Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Appendix Contamination

Posted by Neal on October 5, 2007

No, this isn’t about bacteria; it’s about back matter. Back in July, Doug was on spoiler alert even after he’d finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Articles about Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling kept mentioning The Lord of the Rings, so Doug quit reading them to avoid running into a LOTR spoiler. He decided he’d better start reading the series now, before a spoiler got through his defenses.

I warned him: He’d better be prepared to plow through the boring parts fast to get to the good stuff. When I first tried to read The Two Towers, I got so bored with what was going on with Aragorn et al. that I skipped ahead to see what Frodo and Sam were up to. Before I knew it, I’d reached the end of the book, and couldn’t bring myself to go back and finish reading the other part. But Doug has prevailed: He read The Hobbit and got all the way through books one and two of LOTR.

Now he’s on book three, which isn’t as long as it looks because the back is stuffed with not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but six appendices and an index. Doug was flipping through the back, and asked me:

What’s an appindex?

“It’s an ap-pen-dix,” I told him, and explained it was where you put details on things some readers might find interesting, but which would slow down the story. Doug started looking at them more closely: “Appindex A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers.”

There it was again: appindex. Looks like Adam’s not the only one in our family to have produced a contaminated linguistic form. Two words with a phonetic resemblance, index and appendix, dragged into even closer phonetic resemblance because of their semantic commonality: “stuff in the back of a book.” That’s contamination, all right.

Addendum: I’ve learned that appindex is a real word, a compound of app(lication) and index.

2 Responses to “Appendix Contamination”

  1. The Ridger said

    I’ve often thought LOTR readers could be divided into 3 groups: those who like it all, those who get bored with Frodo and Sam, and those who get bored with Aragorn & Co. (I’ve never been in Group 3, and vacillate between 1 and 2.) Sort of like The Wind in the Willows: do you LOOOOOOVE Toad, or LOATHE him? (I loathe him.) My favorite chapter is Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

  2. […] may remember me talking about contamination with Adam’s counting, or with Doug’s pronunciation of appendix. And while I’m on the subject, here’s one more that I heard from Doug back in the fall: […]

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