… is a new word I learnt recently.
It means ‘to have perfectly proportioned buttocks’.
To be honest, I’m furious I’ve lived for thirty-nine years without even suspecting the word existed. I mean, it’s so bloody useful. I’ve NEEDED this word on multiple occasions throughout my life and have had to settle for ‘Gosh, your buttocks are perfectly proportioned, officer.’ which is far too wordy. In the writer’s search for brevity and precision, callipygous is a vital word to have in your armoury.
The annoying thing is I found it whilst reading ‘Catch 22’, a book I first read when I was 17 or so. In other words, I’ve known about callipygous for over twenty years and have repeatedly failed to use it.
Which surprises me, because I usually look up words I don’t understand. It’s possible I forgot the word after a moderately serious car crash I had at seventeen (I hit a tree at a little over ninety miles an hour) which wiped out most of my memories for the preceding and following year*, but surely I’d remember a word that wonderful?
I used to think everyone looked up words they didn’t understand. Scriptwriting has taught me most people don’t. In fact, over the years, I’ve been able to collate and predict how different people usually react.
Upon chancing upon a word they don’t understand in a script …
WRITERS: Look it up, rejoicing because they’ve learnt a new word … whilst crumbling inside with paranoid fear, assuming everyone else already knows what it means and is therefore cleverer/a better writer than them.
ACTORS: ignore the word and just say something different. They’d probably cite something about acting and organic processes or something, because they feel their character (a professor of etymology at Oxford University who’s published several books on obscure words in the English language and likes to humiliate people by using words he thinks they wouldn’t understand) wouldn’t use long words.
PRODUCERS: never admit they don’t know what a word means, that would mean losing face and that will never do. Instead they will argue until death (yours) that the Americans won’t understand the word and therefore won’t like the entire film. Presumably producers think Americans are incapable of using a dictionary or divining the meaning of a sentence from the context. Or, more likely, use Americans as an excuse to cover up their own ignorance.
DIRECTORS: look the word up and pretend they knew what it meant all along. They’ll even insist you use words like ‘Calligraphy’ and ‘Callous’ because they were on the same page in the dictionary and they think that will impress you. Directors want you to know they could have written a better script than you … if only they had the time.
PROPS: will probably get the wrong end of the stick and assume it’s some kind of ancient Egyptian ornament. They’ll spend a morning ringing round antique shops looking for a ‘callipygous’ before deciding no one has one in stock and buying a novelty Snoopy telephone instead.
MAKE-UP: will look it up, panic, and commission a life cast of an actor’s arse which can have the buttocks sculpted so they’re actually perfect instead of slightly lopsided.
LINE PRODUCERS: ring you up and ask you what it means, ensuring the tone of the voice they use lets you know what a pretentious twat you are for using long words when ‘nice arse’ would have done the same trick without upsetting everyone.
In fact, pretty much everyone else will just assume you’re a pretentious twat and shun you at parties in case you feel the urge to talk to them.
To be honest, it’s safer not to use words which don’t regularly appear on CBeebies. Especially in the micro-budget world in the UK where there’s a good chance the film is funded by a gangster who assumes anyone with an education is a ponce and therefore eminently murderable.
Callipygous – great word. Best not to use it in reel life.
And if you’re wondering, yes I have. And so does my wife.
*This didn’t happen. The crash did, the memory loss didn’t. It’s just something I tell people I don’t recall being at school with, in order to excuse the fact I obviously didn’t find them interesting enough to remember.
‘Phill? Phill Barron? OMG! Remember me? We used to sit next to each other in French? For four years?’
‘Um … no, sorry. You see, I had this car crash …’