Disgruntled Former Lexicographer

By Steve Martin
 

 
 

The following definition was discovered in the 1999 edition of the Random House dictionary.  The crafting of the definition was the final assignment of Mr. Del Delhuey, who had been dismissed after thirty-two years with the company.

mutton  (mut´n), n. [Middle English, from Old French mouton, moton, from Medieval Latin multo, multon-, of Celtic origin.]

1.       The flesh of fully grown sheep.

2.       A glove with four fingers.

3.       Two discharged muons.

4.       Seven English tons.

5.       One who mutinies.

6.       To wear a dog.

7.       A fastening device on a mshirt or a mblouse.

8.       Fuzzy underwear for ladies.

9.       A bacteria-resistant amoeba with an attractive do.

10.   To throw a boomerang weakly.

11.   Any kind of lump in the pants. (Slang.)

12.   A hundred mittens.

13.   An earthling who has been taken over by an alien.

14.   The smallest whole particle in the universe, so small you can hardly see it.

15.   A big, nasty cut on the hand.

16.   The rantings of a flibbertigibbet.

17.   My wife never supported me.

18.   It was as though I worked my whole life and it wasn’t enough for her.

19.   My children think I’m a nerd.

20.   In architecture, a bad idea.

21.   Define this, you nitwits.

22.   To blubber one’s finger over the lips while saying “bluh.”

23.   I would like to take a trip to the seaside, where no one knows me.

24.   I would like to be walking along the beach when a beautiful woman passes by.

25.   She would stop me and ask me what I did for a living.

26.   I would tell her I am a lexicographer.

27.   She would say, “Oh, you wild boy.”  Exactly that, not one word different.

28.   Then she would ask me to define our relationship, which at that point would be one minute old.  I would demur.  But she would say, “Oh, please define this second for me right now.”

29.   I would look at her and say, “Mutton.”

30.   She would swoon.  Because I would say it with a slight Spanish accent, at which I am very good.

31.   I would take her hand and she would notice me feeling her wedding ring.  I would ask her whom she is married to.  She would say, “A big cheese at Random House.”

32.   I would take her to my hotel room, and teach her the meaning of love.

33.   I would use the American Heritage, out of spite, and read all the definitions.

34.   Then I would read from the Random House some of my favorites among those that I worked on: “the” (just try it); “blue” (give it a shot, and don’t use the word “nanometer”).

35.   I would make love to her according to the O.E.D., sixth definition.

36.   We would call room service and order tagliolini without looking it up.

37.   I would return her to the beach, and we would say goodbye.

38.   Gibberish in E-mail.

39.   A reading lamp with a lousy fifteen-watt bulb, like they have in Europe.

Also:  a. muttonchops: slicing sheep meat with the face.  b.  muttsam:  sheep floating in the sea.  c.  muttonheads:  the Random House people.


* From The New Yorker, October 11, 1999.