Bourbon Cowboy

The adventures of an urbane bar-hopping transplant to New York.

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Location: New York, New York, United States

I'm a storyteller in the New York area who is a regular on NPR's "This American Life" and at shows around the city. Moved to New York in 2006 and am working on selling a memoir of my years as a greeting card writer, and (as a personal, noncommercial obsession) a nonfiction book called "How to Love God Without Being a Jerk." My agent is Adam Chromy at Artists and Artisans. If you came here after hearing about my book on "This American Life" and Googling my name, the "How to Love God" book itself isn't in print yet, and may not even see print in its current form (I'm focusing on humorous memoir), but here's a sample I've posted in case you're curious anyway: Sample How To Love God Introduction, Pt. 1 of 3. Or just look through the archives for September 18, 2007.) The book you should be expecting is the greeting card book, about which more information is pending. Keep checking back!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

An Open Query For Linguist Types

It's Halloween again, and a thought just struck me: why isn't "spooktacular" an official dictionary word? It appears in edited prose, it's certainly in widespread use, and could be clued as something like "n. a wild party with a haunted-house or horror theme, esp. one given around Halloween. Jocose." (And of course there's the even more common adjective form.) I'm not saying it's exceedingly common, but I'd at least expect to see it in an unabridged lexicon somewhere.

I guess I'm just asking because I want to know how long the damn word's been in the language. My guess is that it dates to early postwar commercial culture--1946 or so. But unless it shows up in Merriam-Webster with a date next to it, how will I ever know?



Blogger Brian Reeves said...

I believe the first use was in the Norse classic, Beowulf.

Chapter XI, Grendel's first attack upon the hall:
"...All hastily, then,
o'er fair-paved floor the fiend trod on,
ireful he strode; there streamed from his eyes
spooktacular flashes, like flame to see..."

Shakespeare popularized the term in Hamlet, during the exchange between Horatio and Bernardo in Act I:

"Horatio says 'tis but our fantasy,
And will not let belief take hold of him
Touching this spooktacular sight, twice seen of us:
Therefore I have entreated him along
With us to watch the minutes of this night;
That if again this apparition come,
He may approve our eyes and speak to it."

And who could forget the inimitable Poe, who wrote the following in "The Telltale Heart":

"Villains!" I shrieked, "dissemble no more! I admit the deed! --tear up the planks! here, here! --It is the beating of his spooktacular heart!"

10/31/2007 4:32 PM  

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