My Accidental Googlewhack
Several of them weren't, but one in particular was odd. The word was Quinalpus. Definition: "An authority appealed to to win an argument." (The classic example I immediately thought of was Marshall McLuhan in Annie Hall, though for many evangelicals the eternal fallback Quinalpus is C.S. Lewis.) I'd heard the word before in some other list of weird words, but it wasn't in NI2. A search of the OED availed me nothing. So then I Googled it--and got exactly one entry.
The link is right here. It consists of a single quote from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, where a clown says, "What says Quinalpus? Better a witty fool than a foolish wit." And you'll note that the general sense of "any unassailable authority" is nowhere present; this is the word's original context (I'm bound) and whatever expansion of the sense that came later is utterly absent.
A Googlewhack, for those who are new, is a sort of game where you attempt to put two unrelated words into a search engine and get back exactly one hit. There are whole sites dedicated to it. But I've never before gotten only a single hit after entering a single word. And what's so very weird is that the usage quoted seems to have come from Shakespeare! So where are all the other online references? Surely there's a website somewhere that lists every character ever even mentioned in Shakespeare's plays, isn't there? Surely there must be a site that actually has the entire script of The Twelfth Night, mustn't there? And if no one actually uses this word in the way "The Word Wizard" does, where the hell did he get the word in the first place?
The only good thing I can think about all this is that this would seem to be proof that maybe, for a brief sliver of history, word geeks like me had better things to do than post lists to the web.
(Afternote: Of course, in the tradition of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the movie Real Life, I'm sure I have ruined the Googlewhack by blogging about it. I welcome comments.)