Aristology: The science of cooking and dining. Abjured, even denigrated, by Nero Wolfe, on the basis that both cooking and dining are arts, not sciences. Now more commonly defined as both an art and a science, covering the preparation, cooking, presentation and eating of food.
Zeuglodont: A type of carnivorous whale. Now extinct. Also referred to as phocodontia.
Aristology. A word I first came across when I was about ten, when I started reading Rex Stout. Although Stout first used it in Three At Wolfe’s Door, that was not where I happened upon it. It was when I was reading The Doorbell Rang, surely one of the ten best mystery novels ever written.
It was in the reading of Nero Wolfe that I developed a keen interest in food, in all aspects of food. And, I daresay, sometime in my life I will start growing orchids for similar reasons.
What has any or all of this to do with Twitter? It’s like this. Some time ago, during the debate on continuous partial asymmetry triggered by James Governor’s post, Stu Berwick, an old friend and colleague, made a crucial comment. By keeping it short and to the point, he crystallised something that everyone knows but not everyone appreciates. Twitter is both a communications medium as well as a publishing platform.
Now for me one of the ways of testing something as a publishing platform (as opposed to a communications medium) is the depth of language used, the breadth of subjects covered. So I started “testing” Twitter. What I did was enter “random” words into Twitter search, and observe the results. I converted that into a game. The rules were simple:
- I had to know the word and what it meant
- It had to be a word that had found its way into the language proper, as opposed to one that was “technically” included, that made its way only because it formed part of an obscure branch of science.
- The number of results returned had to be zero.
I read a lot. I have been reading voraciously for over forty years. I read widely. And I have a good head for words, coupled with a decent memory. Years of playing around with crosswords and Scrabble have, if anything, sharpened my vocabulary.
Yet it took me several attempts before I found a zero. Aristology was my best for some time, with just one result returned, until I tried zeuglodont. Bugloss returned two, which was pretty good.
Try it. You’d be amazed at just what Twitter already contains. Which bodes well for its existence as a publishing platform, despite the number-of-characters limit.
[Why would I even know a word like zeuglodont? Simple. The way I remember words is by remembering their size and “shape”, where the shape is a pattern represented by the consonant-vowel sequence. When I try and recall a word, the first thing that comes to me is the size of the word. Then sequences of letters come. And finally the whole word emerges. That process is not alphabetical, although I can sometimes help it by going through the alphabet once I have the word’s length and shape. -UGLO- is a very unusual shape in this context, occurring only in two words as far as I know, bugloss and zeuglodont.