I worry about these posts on useful words, you know. Sometimes I wonder what the merry hell is the point of telling you, dear reader, about words that nobody understands. If you don't know the word, what are the chances that your reader, your interlocutor, your colleague or your parole officer will understand it?
But then I see others using strange words, and I feel all right. Take infundibuliform, which means funnel-shaped. Some people would call that an obscure, and therefore a useless, word. They would confine it to texts like The Encyclopedia of British Fungi or The Anatomist's Vade Mecum. The world is simply teeming with such naysayers and lexical dietitians. However, I came across it yesterday in Catch 22:
...that patriotic Texan with his infundibuliform jowls...
Good enough? Or is Britain's eleventh most loved novel beneath you? Well, I already knew the word infundibuliform because I remembered it from the nineteenth century motivational work Les Chants De Maldoror:
Oh incomprehensible pederasts, I shall not heap insults upon your great degradation; I shall not be the one to pour scorn on your infundibuliform anus.
The word (with a little e on the end) is also in the French original. There is even a poem of 1910 by Charles Follen Adams, called My Infundibuliform Hat
The scenes of my childhood, how oft I recall!
The sports of my youth, with my kite, top, and ball;
And that happy day when, with spirits elate,
I took my first step towards manhood's estate,
With a new coat and vest, bosom shirt and cravat,
And début with my infundibuliform hat.
How I stooped beneath awnings full seven feet high,
To the no small delight of my friends passing by;
And the sport that I made for the boys at the store
When I "chalked" at the height of my "tile" on the door;
One foot and two inches - I think it was that
My guess on that infundibuliform hat.
Them my maiden attempt as a maiden's gallant
When I proffered my elbow, with glances aslant;
And the walk to her dwelling that evening so fair,
Not to speak of the tete-a-tete when we got there,
The forfeit I claimed, as together we sat,
When she tried on my infundibuliform hat.
Well! Boys will be boys, and we men, after all,
Would gladly be freed from Time's pitiless thrall,
And live those days over, when, single and free -
Zounds! Wife's looking over my shoulder to see
What I have been writing... Well, we've had a spat,
And she smashed my infundibuliform hat.
I admit it's an obscure poem, but I'm pretty sure that it must have been the model for this Bob Dylan song: