Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Handy handible

A comment thread on the site raises an interesting question about word formation. (Well, spelling, maybe.) The original question is this:
So, Google gives a whopping 722 hits for "handible", Googling for "define: handible" shoots beside the target and has never heard of it in any form.

You English speakers out there - is "handible" a real word? If not, would you understand me anyway if I said that "Oh, you know, this is really handible!" ?
Most of the Google hits in question are bogus -- either the term is dynamically inserted into a search result to drive traffic (no links, thank you), or is clearly being used by non-native speakers. (And bless them for trying to write in English).

Most instances seem to be attempts to spell handleable (a word that the spell checker in Firefox does not like), like this example about a phone:
Its is smat, handible and easy to use. it as long durability and an outstanding design which gives it that cute look. i would recomend the phone for basic mobile phone users.
But there are a couple of interesting hiccups. One is that this term (or just this spelling) is more prevalent (relatively) among people who are writing about animals. Here's one example where the guy is talking about a snake:
Hey guys my names Joe and im a proud snake lover i used to have a gorgeous sunglow male corn until my goddaughter fell in love with it and i gave it to here. looking to get another as he was very timid and handible.
You can ascribe this simply to poor spelling, but if so, it's a poor spelling that's spreading, at least a bit. I've found handible used in a similar way when people are writing about a gecko, bunny, spider, and water dragon. (What's a precise definition for how these folks are using handible?)

And there's a curious instance of the term in a patent application:
Currently available braided suture products are acceptable in terms of their knot-tying and knot-holding properties. However, as removed from the package, they tend to be stiff and wiry and retain a "set" or "memory" such that at the time of use, it is usually necessary for the surgeon or assistant personnel to flex and stretch the suture to make it more readily handible. Furthermore, the surfaces of known sutures are perceptibly rough. Thus, if one passes one's hand or fingers along the braid, surface irregularities will be readily detected.
I say "curious" because I would have thought that patent applications, at least as posted on the Web, would have cleaned-up spelling, and if so, this is the intended spelling. (Perhaps I'm wrong about that.) And if so, this might be a technical term. Whatever it is, the intended meaning seems different to me than what the pet owners are talking about.

The examples form the various animal forums are the most interesting to me. I like to think that one possible outcome here is that in the context of ... what would you call it? ... pet husbandry? the word handible becomes (first) informally established as an offshoot from handleable, that it becomes a bona-fide field-specific word (breeders talk about breeding handible animals), and it eventually achieves legitimate status as a standalone term.

Your thots?


The Dissonance said...

Hmm... it doesn't flow off the tongue does it? For that reason alone I would eschew the use of either word.

Anonymous said...

That's interesting; I would have argued quite the opposite -- that "handible" is easier to say than "handleable" (which has an extra syllable that seems to catch in the throat).

- Seth

ottonomy said...

In my trade (locksmith), I frequently come upon both 'handable' and 'handible', the former being more common, and as often as not, prefixed with 're-'. In the spheres of architectural and building nomenclature, doors, and the hardware thereof, are considered 'handed' if they do not swing both ways. Left or right 'handing' is determined by the side on which a door is hinged when viewed from the outside, or locked side. This has given rise to any number of unofficial words within the door hardware industry. Locks, for instance, may be referred to as left-handed, right-handed, un-handed, or (frighteningly) ambidextrous, according to their flexibility of installation. 'Handed' locks are sometimes marketed as being 're-handable' or 'field handable'. These are amongst the least of the crimes against English which occur in my field. Someday, I muse, a lock in my grasp will shout out, "Unhand me, Sir!"

WordzGuy said...

Wow, that's interesting. It certainly seems logical to go from something like "right-handed" to "rehandable" following the steps that you recount.

If you have other tales of lexical fun from your field, by all means, I'd love to hear about them. :-)