You have to grab happiness wherever you can find it, right? I mean, I would love to be feeling happy today because I knew that the Constitution of the United States of America slept as safely last night as I did, or because I was confident that tomorrow’s foreign policy will not further weaken America and strengthen Russia. But, such is not my lot this morning–Trump is still in the White House, and not even his own cabinet knows what he talked with Putin about for two hours in Finland. That doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to feel good about, though.
Today my heart is gladdened by the existence of the word élucubration. I ran across it while reading the French-language translation of the magisterial World War Z, Max Brooks’s allegorical reflection on American culture in the early 20th century. Brooks on conspiracy theorists:
Le secret, ça fonctionne comme un trou sans fond ; et il y a toujours des paranoïaques pour essayer de le combler avec leurs élucubrations.
Word Reference defines élucubrations as “flights of fancy, hare-brained ideas.” (A hare is a kind of rabbit–lièvre, maybe?) French definitions emphasize the amount of work that goes into them:
Discours, pensée issus de recherches laborieuses mais dépourvus de bon sens (Maxipoche 2014, Larousse 2013)
Coming across the word in a translation as I did, it seemed too adorable to be true: surely such a lovely and useful word could not really exist in normal language? Wroooong again, Zipf.
In 1966, the singer Antoine released the song Les Élucubrations d’Antoine. According to Wikipedia, it differentiated itself from the typical yéyé (hippie) music of the time by its militancy, proposing that The Pill be sold in supermarkets and insulting music legend Johnny Halliday. The song sold like crazy and made his career. So…apparently I am the last person in the world to learn the world élucubration, and once again we see the awesome power of Zipf’s Law: most words are very rare–but, they do occur. Enjoy!