dictionary delight

When I visit my elderly mother we usually spend the evening with the newspaper puzzle page. (A single crossword can distract from many cross words.) It’s the cryptic crossword that we enjoy most and, between us, we often complete it. Yesterday, we attempted the one from the i newspaper, abandoning it with some half dozen clues unanswered.

reference books
The crossword always seems easier the next day – I suspect it’s telepathic communication with all those readers who’ve checked their answers early on! – so we had another look this morning and finally had it completed all but one clue.

The clue was “A free broadcaster?” and the letters we had were:
A _ N _ I _

I’ve been lazy recently and, while my mother consults the atlas and dictionary, Brewer or the dictionary of quotations, I have all too quickly reached for my computer to do anagrams, look up synonyms etc. This morning, though, my lap top was upstairs, while the dictionary was close at hand, so I resorted to the method we used when the whole family used to pool our efforts over the Sunday crossword and Christmas jumbos when I was a child.

What pure pleasure there is in leafing through the dictionary!

As is often the case, I realised the answer** before actually reaching the word, but en route I discovered several gems. I should have been able to guess agnoiology – defined as “philosophy of ignorance” – and wonder if I can extrapolate and use agnoiophile to describe some of the irritating people I have to deal with who are smugly satisfied with their own ignorance.

Then there was apolar. With so many people now claiming to be bipolar, I wonder whether this might be used to describe psychopaths who have no empathy, or the sort of stolid character that remains unaffected by whatever happens. Or would apolarity have been what the Stoics strove for?

There were lots of other words that caught my eye, but I’ll just mention one more: arsy-versy. Although it’s labelled as “obsolete in polite use” in the Oxford Universal, I think most people would recognise it as meaning “backside foremost”, though not, perhaps, “perversely” or “contrary” (It’s both an adverb and an adjective.)

It may not be polite, but it’s a lovely word; I wonder if we could appropriate it as a term for poetry criticism – particularly when dealing with agnoiophiles!
** For those who haven’t realised, the answer is a combination of A and UNTIE, giving AUNTIE, for the BBC.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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