"A variorium? What the heck is a variorium?" I asked, reading it aloud from the newspaper to my confounded cat. Scattering column drafts and a feline around my desk, I searched for the dictionary, in vain. So, to avoid killing my unnerved cat with curiosity, I took my need for knowledge to the streets. Much to my surprise, I'm the only person in the southeast who doesn't have some handle on the gist of "variorium."
Dr. Glenilda Miller, principal at Mithrosa Elementary in Mithrosa, Miss., says, "Oh yes, a variorium. We hold one each spring in the cafetorium. Parents, students and teachers all enter hoping to win the grand prize of a trip to the sanatorium."
Just as confidently, Bubba McCree of Blountville, Ala., tells me he caught a "biggun" out of Mudshank Lake with a red wiggler and a piece of corn. "Gawl darnit," he exclaimed, "if it ain't the biggest variorium on record in the whole dern state!"
But a spirited young lady sitting next to me on the Milledge bus during my recent spin around the University of Georgia campus in Athens assures me that, as a music major, she knows a variorium when she hears one. Her favorite is Bach's seventh in A minor. She whistled a few notes, before getting off at the Beta don't know an Iota house, and I had to agree that it's certainly a lovely score.
Elmsdale Gregory Frumpton, III of Columbia, S.C., concurs that the word pertains to music. He relates that he recently attended a symphony concert in which the first and second varioriums performed a duet.
On the other hand, my favorite college professor, Dr. Cantell, who gives brown bag lunch presentations on the third Friday of each month in Heerhim Hall, discussed the planetary and solunar evolution of varioriums, back in October.
A fifth grader at Blockwood Academy, a private educational institution in Zebulon, N.C., responds, "Variorium, v-a-r. Can you use it in a sentence, please?"
Barrett Goshen of Nagel, Kent., tried to trade in his Pinto for a Variorium, but didn't have enough cash or credit. He bought a Chevette instead.
Dixie Ann Parton of Sevierville, Tenn., who boasts status as a fourth cousin two times removed of Miss Dolly herself, warns me that, "They're mean little critters; worse than a wanton wharf rat in heat."
Buster Buchannon, a gardener in Howsendown, Va., feels certain that it's a nearly extinct variety of orchid. He is single handedly attempting to reintroduce it to the tropics of Havana. I saw some growing in his greenhouse with my very own eyes. Funny, none of the large, leafy plants he showed me looked much like orchids.
And Leslie Jack, my cousin-in-law from Aintevergetinout, Ark., vaguely remembers having a mixed drink called a Flaming Variorium. She says as she recalls she liked it, "But it burned like a mother going down." I tried to get the recipe, but she passed out.
My dear friend Luleen Wallerstein thanked me for reminding her to get her prescription refilled.
Finally, my children insist it's a good name for a pet. How would you like to holler variorium while kicking the cat?
It tweaks me.
Alas, however, an errant key stroke is the elusive root origin of this graceful, lilting compilation of letters. A type-o! I searched the world over to find meaning in a type-o!
The intended word was, in fact, variorum. And this column, by a small stretch, and a leap, happens to be one; one of the best in the whole dern state, if I do say so myself.