Dear Ed …

Dear Ed


Dear Ed

What is your favourite word that is not yet in a dictionary?



Dear Melissa


I simply make these few notes to record a block of my life which has fallen into the sea. Melissa! Melissa! Oops, sorry, seem to be channelling Lawrence Durrell this evening. Whoever said there wasn't much meaning in a name got that one completely wrong.

Personally, I find that my latest malapropism is always my favourite new word, although, judging by the puzzled expressions on listeners' faces, it's not always a shared sentiment. Let me think about this for, oh, three seconds. I did look up 'ordapends' in the dictionary when I was eight, only to find that it wasn't a word. I knew nothing about Strine, just that I kept hearing people say, “It ordapends.”

But that's not enough of an answer, so let's keep going and see what transpires. Or not. Melissa, it's a pity about the binding conditions you've placed on your query. I logged onto the online Macquarie dictionary to look up some of the more colourful words that have burrowed into my increasingly grey matter, only to find that none of them were listed. Which means that I am now spoilt for choice.

After a few more seconds' reflection, I'd have to say that my favourite non-dictionary word is 'kipple'. It's a very handy all-purpose word for rubbish. It was defined by SF writer Philip K Dick in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (the book Bladerunner was based on). As defined by Dick, kipple is “useless objects, like junk mail or match folders after you use the last match […] When nobody's around, kipple reproduces itself. For instance, if you go to bed leaving any kipple around your apartment, when you wake up the next morning there's twice as much of it. It always gets more and more.”

I was reminded of kipple on reading a footnote in the Douglas Adams biography Wish You Were Here: “Douglas kept the complete run of the [school] magazine slowly turning to coal under the weight of a lifetime's kipple stored in giant crates.” So there you have it. Kipple used as a normal word without explanation or footnote, i.e. if you don't understand a word like kipple, are you sure you should be reading a biography of an SF writer?

Kipple is serious stuff. I'm not sure if Dick merely observed the existence of kipple or willed it into being, but it exists. I always clear my desk of kipple before shutting down the computer for the night. Well, nearly always. It ordapends how much of a hurry I'm in to resume normal life. If I'm in too much of a hurry, there'll be kipple everywhere the next morning and I'll have trouble pushing open the office door.

Yours in kipple. And with a name like Melissa, I suggest steering clear of Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet unless you've stocked up a month's supply of gin and tonic.