On the innovation watch

After more than a month, the major part of the response to my most recent plumbing diaster is over: the deconstruction (including the many dramatic hours of jack-hammering and concrete-sawing) came to an end, and this week the reconstruction succeeded (quite admirably, I must say), leaving only a day or so’s work of putting the furnishings back in place.

But I found reconstruction a pallid word for the process of undoing demolition. And then I remembered the occasion, back in 1999, when my friends Mike and Sim were faced with a bathroom renovation and Mike came up with a nice lexical innovation.

As Mike tells it now, recollecting a thread in the Usenet newsgroup soc.motss:

They came through and demolished everything — floor, ceiling, wall, all fixtures — leaving a big hole in the house. I wanted a new opposite-of-demolition word that could assume an ironic sense to express my skepticism that everything would someday be put back into place again — optimistic on the face of things, but using a non-existent word to suggest that the optimism was misplaced. Well, that’s how I’m interpreting it now. [He fixed on moliate, though at the time he thought of it as very specific, meaning ‘to build bathrooms’. It’s more useful than that.]

If I’d thought about it more, or in ways that I usually think now, I’d probably just have said “molish.”

… The a in “moliate” I regard now as a mistake.  But a fortuitous mistake, because it allowed [our friend] Kevin to create “moliation”, which I consider be better word than “molition”.

Yeah, more oomph, more weight in moliation. (Neither moliate nor moliation is in the OED; molition ‘the act of grinding’ is, but it’s obsolete, hasn’t been used since the 18th century; and molish isn’t there at all. So the field is open for innovators.)

[Etymological note on demolish, from OED2: it’s from French,

< Latin dēmōlīrī to throw down, demolish, destroy, < de- prefix + mōlīrī to build, construct, erect, < mōles mass, massive structure

So an innovation based on a mol- ‘build, construct’ stem would be etymologically appropriate. (The mol- of molar has to do with mills and grinding.)]

In any case, I’m through with the moliation and am up to moving stuff back in.

4 Responses to “On the innovation watch”

  1. Jenny Says:

    Ouch. What happened to your plumbing?

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      It’s a story in many parts, beginning with the stopped kitchen sink in the condo above mine. After many days of dealing with a bizarrely designed plumbing system, the plumber was able to unstop the sink by cleaning the pipes out where they came to ground, in the outdoor closet that houses my water heater. (He wore a slicker, and I had to hose him down afterwards.)

      Then he brought in a guy with a camera that could look into pipes, and they discovered that the pipes were just barely working — in particular, that they were corroded beyond simple repair and had to be replaced. The next step involved ripping out a chunk of the wall in my laundry area (inside, next to the kitchen) to get at the worst piece of pipe.

      Then replacement involved jackhammering and sawing up a piece of the floor (a concrete slab) in the laundry area. Which meant moving everything out of that area. (I had the washer-dryer, the ironing board, and the iron sitting in the middle of my living room for weeks. My daughter suggested that I was coming to think of it as a piece of conceptual art.)

      Then came the guy with an x-ray device to check out the rest of the pipes, under the slab (and, indeed, under a piece of my tiled kitchen floor and my carpeted living room floor), and found that the problem went on for about eight more feet of pipe.

      Everything got moved out of the area, into other rooms or out onto the back patio. More guys appeared, to install a plastic-sheeted giant tent (to contain the construction dust) and to work under it to jackhammer up and saw out a big piece of the flooring. Ultimately, they created a pit about 5 feet deep, right there in my kitchen. Eventually, they replaced all the pipes, filled in the hole, poured fresh concrete, and cleaned things up.

      Then came the handyman and his helper, to replace the wall and paint over it, to remove what floor covering was left in the laundry area (ratty linoleum that took most of a day to scrape away), and to re-tile everything.

      Then it turned out that the tiling had raised the level of the floor enough that the doors to the laundry area couldn’t be re-hung. So yesterday the handyman came back and sawed the doors to fit and installed them.

      In the meantime my friend Ned came and helped me return the furnishings to the affected area, including putting a whole wall of framed pictures back in place and cleaning off the stuff that had been out in the great outdoors.

      All during this period I had to be available, to let the workers in, to consult with them and the condo management, and occasionally to help, meanwhile trying to work at my computer in the living room. People came hours, or even days, late (other emergencies obtruded; in fact, my next-door neighbor had the same thing that had happened to me happen to her, and that’s still being fixed; there were many runs for materials or tools, like a fresh jackhammer when the first one broke; and so on), but sometimes early, and in any case I had no privacy during the day (and sometimes the evening) for weeks.

      I’ve been deranged.

  2. Tom V Says:

    “Moliate” works better for me. “Molish” makes me think of Wind in the Willows.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      True, molish with an /o/ would certainly remind people of moles, and the character Mole in particular. But Mike and I were thinking of molish with the /a/ of demolish. Still, we prefer moliate.

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