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shameless pleading


The trouble with truffles.

Dear Word Detective:  I was wondering, what is the origin of the word “abligerition” (I think I spelled it wrong) as it is used to mean “the spending of too much money on food”?  I don’t even know what country it sounds like it’s from. — Emma.

Hmm.  Abliger… albilger… abliquor…  Oh, you mean “abligurition.”  Of course.  Everyone knows about “abligurition.”  My school even had classes in it, didn’t yours?  We’d get together once a week and eat the most expensive things we could find.  I never quite understood the point of it all, but I do remember that Trevor le Chien won the annual prize when he ate most of a Ferrari.

Just kidding, of course.  “Abligurition” is a seriously obscure word.  The American Heritage Dictionary doesn’t include it, and Merriam-Webster Online also draws a blank, while helpfully suggesting that I really meant to type “aboriginally,” which doesn’t seem all that more common a word.  Even my trusty (and hefty) Merriam Webster Third International unabridged dictionary doesn’t acknowledge the existence of “abligurition.”

The one dictionary currently published that I found that did define “abligurition” was, not surprisingly, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED).  The OED labels “abligurition” as “obsolete,” and defines it by quoting the definition in Samuel Johnson’s 1755 “Dictionary of the English Language,” which was “Prodigal expense on meat and drink.”  The only citation the OED supplies, apart from Johnson’s dictionary, is from Nathan Bailey’s 1742 “Universal Etymological English Dictionary,” which somewhat more colorfully defined the word as “a prodigal spending in Belly-Cheere.”  Hooray for belly-cheer!

The roots of  “abligurition” are straightforwardly Latin, from the verb “abligurire,” meaning “to squander on delicacies,” a combination of “ab,” meaning “away,” and “ligurire,” meaning “to eat delicately, to be fond of delicacies.”  One who engages in “abligurition” is quite literally “eating away” his or her money.

Since “abligurition” simply means to spend a lot of money on food (and drink), a habit far from uncommon in recent years, it’s mildly surprising that it’s not more commonly heard.  Perhaps it’s the five syllables that puts people off.  As it stands, you’re most likely to run into “abligurition” either in one of those “obscure words” compilations (e.g., The Superior Person’s Book of Weird and Wonderful Words, The Endangered English Dictionary, etc.) or in an upscale culinary magazine catering to “foodies.”

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