I’ve never heard this word pass a human’s lips until Monday night. I think I’ve seen it written, once, years ago, in some mediocre novel that had long since lost my attention due to the author’s vain attempts to make it more literary than it had any right to be by using impossibly stuffy, archaic language. I was tired of having to use context clues (and too lazy to use a dictionary) to figure out all the unfamiliar words in his mind-numbingly boring dialogue, so I just skipped right over “panegyric.”
I should have put forth more effort.
I heard “panegyric” spoken aloud for the first time Monday night. Unfortunately, it was spoken in the final round of a grown-up spelling bee in which two teammates and I were participating for charity. None of the three of us had ever heard the word. No wonder, looking at its rate of usage since 1800.
I don’t think the emcee had heard it either, seeing as he pronounced it three different ways in the fifteen seconds we had to write it down. None of his pronunciations brought to mind that mystery word I had skipped so long ago. So we made our best guess p-a-n-a-g-e-r-i-c. And were promptly eliminated.
Although we lost the spelling bee, I like to think that we served a higher purpose, helping panegyric step out of the shadow of its better-known synonym, eulogy, at least for a few days. Usage will subside again to pre-bee levels once the Caffeinated Hyphens quit bragging about their win and the Spellcasters and They’re Highnesses finish lamenting their elimination.