When you obsess about words as much as I do, it's hard to pick a favorite. It's like Batman picking his favorite criminal lowlife. How do you choose between the Joker, Two Face, the Penguin, and the scum who killed your parents? It's just too painful.
But what the heck, here's a good candidate, and it's also exhibit Q in the case of why I love the Dictionary of American Regional English: peedoodle.
While flipping through the massive four volumes of DARE that have already been published, I spotted peedoodle, a word I had never encountered before in my entire word-loving life. Turns out this childish, Southern, humorous-sounding term has been living a lush linguistic life since the 1800s, with a trio of meanings.
First, it means the jitters, as in "You're giving me the peedoodles, stranger." Then it can be used in expressions like "They bore the peedoodles out of me" or "You don't know peedoodle about organ-stealing; let me show you how it's done." Finally, it has a pee-centric meaning that a 2000 DARE citation explains: "This is an expression I occasionally heard my mother use. It means to briefly lose control of one's bladder... Can be caused by nerves, or a strong cough, a sneeze or even a laugh."
All those meanings are mildly euphemistic and severely obscure. The euphiness is a gift waiting to be opened, and the obscurity is a tragedy we can avert. Don't let peedoodles languish! Whether you while away your days tweeting, blogging, playwriting, prophesying, noveling, or ransom-noting, your writing could only benefit from this versatile word, which has such a proud family that loves it, including fadoodle, monkey doodle, Cheese Doodle, dipsy-doodle, and labradoodle.
So please, don't beat the snot out of your opponents in the octagon. Beat the peedoodles out of 'em. Don't lizz — as in the Liz Lemon-inspired blend of laughing and whizzing — peedoodle. Forget the heebie-jeebies: get the peedoodles.
As for me, I know somewhere between jack squat and peedoodle about most things on heaven, earth, and the Martian colonies, but I know my euphemisms. Here are the latest I've uncovered — use with care, because euphemisms have feelings too.
I can tell I'm getting old because there are several groovy, wonderful, ultra-cool things that I have completely forgotten about, only to rediscover later, much like the guy from Memento checking his tattoos to realize he has a terrible vengeance to pursue. One of these things is the falafel. I forgot their deliciousness for about six years. Another is The Far Side, which I started pulling off my shelf a few months ago, and I refuse to put it back. In one of Gary Larson's many masterpieces, I spotted a euphemism that could be quite useful to today's branding-obsessed entrepreneurs: "Convinced by his buddies that in actual fact they were only grave 'borrowing,' a young Igor starts on the road to crime." Since I know grave-robbers account for around 37% of my readership, let me also suggest the titles grave enthusiast and grave whisperer.
If I had guessed, I would have said person Friday — as a gender-neutral evasion of man Friday and girl Friday, terms for personal assistants derived from Robinson Crusoe's servant he called "my man Friday" — was a phony euphemism made up by people who just like to make fun of euphemisms. God, don't you hate people like that? Anyhoo, while perusing the Oxford English Dictionary entry on person for another project I'm not cleared to discuss, I learned that this term has been used sincerely from time to time. The first recorded use in 1974 is definitely in the jokey category, but this 1985 example seems completely straight-faced: "He stood as witness, alongside his lifelong person-Friday, the astonishing Marigold Hunt, at our Catholic remarriage." Maybe this could even be a new career for me, should the euphemism-collecting market decline. Could be a stretch, though... I've always been more of a non-person Wednesday, according to my family and friends.
morale welfare recreation
This one may not meet my usual obscurity requirements, since it did appear on the Time magazine blog Swampland, but it is too preposterous to pass up. As Michael Scherer wrote, morale welfare recreation "...is the term Blackwater Worldwide, a private security company now called Xe, allegedly used to classify the salary of a Filipino prostitute who worked with the company's male employees in Afghanistan. Her salary was allegedly billed to the U.S. Government, and is now the subject of a civil whistle blower lawsuit filed by two ex-Blackwater employees." Your tax dollars at work! On a serious note, it is the fervent hope of every father that his daughters do not grow up to be morale welfare recreation.
admiral of the narrow seas
Now there's a title that would look just spanking on anyone's resume or business card; it would give the title-bearer wide jurisdiction, perhaps even over Cap'n Crunch. Unfortunately, admiral of the narrow seas isn't a title bestowed by the Navy or even the Council of Pirates — I spied it in Paul Dickson's terrific book Drunk, and it's one of 2,964 synonyms for drunk, like circling over Shannon. To be admiral of the narrow seas goes well beyond mere intoxication: Dickson found it in a 1785 slang dictionary called The Vulgar Tongue, which describes it as meaning, "A drunk who throws up in someone's lap".
Those seas are narrow indeed, and few are gross enough to sail them. We can thank our lucky peedoodles for that.