Looking for Sean McLachlan? He mostly hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog these days, but feel free to nose around this blog for some fun older posts!

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Saturday, 8 August 2009


A few weeks ago a fellow writer invited me to tag along to a talk at Oxford University Press about the Oxford English Dictionary, the most complete English dictionary in the world. One of the editors told us about how they put the dictionary together and all the work that goes into it. They have hundreds of readers around the world who scour through newspapers, magazines, and books looking for new words or new uses for old ones. An interesting detail was that the editors reject the majority of words people send in because they are too new, too rare, too regional, or just plain misused.

I gave them a word that probably will get rejected. Ichthyoelectroanalgesia! If you know your Classical languages, you know this means using an electric fish as a pain reliever. I came across the word in an archaeology article about old Roman and Parthian medical recipes, including one that involved pressing an area of your body that's giving you trouble against an electric fish. Apparently the low charge will relieve the pain. No, I haven't tried it.

This word stuck with me for a couple of years until I got swept up in the zine movement of the mid Nineties. Actually it started way before that, so I was hitting the second wave. Anyway, I produced my own zine dedicated to travel and archaeology and called it, you guessed it, Ichthyoelectroanalgesia. I only did four issues before I went on to other things, but I had a distribution of about two hundred and met lots of interesting people through the mail, including some I still correspond with.

I Googled my beloved word and found that two archives have copies of my zine. I've passed into zine history! One is for science fiction fanzines, which is strange since mine wasn't an sf zine, but I did trade with some sf fanzines so maybe that's where they got it from.

I'm also very proud I got to stump an editor at the OED with a word. :-)

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