Celebrity, Neologisms, and the Weirdness of Dreams

For a number of years I’ve been corresponding fairly regularly, first by mail and now by email, with Gene Owens, a journalist formerly with the (Mobile, Alabama) Press-Register and now semi-retired and living in South Carolina. Gene writes a column that is published in our paper as “Bubba’s English” and elsewhere as “Greasepit Grammar.” As a frequent contributor, I’ve achieved a modest amount of local celebrity. Even people I’ve never met will recognize me by name as “Bubba’s Fairhope friend” or know that I am a “grammar maven.” Whenever Gene uses one of my contributions, I can count on at least a couple of people mentioning it to me. Once even my husband (who I thought never read the column) startled me by saying, “Well, I see you made it into print again today.” This can add a certain fillip to an otherwise dull day.

Apparently now this celebrity is extending to my nights. Twice lately I’ve had dreams in which someone pointed out to me a newspaper article in which my name came up in reference to a question about the meaning of the word “nezerity.” In at least one case, the word seemed to be in some way related to Star Trek. The more awake I become, the more preposterous this word appears, but in the dreamlike semi-wakefulness that followed the dream, I seem to have decided that the word meant “a non-zero amount.”

As I walked today, I considered further how absurd this notion is. In the first place, I hasten to say that there is no such word as “nezerity.” Although Google turns up two hits for the word as a name, it’s extremely unlikely that I would have run across it this way. It doesn’t even look like an English or Latinate word. And, to the extent that it (to me at least) seems more likely to suggest a quantity rather than a number or amount, it doesn’t make sense, since “zero” is a word related to number, not quantity.

So where on earth (or outside of it) did the word come from? The human brain is mysterious enough even when it is conscious, but the things we come up with in our dreams can still astound us. I suppose it is a good thing, overall, that our capacity for self-entertainment seems to be unlimited, and it is probably also a good thing that our dreams give us such oddities to wonder about.

This entry was posted in Language. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s