We Don’t Say That Word in This House …


Elizabeth Creith

This afternoon I sat down with my current writers’ magazine, usually a pleasurable pursuit, and stumbled on a word that gave me—or at least, my stomach—a turn.

I’m not an overly sensitive sort. I don’t automatically heave my guts up in sympathy when someone else is driving the porcelain bus within my hearing. Farming gives you lots of opportunity to develop a certain amount of tolerance for nauseous things. I’ve drained abscesses, hauled a breech-birth lamb out of a ewe, shoveled quite a lot of poop of various sorts and eviscerated my share of chickens for the oven.

At the same time, I have my own weak points: hand injuries, for example. I’m better now that I have the cheap drugs, but honestly, nobody would ever have to shove bamboo splinters under my nails to make me talk. They’d just have to show me the bamboo and I’d cave. (Even writing those sentences makes me wince and curl my fingers.)

Another one is words. There are words that just make me cringe. "Slice" is one – particularly in conjunction with "hand”. “Snotgobbler”—a critter either invented or popularized by Rien Poortvliet in his book Gnomes—is another word that I can hardly bear to write.

But book words are friendly and safe: quarto, elephant, calligraphy, illustration, endpaper and so on. Nary a slimy, slicey or snotgobbly word in the lot—or so I thought until this afternoon, when I read about a new phenomenon, the “blook.”

A “blook” (yuck!) is a book made from the contents of a blog. I thought of Dennis Potter’s admonition that you never know whose mouth words have been in.

Then I remembered my Francis Bacon: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” That sentence brought on a head rush of metaphor. “Blook” sounds like something that proved indigestible and was heaved up in a great slimy gob onto the sidewalk (fingers curling, here!), and that’s without passing any comment at all on the quality of the content.

It doesn’t help that “blook” is more or less the sound of an upchucking dog just before he heaves very ripe used groundhog over the car floor and my skirt. Go ahead, ask me how I know. No? Oh, all right, then.

I realize it’s futile to argue with the masses who will, no doubt, embrace “blook” both as a concept and a word. I’m probably just going to have to get used to it, as I did with entrails, pus and poop.

Hey, I didn’t get to veto “snotgobbler,” either.

Books mentioned in this column:
Gnomes, by Poortvliet & Huygens (Abrams, 1977)

Elizabeth Creith is a biblioholic and incurable librocubicularist. Not only does she buy, read, shelve and stack books, but she also writes them and on occasion makes them by hand. Elizabeth lives and writes in Wharncliffe, Northern Ontario, distracted occasionally by her husband, dog, and cat. The Scriptorium is where she blogs about writing and life. Contact Elizabeth.



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