This week is Book Week Scotland 2014 and so it seemed like the perfect time to share this very bookish post.
Like most of us bibliophiles, I love words. I was the kid in class who stared eagerly at the blackboard as the teacher led the weekly words quiz while most of my classmates glared daggers at him. I grew to love dictionaries and I was constantly consulting them when I encountered words I didn’t understand (which happens A LOT when you start watching Star Trek at the age of 7).
I can remember being fascinated when, at 8 years old, I became aware of the differences in spelling between British English and American English. It began with the word “color” which I read in a novel that had been published in the States (I assumed it was a typo; where was the u?) and later grew into an interest which still continues to this day. I know a lot of people who read this blog are from the US, so I always get a little paranoid when I type words like “favourite” as I worry people will just think that I can’t spell!
Disclaimer: I’m Scottish and I grew up in a world where we like to add an extra “u” and “l” here and there. We also pay our bills by “cheque”, not “check”, and turn “center” into “centre” … just because.
Anyway, for a while now I’ve been collecting interesting words which relate to the love of books and I finally have enough to share with you. You have probably heard of some of them already, but I hope that at least a few of them will be new to you. Some of them have a long history while others have been coined online within the last decade. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty that begin with biblio- (from the Greek biblion meaning book) but I didn’t want to include too many of them so I’ve just picked the more unusual ones.
Abibliophobia – The fear of running out of reading material.
When I first came across this word I was reminded of the following quote from Lewis Buzbee: “If you read one book a week, starting at the age of 5, and live to be 80, you will have read a grand total of 3,900 books, a little over one tenth of one percent of the books currently in print.” With that in mind, and also considering the volume of written works available online, it might be hard to believe that anyone could fear running out of things to read. Still, it’s a horrible thought, isn’t it?
Bibliobibuli – People who read too much.
Personally, I don’t think there is such a thing as reading too much, but American journalist H.L. Mencken disagreed when he coined the term in 1957 by claiming that: “There are people who read too much: bibliobibuli. I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through this most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing”. Yep, this definitely sounds familiar!
Bibliomaniac – Excessive fondness for acquiring and possessing books.
This can be a particular problem if, like me, you’re not a fan of e-books and want to read everything in printed format. Over the years my books have spread throughout my parents’ house like a literary infestation. It will probably be years until I can afford to buy a house big enough to have a library for them all. I know I should give at least some of them to a charity shop but … what if I want to re-read them again one day? Or share them with my as yet non-existent children? Argh!!
Bibliophagist – An avid or voracious reader.
This one likely applies to most of us and is along the same lines as bibliophile, but the best definition I came across was “one who reads books omnivorously,” which just puts very odd images into my head of people actually eating the books. Like human bookworms. Yum.
Bibliosmia – The act of smelling books, particularly old ones.
This word seems to have been conjured up online at some point over the last few years, and it definitely applies to me. I’m not saying that I go around sticking my nose into every book I come across, but there is something about the smell of old books that I really love. There is a scientific explanation for the aroma itself, if you’re curious, and also a range of products which claim to replicate the smell of books. Book-scented perfume, anyone?
Bibliotherapy – A technique that uses an individual’s relationship to the content of books and poetry as therapy.
I wasn’t familiar with this until I stumbled across it in a random article, but I think it sounds like a lovely experience. I wouldn’t use it as a substitute for counselling from a qualified professional, but sitting down with someone who could give me a tailor-made “book prescription” and help me broaden my reading horizons sounds like a great idea. This is the original article where I read about the experiences of six people who had a bibliotherapy session. It’s a very interesting read.
Book-bosomed – Someone who carries a book around with them at all times.
This term was originally coined by Scottish novelist and poet Sir Walter Scott in his 1805 poem The Lay of the Last Minstrel. This is particularly interesting to me as Scott lived and died in a house located only a five minute drive from where I live and his influence is especially prominent all over the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh. I can’t imagine going about informing people that I am book-bosomed, though. They might think I stuff my bra with books, haha!
Epeolatry – The worship of words.
I’m one of those people who believe that the written word is humankind’s greatest achievement (after all, it would have been very difficult to invent everything else without it), so I really like this term. When I researched it I found this article which had some interesting information about the origin of American English.
Librocubicularist – Someone who reads in bed.
I have been one of these all my life but until recently I had no idea there was a name for it! I read in bed almost every night and I actually struggle to get to sleep if I don’t. Reading is like a barrier for me between the tumultuous events of the day and the quiet calm that I need to feel before I can fall asleep. I have to be at the point of falling asleep on my feet before I’ll forego a chapter or two. Even when I’m really tired I will often continue reading with only one eye open if I’m really enjoying the book or feeling particularly stressed out. It’s a lifelong habit that I never intend to break.
Tsundoka – Buying books and not reading them; letting books pile up unread on shelves or floors or nightstands.
I have a good friend whose living room is like a bookshop or a library; there’s unread books piled up all over the place. I actually really enjoy looking through them, but I’m not in the habit of letting unread books pile up in my own home. At the moment I have six novels and one comic book sitting on my shelf that have yet to be read, and that’s actually too many for my liking. I usually prefer to read all the new books I have before I buy anymore, but that hardly ever happens since I can’t walk out of a bookshop without buying at least a couple of other ones!
So, in conclusion, I have a confession to make: I’m a bibliophagist and a librocubicularist with an enjoyment of bibliosmia, a devotion to epeolatry and the occasional tendency to commit tsundoka.
What about you?