This [writer] even seems to know (or seems even to know, or seems to know even) how to put the word "even" in the right place; and the word "only," too. I do not like that kind of persons. I never knew one of them that came to any good. A person who is as self-righteous as that will do other things. I know this, because I have noticed it many a time. I would never hesitate to injure that kind of a man if I could. When a man works up his grammar to that altitude, it is a sign. It shows what he will do if he gets a chance; it shows the kind of disposition he has; I have noticed it often. I knew one once that did a lot of things. They stop at nothing.
—From The Autobiography of Mark Twain.
So far today, I’ve learned two things.
1. Open a small bag of chips before 11:00 AM and expect snarky remarks about your “healthy breakfast.” This is a good time to inform them chips are actually standard fare for second breakfast in Hobbiton, and they’d know that if they weren’t such ethnocentric and judgmental a-holes.
2. Hobbies like gardening and sports memorabilia collection mean you’re normal; hobbies like keeping abreast of quantum theory and knowing the difference between “distrust” and “mistrust” make you a special kind of freak.
The second lesson is just paranoia. Gulp, I hope. It occurred to me as I obsessed over a simple wording question the answer to which was, “The word you’re looking for is idiosyncrasy, not idiocentric.” This led to a second question: “What’s idiocentric mean?” A normal person, i.e., not a person with the kind of sickness I have, would have answered “I don’t know” and gone about his or her day.
But that’s not what happens with philological OCD (POCD). What happens instead is you geek out and go all Rainman about it, sit down to your computer and look up everything you can find on the Internet about the word. The first definition you find says it’s a synonym for “egocentric.” And right away, because you’ve obsessed over things like this in the past, that doesn’t sound right at all. Then you begin to theorize about it until you come up with a satisfactory (to you) explanation.
Hypothesis regarding “idiocentrism”:
Idiocentrism is different from egocentrism in that it refers to a type of self-centeredness that is of a baser, animalistic nature. “Idio,” from the Greek, meaning “one’s own” makes it only appear to be an exact synonym of “ego,” meaning, in some definitions, “self.” Freud gave psychoanalysis the concepts of the id, ego, and superego, or the primitive self, the actual self, and the fantasy self. Based upon this framework, we can say that idiocentrism, which shares the “id” root, is not the same as egocentrism, and that idiocentrism implies that a person is focused upon selfish and primitive needs similar to those identified by Maslow: food, sex, sleep, security, etc., and further implies one is Machiavellian or reptilian in nature.
And then, to balance out the over-thought nerdtasticness, I attempt some awkward witticism that, because it follows a giant paragraph of theoretical foundation and thesis, likely is only funny to me:
So the next time you find yourself in a fierce nerd-fight, you can replace “simian” with “idiocentrist” and count that a win.
And then, I’m tempted to email my theory to my coworker, who most certainly has moved on already. I am moved by powerful compulsion to email her about it, though I know I shouldn’t, though I have not yet acquired a desk placard that reads “Pedantic, Pontificating, Pretentious Bastard” (Liar Liar 1997) that can serve as fair warning to anybody just casually waltzing into my office with a simple wording question.
I resist, not because I have any real compunction about being seen as raging pedant, but because I fear I might be spreading misinformation without further research. I go back and adjust my query, this time using Google’s [define:] function, which I should have used in the first place, and discover idiocentric can just mean “eccentric person” or, in a more colloquial definition, “a person who marches to the beat of his or her own drummer” (idio--his own [way of doing things] centric--focused on). And after all that way, I now know that idiocentrism has nothing to do with being a simian, and in fact appears to apply to myself instead.
I have a sickness. I get that. I’m fairly certain it’s genetic and that the trait manifests in different ways down the generations. For example, my mother used to iron my basketball practice clothes. I was the only kid in the gym with perfectly creased knit shorts. I was also the only kid thoroughly versed in the difference between direct and indirect objects, because we had rehearsed that at home between lessons on the most grammatically proper way to answer the phone. Back at the gym, in socks so white they set off Geiger counters, I’d skillfully and eloquently argue about which object should be thrown and to whom and how that was, indeed, not a foul, using enough polysyllabic rhetoric to ensure a fight with the biggest and meanest hillbilly idiocentrist (Miller’s New World Dictionary) on the court. And today we know exactly what type of maniac that kind of childhood creates: one who uses a word like “pettifoggery” and swells with pride when Microsoft Word incorrectly underlines it in red.
I’m a word collector, which is one of the looser definitions of philologist—the loose definition is necessary because the stricter one requires some semblance of actual philological organization and academic background. But it’s really an obsession and compulsion like flipping the light switch on and off a few hundred times. So? Some people hoard newspapers, stack them up in walls bordering little paths around their house. J.K. Rowling says she’s a word collector, too, and she’s a billionaire, though I’m not certain this is the best route to billionairedom.
What’s worse is that I have no inclination to seek therapy or medication. I rather like being this way, even if people look at me funny, because eventually I might just know all one-million-and-counting English words, and I intend to feed my affliction until, perhaps when I’m 70, the rigid preciseness of my language will be impossible to comprehend even though that is the opposite of the original intention, which was absolute and perfect clarity, and probably I’ll like the irony of that and smile, and keep at it until people are fooled into thinking I’m a Zen-master-Confucian-Nostradamus speaking in prognosticating quatrains about an impending realized eschatological event. Luckily, by then technology will have advanced so that all spoken language can be translated and footnoted via the mobile communication device imbedded into people’s ears, a la Douglas Adams’ Babel fish.
For anyone who’s actually read this far, it’s probably best to focus on simplicity when writing and speaking, and this thesis probably should have been stated up front. Let this post be fair warning.
 Not to be confused with Babblefish, an internet language translator, or better, a program uploaded to the World Wide Web that translates the text of one language into the text of another.