Of Jujasms and Geefoojets

Don’t know what a “jujasm” is? You’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority, as the word was created by Gelett Burgess. It means, by the way, “an expansion of sudden joy after suspense;” AKA the feeling you have after you read one of my blog posts.

Sharing a love of words, my mom recently gave me a copy of Burgess Unabridged: A Classic Dictionary of Words You Have Always Needed. Burgess is most well-known for what he wrote about a purple cow in th first issue of Lark in 1895:

I never saw a purple cow

I never hope to see one;

But I can tell you anyhow,

I’d rather see than be one.

Burgess understood words, but also saw a need for many new words; words that were precise. Thus, he undertook to write a dictionary of neologisms which he created himself. This is quite an enjoyable read, even if none of his words ever make the cut.

It is in his “Introduction” that he explicates why he thinks English is the language with which to work for this project:

For, the fact is, English is a growing language, and we have to let out the tucks so often, that no last season’s model will ever fit. English isn’t like French, which is corseted and gloved and clad and shod and hatted strictly according to the rules of the Immortals. We have no Academy, thank Heaven, to tell what is real English and what isn’t. Our Grand Jury is that ubiquitous person, Usage, and we keep him pretty busy at his job. He’s a Progressive and what he likes, he’ll have, in spite of lexicographers, college professors and authors of “His Complete Works.”

As I said, an enjoyable read. That is, it’s an enjoyable read if you’re the sort that enjoys reading dictionaries…literally. This is, of course, no ordinary dictionary. I suggest you have a go at it, even if most of the entries are geefoojets (def.: unnecessary things, articles which are seldom used).


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