In 1990, my friend Darcie and I volunteered to produce the newsletter for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Oregon region, back then known as the NorthWest region. I was to write an article about giving the newsletter a name. We wanted a name that was witty or clever, so I used the word *sparpungent* to describe what we were looking for.
As we folded, stapled and added stamps and labels to our first edition, Darcie asked what sparpungent meant. I said it meant witty or clever, duh. Darcie pointed out that the word was not in the dictionary. Hmmm. Then I remembered that I found the word in the Roget’s Thesaurus! We looked it up. And found the word:
Oops. Yah well, I blew it. We agreed not to correct the error. We would not do what responsible editors do – include a correction in the next edition. No way! It was a great word, so we decided to start using it in every subsequent edition of the newly named SCBWI Oregon NewsWorthy. People began to use the word in conversation. A few did ask about it, and we’d just tell them that it meant clever, and that was that.
I think it was at the 2005 fall retreat when I was coerced into fessing up. I told the sordid story and displayed the page from Rogets that revealed the horrible truth. Sure, the folks at Oxford adopt a word if it’s used enough, as slang usually. But I’ve never submitted *sparpungent* because I’d rather not see it listed as a new slang term along with *unfriend* or *steampunk*. But maybe I should. I’ll ask Darcie what she thinks.
It has been a little over a month since my volunteer gig ended with the SCBWI Oregon. The May 18-19 conference was the end of a 23-year stint. The weekend was a bit stressful, more so than usual, but I did manage to mangle the story for everyone about the origin of sparpungent. I’m pretty sure it will go by the wayside along with a few other traditions, but I wish the best to the folks that have stepped in to devote their time, energy, and love to our Oregon writers and illustrators. So far they have done a sparpungent job!