A Dry T-Shirt Contest I
Bill Long 6/1/08
Where Everything Is Left to the Imagination
Everyone knows what a "wet t-shirt contest" is. To quote the authority known as "Education Research Guide," it is:
"a form of beauty contest in which the participating women wear a white or light-colored T-shirt without a bra, while being sprayed with water to make their clothing semi-transparent. The water is often ice-cold to induce erect nipples, suggestive of sexual arousal."
Probably couldn't have said it better yourself, could you? As I was thinking about words, which I do more often than I do of wet t-shirts, I thought of the way that interesting and possibly obscure words could be used on t-shirts. One could have contests of these interesting words, with the crowd selecting the winners by their votes. Everyone would be a "winner." To show you what I mean, I have come up with eight possible words to use. See what you think. Oh, I think I will begin from the less, and then proceed to the more, racy or controversial.
I. T-Shirt # 1--Pulchritudinous
The Latin word pulcher means "beautiful." There are several other English words formed off the stem pulcher/pulchr, among them pulchrify (to make beautiful), pulchrious, pulchritude (beauty or a beautifying quality), and pulchrous (beauteous, fair). But pulchritudinous is the best, and it means "beautiful, attractive." This meaning originated in the US, in the following 1877 quotation from Puck: "Fanny Davenport, the pulchritudinous and unpoetic, will play Shaksperian [sic] comedy..at Booth's Theatre next week." Even People Weekly got into the act in 2005 when it said: "In a featherweight spoof of Charlie's Angels, a pulchritudinous covert crime fighter..falls for the world's leading female criminal." What?? Two questions. Does the fact that something is a "featherweight" spoof of Charlie's Angels suggest that Charlie's Angels is a "heavyweight" or "middleweight" show? I can't wait to see what show is being referred to. Second, the literal language would mean that the episode is describing a lesbian scene, where a beautiful crime fighter falls in love with a female criminal. Now, maybe that is what detective shows are about these days, but I would think it would have more life to it if a hardened male crime fighter fell in love with a pulchritudinous female criminal.
But, what do I know about these things? In any case, I think any female who wore a t-shirt with the word pulchritudinous arching over her upper chest would receive not only some appreciative glances but much applause. Some guys might even be "inspired" to learn what the word means.
II. T-Shirt # 2--Outrecuidance
Actually, I have a t-shirt with that word on it, having received it from a friend for a birthday present. I have worn it around town now two or three times, but no one seems to give it any heed. In a contest, however, it would get noticed. The word is pronounced "ou truh QWEE dence" and is derived from two French words meaning "beyond" (outre) and "to think, plume oneself" (cuider). The classical Latin behind the latter is cogitare, which means "to think," and from which we derive the English word cogitate. The word came into English in the 15th century, and means, as the OED tells us, "excessive self-esteem; overweening self-confidence; arrogance; presumption; conceit." From 1599: "To such an outrecuidance hath your selfe-conceit carried you." The word seemed to die out in the 18th century, before being brought to life in Scott's Ivanhoe in the 19th. "It is full time..that the outrecuidance of these peasants should be restrained." The word is of fairly common use in French today, but not in English. Yet, a t-shirt so saying might be just the thing to bring the word back to English-speakers' consciousness. "Such arrogance, such impertinence, such outrecuidance I have never seen!" Certainly someone skilled in sounding outraged could say a statement such as this...
This t-shirt could be appropriate on both males and females, but it might seem to "fit" men better. This would be good, because any dry t-shirt contest in our day simply has to be a co-ed contest. I have no clue why my friend had such a shirt made for me.
III. T-Shirt # 3-- Extraordelicious
This, actually, might be the easiest to understand of all. You could spell this word in two ways: extraordilicious or extraordelicious, depending on where the "break" is between the words. I am sure some linguist out there will tell me the "preferred" spelling. In any case, I prefer the second, because the eye falls immediately on the "delicious" part of the word and then backfills to the "extra." One could imagine the delight on the faces both of contestants and viewers if a young, or older for that matter, woman was wearing such a shirt. It would take some confidence to wear such a shirt, but confidence is what life is all about. Any volunteers to wear one of these?
IV. T-Shirt # 4--Sprusado
This is a extremely rare word in English, appearing in fewer than 30 sources on a Google search. Most of these are gibberish. The OED only has one attestation of it, from 1665. It means a "smartly-dressed person." Ah, you can see it immediately now, can't you? Someone who has "spruced himself up" to look terrific for the evening is a sprusado. The Century has the following: "A spruce fellow; a dandy." Spruce, as a noun (not referring to the tree), is a very old word in English. It first was used in the 14th century, seemingly surprisingly, as a reference to the country of Prussia. Spruce was an alternation of Pruce; Sprucia of Prussia. By the late 15th century the word could signify what was brought from Prussia. One of the leading imports--you got it--was the "spruce tree." Other things brought in from Prussia were considered of high value, and thus anything "Prussian" or "sprucian" was valuable, worth a lot. By the end of the 16th century the word could signify someone who was "brisk, smart, lively," and, a little later, a "trim, neat, dapper" person. From 1602: "These youths of the parish, that are so spruse in their apparell, have little money in their purses." Don't we know the same today? From 1818: "He was singularly smug and spruce in his attire,...in new cloaths from top to bottom."
In my judgment, the word sprusado almost begs to be re-introduced into English. We don't use the word "dandy" or "fop" anymore. We need a word to express our admiration of a guy dressed well. A sprusado will definitely do. Especially if it is in a dry t-shirt contest.
I still have four more words to go..
Copyright © 2004-2008 William R. Long