Sunday, May 6, 2012
Bugs Bunny: Master Logophile?
With confidence, the suave woodland creature exits his home and strolls across the plain armed only with a quick wit and a business card. You've seen the exchange. You know its verbiage by heart. But do you truly understand?
You may ask yourself how on earth a gray rabbit could be more intelligent than 98% of the human beings who walk to and fro upon the earth. You may answer yourself with the following. "I heard...but I did not comprehend!"
When Bugs Bunny traipses across his front lawn to meet his new neighbor, the ever-starved Wile E. Coyote, Supergenius, he is accompanied by a most keen awareness of the English language. He raps upon the door with the back of his knuckles, the way only the debonair can accomplish. "Are you in, Genius?" he calls out. With a lift of one carefully coiffed eyebrow, he treads the path that only the great have tread before. "Are you in, Capable?" Which leads him further down the winding trail of acidic wit, wherein he loses the pause and dives straight in for the kill. "Are you insolent? Are you indescribable?"
So let me follow this wild hare and pose to you the question of, if a cartoon bunny can understand basic elementary prefixes, why not great authors and speakers across the English-speaking world?
I will start at the beginning. We have all read, and many of us (myself excluded, of course)have used, the word "ingenious." I've heard ejaculations such as "That is an ingenious invention!" on television commercials. I've read in otherwise praiseworthy novels "He was a foe of ingenious wickedness." I have heard people say of coworkers "He is rather ingenious" and I've wanted to say in return, "Possibly, but you most assuredly are!"
I will get to the point.
A prefix meaning "the opposite of"
Definition: incapable-the opposite of capable
Definition: indescribable-without words or meaning to provide description
Definition: inept-the opposite of adept
Waiting for it...
Waiting for it...
You see where I'm going, don't you?
Definition: ingenious-the opposite of genius. Or it should be. Right?
Everything about the word screams opposite of genius!
Sadly, one of my major hang-ups in wordage leaves me very dissatisfied.
Ingenious should follow the same path that Bugs began. But it does not! It makes me want to scream!!
Ingenious, frustratingly enough, is not a word that uses "in" as a prefix. It comes from the Latin word ingeniousus which means "intellectual or talented." While genius and ingenious seem to negate each other when spoken, notice the difference in spelling, for one thing. Also note that ingeniousus has also been spelled engenious. This is the root word for "engine." But this does not give satisfaction, either, as the "en" in engenious is not a prefix. The prefix "en" is added to verbs to make them nouns, as in "engulf."
So, all this logophilia frustration builds into anger and a sense of betrayal by one of the master speakers of the childhood years of budding word-lovers everywhere! Did Bugs spit in the face of our desire for a perfect and orgasmic language? Did he thumb his cute wittle nose at our starving spirits seeking satiation in the musicality of words?
I believe not.
While Bugs was making what seemed a very concise link between words, which turned out to be grievously incorrect, what he was actually doing was making a quick-witted pun on the linkage and aural play of word usage and custom. He did not betray us, beloved logophiles! He taunted our rigidity, forced a crack in the surface of our polished veneer, and drove us to question him, ourselves, and our destiny as feeders at the trough of linguistics.
The most important lesson an intelligent person or beast can learn is to make light of themselves. As followers of Mr. Bunny know, he is quite a logophile and possessed of an awareness of what lies beneath the surface of those around him. He did not misstep. He led us into the darkness without a dictionary to light our way so that we may pioneer in ourselves an oasis in the desert. Take the knowledge that he imparted in the origin of words and use it to make your world a little brighter. And know that Bugs Bunny will remain the common man's champion in the arena of the ingenious.