Thursday, December 13, 2007

Subelite, for break-fast or any-time.

From the other room and muffled by a section of New York Times, C sends me a question.

“What does this word mean? ‘Subelite’.”

“Subelite? It’s a type of sound-deadening insulation used in new construction.”

“Be serious. What does it mean?”

“Hmmm. Subelite. Oh yes, I’ve seen the ads. Valerie Bertinelli drank it for one month and she lost thirty pounds. Mostly gas.”

The paper is lowered as I enter the room to receive a glare.

“Check the on-line dictionary”, I suggest.

“I did. There is no such word in English.”

“How are they using it?”

“In the paper, it is used to describe some runners.”

“Oh of course. Subelite runners. They are the ones from sub-Saharan Subelia. Their bones are hollow. They circle the globe, winning marathons and medallions that they mail home to their kinfolk who melt them down and recast them into practical farm implements.”

Again the glare.

We google, and suddenly I realize the problem.

“Oh! It’s ‘sub-elite’. It’s a type of athletic designation. Somewhere below ‘elite’. They just didn’t bother with the hyphen. Lazy New York Times writer.”

“Maybe it doesn’t need a hyphen.”

“According to the dictionary, it doesn’t exist without a hyphen.”

“You know, I was reading a while ago about the hyphen and how it is falling out of usage. Also, about how it is often confused with the ‘dash’.”

“Subelite runners do love their fifty-yard dash.”

Third glare, but I continue.

“I think the hyphen is our friend. Not our best friend, which is the comma, but a very close friend. If anything, like the Germans, I use it all too often. It’s just so helpful when you can’t find the right word but have two or three before you which, when linked, get the idea across.”

C, again behind the wall of paper, wonders, “How long before ‘subelite’ shows up in the dictionary, do you think?”.

“Usus quam penes arbitium est, et ius et norma loquendi.”*

I can’t see it, but I know I have received a fourth glare. C has now used up his effective daily glare-quota.

*Usage trumps rules, in the governance of speech.


Will said...

A very witty exchange--I bet you're dynamite at the Dictionary Game.

dpaste said...

I'm glaring at you even as I write this.

DJRainDog said...

Do you really drop Latin into regular conversation? I'm so glad I'm not the only one...Though I fear if we were ever in the same room at the same time, there might be dire consequences for the universe. :-P

Stash said...

I used to be able to translate Latin. High school, 1985.

Tempus fugit...

Anonymous said...

I would have ignored you after your second remark. C has patience I only pretend at. I am giggling at your cleverness though.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just me but I auto-corrected for the lack of a hyphen the first time around lol

Tony Adams said...

Dear Robert,
That means that you would do very well on "Wheel Of Fortune". I never guess it, even after all the vowels are used up.

Anonymous said...

Subelia delenda est.

evilganome said...

I am led to wonder once more if St. Anthony is not also the patron of smart asses. I say this as one Anthony to another.

more cowbell said...

I've often thought that "infrared" needs a hyphen.

Cooper said...

I am very fond of prose which contain a liberal splash of dash-goodness. Speaking of which, a co-worker has named his new baby son Dash.

You and C definitely do not belong in the ranks of the sub-elite.