Family tries to enter dictionary to ‘orbisculate’ to honor father who died from Covid-19

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“I was trying to tell people about my dad and how really funny, creative and very original he was and could still see the humor and the bright side of the situation. I kept coming back to the word orbisculate as a way to capture that, “Neil’s daughter Hilary Krieger told CNN. “There’s something about the creation of that word that makes it look like he’s captured it and it was really fun.”

The quest to get into the dictionary is more about the journey than the destination, which her father would appreciate, Hilary said. It’s a fitting way to remember his father – a former scientist – and find a way to be close to him.

Mourning, loss, Covid-19 and the joy of a silly word come together to unite people at a time of such sad news.

While Hilary, 44, an NBC News opinion writer and former CNN digital editor, and her brother, Jonathan Krieger, who runs a company that hosts virtual quiz nights, are busy with their jobs, the project orbisculate their gave a way to do something positive for the world.

How not to laugh when you hear it in a sentence?

“I made a mistake dressing up before I ate a grapefruit. It ended up orbiting on my shirt and now I have to change,” Jonathan said, as an example.

Orbisculate was born in upstate New York

When Neil Krieger was a freshman at Cornell University in the late 1950s, he was asked to invent a word for a class assignment.

Orbisculate was born.

Krieger, who later became a researcher and started a biotech consulting company, loved this strange word so much that he used it with his two children and his wife.

“Growing up in the house, I just assumed it was a real word,” Hilary said.

Hilary said she was taken aback when a friend from college told her it wasn’t a real word.

They were eating oranges at the Krieger family house when they were in their twenties and Hilary said, “Oh, that orbiculated you.” After he questioned the word, she added, “Orbisculate, you know, when fruit squirts all over you.”

Embarrassed that her writer friend didn’t know this “fantastic word,” Hilary bet her $ 5 that it was in the dictionary.

“We opened the dictionary and I couldn’t believe it wasn’t there,” Hilary said. “I was so in shock.”

She rushed into her father’s office after the word failed to appear in the American Heritage Dictionary. Her father met her with a “sheepish look” and explained to her that he had made it up.

Demoralized, Hilary left the room. But she continued to use the word with her friends.

They couldn’t cry the usual way

Hilary’s father tested positive for Covid-19 at the end of March 2020. He suffered from chronic kidney disease and was on dialysis. His family were terrified of what Covid-19 would do to them.

Devastated, Hilary called her mother, Susan. Somehow, the only way her mother felt better about the test result was after talking to her husband.

Neil told his 47-year-old wife it was really a good thing, his daughter said. Hospitals were not at full capacity, and he had the best medical care in Boston.

After a month in the hospital, Neil was failing and his family came to his intensive care room. Their father died the next morning, April 29, from respiratory failure and complications from Covid-19, according to medical records. He was 78 years old.

“We couldn’t be there at the end of the normal way, just all that stuff that makes the worst thing in your life even worse,” Hilary said.

Neil Krieger toast Hilary Krieger's Bat Mitzvah in Boston.

The family had a small private funeral, but that was not how they wanted to remember him. They did not have the opportunity to praise him or have a shiva, the Jewish tradition of inviting anyone who knows the mourners to stop for seven days.

They were planning to hold a larger event for the first anniversary of his death, but that seems unlikely due to the ongoing pandemic. This made the orbisculate project much more important to the family.

“We really liked that it was kind of a non-traditional way to honor someone and commemorate them hoping other people find ways to do it,” Hilary said.

It became a way to remember Neil Krieger’s legacy of being upbeat and always positive, his daughter said.

“It’s just fun, it’s light, and it’s something that I think people could use right now, as opposed to something that gets a little more serious,” said Jonathan, 35.

50 goals to try to put it in the dictionary

Putting a word in the dictionary is harder than you might think.

Just because people are tweeting about the orbisculate project, or writing about it online, doesn’t mean the word will get around.

The siblings try to fit the coined word into any dictionary, but it’s a long process. So far it has graced the online theaters of Urban dictionary.

The word potential is to be used in the common vernacular in several ways. If people use it when speaking, and the word is used in different places, dictionary editors are more likely to consider adding it.

“If it was used in a book and a screenplay, and on the radio, it would make it more likely than if it was just used on one of those three platforms,” Jonathan said.

He found ways to have fun by spreading the word. The orbiculate website, which is part of the effort to admit the word in the dictionary, has a list of 50 goals to help use the word in different places and to encourage people to have fun in these weird times.

So far, orbisculate has adorned crossword puzzles, a comic book, and it has been carved on a grapefruit spoon.

The siblings are hoping that the word will be used in a song, preferably written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, or that some celebrities with citrus names will use it. Cue “Don Lemon, CNN presenter, 30 Rock fictional character Liz Lemon, or Syracuse University mascot Otto the Orange,” the website says.

Or you can always sign the petition to put the word in the dictionary. About 500 people have signed it so far, according to Hilary.

The word is so visual that t-shirts showing what the word means, complete with a piece of cartoon citrus, are also on sale. All the money goes to charity, say the siblings.

The $ 2,500 raised so far will be used to The village of Carson, a Dallas nonprofit that supports families who have suffered the loss of a loved one.

The Krieger family had the means to deal with funeral arrangements and other issues following the death of a loved one, Jonathan said.

“For us it was really difficult. We can only imagine how difficult it is for others,” he said. “If that money could go to an organization that helps people after the loss of a loved one, we thought it would be something really special.”

What would their father think?

Somehow, the word orbisculate connects people with different reasons for loving the word squirty.

Some people identify with themselves because their families invented words. Others are simply logophiles. People have told siblings that they have lost their father as well, and there are some who are just happy to have joy during the pandemic.

After reading all the headlines and seeing line charts with the death toll, Jonathan wants people to remember those who died from Covid-19 deserve to be honored for the way they lived.

“It’s important that we don’t let it be that number, and that we remove it with the things that we remember and want to share with the world about the people we love, and that’s what keeps them going. life, ”he said.

For Jonathan and Hilary, it’s remembering their dad loved to celebrate life’s good times and bad – again, it was all about the trip.

Neil, Susan, Hilary and Jonathan Krieger at a family wedding in Rhode Island.

“Our dad was definitely a ‘it’s the trip, not the destination’ guy,” said Hilary. “He hasn’t lived his life for the destination at all.”

Their father was not the type to receive accolades and awards, or even recognition, she said. Still, getting the word in the dictionary would be like “icing on the cake,” Hilary said.

“I guess at some point if you go online and Google search for the word orbisculate and there it is, on a major website or dictionary, and where it says its origin, it says it has was invented by Neil Krieger, it would be wonderful and so crazy to see my dad live, ”she said.

When asked how his father would react if his children tried to find his word in the dictionary, Hilary replied that he would laugh.

“He would definitely start laughing, there’s no question in my mind,” she said. “The fact that we wanted to do something fun and loved that word and everything it says about how much we love him and miss him would mean the world to him.”


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