Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary – Phonolite

Tales from a Misinformed Dictionary

Phonolite: From the ancient Phoenician, phoenolyte. Posited by archaeo-climatologists as a complicated temperature scale measuring temperature via the digestive tract of domesticated ungulates and the quality of light as witnessed through the prismatic spectrum.

Unlike his ever-trading brethren in nearby Phoenician cities, herdsman Itthobaal Milkherem (translation: Joe Smith) preferred a quiet life wandering the meadows, ruminating with his flock of cows. One day, while searching for his absent mind, Itthobaal concluded that by listening closely to the sounds of cud chewing and comparing the chorus of masticatory melodies with the varying qualities of light, he was able to determine whether he felt hot, warm, cool or cold. Later that night in their hut, after he expounded upon his new theory, Itthobaal’s wife scolded him. “You don’t need a scale to tell you that, you silly shepherd!” she said.

But Itthobaal was convinced that in phoenolyte, he’d made a discovery for the ages. And so one day he set out on a pilgrimage, spreading his newly coined word which people found useful as conversation filler, even if they had no idea what it meant. The musically adventurous plucked the scale on their lyres, but the music sounded more flatulent than tuneful and left the musicians cold, even on a hot day. However, Itthobaal spread the news near and far, culminating in a visit to the famous Oracle of Delphi where he set up a ballpark hot dog stand and lived the rest of his life in obscurity because no one had invented baseball yet.

Intriguingly, wandering nomads, known for their concern about properly maintaining body heat, used the phoenolyte scale intermittently through successive centuries, eventually wandering (nomadically) as far away as the Falkland Islands, where penguins preferred it over the confusion created by the constantly in-fighting firm of scientists, Kelvin, Celsius and Fahrenheit.

The phonolite scale, as we call it today, remained regrettably lost in the so-called mists of thyme, until rediscovered by audio archaeologists sifting through thousands of hours of tapes recorded by Falkland military herbologist and amateur sound technician, Sir Fernando Lemmingwild-Hough, whose parents met during the infamous Falkland Island war between Argentina, Great Britain and Herb Wadsack, a character from a simulated computer game. Once they decoded the unusually complex penguin dialect, linguists discovered a previously unknown, long forgotten temperature scale. After a decade of peer-reviewed journaling, they passed on to archaeologists what they mildly referred to as “this ersatz pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo claptrap.” The archaeologists passed it on to cultural anthropologists, who passed it on to top level government scientists, who passed it on to low level climatologists who had enough on their hands with global warming. Plus, as devotees of heavy metal, they refused to use the scale because the name “phonolite” made them think of “easy listening music.” And so, Itthobaal Milkherem’s intriguing theory is today no more than an obscure historical footnote, although there’s a colony of penguins on the march who think otherwise.

Actual meaning: a rare, light-colored (usually gray or green) volcanic rock composed of feldspars and nepheline. The name in Greek means “sounding stone.”

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