4 August 2007...3:16 pm

She’s As Gone As She Can Be

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It was two evenings ago that I went into Manhattan to meet Ariel’s French boyfriend; even though the skin under my eyes was simply salt and my ponytail wouldn’t stop dripping, I had it better than whoever had surrendered his dinner to the Eighth Avenue turnstile.  In fact, we all did, especially once the sound of the emergency exit alarm had numbed us to everything else.

Ariel and I met in high school, after we’d both become impertinent adherents to religions of ourselves–I’d arrived at that point, I think, on a dissonant lunch of Ayn Rand and Richard Brautigan.  She liked marijuana and Ferlinghetti.  We didn’t do very much in high school, my friends and I.  There was a video game, Worms, that’s probably too retro even for Barcade.   I sat on Spencer’s futon for my first and only pornography viewing.  We watched the entire movie; because our friends were boys and because contrary to all available evidence my aura is prudish, everyone looked at me the entire time.

The theme was bestiality, or maybe Eden.  Mainly, it was green.

Green is the best color.

Ariel has been living in France, on and off, in Aix and Paris, for a few years.  She fell in love, and Toms looks like the son of a preacher and grins slyly like Ariel when she’s singing along with Janis Joplin.  She and I get the same vicarious glint in our eyes when a woman comes onto our lover; at Tasca, it was the owner who started speaking to Tomas in French.  She had the hollow cheeks of a European drinker, and after she followed him back to our table Ariel leaned over and whispered “her accent is very good.”  It took me several minutes to realize we had begun discussing Balzac, and once I did all I could consider was whether that book I read in Denver once had really been called “The Girl With Yellow Hair.”  I occupied myself imagining a blond Raggedy Ann.

Fortunately, the smoky Ariel–who’s looking increasingly Hepburn-esque–stole me away from my minor plaything-induced reverie.  “Emma!”  she said.  “Did you know that they’re putting ginormous in the dictionary?”

I glared at her.  “What did you say?”

“Ginormous! It’s the newest word!”

Who’s putting it in?  The OED?”  I was furious.

“That’s a good question.”  She paused.  “I’m not sure.  I read it in the paper at work.”

I snorted.  We looked at each other as two victims of a terrible injustice.

“What is it called again?  When you combine two words like that?”

“Oh.  I don’t know.”

“My friends call it a smoosh–”

“I like smoosh–”

“–but there’s a real word.”

“I feel like people only even said ‘ginormous’ in sixth grade.”

“Yeah.”

It turns out the dictionary in question is Merriam-Webster.  It also turns out that Merriam-Webster is based in Springfield, Massachusetts, which I think is home to the Basketball Hall of Fame and where I know there is at least one Friendly’s.  Next time I go there I will order Ariel a ginormous fish fillet sandwich and then we will throw it on the floor.  From the Post:

“There will be linguistic conservatives who will turn their nose up at a word like ‘ginormous,’ ” said John Morse, Merriam-Webster’s president. “But it’s become a part of our language. It’s used by professional writers in mainstream publications. It clearly has staying power.”

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