Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I want that OED

I finally submitted my entry to the Powell's contest. It's dorky and lengthy and extremely sincere. And I just noticed a typo, oh well:

Having thought long and hard about this, I am settling on "grimy" as my favorite word, when really, though it is a great word, it's my entry more because represents something about words that I love: the ways they are so often metaphorical in spite of themselves (Who can pick a favorite word? There are too many great ones! This is as close as I could come). I am a teacher and know a lot of slang that I can't use without having students' eyes rolled at me, but I don't think they know how much I love hearing it used. So, we know grimy means dirty, as in "covered with grime," but according to the OED, Dickens used it first in a figurative sense, to mean unpleasant or mean. My students use it to suggest something is unpleasant, and sometimes unpleasant or mean, as in "Miss, that's grimy! You're giving us homework over Christmas?" but they also use it to suggest that something is disgusting: "They're making us eat this for lunch? That's grimy. That's not food. I want to see them eat it." Like much teen slang, it has nearly endless possibilities: a bad outfit is grimy (not to mention off-brand shoes), a poem they don't like or understand is grimy, your best friend's girlfriend getting with another guy is grimy, the Other Mother in Neil Gaiman's Coraline is grimy, etc. The Urban Dictionary also lists "keep it grimey" defined as a "slang phrase meaning that someone tells the truth even it if means revealing some gruesome, vulgar, obscene or otherwise damaging information." I love living language.

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