Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Welcome to another installment of SHANE'S EXCELLENT NEW WORDS, a regular Wednesday feature at NA Confidential.

But why all these new words?

Why not the old, familiar, comforting words, like the ones you're sure to hear when asking the city's corporate attorney why the answers to my FOIA/public records request for Bicentennial commission finances, due to be handed over on July 8, still haven't arrived on the 27th?

It's because a healthy vocabulary isn't about intimidation through erudition. Rather, it's about selecting the right word and using it correctly, whatever one's pay grade or station in life.

Even these very same flippant, bond-engorged municipal corporate attorneys customarily paid to suppress information can benefit from this enlightening expansion of personal horizons, and really, as we contemplate what they knew and when they knew it, all we have left is plenty of time -- and the opportunity to learn something, if we're so inclined.

Today's word is farrago.



noun, plural farragoes

1. a confused mixture; hodgepodge; medley: a farrago of doubts, fears, hopes, and wishes.

Origin of farrago: 1625-35; < Latin: literally, mixed crop of feed grains, equivalent to farr- (stem of far) emmer + -āgō suffix noting kind or nature

Merriam-Webster has more to say about the word's origins.

Farrago might seem an unlikely relative of "farina" (the mealy breakfast cereal), but the two terms have their roots in the same Latin noun. Both derive from "far," the Latin name for "spelt" (a type of grain). In Latin, farrago meant "mixed fodder" - cattle feed, that is. It was also used more generally to mean "mixture." When it was adopted into English in the early 1600s, "farrago" retained the "mixture" sense of its ancestor. Today, we often use it for a jumble or medley of disorganized, haphazard, or even nonsensical ideas or elements.

The great American wordsmith H.L. Mencken provides our usage quote.

Yet the only Jewish document that comes down to us from that great day is part of the Book of Genesis, a farrago of nonsense so wholly absurd that even Sunday-school scholars have to be threatened with Hell to make them accept it.

The essay from which this sentence is quoted is a great favorite of mine, and is being posted alongside today's excellent new word for Shane, who makes far too much money to remember it -- or his own stated deadlines.

Mencken meets Manics: "A farrago of nonsense" ... because "the penalty of intelligence is (everlasting) oblivion."

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