What happens when there are too many ways to say "I love you."

Dubious and far-fetched ideas.
Feb. 12 2009 2:03 PM

Roget in Love

What happens when there are too many ways to say "I love you."

Love defined.

It was a mistake, a gaffe, an error, plummeting in on Merriam that day. When she looked at me with those big brown organs of vision, I felt myself omit a cardio pulsation.

"Well, well, if it isn't Mr. Thesaurus, Peter Roget," she said. "Look what the Felis silvestris catus just imported."

Merriam had a way with units of language.

"I've come to talk, speak, communicate, converse, correspond," I said.

"Peter," she interrupted, "I don't have time to masticate the obesity. Excrete, or remove yourself from the cookery."

"Very well. I won't thrash around the foliage. I apologize if I urinated you off.

I've come to request your unclenched fist in holy matrimony."

Her mandible plunged and her occuli hydrated.

"Peter, I'm sorry," she said. "But you're a global cycle late and a Federal Reserve note short. We're through."

"Through? Do you mean, as in, done, completed, and defunct? Or through as in via or by means of?"

"Peter, we're ceased. I'm tired of beating my head against a permanent partition of oven-baked blocks. For a long time now, we've been like two floating vessels passing in the regular period of darkness between sunset and sunrise."

That's when it hit me.

"Webster?" I said. "You're seeing Webster!"

She toggled her head vertically and released air from her lungs.

"Webster loves me," she said.

"Webster doesn't know what love is!" I cried. "Merri, I adore you, worship you, I'm your admirer, your follower, your aficionado, your enthusiast, your fan, your devotee, your adherent, your buff! Webster can't be those things. What can he give you that I cannot?"

"Meaning," she whispered. "He gives me meaning."

"Wait a minute. I thought Funk and Wagnall gave you meaning! Remember them? I guess their meanings weren't so definitive, eh?"

"I don't do three-ways," she said.

"Well, you sure get around. Whatever happened to that 'May I quote you' creep? Remember how 'familiar' you were with him?"

"Leave Bartlett out of this," she said.

"Merri," I said. "Listen to me. Webster will dump you, ditch you, scrap you, chuck you, abandon you, discard you. Right now, he's probably out with Collier or Compton or some tramp from Oxford. You're just another plume in his visor headpiece.

"He'll abridge you!" I continued. "He'll file you under M for merriment or merry maker, or messy. That's what Webster does. He draws you the size of a postage stamp, then he turns the page!"

"You're too late, Peter," she said, raising a ringed metacarpal. "We've recited nuptials."

"You'll come back!" I shouted. "You'll crawl back on your grasping forelimbs and kneeling leg joints! You two have as much chance together as a compacted sphere of frozen water in hell!"

She closed the door. That was the last time I saw Merri.

Of course, these days, she's the last word on everything, the famous Merriam Webster. Me? I'm lost, misplaced, missing, alone …

I loved her.

I just couldn't find the words.

Hart Seely's memoir as a Yankee fan, The Juju Rules, will be published next year.