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Words Words Words

We Are Losing Words All the Time

You can probably tell that I love words. Sometimes I tend to use words are are sesquipedalian (a foot and a half long), even though I risk losing some of my readers. This post is based on a story on the BBC News websie entitled “Twenty-Six Words We Don’t Want to lose.” I won’t throw all twenty-six at you, just the ones I particularly like. The following are from The Cabinet of Linguistic Curiosities by Paul Anthony Jones:

  • Beard-second. The approximate length a man’s beard hair grows in one second. The Jones book pegs this at 5 nanometers. As one who would have no beard hair unless I took my testosterone externally (having no pituitary gland), I can’t believe this is a useful measure.
  • Charette. This refers to a period of intense work or creativity to meet a deadline. In French, thy would be working en charette, “in the cart.”
  • Finger-post. In 18th century slang, this referred to parsons, as they pointed out the path of salvation to others without necessarily undertaking the journey themselves.
  • Mountweasel. I particularly like this concept. According to the BBC website:

Fictitious entries added to a book to set a trap for would-be plagiarists are known as ‘nihilartikels’ (literally ‘nothing-articles’) or ‘mountweazels’, the name of an Ohio-born fountain designer and photographer named Lillian Virginia Mountweazel who was listed in the 1975 edition of the New Columbia Encyclopedia. Despite her renowned photographs of rural American mailboxes and her tragic death in an explosion while on an assignment for Combustibles magazine, Ms Mountweazel never actually existed.

  • Proditomania. Here is a good word for Trumpf staffers. It refers to the irrational belief that everyone around you is a traitor—though, in the Executive Branch that belief might not be so irrational.
  • Wantum. A blend of “want” and “quantum”—a term invented by Samuel Beckett to mean “a quantifiable deficiency or desire.”

The BBC writers also propose the following useful words:

  • Hunchweather. Weather cold enough to make one walk outdoors all hunched up.
  • Scurryfunge. The rushed attempt to clean up one’s dwelling place when company is expected imminently.
  • Frowst. Extra time spent in bed during a Sunday. This is is 19th century schoolboy slang.
  • Shivviness. The uncomfortable feeling of wearing new underwear (especially when that underwear is made of wool).

Finally, here are three odd words—which I have not found reason to use in my fifty-odd years as an adult:

  • Medioxumous. Of or relating to the middle rank of deities.
  • Septemfluous. Flowing in seven streams, used in certain theological treatises to refer to Christ’s blood.
  • Stercoricolous. Inhabiting dung, usually used of certain beetles. This last was once used by a writer friend to describe my housekeeping.

Now, may your writing henceforth be more picturesque!

 

 

 

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