Misc //

(etym)online dating

While some of us put hearts in our names on MSN Messenger to show we’re in love, Constance Titterton sponsors words in the dictionary.

You can say I love you in a thousand ways. Some people buy flowers and chocolates. Some go to protests. And some sponsor a word in the Online Etymology Dictionary. For $10 you can sponsor a word for six months, and if you follow the link at the bottom right of the homepage, you can read their dedications. Although not all words are exclusively sponsored out of love,[1] a large proportion are. Below are my favourite, ranked in order of swallows, misty eyes and unbidden smiles.

There’s the simple, straightforward dedications.

Smitten (adj.): By JG for over twenty-five years.

And trickier, self-reflexive etymological explorations:

-phile (suffix): Michael, From one “phile” to another, happy Valentine’s Day.

And then there’s whole worlds condensed into one word:

Duo (n.): Dear NK, Our own “song for two voices” was written one night in a humble Peruvian kitchen. Under the gaze of the Pachamama, our matchmaker, we began our duet. Often separated yet always together, may we — a duo — continue to make mellifluous melodies. Yours, DF

Earwig (n.): as a way to remember my late partner Paul, who taught me English in a very unique way, I’d like to sponsor the word “earwig” – following the little joke Paul used to cheer me up ever now and again: what does one earwig say to the other while jumping off a cliff? – earwi-goooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!

Clemency (n.): This is for Andie. I still love you.


Some are meant for the world to read.

Culinary (adj.): I’m happy to sponsor a word. I want to give it as a present to my fiance. I hope more people find true love. And I love different languages. I wish people learn more about other people and other countries.

And some are deeply, intimately private.

Goddess (n.): Because you are one, my darling Niagra. Your metalogical Merlin.

Apocalypse (n.): sarah, i love the way you tell the story. thanks for taking the cover off. it felt a mystical event to me.

Beyond the romantic/erotic, there are all sorts of lovers here, from those who love generally exploring words, to those who specifically “love debunking ‘ye old’ pronounced with the ‘y’ sound”. There’s a self-described “smudge of ashen fluff”, a meditative crocheter, and a woman who constructed a language and then taught her family[2] There’s an “appreciative conservative” and a mystic, an alpaca lover and the mother of the National Spelling Bee champion. One of etymonline’s for-sale badges says “because every word has a story to tell”. And it’s true. To sponsor a word for someone you love—is this the ultimate commitment, the elevation of lover to world through word? Or is it sappily romantic? I think the former.[3] The diversity and ferocity of love inscribed into these dedications is testament to the need for connection, a desire as deep as language that surpasses culture. Etymonline was created by a man who grew up between the Quakers and the Amish, and keeps the site running as an impulsively-conceived labour of love. Self-professed, he’s no etymologist, but rather an amateur, whose response to those who call etymonline a gem is to say, “It’s a pearl: the accidental production of an irritated oyster.” He has his own dedication, but it’s not a word. The entire site is dedicated to Ernest Klein, a Czech rabbi imprisoned at Dachau. Klein survived Dachau, but upon returning home found that most of his family, including his father, wife, and only child, had been murdered in Auschwitz. Later in life he created an etymological dictionary in the hope that showing the interrelationships of languages through the way their words were historically connected would contribute to the pursuit of peace on earth. Klein’s dictionary became one of the chief sources for etymonline. So I wouldn’t scoff at those who dedicate love, or hero, or smitten. Love can’t often be expressed best in language, but sometimes words work. Nicholas Stanicof defined it best, with lovelonging. Lovelonginga verb, a noun, so often felt, so rarely expressed, and almost never fulfilled. To the one who fills me with lovelonging ‘till I can am overflowing with love. But perhaps the truest declaration of love occurs right up the top, with weirdo, sponsored by Jessica. For Matthew, my favorite weirdo. Love, Fluttershy.[4]




[1] One of the most curious is internet, sponsored by Likes24, because “nowadays it has grown up to an economic good, whose constant availability is an indispensable element of many areas of everyday life.” Who is Likes24 and what is their blunt rationalism doing here? A search of their website reveals they’re a site that sells Facebook likes: $19 will buy you 500, but if you’re looking for value for money, you’re better off getting 2000 for $59. (Rest assured that their likes are from “Real&Active Facebook Users (No Bots or Fake Accounts)”). A page on the site answers the question you might be thinking, namely, why should I purchase more Facebook friends? Their answer: “Many of us want to have the most Facebook friends as humanly possible.” Internet might seem like a detour from love. But clearly, we’re all looking for connection.

[2] Inara Tabir, who sponsored conlang “in honour of the conlanging community. May you dream in your language.” A trawl through conlang message boards (chatrooms for those who create languages, worlds and cultures) revealed that not only was she granted citizenship of the Kingdom of Talossa (or, in Talossan, El Regipäts Talossan) in part because of her service to the conlang community, she’s also famous for having successfully taught her conlang to her ‘young ones’, as worded by the poster who signed off with: Our faint souls depart while our steadfast bodies lie dutifully in the grave. In other places she’s hailed as a ‘world maker’ (in between blog posts on Magic Underwear and Resonant Beauty).

[3] Incidentally, dissent is dedicated to CET: my initials. For CET, because no one will make a better American than those who want to change it. Happy anniversary, love! Although, alas, I’ve never been in love with a CWG who dedicated a word to me, my heart beat faster seeing those letters and I realised that my religious schooling did despite my best attempts imprint itself on my psyche, in that I do believe that The One will reveal themselves through The Word. I’d leave my number but now you know the personals ads that I read.

[4] May we all find the weirdos who fill us to overflow.