Hi, welcome to the Film Scouts Language Laboratory. Today we are taking a day off from study and having some fun with words, courtesy of Film Scouts editor Emmett Gray.

The "Or-Id" Game

by Emmett Gray

There is a class of abstract nouns in the English language that end in "-or" (or "-our" in British spelling) which have adjectival forms ending in "-id", such as "horror" ("horrid"), "squalor" ("squalid"), and "pallor" ("pallid"). This class of words, primarily of Latin derivation, became the basis of an amusing verbal game which some Film Scouts have played in idle moments. The object of the game was originally to produce as many valid words of this class as we could dredge up, but the purpose soon became trying to think of words which ought to be in this class, but aren't, such as "savor" (there is no "savid") or "morbid" (there is no "morbor"). The ultimate form of the game became to provide a definition for a word which doesn't exist, but might, such as "odid" or "lucor", and have the other players attempt to guess the word. In this form of the game, the rules were stretched to allow any word at all ending in either "-or" or "-id" to be the basis for the imaginary derivation.

In the first stage of the game, in which we concerned ourselves with discovering legitimate or-id pairs, we came up with quite a few unexpected ones, unexpected either because the primary meaning of one or the other form had evolutionarily differentiated, or because the pronunciation of the root and/or its final consonant changed in the adjectival form, or for both reasons. Some examples of different meaning: "valor" ("valid"), "stupor" ("stupid"), "splendor" ("splendid"); of different pronunciation: "rigor" ("rigid"), "vapor" ("vapid"), "languor" ("languid"); of different meaning and pronunciation: "rancor" ("rancid"), "liquor" ("liquid").

The second and third stages of the game, involving the invention of words which might (or ought to) exist, but don't, produced a wealth of useful vocabulary. I will let the reader imagine the definitions of the following nonexistent words: aror, flavid, labid, flaccor, acror, vigid, putror, tremid, avor, succid, rapor, clangid, frigor, rumid, tepor, terrid, colid, timor, errid, limpor, clamid, gelor, furid, glamid, fetor, neighbid.

It occurred to us that some of the words we invented might actually exist, but be uncommon or archaic, so I browsed the Oxford English Dictionary. It turns out that "sordor", "livor", and "turgor" are legitimate words. I also ran into the pair "sapor" ("sapid"), which means affecting the sense of taste, hardly in common usage.

If one allows homophones, a whole new vista of lovely non-existent words opens up. From the homophones ending in "-er", there derive words like "hungid", "spluttid", "blustid", and "lathid". The "-ed" homophones provide such gems as "wickor", "raggor", "wretchor", and "ruggor". Then there are the "-ore" homophones, yielding "chid", "gid", "omnivid", etc.; the "-oar" homophones ("sid"); the "-ur" and "-ar" homophones ("murmid", "wid").

A spin-off of the game was to consider the class of nouns which end in "-or" and have the adjectival form "-ent", such as "ardor" ("ardent") and "fervor" ("fervent"; "fervid" is of course also a legitimate word). Most "-ent" words have noun forms ending in "-ence" or "-ency", but it is amusing to lop off these endings and derive the more compact forms, such as pungor, urgor, stringor, decador, tangor (a fruit, incidentally), decor (in the sense of "decency" or "decorum", not adornment), equivalor, recor, differor, ambivalor, permanor, eloquor, presor, and so on. And allowing "-ant" homophones augments this list with rampor, flagror, distor, recalcitror, dormor, etc..

A particularly interesting "-ent" word is "torrent", which is related to "torrid", although "torrent" is about wetness and "torrid" about dryness. This word further establishes the link between "or-id" words and "-ent" words, with "torrent" however as the noun form, not the adjective.

Another sideline was to envision words which have both the noun and adjectival forms in either "-or" or "-id", such as "fluid" ("fluor" exists, but is obsolete), "invalid" (in the sense of disability; "invalor" would be a good word for unfactuality), "solid", and "hybrid". An interesting example is the word "void", which is both the noun, verb, and adjective; so is "kid". "Poor" was the only "-or" word we could think of which is both the noun and the adjective, excepting the class of positional words ending in "-ior", such as "prior", "interior", "posterior", etc. Other than the "-ior" words, there are hardly any adjectives in English ending in "-or"; even allowing the interchangeability of "-or" and "-our" provides only a couple more ("sour", "dour"). Among the homophones, "paper" is interesting in that it is both noun, verb, and adjective.

Allowing all "-our" endings to change to "-id" also produces interesting words like "detid" (definition: inconveniencing, distracting), "hid" (hourly, hour-like, not the homograph "hid", hoary), "flid" (floury), "velid", "paramid", and "downpid".

