I’m a phlyarologist, and proud of it.
I originally found this word via the marvelous site savethewords.org. Or, more correctly, I’d have to say that the word found me. I had been looking for a word to adopt (preferably a poor, lonesome one with few friends), and this one leapt out at me, grabbed me around the throat and promised to strangle me if I didn’t immediately promise to use it wherever I could (and other places, too). Under the circumstances, I had little choice, although I know some who would say the world would have been a better place had I refused.
I have been asked the question: what exactly is a phlyarologist?
The earliest definition of ‘phlyarologist’ I’ve been able to find on the web dates to 17Jan2005 (according to the Wayback Machine). This ascribes the meaning ‘one who speaks nonsense’ to our poor, defenceless (apart from the strangling bit) word.
Now, I’ve often said that one shouldn’t believe everything you read on the Internet, so I find it both amusing and particularly apt that this definition is, in essence, wrong.
The suffix ‘logy‘ comes from the Greek language; it is ‘a combining form used in the names of bodies of knowledge’. Following on from this, a ‘-logist’ is one who studies (a body of knowledge). A biologist, for instance, is one who studies biology.
Phlyarology then, is the study of nonsense; and a phlyarologist is one who studies nonsense — not, necessarily, one who speaks it.
It does have to be said, though, that the pursuit of phlyarology has a tendency to instil a sense of the absurd. It’s quite common to find phlyarologists who are incredibly good at speaking nonsense of the total and utter variety. Some notable examples of Master Phlyarologists of the First Order would include:
- Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll)
- Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin)
- The Goons (Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe, Michael Bentine and Peter Sellers)
- Douglas Adams
- “Professor” Stanley Unwin
I should point out that I myself am only a Trainee Phlyarologist — any suggestion that any nonsense I spout is comparable to that produced by the above list of genii is itself nonsense of the complete and ludicrous flavour.
Here’s hoping that’s cleared that one up.