Pete Was Not As Lugubrious As I First Thought

A few years ago, I worked as a freelance copy editor for a sports publisher. The fellow in the neighboring cubicle was a rotund fellow named Pete. Pete was a nice guy, to be sure, and he always had some great soundbites. One of my favorites is, “You’re going to Seattle? Pffft…. Should be called Rainattle.” Yes, Pete had a sparkling wit. That, however, is not the point. Pete was enormous–he weighed almost 500 lbs prior to his gastric bypass. I left the company shortly after his surgery and he still weighed an enormous amount. I’ll say it; he’ll admit it: He was huge. A mammoth mountain of a man. I was surprised that paperclips and staples didn’t get sucked into his gravitational pull and start orbiting around him.

One thing he wasn’t, though, is lugubrious. This may be a complete nonsequitur to you, but that’s why I’m writing and you are reading (or not, whatever the case may be). See, I had heard people describe others as lugubrious, and I have read the word in those pesky books that I like to stick my nose in, but I never bothered to look up the word. I always thought it referred to something that was kinda slimy and gross and did a lot of oozing of grease, and/or someone super fat with lots of pliable flesh that you could like mold into the shape of a penis or a limited edition Nike Dunk. I’m not sure how I came to this conclusion. It could be that the first three letters of the word are “lug,” so i think “big lug,” and “ubrious” just sounds like a disgusting medical adjective that relates to pus and/or some other even more disgusting liquid. Who knows? Either way, it turns out that “lugubrious” means “mournful.”

Yeah, I know: that’s nowhere near as exciting. It comes from the Latin word, “Lugubris,” which means–and this is crazy–mournful. Those crazy Romans!

Oh well, it still sounds really cool and you could probably use it inappropriately without too many people noticing. And if you’re really good at bullshitting and convincing people you know what you are talking about, you could probably convince people who should know better that it really means what I think it should–not that I would encourage such bastardization of the language.

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