Consuela (my Tejana maid) and I were playing scrabble last night. Consuela was winning hands down (the fact that her T-shirt bore the slogan “I have PMS and GPS – that means I’m a bitch who will find you” was tending to distract me). Suddenly she made a surprising move, putting her remaining tile – an E – down in front of the word “useful”.
“’Euseful’? That’s not a word!” I said.
“Yes it is, Señora Maria,” she replied. “It means ‘having the quality of being able to be put to the best possible use’. It has the Greek prefix ‘eu’ meaning ‘best’.”
“But it’s not a real word,” I objected.
“Well if it isn’t, it ought to be!”
We were about to start one of our habitual arguments – as I think I mentioned before, Consuela came to my household in answer to an advert I ill-advisedly placed asking for a “maid/philosopher” – when I realised that her bogus triple-word-score was in fact a pretty good neologism. We got out paper and pencils and started to devise some more, adding an ‘e’ to words beginning in ‘u’. We came up with euseful of course, and eutilise, and eusage, and eutilitarianism, but also a few others:
Eu-boat – flagship of the German submarine fleet.
Eumiak – flagship of the Inuit Navy.
Eukele – Hawaiian instrument endorsed by Eric Clapton.
Euniform – perfectly identical.
Euranium – the ultimate source of energy sought by science.
Eurinate – oh boi what relief!
I know you get the proverbial picture. Perhaps you can come up with some of your own.
Consuela also thought we might make something by retro-fitting or substituting an ‘h’ to words beginning with ‘u’ or ‘eu’, such as:
Hulogise – make a very colourful funeral speech.
Hugenics – the theory that only the tallest should survive.
Perhaps we should patent this nonsense, says we. “Perhaps you should, indeed,” says you.
Consuela reminded me that I had promised to tell you about the kerfuffle regarding Wes Studi – I said I would tell you, and yes, I ken fine I’ve been putting it off. Can you honestly blame me?
It all started months ago when I happened to mention, in a light-heated way, that if Wes Studi, the famous Cherokee film-actor, happened to drop by for a skinny latte he could enlighten me on the matter of whether my home was indeed a teepee, a wigwam, hogan, wikiup, or whether I should just call it a “lodge”.
Well from that day on, messages kept being delivered at the teepee which seemed to be from Wes Studi. Each was on a scrap of papier trouvé – the torn-out flyleaf of a 1955 Automobile Association handbook, a sun-bleached page from the 1963 Bunty annual, a facsimile of the title page of the Gutenberg Bible. These were always delivered at times when neither I nor Consuela were at home, and so it occurred to us that whoever was responsible (it was clearly not Wes Studi, by the way – he would never sign off with the salutation “yours aye”) was actually watching the teepee. The probability that someone was keeping obs on us made us paranoid, and we would look about us furtively whenever we went outside. Indeed this was a factor in our decision to load up our gear onto the travois and decamp from Schiehallion to the Sidlaws.
We thought we were safe.
Alas, it has started all over again. This very morning there was a note – a very cheeky clerihew – on the back of an old invoice for animal feed.
As I lifted the flap of the teepee and peered out I thought I detected, for a moment, the glint of early sun on the lenses of a pair of binoculars on a nearby hilltop…