I've spent half a century (yikes) writing for radio and print—mostly print. I hope to be still tapping the keys as I take my last breath.
Back to the dictionaries to find 26 more obscure words out of the 171,476 words given full definitions in The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary. There’s a lot of ground yet to be covered.
Acersecomic. Keito Kawahara, 17, read about an Argentinean woman whose hair was 1.52 metres long (4 ft 11.84 in). And she thought, “Hey, my hair is longer,” or however that comes out in Japanese. And so it is, by 3.5 centimetres. Young Keito has never had a hair cut and the word for that is acersecomic.
Barbara is Latin for “strange woman.” For every woman I have known of that name I deeply apologize for bringing this up. I also recall, when I was a teenager a friend was dating a girl called Barbara and he confided in me that her name was an anagram of “A bra bra.” I cannot imagine what he had on his mind.
Crapulence. The obvious definition is that which happens after taking a strong laxative or eating a particularly volatile lamb vindaloo. However, what is obvious is not always what is correct, although in this case it should be. Crapulence actually means enduring an extreme hangover.
Defenestration. After studying history at school for 14 years one of the few things I remember was the Defenestration of Prague. In 1618, a couple of Roman Catholic functionaries were thrown out of a window (defenestrated) by Protestant rebels, an action that started the Thirty Years War. Perhaps, the fact that the priests were largely unhurt because they land in a heap of―here comes another D word―dung seared the event in my teenage brain.
Eucatastrophe is a sudden, unexpected, and favourable outcome such as learning that Donald Trump had resigned and through some peculiar constitutional quirk Elizabeth Warren succeeded him. The word was created by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1944; he defined it as “the sudden happy turn in a story which pierces you with a joy that brings tears.”
Footle is to “engage in fruitless activity; mess about” (Dictionary.com). Sort of like spending hours looking up 26 obscure words, one for each letter of the alphabet.
Gargalesis. Psychologists G. Stanley Hall and Arthur Allin dreamed up a word the world was desperately in need of and it describes heavy tickling. Light, feather-like tickling they called knismesis.
Humdudgeon. This is a Scottish word that occasionally sneaks south of the border into England. Let’s turn to a Hibernian authority for a definition. The Scotsman newspaper says “Humdudgeon describes a fuss over nothing, a storm in a teacup (or a needless stooshie, as some might say). Someone who goes to great lengths to communicate their offence at something pretty trivial . . .”
Ideophone. The youngsters gave me one of these in case I’m caught in the bush in front of a charging rhino and I need to call 911. The device requires that I press “End” to start it up. Perhaps it makes sense to someone but not to the ideo who has to use it. Apparently, my definition of an ideophone is incorrect. I am indebted to The Language Journal for one of the few lucid explanations of this beast to be found: “Ideophones are words that elicit or induce sensory circumstances . . . A good example is the verb to tinkle, which immediately gives you a sense of hearing a light, clear, and high-pitched sound of a metal object, such as a small bell being struck lightly.”
Jenticulate. Most of us do this every day. Some do it by having a couple of cigarettes and half a gallon of coffee. Others go with muesli―shudder. You are jenticulating when you are having breakfast.
Kakidrosis. France’s King Henry IV (1572-1610) appreciated kakidrosis for all its pungency. He wrote to his mistress, Gabrielle d’ Estrées, “Do not wash yourself, my sweetheart, I’ll visit you in three weeks.” Kakidrosis is body odour.
Lachanophobia. There’s a web page for this. Well there’s a web page for everything. This page says “Lachanophobia is the fear of vegetables. The origin of the word lachno is Greek (meaning vegetable) and phobia is also Greek (meaning fear).” It’s hard to imagine someone having an anxiety attack, palpitations, sweating, dry mouth, etc., at the sight of a Jerusalem artichoke. But, apparently, it happens.
Musophobist. While the phobia file is open here’s one for people who are afraid of poetry. Perhaps, someone exposed infants to the versification of William Topaz McGonagall. The Scottish weaver of the 19th century is widely acknowledged to be the worst poet in the English language.
Nacarat is a bright orange-red colour. Remember, back in the 1970s how you could get this in shag rugs. Ah, those were the days before the high-priced interior designers took all the fun out of decor.
Obelus. Scarcely a day goes by that we don’t see one of these and almost nobody knows what it’s called. It’s the division sign.
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Pandiculating. “What are you doing?” your spouse asks from their side of the bed. “I’m pandiculating,” you reply with as much hauteur as you can muster. However, it’s only 7 a.m. and hauteur is in short supply at that hour, so you explain that pandiculating is the correct word for yawning and stretching when you wake up. Do not expect a cooked breakfast after that because you’ve been an insufferable smartass before dawn.
Quaquaversal. This means heading off in all directions at the same time, like a firework or a politician.
Rubricate. No, it’s not someone with a speech impediment telling you he’s going to oil his bicycle. To rubricate is to “Add elaborate, typically red, capital letters or other decorations to” a manuscript (Oxford Dictionaries).
Scatomancy is practiced by people who claim to be able to tell a person’s future by a close examination of turds. In Ancient Egypt, a variety of dung beetle was enlisted into this service. (The insects roll balls of dung to attract mates. I can’t see this working very well with online dating). Experts were able to tell from the shape and size of the dung balls how the future was going to work out. And, while the feces file is open, the word turdoid means of or relating to thrushes.
Tellurian. If you are reading this you are tellurian, unless HubPages has managed to reach life forms on other planets. Tellurian means of or relating to Earth.
Uniped. An animal or person with only one foot or leg; included here as an excuse for another airing of the classic “One-Legged Tarzan” sketch.
Vainglory. “I have the best words.” “I’m a stable genius.” “My I.Q. is one of the highest.” “I beat China all the time. All the time.” “I’m proud of my net worth; I’ve done an amazing job.” Vainglory is being boastful in an unwarranted way about one’s qualities and accomplishments.
Wamble. To feel nauseous with a churning of the stomach. The sort of feeling that comes over us when we hear a boastful idiot yacking on about how smart and rich he is.
Xylomancy. You are strolling along a woodland path and a branch drops in front of you. What you need at that moment is someone skilled in the art of fortune telling through twigs, branches, or even logs―that’s xylomancy. It was part of the curriculum at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, so its predictions carry a zero percent chance of being accurate.
Yemeles. Secondary school English teacher Heather Carreiro says yemeles (pronounced YEEM-lis) is an obsolete word in need of resurrection. It means careless and negligent. Ms. Carreiro admits it would be useful in dealing with students who hand in messy assignments.
Zomotherapy is a medical treatment that uses raw meat. The sort of thing you might need to deal with a black eye if you try to be a smart aleck and squeeze any of these words into a dinner conversation.
- How many pronouns can you fit into one word? In the case of “ushers” it’s five: hers, her, he, she, and us.
- “Orange” and “pint” are two English words for which there is no rhyme.
- According to the BBC program Quite Interesting “The Oxford English Dictionary takes 9,000 words to describe the 45 different meanings of ‘at’ ”.
Dictionaries, dictionaries, and more dictionaries.
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.
© 2018 Rupert Taylor
Meshack Bwoyele Keya from Vihiga County,Western Kenya on August 13, 2018:
What a wonderful list of words. Did I notice that one about Donald Trump resigning? Was it hilarious! I thought it was Hillary Clinton to succeed him?
Paul Joseph from India on August 13, 2018:
hello Rupert Taylor,
quite interesting! I liked your style.