Here’s a word to keep in your lexical change purse, a shiny coin you can slap down next time you have to shell out real metal or paper (or, in Canada and some other countries, polymer – shiny bills as brightly colourful as a coral reef). Perhaps when you spend the bucks and your paper ducks fly the pond you will be a little less despondent at the expenditure if you can sum up your simoleons lickety-split as spondulicks. Or, to seem more Belgian or Gaulish (perhaps if your wallet is bulging at the gall of it all), spell it spondulix.
One important thing to remember is that the stress is on the second syllable. It’s an amphibrach (nothing like a spondee, sux). So the emphasis is on the /u/, the big “do,” no foolin’. You can practically blow a whistle with that vowel, or hold it so long you drool. In that way it’s a bit like medulla, that part of the brain that makes your heart and breathing speed up when you spend your bux.
This seems like one of those classic 19th-century American phony-hifalutin’ words, doesn’t it? Like discombobulated and absquatulate and so on. Only maybe even a bit more hick-like, slappy and yuk-yuk. Maybe a word out of Mark Twain.
Well, it is that – he didn’t invent it, but here’s a passage from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn:
“I ain’t as rich as old Jim Hornback, and I can’t be so blame’ generous and good to Tom, Dick, and Harry as what he is, and slam money around the way he does; but I’ve told him many a time ’t I wouldn’t trade places with him; for, says I, a sailor’s life’s the life for me, and I’m derned if I’D live two mile out o’ town, where there ain’t nothing ever goin’ on, not for all his spondulicks and as much more on top of it. Says I—”
Yep, as homey as Horlick’s but much more American… in origin. Actually now it’s more popularly used in Britain (like Horlick’s). But where does this word for your clams come from? The Oxford English Dictionary says “Of fanciful formation.” But the Online Etymology Dictionary, available as part of dictionary.com’s results, tells us it’s “said to be from Greek spondylikos, from spondylos, a seashell used as currency (the Greek word means literally “vertebra”).” You know, as in ankylosing spondylitis. (That’s an uncommon kind of arthritis of the spine, with an expensive name.)
Well, ain’t that a sesquipedalian classic! Literally. A gen-u-wine silver dollar of a word. Sorry, scratch that: a gen-u-wine sand dollar of a word. Fine, whatever, you didn’t have to shell out for it. Take it for free and use it to expand your lexical repertoire – put it in your word wallet next to your moolah and simoleons like a Croesus of the thesaurus, a wordbook high muck-a-muck.
Thanks to Larry Cooper for suggesting today’s word.