Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Suit us Brutus

Today we are going to be looking at the word 'hirsute'. In the past, each time I would see this word in print I would have to question myself as to its meaning. For some reason I usually thought it meant 'intelligent'. I probably even used it as such in a sentence at some point.

Here is a young me: 'Ah, yes, thank you very much for explaining that, Professor Spector, you are quite the hirsute individual.' We generally don't get called out for stuff like that. Either the person is too polite or (more often) he doesn't actually know the definition himself (sorry ladies. Should I have said 'themself'? Is that a word?).

More recently, thanks to the wonders of the internet, we can banish all doubt. Ignorance is dead, or at least for the 12 seconds you're looking at whatever screen holds the answers. This means I now know that 'hirsute' derives from the Latin hirsutus, meaning 'rough' or 'shaggy', and that today it basically just means you're pretty damn hairy.

But this time I wanted to make sure I remembered it once the screen went blank, so that I didn't end up accusing some smart guy of resembing a chinchilla. And so I thought about it, trying to come up with a mnemonic (how is one meant to remember that word?), and this is when everything collapsed around me. Wait a minute, I told me, this can't be right. Hirsute. Where I come from, anybody who wanted to pronounce the item (mostly fictional though it may be) that most resembled the definition of the word without having any true relation to that definition would say it perfectly:

'Baby, have you seen my hir sute? I've got that big meeting today out on Black Bear highway. I've got to look my best. Where's my durn hir sute?'

'Honey you know I took it to the cleaners yesterday. You done got mud all over it last time you wore it.'

What a marvel. How exactly do things like this come about? This is an example of what is known in science fiction as a 'metaharmonic reverberance', and is also proof that god is messing with us.

[Taken from the files of Knits a stinK]

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