In The Beginning There Was The Word

Arhip had written thus: "Educationally, the novel does not amount to very much." As simple as that. Even too simple, an aesthetically-minded critics might have objected. The typist, thinking of dinner, of guests and the fact that she hadn't managed to rustle up everything she needed, had mistyped: "And eurekationally, the novel does not amount to very much." The word eurekationally had come out of the typewriter like God in ancient tragedies: Deus ex machina. The happening would have remained without any theoretical or practical consequence if Arhip, the author of the review – for it was a review that he had concocted, as you must have realized by now – had not been taken in promptly by a group of writers that were supposed to meet with a group of readers at the club of a group of building sites. Thus, he could no longer had the time to read the typed manuscript, and the review went its natural way to the press. It is true that a young and diligent proof reader had marked the unknown word with a thick question mark, but the people in the editorial office told him that if an important critic like Arhip wanted to introduce a less used word in his review nobody could stop him, and, after all, it was not for the first time that reviews were dotted with words having a conspicuous technical ring about them. The editorial office was right, at least theoretically: a critic is free to garnish specialized articles with less utilized words, the procedure being, as a matter of fact, quite frequent and normal. Normally, things would have stopped there. But the unknown word had a fascinating effect on a few authors, who attached a lot of consideration to the refurbishing of the critical idiom. It was inferred that eurekationally, derived from eureka, Archimedes' reputed exclamation at having found, while taking a bath, the principle of immersed bodies. So, what could "eurekationally" mean? Naturally, from the point of view of discovering, that is of renovation. The word caught on with lightening speed, better than fortuitously, redundantly, proliferating, (that is correct!) and beneficial. Coinages like "the eurekational spirit of the poet", "multiple eurekational modalities", "no eurekative meaning in this area of the book" emerged overnight. More, the word bred relatives, derivatives like: "the attempt at eurekating the poetical idiom", "the narrow eurekational range", "the eurekation leaves to be desired", "we are definitely for eurekation in art!" They even discovered the verb which had started it all. A poet wrote about a brother-of-the-quill that he was "the most eurotic of his entire generation", a risky business since as Caragiale used to say, a terrible misprint occurred here, and the respective poet became "the most neurotic of his entire generation", and consequently the biggest enemy of the author of that poor innocent characterization. Despite such small mishaps and exaggerations, the word spread like brush fire at a time of drought. Students and pupils, professors and orators, journalists and cultural activists rapidly adopted it so that at a certain point somebody whose business was to measure the frequent use of words in the language put it on an equal footing with the verb "to express." Until one day when, exasperated with the insolence the new term that had penetrated the language, the linguists were roused to action. Let's see, they said, the long and short of this nasty word! A few looked for its etymology in various dictionaries. Unsuccessfully. Others wrote clamorous articles against the forced introduction in the language of this word of dubious origin. The literati did not cry quits either, accusing the linguists of being dyed-in-the-wool, and quoting Arhip as a mega-authority in the field. A terrible dispute was thus bred, spanning several years since controversies were ventilated mostly in yearly publications. They say that even two corresponding members of the Academy bandied harsh words during a meeting of the high scientific forum. A symposium was organized on the origin and meanings of the word "eurekative". The conclusions of the symposium were not made public. Thanks to careful translations the word entered a few highly circulated language. Thus, in French it became "eurikatif" and in English "eurikative", in Russian "evrikativnyi" and in German "evrikatiwisches"…It is true that the speakers of the respective languages did not adopt the word because of an exaggerated spirit of linguistic conservatism. The controversy acquired international scope.What was Arhip doing meanwhile? Arhip was reviewing his chronicles with a view to collecting them in a volume. When he stumbled upon the word "eurekationally" he gaped. What could I have meant? After a moment of tantalizing questions, he struck out the word "eurekationally" and wrote "educationally". Still, the international controversy kept on gathering momentum.

by Dumitru Solomon (1932-2003)