Tittynopes on my face

The Grandiloquent Dictionary defines tittynope as a noun.

Tittynope: A small quantity of something left over, such as uneaten meat on the side of a plate or dregs of beer left in the glass. A small portion of food remaining. (noun)

I learned the word in after-dinner conversation on Tuesday. At breakfast Wednesday morning, it was pointed out that some of my schmeared bagel’s cream cheese remained on my beard. I took a selfie and created the definitional meme you see here.

I texted my new word and photo to a few etymologically inclined friends.

Betsy texted:

» Sorry. Tittynope is not a word.

How can a word not be a word?

I hear my father’s voice, playful, in my head, “Brian, how can a word not be a word?” As I ponder the impossibility of answering, I remember (or see?) a twinkle of joy between the outer corner of his eyes and his ears. I smile thinking of how much my old man would have enjoyed that question.

“How can a word not be a word?”

In most of reality, things cease or transform into other things. This doesn’t seem to be the case with words.

“How can a word not be a word?”

I checked the definition of the eponymous word “word” 

Word: A single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing. (noun)

Sorry, Betsy, tittynope is a word. You don’t have the authority is to say that a word my friends and I use is not a word. Of course it’s a word, we are using it! Language is flexible. (Here’s a podcast that talks all about that.)

Author’s note: As I edited this article, it dawned on me that this might also be about my dad. Maybe my dad, even though you might say he isn’t here, isn’t quite gone either? After all, how could my dad cease to be my dad?

Perfect Amalekian Irony

This reminds me of something In the Bible. There is a passage in which it is said that for all times, all of the descendants of Abraham —all Jews, all Christians, all Muslims—are to wipe the name Amalek from the face of the earth.

Depending on what edition of God’s holy writ you are looking at, after some discussion of being honest in weights and measures, the verse in Deuteronomy 25:19 translates as “Remember to eradicate Amalek.”

The irony is that there is not one extra Biblical source in the world with any mention of Amalek. The name Amalek would not be known to this date, except for the admonition to eradicate the name.

To be fair, the redaction without mentioning the name would seem absurd:

“Eradicate all traces of the name ****.”

“Can you be more specific about who you mean when you say ****, because the ****’s made it so that I couldn’t understand.”

“I said, ‘****,’ all ****s! Eradicate the name ****!”

As soon as you say the name “Amalek” it exists. You can’t say it and then say it doesn’t exist. To say, “Tittynope is not a word” uses the letters tee-i-pee-pee-wy-en-o-pee-e as as word!

Of course it’s a word.

Nonetheless, no tittynopes

Ignore what I wrote above.

Tittynope is not a word. Nor is schmeared — the word I used above to describe the spread of cream cheese on my bagel. (Note: schmear is officially a word, as a noun, but the past and past participle adjective schmeared, is not.)

While I agree that tittynope is a word, in that people use it, I declare a distinction here: Tittynope is not an *official* word.

Here are my four reasons tittynope is not an official word:

  • » Tittynope is in no print dictionary I own—Webster’s or OED
  • » Tittynope is not allowed for play in Scrabble™ according to various online sources
  • » Tittynope yields zero result for meaningful etymology
And, finally, the truth and death blow:
  • » My inner purist wants order and does not want words that don’t meet the above criterion to count as words

Chaos scares me. And, therefore, I am declaring tittynope not an official word. I feel better that way. Boundaries stave off pandemonium.

The hintergedanke remains, “Who is in charge of what is and what isn’t real?” After all, the law-makers are just people who make laws. It doesn’t mean the laws are just or right.

Soup. Inestimable. You.

I asked the young woman on the other side of the lunch counter for some help.

“Excuse me. What the difference between the tomato and orzo and the tomato and rice soups?”

“The one with rice is roasted. The tomatoes are roasted. It’s a little spicier.”

She almost sang as she talked. Before I had processed what she had said, she gestured to my head with an upward nod of her chin.

“You Jewish?”

“Yeah; is it the hat? … or is it fact that I answered your question with a question?”

Not getting side tracked by my statement she continued with where she was taking the conversation.

“My boyfriend is Jewish. I couldn’t be Jewish, though. Because of the bacon.”

“You can’t be Jewish and eat bacon?” I asked softly, open-endedly.

“Right.”

“I can,” I told her, rearranging my hat on my head.

“Yeah, my boyfriend does, too. He eats bacon, and he’s Jewish.”

“So you can be Jewish and eat bacon, too. If you want.”

“Get the roasted tomato with rice. It’s tastier. Thanks. I’m good.”

“You sure are.”

After all, who is a better authority on her goodness than her?

The same is true for you.

Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise — even if it’s your own self — you are of inestimable value. Even if you have a tittynope of food on your face.

With love, 
Rabbi Brian
rabbi_brian@rotb.org
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