I've spent half a century writing for radio and print (mostly print). I hope to still be tapping the keys as I take my last breath.
How many words do you need to be fluent in a language? Streetsmartlearninglanguage.com says 20,000 is enough, meanwhile linguistics professor David Crystal says the average person knows 35,000 words. Herewith, a modest addition of 26 words, with several references to a certain politician who claims “I know words. I have the best words.”
Agastopia. Having a high regard for a particular part of someone’s body. Hmmm. It’s said there is no known cure for this condition.
Blabberer. The Oxford English Dictionary gives us lots of synonyms for this, such as bablatrice, twattle-basket, clatterfart, jawsmith, windbag, and nimble-chops. They all mean a talkative person.
Cantankerous. The poster child for this was Grumpy Cat, the apparently bad tempered feline that died in May 2019. Grumpy Cat was an internet sensation where she launched a thousand memes and whose image made a fortune for her owners.
Dogma. This seems like a perfectly good word to describe a Cocker Spaniel with a litter of puppies. But, the dull definition is “a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.” It’s like when a politician says “These are my firm principles. Oh, you don’t like them? Well I have some others.”
Ephemeral. Something that lasts only for a short time, like the election promises of politicians, or love letters in the sand.
The search is on for a good F-word, certainly not that F-word. Ah! Here it is―Falsiloquence. It means lying and deceitful speech. For example: “No collusion. No obstruction.” Or “We’re building the wall as we speak.” Or “It was the biggest inaugural crowd ever.” Or, more than 30,500 lies in total.
Galeanthropy. A mental condition that causes people to believe they are a cat, which is fine until they start clawing the furniture and demanding a litter box.
Heuristic. The whole purpose of this little frivolity, or as Merriam-Webster puts it “involving or serving as an aid to learning, discovery . . .”
Ignotism. Making a mistake because of ignorance. Some examples: “Windmills cause cancer.” Or “The moon is part of Mars.” Or “Climate change is a Chinese hoax.”
Jejune. This can be defined as “Naive, simplistic, and superficial” (Dictionary.com), or “Devoid of significance or interest” (Merriam-Webster). The Urban Dictionary advises that using the word “Just bleeds pomposity and snobbery.”
Knavigation. This is a sophisticated way of saying someone is lying. Sort of like “Nobody knows more about trade than me.” Or “I’m a very stable genius.”
Lickspittle. Someone who grovels before a person of influence in order to get a favour. Like Conrad Black, convicted fraud and obstruction of justice, writing a glowing biography of ex-U.S. President Donald Trump in order to secure a full pardon for his crimes. Both men say there is no connection between the book and the pardon. Knavigation anyone?
Mendacity. A favourite word of Big Daddy’s in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: “What’s that smell in this room? Didn’t you notice it, Brick? Didn’t you notice a powerful and obnoxious odour of mendacity in this room? . . . There ain’t nothin’ more powerful than the odour of mendacity . . . You can smell it. It smells like death.” It means untruthfulness, lying, and dishonesty. Anybody come to mind?
Nugacious. We’ve already come across this under jejune. Collins English Dictionary tells us it means “trivial, unimportant, or insignificant.”
Obsequious. The Grammarist says this “means servile, excessively obedient, overly-eager to please in a grovelling manner.” A required job skill for anyone working for Donald Trump.
Pissaladière. The profoundly evil quizmasters of the Scripps National Spelling Bee who try to embarrass youngsters, included this in one of their contests. It describes an open-faced pastry that is topped with anchovies, olives, and onions. And, if you can’t spell it correctly you will be forced to eat it.
Querimonious. If you find this whole thing a bit silly then lodge a complaint, which will make you querimonious. Sadly, there is no provision for querimonies (complaints) which causes quiritation (lamentation). You could try the comments capsule below but, frankly, it won’t get you very far.
Runcation. “Pull when wet; hoe when dry” is old advice for gardeners engaged in runcation, other wise known as weeding. Another rule is “One year seeding, means seven years weeding,” so get those varmints removed early. Now, the word has been hijacked to describe a holiday devoted to running, the absolute antithesis of a vacation.
Sycophant. A toady, flatterer, or suck up. And here comes Conrad Black again riding over the hill with a shimmering biography of Donald Trump tucked under his arm hoping for and getting a full pardon for being a crook.
Tonsure. What Donald Trump’s hair might look like if he didn’t go in for that elaborate comb-over, although its purpose would be in sharp conflict. A tonsure is the fringe of hair worn by monks as a sign of humility and religious devotion.
Vituperative. “X is a low IQ, lightweight, loser.” This is the sort of abusive invective that certain people might Twit on a Tweeter or whatever the wretched thing is called. The great theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking was once asked what his IQ was. He replied that “I have no idea. People who boast about their IQ are losers.”
Whoreson. An archaic word describing a scoundrel as in the words of Shakespeare’s King Lear: “My lady’s father? My lord’s knave, your whoreson dog! You slave, you cur!” We are not talking about comedian Richard Pryor whose existence was the result of the pollination of his mother when she worked in a brothel.
Xenoglossy. Very occasionally people turn up with the ability to speak a language they have never studied nor have any connection to. The skill is called xenoglossy and the reincarnation folks claim it’s evidence of a former life.
Yips. Sometimes, athletes develop a sudden loss of fine motor skills. Yips can cause a golfer to miss an easy putt, but never mind, it won’t show up on the score card.
Zeitgeist. Something that captures the spirit of an epoch, rather like how Jon Stewart’s excoriation of the U.S. Congress sums up the globally held belief that politicians are immoral scoundrels.
- Pangrams, also called holoalphabetic sentences contain all 26 letters of the English alphabet. There are many examples, such as: Jackdaws love my big sphinx of quartz, or Fox nymphs grab quick jived waltz.
- “OMG” is the ubiquitous social media slang for Oh My God. People using it might be surprised to learn that it first appeared in 1917 in a communication sent to Winston Churchill by Admiral John Fisher: “I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis―O.M.G.―(Oh! My God!)―Shower it on the Admiralty!” (“On the tapis” means under consideration).
- The Global Language Monitor in Austin, Texas estimates that a new English word is created every 98 minutes. To qualify a word must have citations in global media at least 25,000 times.
- The American writer Harry Golden said “victuals” (pronounced vittles) is the ugliest word in English, while the Irish writer James Joyce proclaimed that “cuspidor” is the most beautiful English word.
The marvelous English language.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Rupert Taylor