Thursday, February 15, 2007

Neologism of the week: quirkyalone

In shameless imitation of William Safire, I'm going to take a look at some new words or new usages of words that have entered the American English lexicon.

This week's word "quirkyalone". In honor of Valentine's Day and the general relationship obsession of the moment.

Quirkyalone (noun or adjective) is a word coined by writer Sasha Cagen in 2000 to describe a person who is happy being single but not opposed to being in a relationship. To put it another way, a quirkyalone does not see being part of a couple as essential to being satisfied with their life. Generally they are picky about who they will date, and will walk a way from a potential relationship if they don't think it will suit them.

More women than men who identify themselves as quirkyalone, possibly because recent cultural history has presented unpartnered men with more positive archetypes than it has unpartnered women. While they are comfortable being single, the well adjusted quirkyalone sees a healthy relationship as a good thing and happily get involved if the partner and situation is right. If they do commit to a relationship, they keep a lot of their individuality. This tendency means that quirkyalones tend to do best with other quirkyalones, who won't feel threatened by their partner's refusal to immerse their own identity in coupledom.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines "quirk" as "a peculiar behavior, an idiosyncrasy." Ms. Cagen's choice of "quirky" to describe the personality type carries connotation of individualism and somewhat cheerful nonconformity. The pairing of the two adjectives to make a noun gives the word itself a playful feel, which suits the self-image of the personality type. Being quirky means being in rebellion against the prevailing standards to begin with. By being happy to be single, Ms. Cagen claims, the quirkyalone is rebelling against the cultural assertion that a person is not complete until they are half of a couple.

The quirkyalone community has several other related terms that have followed the original neologism. When two quirkyalones form a successful romantic partnership while still retaining their individuality (their "quirkyness") they are "quirkytogethers". A person who holds high standards for serious relationships, but is willing to lower their standards for a one-night-stand or fling is referred to as a "quirkyslut".

Of course, every movement must have its opposition. If the community has chosen the term "quirky" to symbolize individualism they use the term "perky" to connote shallowness and plastic conformity. So the natural opposite of the quirkyalone is the "perkytogether". The perkytogether is the perpetually coupled person who looks on the quirkyalone as incomplete and somewhat crippled because they don't have a boyfriend or girlfriend. It's interesting to note the the term "perkyalone" seems not to exist.

While quirkyalones are hardly a new phenomenon, the term is, and it hasn't made its way into mainstream use yet. For the last several years, however, the word has been kept alive by a small group of readers and Internet surfers who read what it is and say to themselves, "hey, that's me!"

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Today's Holiday

For those of you who aren't aware, today is an obscure American holiday. While many of you celebrate it in some way, shape or form, the lack of media coverage and difficulty in finding any sort of commercially produced products may make it easy to overlook.

I'm speaking, of course, of Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day is held every Feb. 14 in remembrance of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre on this day in 1929.

On this morning, nearly ninety years ago, seven members of the gang led by George "Bugs" Moran were lined up and executed by members of Al Capone's gang.
Of course, many of the familiar trapping of Valentine's Day have their roots in this incident. It's a well known fact that we get the term "Love-Bug" from Bugs Moran, but fewer people know that the now-familiar image of puckered lips on so many Valentine's Day cards is in remembrance of Frank "Tight Lips" Gusenberg who was among the slain that day.
People often send each other flowers to reproduce the funerals that took place because of the bloody rivalry between Capone and Moran.
St. Valentine's Day Massacre cards are often covered in gruesome symbols of the slayings. There are exposed hearts, pictured on the page as if they were ripped out of a dying man's body, and the cards themselves are often colored either the deep red of arterial blood or the pink color of the blood splattered on the white-painted garage wall.
After the massacre children used to throw things at each other, flinging rocks or stale candies much like the gangsters pelted each other with bullets. This practice has toned down as time has gone by and is symbolized by the giving of gifts (jewelery for rocks, and chocolate for the stale candy) to one's worst enemy. North American culture being what it is, the recipient of these gifts is often a wife or girlfriend. Of course, because the killing was based around the competition in the bootleg liquor industry, a bottle of expensive wine may be among the gifts sent to one's enemy.

I hope this history lesson was interesting. I was very excited to discover this obscure and fascinating holiday several years ago. I highly recommend that you research it more on your own.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln

So much has changed since your time, so much has not. In the man's own words:

"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow, this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced."

It is for us, the living...