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People who are obsessed with handbags, jewelry and television crime-shows will be very familiar with the word accessory.

To jewelry and handbag fans, an accessory is something that’s not essential, but that adds to the aesthetics, convenience or effectiveness of something else.

In the case of jewelry or handbags, this definition makes sense. Those things aren’t necessary, but they can be useful or beautiful—although some fashionistas may dispute the “inessential” part of the definition.

This definition needs to be amended somewhat sometimes. For example, if your idea of jewelry is a bent paperclip pierced through your cheek then I don’t think anyone would argue that the paperclip enhances the convenience or effectiveness of anything unless you frequently require magnets and you want to have somewhere to hang them while you walk around town. And, in my opinion, it is not the least bit attractive, so, barring that need for a magnet-carrier, the paperclip-in-cheek accessory would not fit the “adds to the aesthetics, convenience or effectiveness of something else” part of the definition.

But, as they say, to each crazy person his or her own. OK. I threw in the “crazy person” part into the saying, but I think it was warranted in this case.

For crime-show fans an accessory is someone who doesn’t commit a crime, but who aids someone else who does. Accessories to crimes may wear or carry accessories, but it’s not required for their role.

Accessories to crimes who, because of poor reading skills, only read the first definition of accessory might take offense. They likely object to being called inessential because that diminishes their self-esteem.

Psychologists and psychiatrists should be aware of this possibility so they can be ready to treat accessories to crime who come in with self-respect issues. Having a dictionary on-hand so they can open to the page with the word accessory and point to the second definition would probably cure the patient. Then again, that would cut down on billable hours, so psychologists and psychiatrists might want to try another, slower approach.

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