I’m fed up with being fed up, and I’m sick of having to avoid getting sick. I am surrounded by fulsome wholesome advice, and I am feeling much more partial to something on the middling side. I do not want to replace potato chips with celery sticks. I do not want something so morally improving that it is as warm and welcoming as a marble sculpted peach. I want to cut loose, I want a cut of the louche, I want some cheese on my cheese and hold the cracker, I want some sparkle in my life and I want it served in a stem glass, and I don’t want anyone to tell me how good for me it isn’t. It’s not that I’m interested in hopping on the helter-skelter to hell – I’ll seek the endorphin high of exercise on my own time and terms, don’t you worry – but let me have something halfsome.
That’s some word, halfsome, but for some reason we don’t see it much. It has the same pattern as wholesome and fulsome. That some shows up in cumbersome, handsome, gladsome, loathsome, and some more (such as wlatsome), to make a word that means its object has or provokes the quality, act, or response named; the whole in wholesome is of course the same as whole but is also related to hale and health (a person who is whole is healthy and vice versa, and whole and hale trace back to the same word, while health is from hale as width is from wide); the ful in fulsome is just a less fully written full with the same sense and some extensions (though woe betide you if you run afoul of the lexicranks on that one). So if there’s whole and full, there’s half, right?
I’m partial to it. Half comes originally from an old word for ‘side’, as in one side of a person (or a cow, or a cookie, or a nagila) or, by extension, one side of a two-party relationship or deal (which is why “on my behalf” means “taking my side” – these days specifically “acting as my proxy”). So it doesn’t originally convey a situation such as a glass that is somewhere between full and empty (in the middle, one might say – maybe midsome, though that word is no more popular than a midden at midsummer); rather, it implies a one-sidedness, an imbalance, or anyway a partialness or partiality. It names a diet and lifestyle that tend more to one kind of thing – just the kind of thing to which a person is partial – rather than one of those annoying wholesome regimens recommended by people who seem not to understand the concept of enjoying food.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to spend all my days eating nothing but potato chips and fancy cheese. There are delicious ways to serve things that even the most morose martinet of a medical fanatic would recommend. But even moderation is best enjoyed in moderation. Every now and then, have something halfsome.
Oh, by the way, for some dumb reason, this word is not in any dictionaries. Yet. So I get to decide what it means, and I just did. I guess that makes it a new old word, and I’m serving it up fresh for you. Have some!
I’m going to remember and use and preach moderation in moderation. And toast you (well, your proxy) with a glass of tempranillo and brie on brie