There are, of course, hundreds of nouns ending in "-or" which are not abstract, but making adjectives from words like "alligator" or "humidor" is not too useful. The largest subgroup of concrete "-or" words is the one which could be called the "actor" or "operator" class, which consists of words which mostly end in "-tor" or "-ator", are derived from verbs, and indicate the being or thing that performs the action of the verb. Such words were quickly ruled out of the game as being insufficiently humid - oops, I mean humorous.

A number of concrete "-or" words, however, have a degree of abstraction or generality and thus might have worthy adjectival forms, like "harbid", "arbid", "anchid", "raptid", "armid", "pastid", "motid", and "cursid". (While I was browsing the OED for "turgor", etc., I got curious about the word "cursor" and its connection to "cursory"; I discovered that "cursor" originally meant a runner or messenger, and then, in the middle ages, a teaching assistant).

A cute word trio we stumbled upon was "amor" (definition: cherub) "amour", and "amid". We came up with the sentence "The amor was happy amid the sea of amour of his fellows".

The following areas were also explored: scientific terms ("vector", "factor", "tensor", etc.); foreign-origin words ("chador", "toreador"); nouns ending in "-id" ("pyramid", "grid", "arachnid", "orchid", "squid"); uncommon words ("tor", "kor"); words derived from proper names, ("tudor", "castor", "hector", "cupid"); and the class of resemblance words ending in "-oid" ("humanoid", "hyperboloid"). Further, it was irresistibly (briefly, fortunately) tempting for some players to substitute "-id-" for "-or-" in the interior of words and come out with silly things like "fidmula" (i.e., formulaic).

While some participants found amusement in the compass of words of the preceding paragraph, to my mind the most entertaining imaginary words are those which provide expression for a meaning requiring, otherwise, a degree of circuity to impart. Consider, for example, the word "favid", which could be defined as "characterizing approbation, benevolence, preference", and would be fitting in a sentence such as "Right from their first encounter, the professor had a most favid disposition towards the new student, to whom he soon gave significant research assignments". Neither "favoring", with its primary connotations of protection or mild preference, nor "favorable", which is fairly passive, are as eloquent and elegant as "favid" here. Another example: consider "saviid", with the potential definition "characterizing a being or actions tending to deliver from danger or destruction", and used in a sentence like "He never thought of himself as any kind of hero, but rather as just an average guy who happened to be afflicted with a compelling instinct to be saviid." How crisp and direct, how preferable to the wimpy "savior-like" with its implications of Jesus or of inflated self-esteem.

An amusing effect of playing the "or-id" game is that one can begin to doubt the existence of legitimate words, due to the practice of thinking of so many illegitimate ones. There was actually a contretemps at one point about the word "candor", and only when someone recalled the phrase "in all candor" was the case closed.

Finally, this wordplay evolved into a third phase, which consisted of defining nonexistent words to be guessed by the other players. The rules were simple: the base word must end in "-or", or "-id". (Permitting homophones, "-our" words, or "-ent" and "-ant" words would add a devilish spin to the possibilities, as yet unexplored here). This development produced, among others, the following definitions: 1) "The adjective descriptive of soggy wasteland"; 2) "The adjective applicable to an analogous figure of speech"; 3) "Fearless perseverance in the face of danger; noun"; 4) "The adjective which characterizes someone who runs hot and cold, who can be open or closed in rapid succession"; 5) "The adjective befitting someone who exhibits a studied, calculating conduct and bearing"; 6) "Manic fanaticism; noun"; 7) "Loutish; adjective"; 8) "Unwarranted fearfulness, noun"; 9) "Extremely sharp; adjective"; 10) "The apt noun for much of the contents of a rag like the National Enquirer"; 11) "Blandness, vapidity; noun"; 12) "Purposefully effortful; adjective"; 13) "The adjective which characterizes the quality of rejecting alternatives"; 14) "The adjective applicable to a moderating counterrevolutionary period following an extremist revolt"; 15) "The adjective characterizing the attitude of classical music jocks on the Tonight show". The answers are given below.

The game is somewhat contagious and several people whom I have met in my travels have contributed to it. I still hear occasionally from friends about a new word, and would appreciate hearing from readers who come up with new twists or baffling or humorous definitions.

The answers to the definitions given above are: 1) "moid"; 2) "metaphid"; 3) "intrepor"; 4) "doid"; 5) "demeanid"; 6) "rabor"; 7) "boid"; 8) "paranoor"; 9) "razid"; 10) "luror"; 11) "insipor"; 12) "endeavid"; 13) "nid"; 14) "thermidid"; 15) "(Eugene) Fodid".

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