As someone whose entire life revolves around books and words, it struck me that I haven’t given much thought to words about books. It’s time to remedy that particular oversight.
The term was coined in 1957 by H. L. Mencken:
“There are people who read too much: bibliobibuli. I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through this most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.”
If you can get drunk on books, why shouldn’t you devour them as well?
“Once you had got through Pooh and Dr. Dolittle, Alice and the Water Babies, you were a bibliophagist on the loose.” —Nadine Gordimer, Telling Times: Writing and Living, 1954–2008.
Although “clerisy” seems to have an elitist connotation to it, I like Robertson Davies’s explanation of its meaning:
“The clerisy are those who seek, and find, delight and enlargement of life in books. The clerisy are those for whom reading is a personal art.” –A Voice from the Attic, 1960
I think every reader can relate to this.
“The word dates back to the very beginning of modern Japan, the Meiji era (1868-1912) and has its origins in a pun. Tsundoku, which literally means reading pile, is written in Japanese as 積ん読. Tsunde oku means to let something pile up and is written 積んでおく. Some wag around the turn of the century swapped out that oku (おく) in tsunde oku for doku (読) – meaning to read. Then since tsunde doku is hard to say, the word got mushed together to form tsundoku.” -From Open Culture
Another one I can relate to. And if you’re wondering how to pronounce it:
The first use of it probably dates to 1921, in Christopher Morley’s Haunted Bookshop:
“‘All right,’ said the bookseller amiably. ‘Miss Chapman, you take the book up with you and read it in bed if you want to. Are you a librocubicularist?'”
“No historians have been more omnilegent, more careful of the document…” —George Saintsbury, A History of Nineteenth Century Literature.
There are so many more words about books out there, so consider this post Part 1. In the meantime, what’s your favourite book-related word?
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Aspasía S. Bissas
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