Odd Words: Cacography

CacographyWe are starting the the C words with page 35 of The New York Times Everyday Reader’s Dictionary of Misunderstood, Misused, and Mispronounced Words: Revised Edition. And I’ve picked another word that has to do with writing: cacography.

Beyond Cacography: Where’s Caboose?

I was shocked — Shocked I tell you! — that the word “caboose” was not in the dictionary. It is one of my very favorite words. When I was incredibly young, my sister and I used to run to the window each time the freight train went by, pointing and screaming, “The caboose! The caboose!” How can you not love a word like that. And it is also the case that cabooses are the coolest part of the train. I’ve never lost my love of the word. In Oregon, there is a town named Scappoose. It’s not very nice. But I’ve always loved it because it rhymes with “caboose.”

Words I Didn’t Know

Even though page 35 was a partial one, it still had some interesting words. There is “caboclo,” which may be the native peoples of Brazil or the people resulting from the mix of the Brazilian natives and the European invaders. It depends upon who you ask.

I was going to use the word “cabotage,” which has to do with trade at sea. But since I did a boat word yesterday, it seemed kind of boring. Most people would find it kind of boring anyway.

A word I did know was “cacciatore.” But that is just because Chicken Cacciatore is one of my standard dishes. I didn’t realize it was a dish “containing or prepared with tomatoes, mushrooms, herbs, etc.” But it is. It’s still one of my favorite things.

That’s enough of such trivialities, let’s get on to cacography!

Ca·cog·ra·phy  noun  \ka-‘kä-grə-fē\

1. inartistic or illegible handwring.

2. bad spelling.

Date: late 16th century.

Origin: from the Greek κακός which means “bad.”

Example: The clippings are peppered with bitchy annotations written in his highly stylized calligraphy to which I make additional acerbic annotations in my cacography of orange felt-tip ink and mail them back to him. —Jamie Brickhouse, You’ve Got Republican Mail!

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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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