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.