Lexicon Big Year: June 7

June 7: Poole’s weird-sounding, weird-of-meaning word for today is accismus, from four hundred or more years ago. Accismus means “pretending to refuse something you actually really want.” I guess it’s what we label as “reverse psychology.” My mother always assumed that if you turned down something at her table, it was a statement of accismus. Ever since I read Poole’s beguiling essay on the word, I’ve been wondering if some of my life is accismus trying to reach out, for I seem to be edging towards a new orientation to important things. If only all words encouraged fresh reflection…

And my word? An exceedingly commonplace one but one that still leaps into my head unbidden every day: apocalyptic. The dictionary seems to say “describing or prophesying the complete destruction of the world” or “momentous or catastrophic.” We all use it differently. I know folks who claim to employ it literally; that’s a conversation that never goes far with me. Coronavirus lockdown encourages apocalyptic reflections, however shallow, and of course I’m prone to Extinction Rebellion anxiety of the apocalyptic (and in my view, accurate) flavor. Is it overused? Do I overuse it? Yes on both counts, but I bet I continue to think apocalyptic images daily nonetheless.

Source: A Word for Every Day of the Year by Steven Poole.

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