Day 163: a permanent black

“I had a dream about this weird word,” I announced at the breakfast table.

“Was it ‘inconspiculous?’ asked the younger.

“‘Inconspiculous?’” I repeated. “No. It wasn’t ‘inconspiculous.’” I pause. “Nor was it ‘inconspicuous.’”

“Was it ‘levitation?’ asked the elder.

“No, no,” I continued, impatiently, “it was an imaginary word … I think. I mean, it was a word I’d never heard before, and in my dream I was like, huh, I’m gonna look that up in the OED when I wake up, as you do. And I kept repeating it to myself in my sleep over and over so I wouldn’t forget it. And now I can’t remember it. But it’s on the tip of my tongue, I feel like it’s about to come back to me, I know it’s still there.”

Moments later, it rose to the top of my consciousness.

“Oh! It was ———!” I said. I repeated it to myself. It sounded right. “Huh. ——–,” I said again. “Yeah, that was it. I wonder if it really is a word! I’m gonna look that up after I drop you at camp.”

What came next was probably inevitable.

Right after dropping them off I sat down at my computer. And the word was gone from my mind. What remained was only the vague sensation that it began with a b and that the first syllable rhymed with “meh” and that it had three syllables altogether. I felt in my gut that the word was kin with the words jellicle and blefescu. But I also felt it had the air of a London garden square, like Belgrave or Grosvenor. And I had that sense of sureness that you only get from dreams that I had unconsciously intuited, no, divined in sleep a deeply profound word, the identity of which the OED would now disclose to me, and that it would unlock some kind of LIFE-TRANSFORMING REVELATION.

So I found myself engaged for some, embarrassingly long, period of time in the ludicrous activity of looking up made up words in the OED. At this point, I wouldn’t even remember what any of those words are, except that they are recorded in the search history of the OED home page that I have permanently open in Chrome, so that if I type in the letters “ble” the words blefescle, blefiscle, bleric, and blericle show up.

None of these are real words.

Blericle was the one that seemed closest to the dream-word. I did discover the real word belleric through these searches, which, fascinatingly, refers to “the astringent fruit of Terminalia Bellerica, also called Bastard Myrobalan, imported from India for the use of calico-printers, and used for the production of a permanent black” (OED).


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