Words, Yogurt, and Smoke

I am a verbivore. That’s a word coined by Richard Lederer, a famous linguist, to describe someone who loves words. That’s me. I love writing them; I love reading them. Spelling was one of my favorite subjects in school. I once sat by a campfire and diagrammed a sentence in the sand. I am what many people (my wife included) call a “geek”.

One of my favorite words is “neologism”. That means “a new word”. Neologisms come about because a word is needed to describe something new and one just sticks. Occasionally, they are intentionally invented.

I learned a neologism from my sister and brother-in-law. I don’t know where they heard it; it just began its long journey through society until it someday reaches its ultimate goal inside the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary (one of my favorite books). The word is “aclueistic” (Pronounced ay-clue-iss-tik). The definition is “describing someone who not only has no clue, but does not even suspect one..” While it has little to do with the topics in this column, it is such a beautiful word I felt the need to share it. The best part of this word is that the people who are described by it won’t even get it when the rest of us use it.

Recently, I invented my own neologism. I needed a word to describe a phenomenon that I faced on a regular basis. I asked advice from wise people I knew and used their knowledge of Latin, Greek, and medicine to create a new word. I must say I am proud of our accomplishment.

The word is “hyper-tasking”. I think the definition is obvious: “the attempt to do more than one thing at a time with the result that at least one, if not all, of the attempted tasks gets screwed up and chaos ensues.” It can also be described as “multi-tasking plus one” or “doing one too many things at the same time so that nothing gets done properly.”

Welcome to my world.

Take, for instance, the day I tried to get the ground beef browned to be cooked later for dinner, help Noah with his piano practice, give the twins a small snack, and write a column. With the meat in the pan, I got two yogurts out, put the music book on the piano, then retreated to my office.

“Daddy, we need spoons!” Natalie cried.

Oops. I got the spoons and went back to the computer.

“Why aren’t you at the piano?” I asked my son who was sitting at my desk.

“I don’t know what finger position I should be in.”

“All right, let’s see…uh…D?”

“Daddy, Anna spilled!” Natalie hollered.

“Be there in a minute!”

“It’s all over her dress…”


“And the floor!”

“Alright! Just wait a sec…”

“And the cat!”

I cleaned the mess, and saw Noah on the couch.

“Noah? Piano?”

“I got distracted by my book on the way back to practice.”

“Piano! Now!”

Back at the computer, I forgot what point I was about to make when Natalie came in.

“Who painted you with yogurt?” I asked.


With a grumble, I went to get a washcloth.

“Dad!” Noah called.

“Get back to practicing!”


“What is it?!”

“There’s smoke coming from the kitchen!”

Then there are times when old words work the best, even if I would rather my children not learn them from me.

©2008, Mark Phillips

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 Women, it's true, make human beings, but only men can make men. - Margaret Mead

Mark Phillips is a Stay-At-Home-Dad and freelance writer. Along with raising his four children, he is developing a franchise called “The Vacuum IS a Power Tool.” It is designed to help SAHDs maintain that which makes us men, instead of hairy Mom-substitutes. He earned a B.S. in Communication/Theatre Arts and teaching certificates in English, public speaking, and psychology from Eastern Michigan University. After six years as a high school English teacher and Director of Dramatic Arts at Powers Catholic High School in Flint, Michigan, he changed careers and became a Stay-At-Home-Dad. or E-Mail

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