The Slatest

Is Complexifier a Real Word? A Slate Investigation.

A old pen and ink bottle at the library at Salisbury Cathedral.
A quill lends an air of authenticity to a written word.
Matt Cardy/Getty Images

In a Medium post Thursday, we learned that Jeff Bezos is apparently getting blackmailed by the owner of the National Enquirer, which sucks. We discovered the Amazon founder enjoys a good nude-selfie exchange with the ladies, which is not something I saw coming, but is his own business. We also learned that owning the Washington Post, in Bezos’ own words, is a complexifier for one of the world’s richest men. “It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy,” Bezos explains. But fear not, he concludes: “Even though The Post is a complexifier for me, I do not at all regret my investment.” It’s a complexifier, not a deal-breaker. That’s a relief.

But, wait. What exactly is a complexifier? And, more importantly, because we get the gist: Is complexifier a real word?

At first glance, you’d think no, this is a gussied-up word that would normally come out of the mouth of Mike Tyson. Someone trying to explainify something.

The internet, however, made a pass at approximating correct usage.

But remained skeptical.

A quick Google search for the definition informs us the word is, in fact, French for rendre complexe, which Google flips back to English meaning “complicating.” Thanks, Google. But is it real?

A 3-foot deep dive into the first page of the Google Books results nets some hits for “complexifier” from titles like Modern Canonical Quantum General Relativity, which still seems a bit science-y, and science, a well known complexifier itself, doesn’t seem real half the time anyway. Other results like The Simple Art of Greatness: Building, Managing, and Motivating a Kick-Ass Workforce and Rules of the Hunt: Real-World Advice for Entrepreneurial and Business Success seem more Bezos’ speed. Complexifier, in fact, appears most at home in the canon of self-help business gobbledygook.

“The Complexifier is well-meaning but annoying,” Rules of the Hunt explains. “The first words out of the Complexifier’s mouth are, ‘Yes, but…’ This is followed by his point out a problem that would arise by taking the action being discussed. Even if told the problem has been considered and a solution found, the next words by the Complexifier are, ‘Yes but…’ ” Ouch. Sucks to be the Washington Post.

But is it actually a word? The answer is: It will be when Mike Tyson uses it.