My favorite part of The Atlantic is generally the Word Fugitives section of Barbara Wallraff’s In a Word. There are always several well-considered, generally balanced, and certainly thought-provoking articles in The Atlantic, but for sheer linguistic fun I have to read the last page first.
The July/August Word Fugitives feature had a request:
And Curtis L. Brown, of Neenah, Wis., writes, “Please help me find an appropriate word for the aversion of many persons (young or old) to revealing their true age.”
I immediately googled “annumadversion” thinking that it was such an obvious coinage that someone else on the internet must have used it, but other than a helpful suggestion that perhaps I meant to “…search for: animadversion,” google was silent.
Hardly daring to hope that I could be the first to think of this coinage, I quickly submitted my answer to The Atlantic’s web site. I felt some faint hope for a mention, and was impatient to discover which truly great coinage would cop “top honors” in a later issue.
Today, I picked up the November 2008 issue, and, as usual, I flipped to the back to read my favorite feature. In a Word started with a rehash of the familiar (and I thought discredited) suggestion that the “average college graduate is familiar with about 75,000 words” and ended up quoting Strunk and White: “Avoid fancy words.”
Moving on to Word Fugitives, I discovered that most of the suggestions were funny but snarky: those shy of revealing their age are “egostatistical” “chronic liars” who commit “cosmetic perjury”. Imagine my delight as I read:
But we wanted a word for the tendency—the aversion. Michael K. Johnson, of Apex, N.C., takes top honors for his fancy but refreshingly nonjudgmental coinage annumadversion.
That made my day.