Sunday, March 20, 2016


Hatred of the Strenuous Life

H.G. Wells (1866-1946), The History of Mr. Polly, Chapter 3, § II:
A man whose brain devotes its hinterland to making odd phrases and nicknames out of ill-conceived words, whose conception of life is a lump of auriferous rock to which all the value is given by rare veins of unbusinesslike joy, who reads Boccaccio and Rabelais and Shakespeare with gusto, and uses "Stertoraneous Shover" and "Smart Junior" as terms of bitterest opprobrium, is not likely to make a great success under modern business conditions. Mr. Polly dreamt always of picturesque and mellow things, and had an instinctive hatred of the strenuous life. He would have resisted the spell of ex-President Roosevelt, or General Baden Powell, or Mr. Peter Keary, or the late Dr. Samuel Smiles, quite easily; and he loved Falstaff and Hudibras and coarse laughter, and the old England of Washington Irving and the memory of Charles the Second's courtly days.
One of the "ill-conceived words" here is stertoraneous. I haven't applied the Levenshtein distance algorithm to stertoraneous, but I believe its application might show that the closest real word is stercoraceous, with two substitutions (c for the second t and for the n). The Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. stercoraceous, doesn't quote my favorite example of the word, from Tobias Smollett (1721-1771), The Expedition of Humphry Clinker, chap. 11 (April 18):
He had reason to believe the stercoraceous flavour, condemned by prejudice as a stink, was, in fact, most agreeable to the organs of smelling; for, that every person who pretended to nauseate the smell of another's excretions, snuffed up his own with particular complacency.
If shover is also a mistake for shoveller, then a "Stertoraneous Shover" would be a "Stercoraceous Shoveller," i.e. a shit shoveller, an emptier of privies, a gold-finder, a gong-man, a jakes-farmer, a nightman, a Tom Turdman.


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