After having a few beers one night, an old friend and I got into a wildly intelligent discussion.
"You know that thing that's like half man, half horse?" he asked me.
"Oh, yeah," I said, nodding affirmatively. "It's like a Greek god or something. I totally know what you're talking about. I just forgot what it's called."
This intellectual wrangling went on for several minutes before my friend was struck with a brilliant idea. "Let's call Gentry!" he suggested.
Gentry is another old friend who works as a newspaper reporter in Arizona. If you don't have a friend like Gentry, you should find one. He's the smartest person I've ever met, and also the craziest.
I called Gentry, knowing he'd know the word we were looking for in an instant.
"You know, um, that thing, it's like a Greek word or something, where like you know the top part of the body is a man and the bottom part is like a horse?" I asked unintelligibly.
"Centaur," Gentry replied.
"Centaur!" We were thrilled to have found our answer, and sure enough, the word, which is actually derived from the Latin word "Centaurus" and the Greek word "Kentauros," is defined as "one of a race of monsters having the head, arms, and trunk of a man and the body and legs of a horse."
It, of course, didn't surprise me that Gentry knew this word. His head is filled with knowledge. He plays about half a dozen instruments and conjugates Latin for fun. In high school, his buddies called him "Fro" (some still do) because of his out-of-control hair. He was named Most Unique, and he definitely still is. My guess is that his high school and college transcripts don't show a whole lot of A-plusses but his I.Q. is no doubt off the charts.
He's a great friend to have for many reasons. I've technically "known" him for something like 20 years since we grew up blocks away from each other in College Station, Texas, but we didn't actually become friends until about five years ago.
It doesn't matter that I rarely see him or that we now live in completely different parts of the country. I know he'll be in my life for a long time. I know I can call in the middle of the night, when I'm upset or when I'm happy. And, of course, when I need to know the definition of a word.
April Avison is the city editor of the Daily Herald. Her column appears on Mondays. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org .