But let’s say kiss just couldn’t cut it as the term we English-speakers use to describe lip-on-lip action. Do we have any alternative?
osculate (ahs-kye-LAYT) — verb: 1. to kiss. 2. To convene or contact. 3. (in geometry) to have three or more points coincident with. 4. (in biology) to be intermediate between two taxonomic groups.Most dictionaries note that the “kissing” definition of osculate is almost always used humorously, probably because it’s hard to resist the idea of two Coke-bottled nerds in lab coats making plans to “commence osculation.” But I say the latter two definitions are funnier. Think about geometry, with its rendering of real-life bodies in a flat, sterile and wholly theoretical plane. There’s nothing funny about lines and rays and all that, really, so it sounds uncharacteristically human — cutesy, even — to characterize overlaying curves as “kissing.”
Now with a deeper understanding of what it means to osculate, I look at the above illustration and see that that wobbly line is totally getting to first base with that circle. You get up all in those 360 degrees, line!
All that adorable personification goes out the window, of course, when you consider where osculate comes from. A verb whose use in English dates back to 1650, it comes from the Latin noun osculum, figuratively meaning “kiss” but because it’s the diminutive of os, “mouth,” it literally means “little mouth,” which either makes me think of the little mouth that lives inside the monster’s face in Alien or, like, a secondary, smaller mouth that develops on a person when he or she mutates or, like, develops one of those tumors that makes its own people parts. And that makes me want to never, ever kiss anything again, in any sense of the word, for fear of alien tumor kisses.
I… may not be a romantic person.
Previous words of the week after the jump.
- acné excoriée des jeunes filles, adulterine, ageusia, ambeer, anosmia
- barrack, beeturia, bissextile, bloofer, breastsummer, brinicle
- catholicon, cecaelia, cephalophore, cherpumple, chilver, chyron, cockernonnie, collywobbles, coprolalia, couvade, cranberry morpheme, crwth, culaccino, cummingtonite
- darkle, deasil, decussate, deuteragonist, dingbat, dingle
- eidolon, epeolatry, epopt, espalier, etui, exoterica
- fabiform, Feghoot, fissilingual, Föhnkrankheit, folderol, freekeh, froward
- gallinipper, gnaborretni, grandgore, grue, guilloche, gyaru
- hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia, hobson-jobson, hogo, honorificabilitudinitatibus, hoyden
- ignivomous, iracund, isabelline, itaiitai, izod, izzard
- jabroni, jamais vu, jehu, jumentous
- kaffir, kakopygian, kayfabe, knipperdollin
- lagniappe, leman, lemniscate, limnovore, linsey-woolsey, longicorn
- malacia, malison, maroon, milt, mongo, mooncalf, morepork, muzjiks
- narrenfreiheit, nef, nihilartikel, nobiliary particle, nosism
- ochanee, ogonek, ombré, ooglification, orchidectomy, ordured, orf
- pace, padiddle, paraprosdokian, pareidolia, pavonated, perendiate, perigee, petrichor, pettifogger, pettitoes, phlegmagogue, pismire, pixilated, pogonip, pong, pruniferous, puggle, pulveratricious, purse
- quacksalver, quagga, qualtagh, quidnunc, quiff
- ronion, roynish, rubirosa, rumpsprung, runcible
- salmagundi, scrutator, seneschal, sharrow, shebang, sinople, slampadato, slubberdegullion, stan, stevedore, suovetaurilia
- tappen, tatterdemalion, teratogenesis, tergiversate, tetromino, thagomizer, thon, tiffin, tittery-whoppet, tmesis, toby, tutoyer, tyro
- ucalegon, ultramontane, umiaq, umquhile
- veneficial, verdigris, vespertilionine, vinegeroon
- weeaboo, widdiful, williwaw, witzelsucht, wooper looper
- xenodocheionology, xyster
- yazoo, ypsiliform, yoink
- zanjero, zenzizenzizenzic, zinnober, zugzwang