I was at one of the Order of Logogustation’s weekly word tastings and had just been served up deliquium when I heard a sound that caused a ripple of horripilation down my spine. It was the unmistakeable creak of matching his-and-hers black leather pants and jackets, and it was right… behind me… looking… over… my… shoulder…
“Mmm, what have we here?” purred Marilyn Frack, 32 millimetres from my ear. “Deliquium! Look, Edgar!” Her other half, Edgar Frick, appeared on my other side, peering at the word I held in my hand.
“Well, now, there’s a liquid-looking word,” declared Edgar.
“In spite of the fact that there’s only one liquid in it,” I said, meaning the /l/.
“But you see,” Marilyn said, “it has two cups, u u.”
“And two candles, i i,” Edgar added.
“Well, then,” Marilyn said, turning towards Edgar, “it’s just you and I, with two cups and two candles! Let us drink deeply!”
“And perhaps,” I said, “you’ll drink so much you’ll pass out. That is, you will suffer deliquium.”
“Pass out!” Marilyn said. “Become as liquid and flow to the floor?”
“It’s a trick word,” I said. “Although there is an obsolete word deliquium that means ‘deliquescence,’ which is melting or becoming liquid by absorbing moisture from the air –”
Marilyn broke into her impression of Katarina Witt in Battle of the Blades: “I’m melting in my seat, and I don’t mean my armpits!” She smiled and licked her lips.
“I don’t think she meant absorption, either,” I said. “But while that deliquium and the sound of liquid have affected the interpretation and use of this word, the sense of swooning or syncope – actually through hypotension rather than intoxication – comes from a Latin homonym meaning ‘failure’ which is formed from a past tense form of the same Latin root that gives us delinquent.”
“One of my favourite words,” Edgar said, “to embody.”
“Then you will commit many a delict,” I said, “which is an offence against the law, coming to us from the same root by way of delictum, which means ‘fault’, ‘offence’, ‘crime’.”
Marilyn’s left eyebrow arched archly. “As in in flagrante delicto! Oo, now I could swoon!”
“We really must thank James for introducing us to this delectable lexeme,” Edgar said, leering heavy-lidded past me at his lover.
“Deliquium?” Marilyn said, leaning close in on me. “Let’s. Do we lick ‘im?”
At which point I believe I lost consciousness.
My thanks to Jens Wiechers for suggesting deliquium.