There’s a Word for That: Bibliobibuli

atkins-bookshelf-wordsWhat do you call a person who reads too much? You could certainly call them a bookworm (or a bookworm on steroids) or a bibliophile. But there is another term, not found in most dictionaries, that is absolutely spot on — bibliobibuli.

The term bibliobibuli was coined by H. L. (Henry Louis) Mencken (1880-1956), a respected journalist, critic, and scholar of American English. He is best known for his multi-volume seminal work, The American Language (1919), and his satirical reporting of the Scope trial, which he famously referred to as the “Monkey Trial,” in the mid 1920s. The word is a portmanteau, formed by the Greek word, biblio (meaning “books”) and the Latin word bibulous, derived from bibere (meaning “to drink”).

Mencken wrote random ideas in notebooks that he would later use as inspiration for essays and books. The word bibliobibuli appears in a collection of over 400 thought-provoking aphorisms, covering a wide range of topics, titled Minority Report: H. L. Mencken Notebooks published in 1956. Mencken wrote: “There are people who read too much: the bibliobibuli. I know some who are constantly drunk on books, as other men are drunk on whiskey or religion. They wander through this most diverting and stimulating of worlds in a haze, seeing nothing and hearing nothing.”

My fellow bibliobibuli, let us raise our glasses and toast the legendary Mencken — and continue drinking until we all got drunk on books. Hear, hear!

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