Word-A-Day citation was definitely evitable

The first word I got about being cited in wordsmith.org’s Word-A-Day feature came from a friend in Belize. The second came from my next door neighbor, who had learned about it from a co-worker in California. Then a librarian, an author, and others. The word of the day on Monday, May 4 was “evitable” and the usage quote was from an essay I wrote last summer. Here’s the link: http://wordsmith.org/awad/archives/0509

I can see why they used the quote, since I explained the word in the previous sentence. The only trouble is I wasn’t using it as a real word. I was using it for comedic effect, like the boss who tells his staff he wants only gruntled employees.

Did I say that was the only trouble? Not quite. I’m sure the Word-A-Day editors enjoyed the alliteration of “an entirely evitable event,” but the phrase is not original to me. I lifted it from Michael Pollan’s “Botany of Desire.” For all I know, he cribbed it from Charles Darwin. He was writing about how color became an evolutionary strategy for plants. I enjoyed the phrase, so I adopted it. But I never meant to claim it.

I’m reminded of one of my favorite humor writers, Stephanie Brush, when she learned her name was an answer in a New York Times crossword puzzle. Her first question: “Which day?” The thrill of being mentioned was tempered by the comeuppance that it was in a Sunday puzzle, renowned for its difficulty.