October 11, 2005


After I posted about the appearance of the wonder word splanchnic in an article in Harper's, Kenny Easwaran wrote from Berkeley to say that he recalled seeing a poster in which splanchnic appeared among "about forty generally unfamiliar words, together with little one-frame cartoons 'defining' the words".  His recollection was that the frame for splanchnic played on the Yiddish sound of the word.

Yesterday he wrote to say that he'd tracked it down, and provided a scanned-in copy for my delight.  It's by the New Yorker's wonderful Roz Chast, and it came out in 2001 to advertise the first edition of the New Oxford Dictionary of American English (the second edition is now out, by the way).  NOAD's editor, Erin McKean, will supply me with a high-quality image and approach Chast for permission to link to it here.  While I'm waiting for this to happen, here's a brief description of the splanchnic frame:

Frustrated man, at wit's end, confronting a toaster that is not plugged in, cries out: "Why isn't this working?  Oh, WOE IS ME!!!"

Woman in background thinks to herself: "What a splanchnic."

Note that splanchnic here is a noun, while the real splanchnic is an adjective.  The Yiddish flavor comes in part from the -nic -- normally spelled -nik in Yinglish, of course.

For the record, there are 36 frames.  Easwaran's memory is pretty damn good.

zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at October 11, 2005 07:53 PM