My friend and neighbor, Dewel Lawrence, recently introduced me to a new word. That’s not hard to do as my vocabulary is pretty slim, especially for someone who poses as a columnist. This is at least the second time Dewel gets credit for expanding my personal dictionary. The first word he taught me was cavalry, a term I once knew but had for decades incorrectly substituted with calvary.
I don’t remember which column it was, but months ago I mentioned the calvary in one, thinking I was referring to those soldiers on horseback routinely featured in old westerns. Despite watching a fair share of such fare in my youth, I had been using the wrong word for ages. I’ve seldom had reason to say, write, or even think about the word cavalry, which helps explain how my error went unnoticed for so long.
In the unlikely case there is someone reading this who has made that same mistake, here’s the gist of it. Calvary is the place where Jesus died on the cross. Cavalry refers to soldiers. Both are pertinent to the rescue business but there are substantial differences. The cavalry’s relief is temporary and for specific situations and people. They are one of many avenues for physical deliverance. Calvary, on the other hand, paved the way for spiritual deliverance. It offers the path for eternal salvation and is available for all who will accept it.
When I say my vocabulary is limited, I’m not being modest. The Vice-President of the proof department at Joiner’s Corner returned a draft to me not long ago for a column I was working on. Penned in red ink across the top was a note, “Congratulations on a new record! You used “it” 17 times and “its” twice.” She had underlined the numbers showing a total of 19, and graciously added a big smiley face on the side. Not many proof departments add smiley faces and sometimes a heart.
The late Murphy Head deserves credit for teaching me an interesting word years ago. Murphy, who was affectionately called the walking man’s friend, sold used vehicles and all sorts of home furnishings. Nobody ever left his place on foot if he could help it. When he stopped by my office at the bank one day, I politely inquired, “How’s it going, Murph?”
“Everything’s copasetic,” he said with his usual grin. I had never heard the term copasetic before, so Murphy explained it meant okay, lovely, or jam up and jelly tight. It’s odd how little moments like that stay with us and sometimes become an ongoing part of our conversations. For years afterward Murphy would ask me if everything was copasetic, or I’d ask him the same. That one word gave us a thousand laughs and I just added another to the count.
The new word which Dewel shared with me in September is discommoded. His casual inclusion of discommoded in an email seemed a ruse to slyly introduce a made-up word. But Dewel works a lot of crossword puzzles, so I knew it was possibly something he’d stumbled across or found going down.
Discommoded, I reasoned, must be the opposite of commoded, which is obviously something a nurse and doctor might discuss in a hospital setting. “Nurse, do you know if Mr. Lawrence in room 308 has been commoded?”
“Yes, doctor. He was commoded just before the shift change for the third straight day. The second shift discommoded him and several of the staff are threatening to quit if it happens again.”
My conjecture seemed logical, but I also checked with Google. Discommoded reportedly means “to cause (someone) trouble or inconvenience.” The example sentence provided was, “I am sorry to have discommoded you.” Apparently, that can be said by either the patient or the nurse.
I don’t expect to embrace discommoded as heartily as I have copasetic. I am, however, now mildly inspired to expand my vocabulary and have set a goal of learning one new word per month. I considered a weekly challenge but decided the stress might cause me to feel more discommoded than copasetic.
Ol’ Murph would get a kick out of reading this, so maybe St. Peter will show him the column. The walking man’s friend is spending time now where every day is far beyond copasetic. I can say that with confidence, because Murphy was confident in what happened at Calvary.