The Desiccation of Wit

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Platscham: It's Ubique!

Subject: Go Forth and Spread the Words

A few years ago I decided that it was high time that I should invent a word. I can't really remember whether I undertook much of a search or whether a word just came to me. In fact, in all likelihood it's quite dubious whether I actually decided that it was high time to invent a word before the new word came to me. But I received the word, and the word was good: 'ubique'. If something was unique when there was only one of it, wouldn't something be ubique if it was everywhere? Nothing is 'uniquitous', so why would anything be 'ubiquitous'. If something could have uniquity or ubiquity, then certainly the unique-ubique parallel should be instant too, no? Moreover, there were other juxtaposable formations: oblique, for instance (notwithstanding the fact that the parallel '-y' word, 'obloquy', has nothing whatsoever to to do with its -ique partner.) So why not ubique?

Well, for starters, I evidently didn't look closely at the OED definition of 'uniquity', which points one directly to 'unicity', which is defined as follows: "The theory that syphilis is caused by only one kind of venereal virus." Either that, or I was confused by the fact that the venerable lexicon was quoting an American comic strip character as its primary citation for the word, to wit: 1861 BUMSTEAD Ven. Dis. 349 "Some explanation..of what was called by its discoverer [Ricord] the ‘unicity’ of syphilis."

And as I recall it, when I got over myself and consulted a dictionary, I discovered much to my dismay that my coinage was not terribly unique at all, for 'ubique' already existed, with precisely the definition which I aspired to attribute to it. And so into my shell I retreated, and with me retreated 'ubique'. But today I discovered that the birth of ubique may, in fact, have been forestalled only by historical error, for I am unable to find any countenance whatsover on the equally venerable Internet that supports my previous supposition that I had been beaten to the 'ubique' punch. Merriam-Webster offers 'hic et ubique', the outer two-thirds of the Lennon-McCartney 'Here, There and Everywhere' troika, but 'ubique' does not stand alone.

So I give you this, the true first word in my word-coining career: Ubique, a. Not merely here or there, but everywhere.

But why stop there? In the interim -- while I thought that my coinage was not-quite-as-clever as I once, and now again, had thought -- I did not abandon my avant garde lexical pursuits. In fact, with the help of my co-bloggers -- a certain silent half-Frenchwoman and the appropriately-named Lex -- this fall marked the debut of a new entry on the Germano-Anglico-linguistic scene. (We're still waiting for you to notice, Oxford.) And while my story of the invention of 'ubique' may have seemed dubious, this one comes with a complete legislative history.

The Birth of Platscham from the Spirit of Contracts

The date: 16 November 2005
The setting: Contracts class
The medium: Simultaneous and Parallel Instant Messages
The cast: Dw, Lex, Frenchie
The Mother of Invention: An email from Vice-Dean Barry Adler, using 'less' when meaning 'fewer.'


Wachy: did you read the email about the lottery?

Lex: Yes.

Wachy: is it that hard to understand the difference between less and fewer?

Lex: Apparently it is. At least for a Vice Dean.

Wachy: it's embarrassing. I'm embarrassed for him.

Wachy: is there some good polysyllablic german word, akin to schadenfreude, for when you're embarrassed with someone, rather than at them?

Lex: I know there's something similar in Dutch.

Lex: Let me google it.

Wachy: if there isn't such a word, there certainly ought to be

Wachy: i count on the germans for things like this. it's all they're good for

Note: To all our German readers: I'll apologize when you do.

Lex: So the Dutch have the mouthful: "plaatsvervangende schaamte" which means something like "place-filling shame" or being embarrassed on behalf of someone else.

Lex: I love the idea but I think the phrase is a little clunky.

Wachy: true

Lex: Maybe we should come up with something and promulgate it.

Wachy: how about just 'plaatschaamte'?

Lex: What if we Anglicize it?

Wachy: i, for one, think that everyone should have their sheets on top of their mattress

Lex: Me, too. For sanitary reasons if nothing else.

Note: This has nothing to do with 'platscham.' Or Germans. And their dirty, dirty sheets.

Wachy: 'place-shame'?

Lex: It's a good place to start.

Wachy: platshame

Lex: It still sounds very Germanic, which might give it some gravitas.

Lex: Platscham.

Lex: Less Anglicized, I know.

Wachy: we're waiting on you, mr. nyahnyah

Lex: I do not feel platscham for (towards?) Mr. Nyahnyah.

Note: Some names have been changed to protect the innocent. Mr. Nyahnyah's name is not one of those.
Lex: For him I feel only scorn.

Wachy: me too

Wachy: for this vice dean, i feel platscham

Wachy: i think you feel schadenfreude towards, because it's hostile, but platscham for, because it's empathetic

Note: Emphasis added.

Lex: Yes. Especially as it might have been a secretarial error: the origin is unclear.

Lex: That's a good argument and I buy it. Thus, we decree "platscham" shall take the preposition "for."

Wachy: amen. let word of it go forth throughout the land

Lex: And it was good.

Wachy: So be it


Wachy: so alexis and I have come up with a neologism

Wachy: we need you to help us promulgate.

Wachy: its for the feeling of schadenfreude when you empathize, rather than laugh at, the other person.

Frenchie: do you mean it's?

Note: Yes, Frenchie really decided to interrupt our neologistic pursuit to correct my typo. That's why we all love her so much. Such a pedant. Engages in pedantry. And pederasty.

Wachy: "Platscham", derived from the Dutch "plaatsvervangendeschaamte" which means something like "place-filling shame" or being embarrassed on behalf of someone else.

Frenchie: is there ever going to be a question here?

Wachy: from fievel, or me?

