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In a word: omnibibulous

H.L. Mencken

A bonus word of the week for you, at the urging of colleagues:

OMNIBIBULOUS

This worthy word has not found its way into the Oxford English Dictionary. It was coined by H.L. Mencken, an inveterate foe of Prohibition and a stout defender of his Twenty-first Amendment rights. Here is what he writes in Minority Report:

"One of the fellows I can't understand is the man with violent likes and dislikes in his drams--the man who dotes on highballs but can't abide malt liquor, or who drinks white wine but not red, or who holds that Scotch whiskey benefits his kidneys whereas rye whiskey corrodes his liver. As for me, I am prepared to admit some merit in every alcoholic beverage ever devised by the incomparable brain of man and drink them all when occasions are suitable--wine with meat, the hard liquors when my so-called soul languishes, beer to let me down gently of an evening. In other words, I am omnibibulous, or more simply, ombibulous."Elsewhere, he is quoted as saying, "I am ombibulous. I drink every known alcoholic drink and enjoy them all. I learned early in life how to handle alcohol and never had any trouble with it."   Mencken coined the word from the Latin imbibere, "to drink in," and omni, "all." I prefer omnibibulous to ombibulous myself; the lightly stressed om separated from the primary stress of bib by an unstressed syllable is more agreeable to my ear. Opinions may vary. The word has not made much headway in dictionaries because, I think, it turns up only when quoting Mencken or writing about him. Example, from Daniel Okrent's excellent history of Prohibition, Last Call: "You also have to consider the dramatis personae in the Sinclair-Mencken exchange: the former was so dry he was Saharan, while the latter, who liked to call himself 'ombibulous,' was the single most effusive publicist for booze the Republic has ever seen."I urge you to find occasions to use the word in writing, in either form, perhaps not as often as you lift a glass, but frequently enough for the lexicographers to begin to take notice of it. 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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