“Disobstetricate not their enixibility”: OED’s Double Hapaxes

Or, Urquhart’s folly.

Here’s a challenge: write a sentence with two never-before-used words in it, and see if the Oxford English Dictionary ever adds both of them to its long list of English words.

In “Acrasial Philogamy – Ghost Hapaxes in OED”, I documented some words that are included as headwords in the OED on the basis of only one piece of usage evidence, which piece of evidence also included another word (or more) which OED didn’t choose to make into a headword. The question each one of these raises is, why this not-otherwise-attested word and not that? Sometimes the answer is transparent, other times not.

But what about cases where this and that word are both included? That is, where one quotation is the only textual evidence for more than one OED headword? These might be called double hapaxes, or double nonce usages.

As you might expect, there are vanishingly few of these in OED2. I count just forty-eight (or 96 of the 2.5M quotations in the dictionary), although I haven’t applied any fuzzy matching (so quotes with small differences in spelling or transcription errors, or from variant editions will all fail to match). I’ve put them into a table, below. Many of the hapax pairs are parallel affix constructions, such as tauntless-vauntless (Hopkins), brotherize-sisterize (Delany), uncestued-unbeamed (Southey), metleyship-weyleyship (Burghley). Others are simply affixes of hapaxes, such as flexity-inflexity (Brougham). Some are technical terms, such as echidnine-viperine (Hulme).

Then there’s Sir Thomas Urquhart’s The Jewel (1652) [subtitle ΕΚΣΚΥΒΑΛΑΥΡΟΝ- Greek for “gold from turds” (!) ] which has three phrases each containing two hapaxes: affabulatory-apologal, disobstetricate-enixibility,  and tacturiency-visuriency. Urquhart is additionally responsible for a further 147 single hapaxes. At times one feels sympathy for the antineologians: clearly this guy must have been a torture to read.

Or you can turn pain to pleasure: over the last two years the blog “Six Degrees of Thomas Urquhart” has been rating Urquhart’s words according to logofascination (an Urquhartesque coinage) and usefulness. Usefulness is admittedly a matter of opinion. Flagitious I can abide once in a blue moon – T. S. Eliot wrote to his mother that ‘Apathy is more flagitious than abuse’. Incornifistibulating, not so much.

In the Cambridge History of English and American Literature, George Saintsbury remarked on Urquhart’s pompous self-portraits, and related these to his writing style, “where the coxcomb, though he remains, shows quite a different kind of coxcombry, and blends it with a pedantry which is gigantesque and almost incredible.” John Willcock’s introduction to The Jewel, in his 1899 edition of Urquhart’s works, puts the matter of Urquhart’s neologizing this way: “The style of our author is seen at its worst in the peroration to The Jewel, in which he apologizes for the comparative simplicity, if not baldness, by which, in the opinion of some, it might be thought to be characterised. “I could truly,” [Urquhart] says:

…have enlarged this discourse with a choicer variety of phrase, and made it overflow the field of the reader’s understanding, with an inundation of greater eloquence; and that one way, tropologetically, by metonymical, ironical, metaphorical, and synecdochical instruments of elocution, in all their several kinds, artificially affected, according to the nature of the subject, with emphatical expressions in things of great concernment, with catachrestical in matters of meaner moment; attended on each side respectively with an epiplectick and exegetick modification; with hyperbolical, either epitatically or hypocoristically, as the purpose required to be elated or extenuated, with qualifying metaphors, and accompanied by apostrophes; and lastly, with allegories of all sorts, whether apologal, affabulatory, parabolary, ænigmatick, or paræmial. And on the other part, schematologetically adorning the proposed theam with the most especial and chief flowers of the garden of rhetorick, and omitting no figure either of diction or sentence, that might contribute to the ear’s enchantment, or perswasion of the hearer. I could have introduced, in case of obscurity, synonymal, exargastick, and palilogetick elucidations; for sweetness of phrase, antimetathetick commutations of epithets; for the vehement excitation of a matter, exclamation in the front, and epiphonemas in the reer. I could have used, for the promptlier stirring up of passion, apostrophal and prosopopœiel diversions; and, for the appeasing and settling of them, some epanorthotick revocations, and aposiopetick restraines. I could have inserted dialogismes, displaying their interrogatory part with communicatively pysmatick and sustentative flourishes; or proleptically, with the refutative schemes of anticipation and subjection, and that part which concerns the responsory, with the figures of permission and concession. Speeches extending a matter beyond what it is, auxetically, digressively, transitiously, by ratiocination, ætiology, circumlocution, and other wayes, I could have made use of; as likewise with words diminishing the worth of a thing, tapinotically, periphrastically, by rejection, translation, and other meanes, I could have served myself.”

Oh, good God. Writers: Omit needless neologisms! Lexicographers: Omit needless hapaxes!

Perhaps all hapaxes or nonce usages have, by their nature, filled a need, however limited it might have been. You to judge which of the following phrases by themselves justify the creation of two OED headwords:

[ws_table id=”4″]

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