Note: When I was 12, a girl upon whom I had a big, first-crush type crush, told me that I looked like Fievel. She never met a Jew before, I don't think, nor a mouse. Nevertheless, in this instance I am not Fievel, and Fievel is not me.

Frenchie: from you, dear.

Wachy: there's no Q

Wachy: it's a statement of fact

Wachy: one feels platscham for, for instance, the vice dean who doesn't know the difference between 'less' and 'fewer'

Wachy: whereas one feels schadenfreude towards people

Frenchie: hmm. okay

Wachy: does it rhyme with "hat-scam" or "match 'em"?

Lex: I vote for a longer a. An "ah" sound in both cases, like the first a in schadenfreude. Almost "plahtschahm." And emphasis on the first syllable.

Wachy: good.

Frenchie: plOtshum

Wachy: plOtshahm

Frenchie: fine. I still don't see this as my job :-)

Frenchie: eww

Frenchie: gross smile

Frenchie: he's staring at me

Note: Frenchie: Not comfortable around emoticons.

Wachy: how does one go about promulgating a neologism?

Frenchie: okay, I'll insert it in conversation. I thought you meant through the class, but frankly that takes a lot of IM explanation

Wachy: i mean in conversation. perhaps we should just use it as though it exists

Frenchie: right

Wachy: then explain it, as one typically would, when using 'big words' with 'small people'

Frenchie: you're such an ass

Wachy: thank you, dear


Wachy: how does one go about promulgating a neologism?

Lex: I don't know. One has impressionable friends?

Wachy: perhaps we should just use it as though it exists, in conversation

Lex: I think that would work. There are a lot of people who aren't clear on schadenfreude. This isn't really that different. Except for the part where we took out a lot of letters.

Wachy: and added a few

Lex: Right. That part, too.

Lex: Platscham is a word that the Reality TV era desperately needs.

Wachy: absolutely. I've always thought the world needed such a word. I'm glad you're Germanic-linguistically inclined enough to have been of help

Lex: I'm not. I just once dated a Dutch speaker. But don't let that get out.

Wachy: was he a woofer?

Lex: I don't think so. But I don't quite know what you mean by that: is it a linguistic or an aesthetic judgment?

Wachy: a little of both

Wachy: i like that we've invented a word. it gives meaning to 'go forth and spread the word'

Lex: Also, I just like our word.

Lex: (What I can tell you is this: Dutch is NOT a sexy language.)

Wachy: neither is english

Lex: It's way better, though. There is less back of the throat rumble/spittle involved.

Wachy: i suppose. Also, doesn't Dutch have to be spoken at a very high volume?

Lex: Often. It has to be spoken very, very fast. It's a lot of vowels to get out.


Frenchie: What about when it's a bit self-reflexive, like when you've brought a cousin to a party and you're in high school and your cousin is acting really dumb so you're embarrassed for her but you're also embarrassed for yourself.

Frenchie: we've only got meta-platscham and self-induced platscham, both of which suck.

Wachy: That's platscham, plain and simple, i think

Frenchie: I don't know.

Wachy: You can actually be in the place, also, for which you are feeling their simultaneously located shame

Frenchie: Tell her. I think it's slightly different if it reflects back on you specifically instead of you generally.


Wachy: I think frenchie's example is straight platscham

Wachy: You can actually be in the place, also, for which you are feeling their simultaneously located shame

Wachy: but it's a very Heisenburgian thing

Wachy: simultaneity of locus

Lex: Yes. The question is, I think, should there be a special way to express the self-induced aspect of that platscham.

Wachy: what's the dutch equivalent of 'self'?

Lex: zelf, I think

Wachy: that was gonna be my guess

Wachy: zelfplatscham, then, with a "uh" syllable stuck in: zelf-uh-plaht-schahm

Lex: or vanzelf, which is oneself

Lex: I'm not sure I can say it.

Wachy: what, zelfplatscham?

Wachy: it's very yiddish

Lex: I'm tempted to add an "en" like syllable. "Zelfenplatscham." But that doesn't seem right.

Wachy: no, that's all wrong

Lex: I know, I know. Help.

Wachy: zelfplatscham is good

Wachy: let's go with it

Lex: Ok. You sell Frenchie on it.

Wachy: she's sold

Note: To wit:

Frenchie: well, it's you and Alexis. I love it. Ask her.

Wachy: when someone asks what it means, just say 'it's yiddish'

Wachy: but platscham stands alone, also

Lex: Always. It can stand alone.


Wachy: do you think one of the 'a's in platscham should be doubled?

Lex: Plaatscham?

Wachy: or platschaam

Wachy: i like yours

Lex: Hm. Which is closer to the way you hear it in your head?

Wachy: just to highlight that it's not 'plat-sham'

Wachy: when i spread it, am i supposed to say we made it up?

Lex: Hmm. Maybe we should let that be the lagging rumor.

Lex: Most important is wide promulgation of the word itself, I think.

Wachy: i agree.

Wachy: anytime you use it, and someone gets it, and likes it, you have to say (verbatim): "go forth and spread the word."

Lex: I will. But in my head I'm going to think of it as "Go forth and spread The Word."

Lex: With caps

Wachy: that's fine

Wachy: but check this:

Wachy: i feel such platscham for him

The Bee: huh?

Wachy: it's like schadenfreude, except when you sympathize with the person instead of laughing at them

The Bee: oh. i see. yes - that is appropriate

Wachy: ms. blane and i (and frenchie, a bit) invented it the other day

The Bee: i think it fits in quite nicely here

Wachy: thank you. go forth and spread the word.

The Bee: thy will be done.


Blogger Radio said...

Oh my god I read the whole thing.
Can I have my cookie now?

3:48 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger dw said...

No. Federal law prohibits bribing people in order to get them to read, or leave comments at, your blog.

5:51 PM, February 21, 2006  

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