I just found out from my imagination that today is national Thank a Word Surgeon Day! So I am very excited because as you know, or will know after you finish this sentence, I am a word surgeon. So, thank you, me.
Without word surgeons, no lips would whisper melodies out of flutes, no hand would wield the wild épée, slicing and dicing the villains of the world, and machines would never have the chance to learn to hum. Every flute deserves a kiss from lips, every épée needs to slash out now and then, and all machines deserve to experience the electric thrill of on-ness.
Ever vigilant word surgeons roam the earth searching for nouns, rummaging through old dictionaries, discovering new inventions, reading people’s e-mails, and writing blogs. They are ordinary people who look just like you and me, although I’m pretty sure your mom could tell the difference.
Most of them are kind-hearted people, working late into the night, affixing words that will benefit humankind. One of their favorite suffixes is “-ist.” On discovering the flute, one of them delicately removed the “e,” added the “-ist,” and voilà, the flutist was born. Flutist should not be confused with flautist, which came later, and was formed by an amateur flaunting his knowledge of Italian. This is where we get the word “flauntist,” which means one who flaunts. Still another professional took the time to add “-ist” to an épée and Errol Flynn was born, one of the greatest pretend épéeists in the world, who swashbuckled his way into the hearts of millions of moviegoers in the 1930s and 1940s. And finally, I must mention the word surgeon who set the gears of the Industrial Revolution in motion, creating millions of jobs, by having the foresight to drop the “e” and attach “-ist” to a machine.
Word surgeons have taken simple nouns and given the world pianists, chemists, and typists. You should be thankful they are not afraid of big words or words that are hard to pronounce. We have them to thank for the otorhinolaryngologist, the feuilletonist, the chutist, and the vexillologist.
However, word surgery is not all fun and games, friends. Bad bananas happen. Sexists, agists, and racists came from somewhere. Don’t blame word surgeons. They don’t take responsibility for bad words, only good words. And if you judge them, they will make bad words about you. It’s what they do: make words.
Because of those bad bananas, “-ist” has been called The Intolerant Suffix by at least one word surgeon I know intimately. And although I fully recognize the dangers, I am going to illustrate how this works. The intolerant part, not the intimate part. Please understand that the following words are for illustration only and should not be seen as an endorsement or encouragement toward intolerance.
- Plaid makes you cry – you are a plaidist.
- Being asked to play another game of Monopoly makes you gag – you are a monopolist.
- Big hair makes you scream – you are a bouffantist.
- People who act like donkeys or fools sicken you – you are an assist.
- Hearing a woman called a “Ho” in a song makes you break things – you are a hoist.
- Wearing strings instead of panties makes you uncomfortable – you are a thongist.
- Hearing the f-word all day long makes you want to hit someone – you are a fist.
- Irons and ironing boards are not allowed in your home – you are an ironist.
Some of you may be tempted to try this at home. I urge you to use caution. Remember, if anything bad comes of it, don’t blame me. However, if anything good comes from it, you can thank me because today is Thank a Word Surgeon Day!