Printable Version
Pronunciation: spi-zêr-ringk-têm Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. Vim, vigor, vitality. 2. A person full of vim, vigor, and vitality.

Notes: I grew up in North Carolina among people who regularly called rambunctious children "spizzerinctum". I never knew exactly what it meant, only that it was a joke, because my daddy always laughed when he called one of us "spizzerinctum". This word remains too silly to make it into regular dictionaries but again, it is a word that won't go away. Now the Internet has opened millions of new lines of communication across which it is spreading once again.

In Play: Although the meaning of this word remains hazy, it seems to come close to that of chutzpah: "Apparently, Minnie van Sayles had the spizzerinctum it takes to break all previous sales records down at Rex Motors." At the other end of this word's meaning range, it is closer to "guts": "Noam Knott simply doesn't have the spizzerinctum to ask Sue Persilius for her hand in marriage."

Word History: Like most silly words in English, the origin of today's is a mystery: the rules of silliness are ill at ease with the rules of etymology. It probably originated as a play on the word specie "money in coin", since its meaning was "money, wealth" rather than "vitality" when it emerged in the mid-1800s. Someone once suggested that it might have come from a facetious pseudo-Latin phrase species recta with the intended meaning "the right kind". If we assumed the original users clever enough to intend this phrase to mean "cash out the wazoo", I would be inclined to take the suggestion seriously. It is but a short semantic hop from wealth to vitality. However, we have no indication that this was the case, so the origin of this silly word must remain in the dark. (We thank John Wills today for having the spizzerinctum to suggest today's Good Word, despite the fact he couldn't find it in respectable dictionaries.)

Dr. Goodword,

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