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Jack Smith

As springtime yields yet another harvest, we will gather the sniglets while still in May

May 29, 1985|JACK SMITH

Gathering sniglets, even in May, can become tiresome; but my readers continue to turn them up, so here's another harvest.

A sniglet is "any word that doesn't appear in the dictionary, but should."

Again, I must give credit for the word to Rich Hall, of the HBO series "Not Necessarily the News," who has published his own collection in a paperback called "Sniglets."

Patti Garrity of Manhattan Beach, who used to be an airline stewardess, offers one from the pain of her own experience:

"Askewardess. n. A female flight attendant after a particularly grueling flight.

"I think it's accurate," she adds. "Our shirttails were out, hats slipped over one eye (they don't wear hats anymore, do they?), no lipstick. We worked hard."

Mrs. Garrity also recalls a definitive example of one of Hall's sniglets (Genderplex. n. The predicament of a person in a theme restaurant who is unable to determine his or her designated bathroom.)

"My favorite genderplex," she says, "was in a gas station in Manitou Springs, Colo., 30 some years ago. 'Pointers and Setters.' How we sniggered over that one!"

Joan Kraus also writes from experience: "Another word that should be in the dictionary is the verb 'to adolesce.' Just ask any junior high school teacher. We see it happen!"

Laurence McGilvery of La Jolla suggests a word for a common experience that evidently has no name:

"Beddling. n. What people do in the morning between the time they wake up and the time they get out of bed."

He says, "Beddling encompasses everything from the waking dream (a soft beddle) to the vigorous planning of one's day or one's life (a hard beddle)."

Several readers point out that neither Hall's bumperglints nor Frank Alins' grunches is the correct word for "the small reflective obstacles in the middle of interstate highways which supposedly keep drivers awake and on the track."

"You will find," writes Gene Kocis of Newbury Park, "that those funny little white things are called Botts' Blobs, forever commemorating the ingenuity of one Mr. Botts, an engineer for the highway department."

As Rene Jacobs of Fullerton points out, they are more correctly called Botts' Dots, and were invented, she says, "by some guy named Ferdinand (or something) Botts."

In fact they were invented in the mid-60s by a man named E. D. Botts, and were called Botts' Dots.

There is no shortage of suggestions for a sniglet whose need was pointed out by F. Stuart Ryerson of Claremont. What, he asked, do you call "the stuff that collects in your belly button?"

"My family," writes Josephine Young of Gardena, "has always referred to it as nur , which I assume is a combination of navel and fur."

Ken Green of Playa del Rey accuses Ryerson of wanting to reinvent the wheel. "There already is a word for the stuff that collects in the belly button. Mouse pillows. I learned that in the Navy nearly 30 years ago. Sailors wear fuzzy T-shirts under their jumpers. T-shirts shed lint that collects in the navel. Such lint is called a Mouse Pillow. I thought everybody knew that."

"That stuff that collects in your belly button," Rene Jacobs adds, "already has a perfectly good name brought to national prominence in the late 1940s by H. Allen Smith. It is simply belly button lint."

Budd Sumes suggests that it be called abdodown , umbilidown or abdetritus.

Niki Reese Schenck of Santa Maria has some curious suggestions:

"Mumzoid. n. Mid-life mother returning to the work force and confronting computers.

"Blasphone. n. Expletive uttered by parents after the 10th telephone call for their teen-agers, who are not at home (may also be used as a verb).

"Twort. n. Sue-happy person.

"Gigalescence. n. Early teen years of females.

"Graduluctants. n. Perpetual students."

Michael Sheehan of Universal City takes issue with Hall's word aquadextrous , which means "possessing the ability to turn the bathtub faucet on and off with your toes."

"I've always thought that aquadextrous was the ability to swim the side stroke leading with either arm," he observes, "while the ability to adjust the water in the bath would be aquapedexterous , or hydropedexterous. Of course it would be ambiaquapedexterous if you could do it with either foot."

I doubt that any of those terms will catch on, but they do illustrate the opportunity for scholarship in this pastime.

"May I offer the word sigond for your collection of sniglets," Bruce Preston writes. "It is that amount of time, infinitesimal though it may be, between the light turning green and the guy in the car behind you honking his horn."

Several readers have answered my question about dialing phone numbers. Now that dial phones are becoming obsolete, what do we do? Press numbers? Push numbers? Punch numbers?

Ken Green, the mouse pillow's advocate, writes: "We in the computer field have a phrase for dial when it relates to a touch-tone or push-button telephone: keying in . One keys in the number on the telephone, just as one keys in an entry on his/her computer."

On a recent trip to Arizona, Lin Lehmicke noticed that all hotel directories said 'Touch number so and so". . . . A little less familiar than dialing but effective."

Just to keep the pot boiling, Elain Levin calls attention to a curious vacuum in our language: "Why isn't there a word in English that designates adult offspring? They may be over 21, they may have children of their own, and we still call our grown children children."

No doubt about it. We need a sniglet.

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