow.

There is a word I overheard today, meaning lost
not on a career path or across a floating bridge:

Boketto—to stare out windows without purpose.
Don’t laugh; it’s been too long since we leaned

into the morning: bird friendly coffee and blueberry toast. Awhile
since I declared myself a prophet of lost cats—blind lover

of animal fur and feral appetites. Someone should tag
a word for the calm of a long marriage. Knowledge

the heat will hold, and our lights remain on—a second
sight that drives the particulars of a life: sea glass and salt,

cherry blossoms and persistent weeds. What assembles in the middle
distance beyond the mail truck; have I overlooked oceans,

ignored crows? I try to exist in the somehow, the might still be—
gaze upward to constellations of in-between.

(img source: Country Captures)


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