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Connecticut wordsmith creates home for misfit terms

Friday, January 1, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CST
Cheshire Town Historian and author Ron Gagliardi has written a book titled "Noah's Desktionary and Allmanack."

CHESHIRE, Conn. — Town Historian Ron Gagliardi has been snubbed by the folks at Merriam-Webster Dictionary for more than 40 years, so now he's going to throw the book at 'em.

Gagliardi, 62, is starting a wordcoining contest and inviting wordsmiths everywhere to submit their long-snubbed entries to a project he thinks may produce some new entries for the big book of words.

"A minor league for Webster Dictionary," Gagliardi said of his book.

His new book of words was inspired by Noah Webster, who wrote the first American dictionary. He's calling it "Noah's Desktionary And Allmanack."

The title contains no misspellings. The words, like their inventor, are waiting for their big break.

Gagliardi is a self-described funny man, historian, teacher and "kidult" — another one of his words-in-waiting with the following definition: someone, who like him, "has never made it adult."

As a trustee for the New Haven Museum & Historical Society, Gagliardi admits that one day, while volunteering at the museum, he approached the desk of Noah Webster and opened its drawer, much like "the man" would have done more than 200 years ago when he wrote what is now known as the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

"It should be a shrine to the English Language," Gagliardi said of the desk.

It inspired him to write the book, which is filled with words in waiting — his and others. It's not organized like a dictionary, but rather by sections filled with humor including plays on words and a section called "phunny phobias" with words like neverauthorphobia, or fear of never being published.

The word doesn't apply to Gagliardi, who has two other history books to his name. Like his words, he hasn't hit the big time yet, but certainly not because of a lack of ingenuity.

In 1974, he attempted to "crash the dictionary." He took out a newspaper ad listing several words and their definitions. Underneath the list of words was a simple plea: "Mr. Dictionary ... Please let us under your covers?"

Gagliardi's words include desktionary, which means someone's personal desk dictionary, and enthusazilist, which refers to a person who enthusiastically uses a-to-z lists to be creative.

An enthusazilist himself, Gagliardi's thought process resembles a dictionary. He brainstorms using the alphabet. A substitute teacher with a formal education in art, he maintains a sunny disposition and has even coined a word for it: opiao, an acronym for only positivity in and out.

He said came up with opiao after realizing "no negativity" contained two negatives in it. He needs all the positivity he can get. Getting a word in the dictionary is a bear.

Words are first put into citations, which are created by editors who read thousands of pages of published material, including newspapers and electronic publications.

Merriam-Webster's citation files contain some 15.7 million words. Before a word makes into the dictionary "it must be used in a substantial number of citations that come from a wide range of publications over a considerable period of time," according to the official Merriam-Webster Web site.

Gagliardi promotes words that are not his but that have a better chance of breaking into the word big leagues. His top choice for words that should be in the dictionary is "jeterian," likely coined by a sports announcer while commenting on Yankees baseball player Derek Jeter's style of play.

He envisions entries from all over the world making the Desktionary, and the owners of the dictionary taking notice. He wants a process, he said, that is controlled more by word lovers who are like him and less by "the owners of the dictionary."

"Why can't Ronny Gag get a word in the dictionary?" he asked.


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