October 8, 2021 0 By Mirm

This is the word from Mary Poppins that one is encouraged to use when they cannot think of anything else to say. Maybe this is a nonce word but it could also be an example of an hapax legomenon. A nonce is a spontaneously made up word for a specific situation. An hapax legomenon (aka hapax) literally means something said only once. It is a word that is only used once – ever – by an author. A word can be both a nonce and an hapax if an author coined a word and then only used it once. Lewis Carroll only used the word crazy once in Alice in Wonderland – hapax. He also used frabjous – nonce word meaning superbly wonderful.

Some would argue that wordsmiths and their vast lexicons are pejoritave and pretentious in their use of vocabulary. Why use such an extravagant expenditure of their liguistical palatte when common words will be adequate?! Why talk about proclivities when habits or tendencies suffice? Yet a philologist uses words like paint so why would she limit herself to just the primary colors?

It is interesting to note that there are several hapaxes in the Bible. But all the words in every language over all of history – written and spoken – are mimsy expressions of the Word who became flesh and lived among us. They are not enough to define and paint a portrait of the One who spoke it all into existence. There is not enough ink.

PS – Once in a lifetime – that is all I need if I am spending that lifetime with the one I love. Jim was the hapax legomenon of my life.