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As it Turns Out, My Penultamour is a Flambore

As it Turns Out, My Penultamour is a Flambore

Let’s face it: making up words is cool. If I thought I could get away with it, I would do it all the time.

Like when you’re Mini’s age, you can go around making up words willy-nilly, and everybody’s like, “No, dude, that’s not a BOW. It’s a nose, I don’t care how many times you point to it and say “BOW!” It’s still a freaking nose.” But you’re still free then, so you insist, “BOW!” even in the face of people saying, “It’s a nose! Say NOSE.” Still, “BOW!” you’ll say, even when they declare, “Oh!, I see, your muscleoskeletal development doesn’t yet allow you to enunciate, “nose,” and that’s why you’re saying it wrong!” Even if that’s not why.

Because people don’t like it when you try to make words up, they’d rather tell you you’re wrong.

And then eventually you learn that yeah, it is a nose, and not a BOW, because a BOW is something you put on a gift, or something you use to shoot arrows. Or, if you live in an Edith Wharton novel, somebody who visits you and leaves calling cards. And after that, you go around for the rest of your life bossing people around about language and the like, and become outraged when people misuse words, and if somebody says they made up a word, you think, like the rest of us, “Well who do you think you are?”

In some ways, Mini is sucking up his last few days of linguistic freedom right now, with his BOWs and TANES, and the like–in the next few months, his verbal skills will develop more fully and after that, there’s no going back. He will be inscribed by language just like the rest of us, just as Derrida always said.

So maybe that’s why I’m all of a sudden intrigued by made-up words.

My new favorite made-up word is “penultamour.” “Penultamour” is a word made up out of whole cloth by Stephen J. Dubner (of Freakanomics fame) to refer to “the last person to date another person before that other person took up with his/her eventual spouse.” While I was reading the Freakanomics blog this morning, I learned another new fake word, this time invented by one of his readers, the “flambore,” who

is flamborant, i.e., someone with a “big personality” who, in company, performs stories, and is seemingly unable to engage in reciprocal conversation with others. Flamborancy becomes more apparent on subsequent occasions, as the flambore tends to forget which stories he has told to whom!
Flambores often make the mistake of thinking others have nothing worthwhile to say and appear frightened of short pauses in conversation, so they readily go into their schtick.

And not only is it cool to have two new fake words in my repertoire, it so happens that–this is one of those twists of fate that you might not even believe if this were a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie–my penultamour is, himself, a flambore. Yeah. Weird, isn’t it?

See, I’m still in contact with my penultamour, sort of, you know, in an indirect, round-about, Web 2.0 kind of way. Which is to say, he is a “friend” on Facebook. Which is to say he’s not really a friend in any of the traditional senses of the word. In fact, he is only my Facebook friend by accident, as a matter of fact, because you know how when you sign up for Facebook, they grab all your email addresses that you’ve ever used in like, three lifetimes, and say something like, “Want to invite your friends to Facebook?” And then, if you’re like me, you’re just thinking, “Man, all these stupid applications take so much damn time to sign up for, what is this? Yes. OK, yes. Are we done yet?” And then before you know it, you’re friends with your penultamour, because he thinks that you wanted to friend him, but really you didn’t, you were just trying to sign up for stupid Facebook, and then before you know it it’s years later and you’re reading this:

And you’re thinking, really? That’s what you’re going to advertise to people, people like me? REALLY? People who don’t know you, maybe don’t like you? REALLY? You think quoting Pink Floyd is droll, do you? You fancy yourself terribly original, don’t you? And now I have to think about Pink Floyd? Why is this person in my life, again? How did this happen? If only there were a word for this!

Whatthefupdate n., v and adj. 1. a. a status update on FACEBOOK that causes the reader to say, “What the fuck?” because it is so stupid, pretentious, or affected. b. an update or “TWEET” on Twitter that causes the follower to say, “What the fuck?” because it is so stupid, pretentious, or affected. 2. a. To send a status update on FACEBOOK that is overly stupid, pretentious, or affected, either by accident or design. 3. Whatthefupdated, to be in the midst of an existential crisis as the result of having a “friend” or “follower” on FACEBOOK or TWITTER who repeatedly sends updates that are overly stupid, pretentious, or affected.

Comments (11)

  1. Jan 15, 2009

    I’m too social-anxiety disorder-ridden to be a flambore, but I think whatthefupdates are inherent to penultamours with whom one stays in contact. It’s simply the nature of past relationships that haunt the F out of you when you least expect it. D@MN THEM!

    Making up words rules.

    PauvrePlume´s last blog post..Maybe paddles are overrated?

  2. Jan 15, 2009

    Oh, I love it!
    Can I use it?

    And my “penultamour” is also a “friend” on FB, but I don’t ever message him because I don’t want him to think I’m weird. Or a stalker.
    Although I might be both.
    But not with him.

    kristin/kwr221´s last blog post..It’S jUsT nOt FaiR.

  3. Jan 15, 2009

    Yeah, I’m sure my penultamour thinks I’m a stalker now, too. :/

  4. Jan 15, 2009

    Write your kids’ ones down or you will forget them!

    You’ll discover as you go along that you create family words. We have, for instance, “bim,” which is any container (empty water bottle, lidded containers either with or without lids e.g.) repurposed for bathtub use. Or “PNG” which is to make someone persona non grata (“We PNG’d him” or “After he was PNG’d we didn’t see him very much.”) These become part of your vocabulary to the point that you’ll find yourself using them and forgetting everyone else in the world doesn’t know what you’re talking about.

    Juliet´s last blog post..The Obituarist

  5. Jan 15, 2009

    I’m unduly fascinated by the fact that he didn’t capitalize his whatthefupdate. Or even punctuate it properly.

    Also, this post had me snickering to myself (I’d LOL but I’m at work). I’m totally using that word now.

    Keely´s last blog post..10 things I honestly don’t give a crap about

  6. Jan 15, 2009

    @Juliet, we have developed terms but not really made up whole words yet. Example: “to NASCAR Mini,” which is to have both parents do the diaper change/clothes change/post-bath routine at once, like a crew at NASCAR; and “to rattlesnake,” which is the verb that refers to Mini choosing to play with whatever the most dangerous thing is that he can find at any given moment, despite the prevalence of safe toy options,” e.g. “Mini’s rattlesnaking again.”

  7. Jan 15, 2009

    @keely, he’s totally super casual and laid-back, you see. That’s why he listens to Pink Floyd. It’s all part of the construction of his image.

  8. Jan 15, 2009

    I LOVE new words! I mean, Shakespeare did it all the time, and frankly, repurposing old words just gets confusing. There was some educational show show called “The Joy of Lex” that was so cool, tracing the origins of modern words like software and gridlock.

    J.´s last blog post..Help Me Decide

  9. AKD
    Jan 16, 2009

    I believe in this case you must “un-friend” your penultamour on Facebook — which I have heard people SAY you can do, and that the person does not receive a message telling them that you have dropped them — because I want to find out if this is really true.

  10. Jan 17, 2009

    It’s true. He won’t know if he is defriended.

    I LOVE penultamour. It made total sense instantly.

    Souther’ Mother´s last blog post..58 Wonderful Things That Happened On Our Recent Trip to Dallas

  11. Jan 18, 2009

    OK, I’ll defriend him and see if I hear anything back.

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