Last week, I was driving to the train station with my wife on the way to work. We were listening to NPR, and as we arrived at the station, the story’s reporter mentioned something about impunity. I chuckled and mentioned to my wife that I don’t hear the word all that often, so whenever I do, I instantly recall exactly where I first learned it: “The Cask of Amontillado.” Specifically, the phrase “Nemo me impune lacessit” from the book caused me to look up the meaning of impunity when I had to read it as a kid. I explained the context to her because she hadn’t heard the Latin phrase before.
That evening, when we met up again at the train station after work, she greeted me with an odd expression and then showed me the page she was on in her Kindle. And, of course, that very same Latin phrase appeared at that point in her book (which had nothing at all to do with Mr. Poe).
The one that comes to mind is efficacious. It’s not really that obscure a word, so it’s not surprising that I would see it around.
I also lost a classroom bee on fuselage. Again, not a very rare word.
I won a regional bee, and then saw the winning word somewhere. I think it was seneschal. That was also the first word I was given at the nationals; there’s a coincidence for you.
On the other hand, the second time I went to the nationals, I was eliminated on ipseity, which is such a strange and useless word that I don’t think I’ve ever encountered it outside that competition. But I’ll never forget how to spell it!
I’ve experienced many of these but can’t seem to remember any interesting ones at the moment. The phenomenon is interesting on it’s own, in the sense that it demonstrates just how many things we ignore during our lives simply because we don’t understand them (assuming there is nothing mystical going on).
The most recent example for me was the word “selfie”. It had never occurred to me that there was a word for, you know, that thing people do with their digital cameras. Naturally, as soon as I heard the word once, I started hearing it everywhere.
At work on Friday, for no reason I can remember now, we were trying to remember the name of the Gordon Lightfoot song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. We learned from the news today that this is the 40th anniversary of the sinking.
Listening to NPR I (twice) heard of a single word for this phenomenon, specifically as it relates to words. I’m sure it wasn’t Baader-Meinhof, but I can’t for the life of me remember it and I wish I could.
(I also get Baader-Meinhof and Dunning-Kruger mixed up at times. :smack:)