Pardon Me if|I’m Blarophant

     Like most people who are not wholly vile, I have standards – some in common with humanity, some peculiarly my own. And I hew to those standards (hew to meaning abide by, not to chop up with an ax).
     At what point does sticking to one’s standards become mere pigheadedness?
     I wondered this week – on company time – upon stumbling across the word “blarophant” while editing a story.
     The word does not exist. So should I allow it in a story?
     The Salt Lake Tribune used it in its Aug. 30, 1877 obituary of Brigham Young. The Trib did not care for the fellow. A rather mild sentence from the obit states: “He was blarophant, and pretended to be in daily intercourse with the Almighty, and yet he was groveling in his ideas, and the system of religion he formulated was well nigh Satanic.”
     Good heavens. The rest of the obituary was no kinder. You can read it by Googling blarophant. The Tribune editor was the only person who ever used it, and he did it just once.
     I looked it up in the Oxford English Dictionary and in Webster’s Second Edition. Nothing.
     The suffix -phant comes from Greek phainein, meaning to manifest or show, but the prefix blaro- means nothing in Latin or Greek, nor does blar- or bla-. So the word is meaningless, though the Trib editor surely meant something bad.
     With dictionaries strewn across the floor, I realized that no one but me would care what it meant, or whether it means anything at all. I left it in the story even though it’s not a word because, what the heck, I’d looked it up …
     There are words, however, that I will not allow, even though everyone else is using them. One of these words is “reference” used as a verb.
     Reference is not a verb. It is a noun or an adjective. The verb form is “refer.”
     Webster agrees with me on this. The Oxford English Dictionary … actually, the O.E.D. allows it. So the O.E.D. is wrong.
     I know, I know. I’m not going to fight the people at Oxford. So I’m wrong, but I still won’t allow it.
     Here we come to the point, if I have a point. Am I being pigheaded, barring a word that’s used correctly, merely because I think it’s ugly?
     Maybe I am, but vide supra. Also, op cit. and viz.
     Languages change, and even etymologists and editors have to admit it. Dr. Johnson, for instance, admitted “fun” to his dictionary only grudgingly, but did not approve it, because he considered it a “low” word.
     He was scandalized by the word “leg” if it referred to a woman, and though he had to admit it to his dictionary – please, not in that way. He preferred “limbs,” and that dictum remained in force until the end of the Victorian Age.
     Clearly, if Dr. Johnson were alive today, it would be ridiculous to hew to those standards. And I doubt that he would.
     (Actually, he wouldn’t have to, because if Dr. Johnson got a look at a modern magazine, I believe he would die instanter. (“‘Webster’s Second Edition’ … ‘Adj: immediately’,”.))
     I suppose I have to admit that in this case, and no doubt in others, what I call my high standards merely make me pigheaded. (Stubborn, unmoved, adamant, tenacious.)
     Ah, well, it’s a question for an etymologist. Which Dr. Johnson defined as “a writer of dictionaries, a harmless drudge.”

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