General Ignorance

“Sounds like a classic case of nepotism to me,” commented my girlfriend in response to a point which I have since forgotten as a result of the chaos that ensued.

“What the fuck is ‘nepotism’?” I asked, “Have you just made that word up?”

She hadn’t. It is a real word. But then you probably knew that already. In fact, according to my girlfriend, everybody in the world knows what that word means, apart from me. Well, I know what it means now (thank you dictionary.com) but I had gone through the first twenty-two years of my life completely oblivious that the word ever existed. Let’s get this straight; it wasn’t just the meaning I have remained ignorant to, but the whole existence of the word. It’s not as if I’ve encountered the word on a regular basis and just been too lazy to discover its meaning. I’ve walked past ‘Jews for Jesus’ in Kentish Town, hundreds of times and have never bothered to find out what the hell they believe or do in their small North London office, mainly because I like the mystery. If I’m honest I’ve never taken the time to find out how to correctly use a semicolon, I just let Microsoft Word add them where it feels they might be appropriate (as it did three sentences ago).

I might not know how to correctly use a semicolon but I am aware of their existence. If I saw one in a newspaper tomorrow (which is unlikely as they are frowned upon by most sub-editors – probably because they’re not entirely sure when to use them either), I wouldn’t freak out, leap to my feet and scream, “WHAT IS THIS UNHOLY SYMBOL WHICH LIES BEFORE ME?” whilst my pointed finger shakes over the text. Yet, in all my time on this earth I have never consciously read or heard the word ‘nepotism’ until yesterday. How is it possibly to remain completely ignorant to the existence of a word which has (about) 1,520,000 references on Google? Has the world been hiding this term from me? Have writers, webmasters and sub-editors across the country been constantly reaching for their thesauruses in order to protect me from this eight-letter evil?

I suppose it’s not the most common word in the world. Interestingly the most commonly used noun in the English language is the word ‘word’ which generates a massive 856,000,000 Google results. I’ve used it 13 times in this article already. Usage of the word ‘word’ is only likely to rise with the ever growing popularity of the greeting ‘word up’, which gets currently gets 2,970,000 Google hits, twice as many as ‘nepotism’.

I feel really stupid for not knowing the meaning of a relatively common word at my age and I really need someone to tell me that they’ve just had to look up the meaning of ‘nepotism’ or that they have recently been mocked for a minor gap in their vocabulary. Please tell me if there are any words that you’ve been a bit slow to pick up on.