March 14, 2002

ever since then I got disseminated

This is how new language gets disseminated. My article in this week’s Statesman uses the word “quirl”, which is an archaic word that somehow weasled past my humor editor and two copyeditors. The word is so distant from common language that it doesn’t exist, really. I invented ‘quirl’ in this conversation with a friend, and I liked it so much that I’m apparently introducing it into everyday use.

But what does it mean, this quirl? Why invent a word when there are thousands of others that could communicate a similar idea? In short, I’m a freak. In long, it explains something that I felt the English language was lacking. Shakespeare invented all sorts of words, so why can’t I? He was considered a hack playwright back in the day, and I’m just a shlock author.

Quirl is a verb that is a bit like swooning, but swooning suggests a much stronger flood of emotion (“to be overcome with ecstatic joy”) than quirl. Quirl is more controlled, more of an appreciation and longing for the object of one’s attention. You faint when you swoon but not when you quirl. When you quirl you stay awake to enjoy the object you are quirling. When I look at a beautiful girl and gently moan within, I quirl. It is a mix of the joy and sorrow that comes from seeing incredible beauty. You have been graced with a sight of pleasing aesthetics, but a voice whispers in your ear that the spinsters of life will never weave you together.

Pronunciation is still up in the air. I’ve been saying kwirl, but kwaerl is another possibility. Both have very appealing sounds.

Out of curiosity I checked the dictionary for the word quirl, thinking perhaps it did indeed exist and I was just a fool using a word incorrectly. Quirl does not exist, but ‘querl’ does, a noun that means a coil or twirl, or a verb that means to twirl or wind around. Surprisingly, this is close to what I intended with quirl. As a girl watches Johnny Cash with misty eyes I had visions of her idly twining her hair between her fingers.

My word has now graced newspapers across the campus, and hopefully by context people will be able to infer a meaning and adopt the word into their everyday vocabularies. When I return from spring break I expect to hear everyone telling stories about quirling in Cancun.