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“Kussharo Lake Tree, Study no 9, Kotan, Hokkaido, Japan, 2009” – ©Michael Kenna

The second longest word in English with alternating consonants and vowels, it is an hapax legomenon (άπαξ λεγόμενων), a thing spoken just once. It appears (only once, thank god) in Shakespeare’s “Love’s Labours Lost” (act V, scene I) and means “the state of being able to achieve honours” — a condition unfamiliar to many of us. As Superintendent in the Department of Redundancy Department, this is both an unfamiliar and an enticing concept. And well beyond me.

Like myself, there are any number of people in Agincourt, now and in the past, who seem never to have tired of repetition. Perhaps the worst of them was Agincourt’s unlucky thirteen mayor who survived just the first half of his term, the Hon Edmund FitzGerald Flynn. Ed never met a platitude he didn’t like, especially if it promoted his pontification on what was best for all of us. Of course, those purported benefits never quite trickled down to ordinary folk like you and me. Even before Göbbels advised telling “The Big Lie” — “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State” — Ed was onto the idea like stink on poop. Hapax legomenon would have been an unfamiliar and antithetical notion.

Ed might have thought himself eligible for honours, those he hadn’t already assumed for himself, but honorificabilitudinitatibus would never have applied. So, if nothing else, we’ve added a new word to our vocabulary, one that you’ll be lucky to use even once.

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