Small Joy: Merriam-Webster’s 404

“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.” Pearl S. Buck

I like sharing small joys because I can.

I stumbled upon Merriam-Webster’s 404 page today, and it is a goddamn delightful!

Between their social media and the word games they provide, Merriam-Webster is one of my regular sources of small joys. I play Quordle every day, both regular and sequence. It’s way better and, frankly, harder than Wordle. There’s something incredibly satisfying about playing Sequence and having guessed enough letters on the first word to breeze through the remaining three.

Legit: My parents had a big, maroon dictionary that was missing its cover. I’m not sure it ever had a cover. I don’t remember seeing it. Anyway, it was a Merriam-Webster dictionary. I used to sit with it and look at all sorts of words. The pages were so thin and delicate that it felt fancy!

That’s probably where my love of words first manifested. In fact, thinking about it now, I can see where some of my ADHD hyperfixation tendencies first showed themselves. I’d look up one word, be reminded of another, then go down the rabbit hole. You know, like Wikipedia but paper. Remember paper? The OG. And people blamed ADHD on television and shit. Nah. We were getting distracted by anything long before the Smurfs and Scooby Doo.

We also had the white encyclopedias! What were they? World Book? The covers were hardback but also kinda soft? There’s a texture I’ll never forget. Pure luxury. They were pristine. I remember being upset if I ever even scuffed one. Or maybe that’s nostalgic misremembering. My mother would tell you that me being neat was not a thing.

I wonder if my parents still have both those and the dictionary. I’d take them and keep them forever. Talk about nostalgia and learning in its best, most innocent form.

Actually, scrap that most innocent thing. Both were clearly the first places where I snuck looks at the word “penis.” Maybe I hoped reading the definition of the word “penis” would help me understand what they were before I encountered one. Who knows?

I’ve had a strange loyalty to them ever since. Merriam-Webster, not penises. Could someone tell them I love them, please? Both Merriam-Webster and penises.

I had to go and make it dirty, didn’t it?

What do flotsam and jetsam mean anyway? Look it up!

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