Remember the story of the guy who got in trouble for (correctly) using the word "niggardly"?

Porter's boss once called him on the carpet for "using words I don't understand."

Now Missouri legislators are up in arms because their vocabularies failed them.  They passed a bill legalizing lay midwifery because they didn't realize what "tocology" means.

I suppose I ought to have some sympathy for them.  The legislation was attached to a popular health insurance bill, which was no doubt long and complicated, like most legal documents these days.  I fully admit that software companies could slip the most outrageous provisions into the EULA's I regularly "sign" after skimming, rather than closely analyzing, them.  On the other hand, knowing what legislation they are passing is their job, it's why they were elected, so if they don't personally know exactly what's in a bill, they had better have hired some trustworthy staff members to know and to keep them informed.

I happen to approve of the pro-midwifery legislation.  But if I didn't, and if these were my senators, I would not be directing my anger at Senator Loudon, who introduced the legislation and took advantage of his colleagues' ignorance, but at the ones who obviously aren't doing their jobs.

The most fun part of the story, however, is behind the scenes.  In yet another example of how the media routinely mess up the details even when they get the general story correct, use of the word "tocology" is credited to a homeschooled teen with a "college test prep guide."  Almost right, but the source of her knowledge of the word was good old A.Word.A.Day, to which my father, a great lover of words, instroduced many of us.  Here's what the girl herself has to say (from an A.W.A.D mailing):

My name is Sarah Greek, and I'm a homeschooled student in Mountain Grove,
Missouri, who just graduated from high school. I'm a subscriber of AWAD
and just read your latest email and its reference to 'tocological trickery'
with interest. [see reference]

"If only they were reading AWAD"? We were. That's how this happened!

I live in Missouri, and have been working with Senator Loudon and
others on midwifery legislation all year. You might be interested to
know that I discovered the word 'tocological' as a result of your
daily emails. When we were working on midwifery legislation several
weeks ago, I remembered the word and informed Senator Loudon. We
inserted it into our amendment, resulting in the events that the news
article which you referenced narrates.

The whole situation, especially the word tocology, has been all over the
Missouri news this week. I spent the week in Jefferson City, and can
personally attest to the fact that the word tocology has been in the
mouths of nearly every politician all week. It's become the latest inside
joke in the Missouri Legislature. I've been called 'a tocological pain'. :)

Thanks to AWAD, midwifery is well on its way to becoming legal in
Missouri, and the whole state has added a new word to its vocabulary!
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, May 28, 2007 at 6:51 am | Edit
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