Thursday, March 15, 2007

Pink Navy Word of the Day: Sensorial

Possums, far be it from us to look askance at people using two-dollar words, but we have to admit that we shook our heads in confusion and fear during last night's episode as Gay Uncle Todd pronounced the word "sensorial."

First of all, in light of what happened to Jonathan Adler last week as he tried to pronounce "socio-political," we were worried that Todd, too, might suffer a mini-stroke. Gay Uncle Todd did just fine, though.

And then we thought, "Sensorial?" WTF?

At the risk of being hoist with our own petard, this seems a case of using an uncommon word for its own sake. (It's, of course, entirely possible that "sensorial" is a term of art in the design field, but we doubt it. There has to be footage of Goil admitting he doesn't know what the word means, or of Todd preempting this by telling the contestants what it means. We'd stake our nonexistent souls on it.)

"Sensorial," Merriam-Webster will have you know, is a variant of "sensory," and means "of or relating to sensation or to the senses." So, you know, why not just use "sensory"? Is this a Gunning for Timhood by Todd?

The problem is that "sensorial" and even "sensory" seem like such vague, almost non-sensical terms to use as directions for a party, along the lines of "digestive" or "adjectival." Yes, they're adjectives, but they don't really tell you much.

Perhaps the people who, in playing with their Roget's, came up with "sensorial" meant "sensuous," which Merriam-Webster defines thus:

1 a: of or relating to the senses or sensible objects b: producing or characterized by gratification of the senses : having strong sensory appeal
2: characterized by sense impressions or imagery aimed at the senses
3: highly susceptible to influence through the senses

In addition, Merriam-Webster includes a note stating that "sensuous implies gratification of the senses for the sake of aesthetic pleasure." Doesn't that seem more the idea?

Perhaps they were worried that people nowadays have a difficult time distinguishing "sensuous" and "sensual." Bravo, afraid of the sensual? Say it ain't so.

But what do we know? For a moment, when we first heard "sensorial," we thought of "censorious," which the Encarta dictionary defines as "highly critical: inclined or eager to criticize people or things."

Hmmm. Wonder why we thought of that?