Odd Words: Bacchanal

BacchanalWe have arrived on page 19 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. And that means we have reached the Bs! I’m all done with the As. Just 25 more letters to go! Today’s B word is: bacchanal.

Bacchanal is an odd word in the sense that I kind of think I already knew it. There’s so much sloshing around in the chemical soup that is my brain that it’s hard to tell. But I knew I had to pick the word because its definition contained the words “drunken” and “orgy.” Now personally, I drink the way God intended: alone. But from a writing perspective, you can’t go wrong with those two words.

Boring Besides Bacchanal

This page contained a lot of words and phrases I knew: backbencher and backward, for example. But it also contained way too many bacci- words. These all have to do with berries. Are you a plant that yields berries? Then you are bacciferous! Are you shaped like a berry? Then you are bacciform! Do you feed on berries? Then you are baccivorous. (If you feed on picnic baskets, you are yogivorous, but that will have to wait for a later day.)

There was one really cool word: babbitt. That’s “a complacent person who conforms unthinkingly to middle-class standards.” Although I didn’t know the word, I was pretty sure that it was a reference to the Sinclair Lewis novel, Babbitt. So there’s that.

But I chose sex and drugs over literature: baccanal.

Bac·cha·nal  noun  \bä-kə-‘näl\

1. a drunken reveler.

2. a drunken orgy or feast.

Date: mid 16th century.

Origin: from Latin, Bacchānal, which means either a place where people have parties for Bacchus (Roman wine god) or the parties themselves.

Example: One part post-everything, campy bacchanal, one part musical history lesson, Honey Soundsystem sets are a hot ticket all over the States, from their Generator residency at Smart Bar in Chicago to frequent appearances at A Club Called Rhonda in Los Angeles.Jemayel Khawaja

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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