When I was in middle school, I had one of those clear binders that allowed you to insert whatever you wanted into the cover which, in middle school, was usually pictures of attractive boy bands and layers of signatures from friends insistent upon scribbling inside jokes on every corner of the page. I was the exception in that, in addition to such images, I also included pictures of new computer games I was looking forward to, a promotional photo of my favorite show and, more relevant to this conversation, a quote from an AIM avatar that said, “I write for the same reason I breathe; because if I didn’t, I would die.”
While this instance is a clear indicator of where my cheesiness began, it also marks my interest in writing from an early age, one that has continued into my (young) adults years. Thus, as a fan of words and all things “meta,” I feel like this article is pretty overdue. So, I present to you a list of words that are specifically about writing or the writing process. Enjoy!
Graphophile (n.): one possessed by an obsessive love of writing
First, I should probably define graphophile before I continue, otherwise this whole article will likely go over everyone’s heads. Graphophile is a form of graphophilia, which means “the love of writing.” Now, I may not be able to find an official source for this word, but I’m like 80% sure I’m not making it up. (Don’t quote me on that.)
Scripturient (adj.): having a consuming or violent passion to write
First appearing in 1643, scruipturient (or, scripturiency if you want a noun version) describes an overwhelming urge to write. Such a symptom has been known to strike poets mid-car ride, forcing them to pull over and scribble down an idea before it trickles off into space or into another car, causing yet another person to swerve off the road and potentially cause some accidents. Maybe that’s where the violent part of this definition comes in because frankly, I don’t see how that definition could work otherwise, unless the urge to write actually compelled you to use a pen as a sword and slash your way through a crowd to get back to your computer. I know the pen is mightier than the sword but I don’t think the inventor of that quote meant it so literally.
Epigrammatic (adj.): expressing something such as a feeling or idea in a short and clever or funny way
If this word seems unfamiliar or you’re wondering why, as an English major/enthusiast, you’ve never seen it before, the truth is, you probably have, but you’ve likely seen its shorter, more popular parent word, epigram, meaning a brief but memorable statement. Philosophers tend to spew epigrams in their sleep, along with great writers like Oscar Wilde who once said, “I can resist everything but temptation,” and instantly reaffirmed his brilliance. Epigrammatic is simply the adjective form of the word. If anything, it will get you some brownie points with your English teacher if you bring it up in class.
Prolix (adj.): using too many words
Derived from the Latin word prolixus, meaning “extended,” prolix refers to something that is “tediously long” to the point of being boring. Examples of this might be the speech your school alumni made at your high school graduation or the in-depth stories your roommate tells you about her home-friends that you don’t understand because you’ve never met them, but you listen anyway because it seems rude not to.
Sesquipedalian (adj.): given to or characterized by the use of long words
Sesquipedalian has nothing to do with sasquatches or cesspools, or brobdingnagian hippopotamuses or pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcaniosis or even misodoctakleidists. From the Latin word sesquipedalis meaning a foot and a half long, this word simply means having many syllables or characterized by the use of large words, although I don’t know anyone who would do such a thing.
Lipogram: a written composition that deliberately avoids using a particular letter of the alphabet
Someone once told me that some author managed to write a 50,000 word novel without using the letter “e.” Although I originally dismissed the story as myth (such a claim would mean that the author did not use the word “the” which seems physically impossible), I stumbled upon a news story about the magical novel (Gadsby by Ernest Vincent Wright, which seems like a cheap knockoff of Gatsby) and I could no longer deny its plausibility. Interestingly enough, there is a name for such a feat, one which is directly relevant to this article. A lipogram is a story or writing game that abides by one very simple rule: one must avoid using a certain letter at all costs. Like certain forms of poetry, lipograms have been practiced for decades and are considered a challenging form of art.
Anopisthography (n.): the practice of writing on one side of the paper
Next time someone asks how you want your essay printed, just casually remark that you prefer anopisthographic papers and wait for their reaction. It could make a fun game. Though your sesquipedalian request may invite some blank stares, you can celebrate the fact that your very intelligent sounding word is actually quite deceiving because anopisthography simply means “the act of writing or printings something on one side of the paper.” I may have also misused sesquipedalian just now, but at least I tried.
Also, just to be clear, non-graphophiles can enjoy these words too (not only graphophiles, as the title would suggest). It’s just that I wouldn’t expect non-writers to express the same level of enthusiasm over a word like lipogram, but feel free to prove me wrong.
Featured image via Shutterstock. Info via MacMillanDictionary.com.