Airlings and Bouffages

I am now reading “Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages.” If you’re not familiar with the initials OED, they stand for Oxford English Dictionary. The OED is one big whopping dictionary. It is also as comprehensive as any lexicon of English words can ever be.

The fellow who wrote the book I am now reading, a masochist named Ammon Shea, took upon himself the task of reading every word in the OED in the period of one year. He not only read it, he took notes and wrote about it. His book about the reading of the OED is much smaller than its subject matter. It consists of only 232 pages.

Among other things he does in his book, Shea lists and defines (briefly) some of the words he found most interesting. Many of the words are obscure and no longer in use. Many of them are odd, cumbersome, and difficult to pronounce. In fact, Shea states that many of the old words in the OED do not have pronunciation keys because they are so long out of use that no one alive today knows how they might have been pronounced. In a way, that’s good. You can say (or try to say) those words in public and no one can accuse you of mispronouncing them. Well, they can accuse you but they cannot prove it.

I’ve taken a special liking to several of the words that Shea presents in the book. Airling is my favorite so far (although I’ve only just started the B chapter). It is a wonderful word. Pronunciation is easy. It’s light on the tongue. It’s fun to say: Airling. The best part of the word, next to the fun of saying it, is the definition: “A person who is both young and thoughtless.” What a fitting word to match the definition! I can imagine a young person without an intelligent thought in his or her head. When I think of such a person, I think of airhead and also of bumbling. Don’t ask me why, I just do. So, at any rate, AIRLING seems like the perfect word to describe a bumbling airhead. I love it.

Another word that Shea mentions in his book is bouffage. Say it “boofidge” or “boofazh,” whichever way makes you feel good. The important thing is what it means. You probably have had many of these (I’m hoping), and I’d bet that you would say that you are always looking forward to another one. We spend much of our time thinking about them and plotting ways to get more. We can partake of them alone, with a partner, or, in some cases, with a number of others. When you have one, you feel pleasantly satiated and often think about the experience (and sometimes even talk about it) when it’s over.

What does this word mean? If you haven’t guessed by now, here’s the definition: “An enjoyable or satisfying meal.”

“I enjoyed a bouffage last night with my wife.”

“We had a bouffage yesterday and I was up half the night remembering it.”

“That bouffage on Wednesday was to die for.”

You get the idea.

I love airlings and bouffages. Both the words and what they represent. I can remember many satisfying bouffages attended by our very own airlings. Ah, sweet memories.

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