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May I have a word: Last rites for last bites

A term to capture sadness over fleeting summer produce.


Last time, I asked you for a word to describe the sorrow that many of us experience as the local produce season winds down. Goodbye, fresh corn and ripe tomatoes; hello, pumpkins and sweet potatoes!

But before we get into that, allow me to report on follow-ups to my previous question, which had to do with theft by critters of such produce from one’s own garden.

I received plenty of fine chipmunk-, groundhog-, rabbit-, woodchuck-, and rodent-specific suggestions. But no one gave me a word that would meet my own keenly felt need, namely a wild-turkey-specific coinage — as I pointed out in the column.


In response to which, Leslie Howes, of Worcester, sensing my disappointment, commiserated: “I’ve seen a turkey flip a stolen strawberry in the air before eating it. Another turkey chased a little green apple rolling down a hillside trail, pecked it so it stuck in its beak, and then ran off, pursued by other turkeys looking to get a piece of the action.

“But turkcimated, turkanceled, turkeyradicated. That’s what happened this spring to a tiny double tulip bud in the garden where I volunteer. One day, a turkey strolled up — no more than 3 feet away from me — stretched its neck to get close to its target, and took out the whole raspberry-sized bud in one gulp.”

Leslie, your turkeys are way more entertaining than mine!

Also, Tom Hayden, of Chelmsford, and Tony Kill, of Newton, each proposed gobblered — very nice. I’ll take it!

Now, on to that sorrow over the waning of the season for local fruits and vegetables. Lynne Johnson, of Natick, wrote: “What a great topic — one that home gardeners can relate to as the melon vines wither and raspberries start to mold. Here’s what I came up with: harvest gloom and nomeloncholia.


A sizable number of my correspondents, in fact, played around with melancholy. Susan Erickson, of Maynard, thought melonfally (fall = autumn) might serve the purpose. Anil Adyanthaya, of Newton Upper Falls, suggested: “Why not call that somber emotion meloncholia?” Edward De Vos, of West Newton, also proposed meloncholia. And the indefatigable Tom Hayden offered both meloncholia and meloncholy.

But it was Sue Kelley, of Manchester, N.H., who I thought stuck the ending. She wrote: “I thoroughly identified with your correspondent’s sense of grief that the produce season is ending. I’ve been dreading its advent. My suggestion for her word sums it up for me: melon-cauli.”

Why, I’d call that version bragging-rights worthy! So, Sue, I award those rights to you. Well done.

Now Helen Snively, of Cambridge, says: “Friends would like a word for a person who laughs readily. My friend’s husband called someone risible. He meant she laughs easily and generously at amusing words or situations.”

Please inform your friend’s husband that he has mistaken a laughee for the laugher: Someone risible is not laughing but being laughed at. The word we want now will describe someone who laughs often and well.

Send your suggestions for Helen’s word to me at by noon on Friday, Sept. 22, and kindly tell me where you live. Responses may be edited. And please remember that meanings in search of words are always welcome.

Barbara Wallraff is a writer and editor in Cambridge.