I was stunned for a moment, trying to think of what that word meant. Understanding his comment about genuflecting, I gained my feet and pulled my body erect before asking the obvious question: "What exactly does 'neologising' mean, your Eminence?"
I thought I saw the Pope's stern line of a mouth twitch, then resolve back into a thin line of disapproval before he answered. Was that a tiny grin that almost escaped?
"Good. You are not so full of yourself that you cannot admit ignorance." His voice took on a slightly pedantic tone as he continued. "Neologism is a medical term used to describe the meaningless words that are uttered by a psychotic. Neologising is the act of uttering those words."
The silence dragged on for a minute as I tried not to rise to the obvious poke at my use of language. He obviously wanted me to get angry, which meant I really shouldn't. It didn't seem to be a very Papal way of treating your subjects, but then this was no ordinary Pope.
"It is only a neologism until you say it is not, your Eminence."
"I am glad you realize that, Yiorgios. But before you alter that which should not be altered, a formal application should be submitted. If I have to issue a summons to every person who tries to invent new words I would have no time in my life for anything else."
"I apologize, your Eminence." I bowed slightly.
"You are summoned because I have personally endorsed your publications and I cannot have you making a bad example."
I bowed again slightly. "As always I am thankful for your endorsement, your Eminence."
Those stern eyes drilled into me a moment longer before he leaned back in his chair and steepled his fingers under his unfortunate chin. Apparently he had made his point and now it was time to discuss the issue at hand. I breathed a sigh of relief in spite of myself. What had happened to that other man who fled this office wasn't entirely natural, after all.
"Now I have to address the email you sent yesterday. In it you used the term 'lol' after a perfectly correct sentence. What exactly is that supposed to mean? Why would you ruin a perfectly good paragraph with a superfluous word like that? You didn't even punctuate around it."
"Surely this is not the first time that you have seen that term, your Eminence?"
"It is enough that I ask you the question, Yiorgios, it is only for you to answer. Do not presume to question me in that manner." The menace had returned to his blue gaze and his once steepled fingers had gripped his desk in a white knuckled death grip.
"I swallowed before answering. "It is not a word so much as an acronym, your Eminence. It stands for 'laugh out loud.' and is a common way of letting people know that the previous statement was something you consider humorous."
"Why did you not punctuate it as an acronym, then? Why are such things necessary? A statement is either funny or it is not. There was no need for this type of thing in paper correspondence? Why, man? Tell me why." With each sentence the Pope had stood higher in his chair, until at the last he was quivering and leaning on his hands toward me behind the desk. His eyes bored into me like augers.
For the first time I can remember, words failed me. I couldn't think of an answer good enough to mollify the Pope. He was enraged.
Your Eminence, this is a widespread issue. I will need someone more versed in it's origins to best answer your concerns. Can I schedule another appointment after some consultation?
The pope visibly mastered himself then and sat down again. "Yes, I will see you at this time next week, and you will bring me the person who invented this term." He then began shuffling through some papers on his desk before finding what he wanted and scribbling a few words down.
I stood in front of him gaping like a fish. How as I going to find the person who invented that? It was impossible.
He paused in his writing and looked up at me. "You can go now."
Without a word I turned and left the office, feeling numb. This was not good.